He's been selling firewood for 25 years

Insider Report: Chainsaw Alternatives

by Rich Finzer

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I've been cutting/selling firewood and pasture posts for over 25 years. I'm an experienced wood cutter, and as proof, I still have all my fingers and toes. I enjoy dropping trees and bucking logs, most often while working alone. And I adore my chainsaw, "Mrs. Hawkins" (named for my nasty third grade teacher). But for the average homeowner/occasional wood cutter, there may be better wood cutting alternatives than owning a chainsaw and to prove it, I own both of them too.

Reciprocating Saw: Unless lopping branches growing close to the ground, a handy alternative to a conventional chainsaw is the reciprocating saw or, as it's commonly known, a "sawzall." Available in either corded or cordless models, the sawzall allows you to cut branches while standing on a short ladder or working in a tight location where a chainsaw bar might not fit. Will it do an adequate job of cutting in your yard? Well, I couldn't say. But I can say that I've used mine to cut and remove five-inch diameter limbs from a red oak growing in my yard. Another advantage of a reciprocating saw is that it does not require any lubricant for the blade. Better still, because it may be equipped with either easily replaceable wood or metal cutting blades, a reciprocating saw is equally handy for cutting lengths of metal/PVC pipe, cutting holes for electrical outlet boxes, or squaring the ends of interior framing. Try doing that with a chainsaw.

Pole Saw: A second and equally handy alternative to a conventional chainsaw is the pole saw or pole pruner. Like its reciprocating cousins, and depending upon the manufacturer, pole saws may be powered by electricity or a small gasoline engine. Mine is gas-powered and equipped with an 18-foot pole topped by a 12-inch chain bar. To gain an additional three feet in height, if possible, I like to back my pickup adjacent to a branch and stand in the cargo bed. It's a very stable work platform. A word of warning is needed here. If the branch you intend to remove is long, remove it in short sections before flush cutting the limb from the trunk. And if you're not familiar with the process/concept of backcutting a limb, find an experienced wood cutter to demonstrate the technique. Backcutting prevents a sagging branch from binding on the chainbar, likely trapping it in place. Also remember that a falling limb may swing in your direction, so be doubly careful as it begins to sag before letting go.

Because my conventional chainsaw is gasoline powered, I opted for a gas-powered pole saw. The two-stroke fuel mixture is the same for both units as is the type of chain oil. But keep in mind even electric pole pruners require chain oil.

Final Thoughts: Because electric saws are so much quieter than their gasoline-powered counterparts, you can likely ditch ear protection. I always wear a solid pair of work boots and a heavy pair of split cowhide work gloves.

The chainsaw was originally invented in 1929 by German engineer Andreas Stihl, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution to woodcutting.

Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 43 years as a writer, he has published nearly 1,100 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award winning book, Maple on Tap is available from his publisher; Acres USA. His two novels, Taking the Tracks and Julie & Me, are available from Amazon Kindle.

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