Here at Hackaday we are a diverse bunch, we all bring our own experience to the task of bringing you the best of the hardware scene. Our differing backgrounds were recently highlighted by a piece from my colleague [Dan] in which he covered the teardown of a cordless electric chainsaw.
It was his line “Now, we’d normally shy away from any electric chainsaw, especially a cordless saw, and doubly so a Harbor Freight special“. that caught my eye. I’m with him on cordless tools which I see as a cynical ploy from manufacturers to ensure 5-yearly replacements, and I agree that cheap tools are a false economy. But electric chainsaws? Here on this small farm, they’re the saw of choice and here’s why.
“I’ve Got A Bran’ New Chainsaw, You’ve got 43!”1
A small British farm is not a forestry business, but it’s fair to say that a chainsaw is a tool that sees fairly regular use. Branches come down, pieces of hedge need taming, and with a hungry woodburner to satisfy, firewood needs to be cut. You won’t be surprised then to find that my dad has had more than one chainsaw over the years, but you may be surprised to find that this long experience has led us to rely on electric saws exclusively for the last couple of decades.
So why do we load a generator on the back of the tractor and set upon fallen branches with a power cable trailing behind us when we could do it to the buzz of a 2-stroke motor? The answers are simple enough: maintenance and safety.
If you are a very occasional chainsaw user the chances are your saw will never be challenged. You’ll use it, put it away in the garage, and a year later when you pull it out again it’ll be ready to go after a bit of fettling. And if you’re a forestry worker your saw will be your livelihood, it’ll be an expensive piece of kit and you’ll maintain it to within an inch of its life. If however you are a small farmer without a big budget like my dad, you won’t be able to afford the forester’s maintenance schedule or deluxe saw, and you enter an abusive relationship with a nasty little 2-stroke motor and its work-any-way-up carburetor.
The Curse Of The Tiny 2-Stroke Motor
Let me say this, little 2-strokes really are horrible pieces of machinery when you have to rely on them. Half the parts are made of cheese, the other half vibrate apart if you stop looking at them, and they simply love to coat their insides with nasty gunk. They hate any suggestion that they might start at their owner’s first pull on the cord, and play hard-to-get through a half-hour of careful checking fuel mixtures and heating up plugs. And when you really want them to stop, like for instance when it’s a chainsaw safety issue, they refuse and stutter on for a few revolutions as the blade kicks up in the air and your life flashes before you. No, they save stopping for moments they consider opportune, such as when you’re at the top of a ladder with all the ropes set up to lop off a branch.
By comparison an electric chainsaw is easy to maintain, starts on the button, stops dead when it is asked and when that safety bar is triggered, and won’t cover you in smoke or 2-stroke mix. The inconvenience of carrying a 4-stroke generator, RCD, and extension lead is minor compared to the joys of operating a petrol saw on a small farm as I’ve just outlined.
So there you are. It may not put us in with the cool kids when we say that an electric chainsaw is our saw of choice, but we do so from the position of experience even if it means that using it away from the house involves firing up the tractor.
There is one snag though, and I’ll forestall you commenters from pointing it out. When the zombie apocalypse is upon us we’ll be in trouble if the undead can remember how to unplug an electrical cord.
Electric chainsaw header image: Harisingh&sons [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
1My deepest apologies to the Wurzels.