Chosing a chain saw

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For the average fit garden enthusiast the prospect of slashing back those pesky trees and shrubs with a chain saw is a tempting opportunity to save time and professional help from a full time tree surgeon.

The common impression is that since electric and petrol saws are luring you from the shelves of B&Q or Homebase, they must be easy and safe to use.....welcome to your first big mistake.

Chain saws are deadly weapons in the hands of the casual and untrained user. For most saws the chain passes at 40 MPH! Imagine leaning out of your car and dragging the back of your hand on the tarmac at 40MPH! and the road doesn't have sharp teeth! The lightest touch on exposed skin for a fraction of a second can leave you with scars that the bravest duelling German count would not be proud of, anything more serious will take off your arm, leg or foot.

Professionals will be spending not less than £300 for a basic ground saw so you should be able to judge from this that a Bosch Electric from £50 or Mcculloch or Poulan from £150 is pretty much a domestic hobby saw only. The down side is that they will kill you just as efficiently as  Stihl or Husqvarna.

Rear or back handled saws are the only type that non- professionals will be able to buy. The more specialised top-handled saws, adapted for tree climbing, are deemed too dangerous for amateurs and their sale is restricted so that the opportunity to get hold of a saw which is balanced for single handed use will be denied you....and that means that dummies will still stubbornly use an unbalanced back handled saw single handed just the same. A prime example of legislation forcing the ignorant to take bigger risks.

Whilst electric saws have advantages for the log pile or very small gardens, the most rugged saws will be fit for continuous commercial utilisation and the price reflects that. Stihl are considered the market leader followed closely by Husqvarna with Homelite trailing a long way behind. Stihl also market their saws under the Viking brand and offer a number of  lightweight garden saws for the hobby user. Both Stihl and Viking discourage mail order claiming to encourage dealer training with their products as a safety initiative. Offerings from Garden centres will include McCulloch (Taiwan) and a variety of identical but differently branded models commonly derived from the Poulan/Electrolux stable but actually manufactured under the Husqvarna umbrella, probably in Taiwan.

You'll be peeved to learn that a 14 inch Homelite sold here for £150 actully costs $107 in the US.

Chose the shortest bar there is. If you have a 28 inch tree you should really be hiring a professional but you can cut double the length of the bar and the shorter saws are easier to handle. Add to your intended budget the cost of helmet with visor and ear defenders, Kevlar backed gloves, Steel tipped boots, safety goggles under the visor, ballistic trousers or chaps and a thick full arm jacket.

Read the manual from cover to cover and then read it again, get your partner to test you, take it to bed and read it in the toilet. Don't go out into the garden unless you have memorised every word and locked your ladder away to stop you being tempted to use the saw off the ground. NEVER use the saw unless BOTH hands are on the handles. NEVER take as much as a single step with the saw running UNLESS the chain brake is on.

Beware of second hand saws, anything which is not fitted with a kick-back chain brake belongs now only in a museum. Anything which does not have an instruction manual or tools will force you onto a steep and dangerous learning curve.

Be safe eh? hire a professional



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