Picnic Table, Take 1

One Log, One Picnic Table

Recently, I decided to try another experiment to see if I could transform one log into a picnic table. Using a chainsaw and a Granberg Mill, I set about turning an old spruce log into a new picnic table. I was aware that the end product might not be the most beautiful piece of outdoor furniture in the world, but it had to turn out prettier than the poplar bench experiment.

A log awaiting its destiny. Even as a seedling, this Spruce always felt like a picnic table trapped inside a barky shell.

A log awaiting its destiny. Even as a seedling, this Spruce always felt like a picnic table trapped inside a barky shell.

First up was the milling process. I am still working out the kinks to the Alaskan mill thing, and considering the type of logs I have lying around, I am not sure if it will be worth the time and effort. I just can’t bear to see the logs chunked up to rot when, with a bit of effort, they might be turned into something useful. These trees should not have died in vain. Plus it gives me something to write about. It also gives me a reason to fire up a chainsaw- which I find to be strangely therapeutic. It’s a zen thing.

It turns out that this log was just a bit too large for the 20” bar to rip through as you lose almost six inches of cutting length once the saw is lashed into the mill. It is a bit frustrating when, halfway through ripping a log, you find that the log’s knots, and a slight twist, halt the passage of the mill. In this case, I could take the saw out of the mill, trim the log, and then reattach the saw to the mill- a simple task, but it takes time and is annoying. Alternatively, I could use the smaller 50cc Stihl MS 271 to give the log a shave and a haircut. And hey, that means I get to use another of my babies.

Awaiting the Echo CS 590

After a shave and a haircut, this log awaits the surgeon’s touch to release it from its shell.

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Stihl MS 193 C Review

Stihl MS 193 C-E Review

A.J. Kilpatrick

Another review from the world's best chainsaw blog!

Stihl’s newest midrange rear handled “arborist” saw: the Stihl MS 193 C-E.

In a previous post, we reviewed the Stihl MS 170 that was purchased to convert into a dedicated carving saw, but the MS 170 had some issues with the engine (see full review here), so it was returned for a Stihl MS 193 C-E. The MS 193 C-E is a light-weight and nimble 30.1 cc rear handled saw. Weighing in at 10.2 pounds fully fueled with a 16” bar and 3/8”p chain; the MS 193 C-E is extremely light. Its strato-charged engine promises a BHP of 1.8 with lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions. The anti-vibe is incredibly smooth and refined and this saw promises to be a well balanced detail carver once I get around to forking out the additional $200.00 to equip it with a carving bar, chain and sprocket/rim.

Overview

Pro’s

  • Extremely light-weight and nimble

  • Fully adjustable carb

  • Incredibly low vibration

  • Strato-charged engine promises lower emissions and lower fuel consumption with increased power.

  • Outboard clutch for better balance.

  • Easy to start

Cons

  • Strato-charged engine is cold blooded and needs more time to warm up

  • Adjustable carb is quite finicky with a hard to find sweet spot

  • Small, narrow bar is very sensitive to dirt and debris- clogs easily

  • Chain tension system requires breaking in and is difficult to tension out of the box

  • Automatic oiler is anemic with 16” stock bar

  • Outboard clutch makes bar and chain removal more difficult

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Benches Be Crazy!

Ah, the adventure that is playing with chainsaws. Some days you just want to hear the shrill whine of a chainsaw and watch the chips fly. Oh, how I love the smell of two stroke exhaust in the morning! One day, while walking around the property, I spied some poplar logs lying around that needed to vamoose. But what to do with them? I have more wood awaiting the fire-pit than I’ll ever burn, so what else could I do with them?

They weren’t terribly large, and I had milled a couple of the larger ones to see if I could get any usable lumber out of them, but the jury will be out on that experiment while I wait for the milled wood to dry. I decided to try out my new Stihl MS 193 C that I had just purchased to use as a detail carving saw. Cutting a few small notches might help to break in the new saw, and it would give me some valuable cutting practice, as well as let me decide whether I made the right choice in saws for giving the carving thing a try. After cutting a couple of notches, I decided to try making a rough three piece bench from a downed poplar. I had recently milled a small log and the slab waste had a nice grain to it. I thought it might make an interesting seat to a bench. A few cuts later, a little notching here, a little shaving there, and I had a pretty rustic bench fitted together.

A chainsaw blog that gives you the best: the truth!

A simple three piece. Looks alright, but the smaller diameter logs are a bit wobbly.

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Stihl MS 170 Review

Stihl MS 170 Review

A.J. Kilpatrck

One aspect of the chainsaw world that I have always wanted to try my hand at is chainsaw carving. Of course the first step down this road to chainsaw carving glory is the purchase of a chainsaw suitable for use as a detail saw. I had narrowed the quest down to three main contenders: the Stihl MS 170, the Stihl MS 193 C-E, and the Echo CS 370. All three saws are viable contenders for a first time carver. The MS 170 is the most economical and quite light; the MS 193 C-E is the lightest and most nimble; and the CS 370 is the heaviest, but also the most durable with its split magnesium case. The more astute reader will have noticed the title of this post and assumed that Stihl’s MS 170 won out, and this is partly true.

Another great photo of a Stihl MS 170 by the world's best chainsaw blog

Looking and performing like a bigger saw than it is: the Stihl MS 170.

Being economically minded, and considering that converting any of these saws over to a dedicated carver would cost an additional $200.00 for a carving bar, chain and rim/sprocket, I decided to give the MS 170 a try as it was light weight, had a good reputation as an entry level carver, and ,most importantly, cost exactly half of what the other contenders were going for because of Stihl’s Spring promotion which ended on June 30th. Enter the MS 170. The MS 170 feels fairly solid and is well balanced. It weighs in at around 11 and a half pounds fully fueled and comes equipped with a 16” mini bar and picco chain. The MS 170 also still sports the older non strato engine, and I do love the older engine style’s more “rumbly” sound.

The MS 170 is an older design in the Stihl line-up, and, as such, it sports the older style gas and oil caps that are slotted for opening and tightening with a scrench. There are many who prefer this older style of cap as the newer “flip top” caps are more susceptible to breakage at the hinge. If I ever break one of the flip tops, my opinion will definitely change, but as of right now, I marginally prefer the newer style for its slight edge in convenience, but, from a durability/reliability perspective, the older style is superior. The air filter in the MS 170 is a little on the slight side, but that opinion is based solely on the look and feel of it, and not on actual performance.

Yet another great photo by the world's best chainsaw blog!

A close up of the Stihl MS 170 air filter.

Before starting the saw, I decided to check the saw’s oil tank, fuel level, and chain tension, and it was a good thing that I did. The dealer had filled the fuel tank, but not the bar oil reservoir. Not a good sign. I am learning that it is not wise to assume the dealer is doing what they are supposed to be doing. The Stihl MS 170 fired up with out any issue and for a small saw with a tiny bar and chain, it was an impressive cutter. The small chips just flew as this saw cut through the small birch trees that I felled. The saw did not bog in the cut (although I didn’t force the saw-I let the saw do its work). The MS 170 was also an able limber. Its light weight and good balance came through limbing some spruce and cedar trees. The cutting performance of this small saw was impressive. Continue reading

What To Do With My Wood

I always knew that I would have to do something with the troublesome trees that started me down this road to chainsaw and blogging obsession. It wasn’t a question of “if” but of “what”. Then along came Carver Kings and their episode on carving/building a massive medieval table (see review here), and it hit me: I need a new table and I need something to write about in this crazy quest to create the world’s best chainsawing adventure blog. Why not combine these two things into a new adventure? I had already purchased a Granberg chainsaw mill and had planned on milling some of this wood into useful lumber of some sort. Why not a table top? Now all I needed was something for a base. The Carver Kings had used stumps for their base, and it looked freaking impressive. I happened to have a couple of stumps that I had thought might make good fodder for a foray into carving. Why not use one for the base?

Stihl MS 271 vs poplar stump

Poplar stump excavated, cleaned and awaiting surgery.

Deciding to use one of the stumps for a table base was easy. Anybody can decide , “Hey, I’ll use one of these stumps as a table base.” Deciding is easy. Getting the sucker out of the ground without doing too much damage to the stump, myself, or my chainsaw would prove another matter. My design for the base involved incorporating some of the root structure, and incorporating the roots meant digging to expose those roots for surgery. Digging the roots was a bit of a chore, but the use of a small Karcher K2.27 CCK pressure washer helped both in softening/moving the earth away from the roots, and in cleaning as much abrasive dirt off of the roots as possible in the hopes of not totally destroying the chain on my saw. Of course, the problem with digging and cutting roots lies in the danger of hitting rocks and dirt which can dull (or break) a chain in an instant.

Stihl MS 271 cutting Poplar stump

Watch the dirt, jerk!

 

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Chainsaw Music Volume 2

In our quest to become the best chainsaw blog on the net, we always try to share our passion for the grand adventure that is our descent into the madness of chainsaw obsession.   In a previous blog post, I promised to scour the internet in search of fine examples of chainsaw music.  Once again we will return to those kings of chainsaw music: the illustrious Jackyl.  Today’s offering is the title track from the 1996 CD Cut the Crap. With a driving guitar riff and a grooving bass line, Jackyl‘s “Cut the Crap” is a satisfying piece of hard rock sleaze.  Although the “chainsaw solo” is not the roaring perfection of Jackyl‘s earlier “Lumberjack”,  the chainsaw riffing does provide great accompaniment to the driving rhythm of the bass line.  Sadly, there is no official video release of this song due to the grunge explosion that gutted the hard rock and metal scene of the nineties era, but the track is well worth a listen.  Chainsaw lovers will not be disappointed.  For more Jackyl info, check the official page http://www.rockmerollmejackylmeoff.com/

Next up is a great offering from the Finnish masters of horror rock: Lordi‘s “Chainsaw Buffet”.  Coming off of their 2006 hit album The Arockalypse, this song also lacks an official video, but it does feature Twisted Sister‘s axeman Jay Jay French.  There are no chainsaw solos, but the song does have a chainsaw roaring intro.  A tongue-in-cheek song for horror fans, the song does have a great guitar solo and a catchy chorus.  Give it a listen.  Check the official webpage http://www.lordi.fi/

Our next video is a straight-up hard rock outing by the young band Red In White. The song has “Chainsaw” as its title and is off of the 2013 album Wildness Within.  The video features a brief glimpse of a familiar chainsaw wielding horror hero.  This This Brazillian hard rock band delivers a classic rock video and features some excellent guitar work by Daniel Scarr.  A satisfying musical romp well worth five minutes of your time.  Visit their official site here

Our final selection is a zany offering from Atlanta based Family Force Five. This is an interesting rap/hip hop video from 2013’s Reanimated, and it  introduces a chainsaw inspired dance move.  This video also includes footage of band members destroying innocent furniture with an abused Husqvarna in a manner very reminiscent of Jackyl’s “Lumberjack” video.  Although not my usual genre of choice, this video is a pretty fun outing in the arena of chainsaw music (I do recommend a viewing of their latest video “Sweep the Leg”).  Family Force Five’s official website can be found here.

Chainsaw Instruction Videos 2

Cruising the Net

A.J. Kilpatrick

While cruising the net in search of videos that expand or elaborate on using chainsaws safely and effectively, we come across many that are filled with people doing things that are so unsafe that we find ourselves cringing in front of our monitor screen.  Afraid of what we are about to see, but unable to look away.  We’re  no snuff junkies; we do not search the internet for videos of death and destruction, but sometimes, in our quest for practical knowledge we come across videos that are filled with things that just aren’t right.  What is truly scary is that these videos are shared with the world under the guise of how to videos.  When searching the world wide web, it truly is caveat emptor.  Although these types of videos are ripe with material for this blog, we will not be directing readers to them.  The internet is filled with people who tear down the works of others, and we will not add to the storm of negativity.  However, in our quest to make this the best chainsaw blog possible, we will gladly direct readers to videos and articles that offer enough value to be worthy of your time and our praise.

In a previous post, we praised the Husqvarna series of videos on the safe operation of a chainsaw.  The Husqvarna series of videos have tremendous value for a person just starting out on the road to adventure that is playing with the king of power tools.  Another series of videos that are very good at instructing people in the use of safe chainsaw techniques are the Wildfire series of videos on chainsawing.  These videos cover much of the same material that is covered in the Husqvarna series, but their production values are a little lower, and the videos seem a little older which lowers the sound and video quality in comparison to the Husqvarna series.  The Wildfire videos are a good companion series to the Husqvarna’s as they cover the same material with different instructors and camera angles which might help to clarify any techniques or procedures you are unsure about.  This series of videos is broken down into smaller chapters of segments which is also an advantage when seeking clarification on a particular skill or technique.

This is a long video with some great tips on cutting conventional notches.  Winston gives some great tips on proper gunning cuts, and he gives tips on keeping level and in the right plane.

This video provides instruction on how to make an open-face notch with a bore cut to set the hinge.  This is one of the best techniques for leaners.

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Chainsaw Sharpening

In our quest to become the world’s best chainsaw blog, we often ask ourselves some basic questions, such as: What is the most important piece of the chainsaw performance puzzle?  The single, most relevant variable governing the cutting performance of your beloved chainsaw is the chain.  Think about it, it’s called a chainsaw for a reason.  The chain does the actual sawing.  We’ve all seen the videos of some well meaning guy sawing away at a huge log that is much too big for the saw being used: the dude’s pushing and rocking the saw back and forth. The saw’s engine is bogging and groaning, and, after a couple of minutes of agonizing footage that you were afraid (or hoping) might document some horrible accident, this chainsaw warrior proudly vanquishes the mighty log.  Besides using a saw that is too small for the task at hand, and yes, besides the poor technique, there was another factor at play.  A factor that costs next to nothing, and improves performance and safety dramatically.  A properly maintained cutting bar with a sharp chain.

There are many different products available to keep your trusted saw razor sharp and ready for action.  These sharpening systems range from a few dollars for the appropriate sized file to several hundred dollars for a specialized grinding machine.  If you are new to saws or only use them occasionally, it doesn’t make sense to fork out the big bucks for a professional grinder, and you probably aren’t comfortable (or don’t have the time) to start in on the simple hand filing approach.  That’s where the bar mounted file guide comes in.  Priced at around forty dollars, these guides offer an almost fail-safe, easy to use option to keep your chain razor sharp; thereby ensuring optimum performance and safety.

World's best chainsaw blog pic of MS 271 with a Granberg G106-B

The Granberg G106-B File-N-Joint attached to a Stihl MS 271

Another great pic from the world's best chainsaw blog.

Up close and personal with a Granberg G106-B File-N-Joint.

There are many different bar mounted file guides out there.  Stihl, Oregon, Granberg, and various Asian brands all offer a version.  The one feature that is essential when choosing a bar-mount file guide is all metal construction. The consumer grade guides have plastic construction in key areas that lead to a too inconstant filing angle due to the plastic’s flexibility, as well as being parts that would not stand up to long term use.  Oregon and Stihl offer all metal bar-mount guides, but they are expensive.  The best buy in these guides is the original from Granberg.  The G106-B File-N-Joint can sharpen your chain to the precise angles as specified by the chain manufacturer.  it can also be used to precisely file the rakers or depth-gauge in 0.010 inch increments.  Although the file guide can be used to file depth gauges, it is much faster and easier to purchase a separate gauge that, in conjunction with a flat file, quickly and easily files depth-gauge teeth to the appropriate height.

World's best chainsaw blog pic of a depth gauge tool.

A Stihl depth gauge tool.

The Granberg File-N-Joint mounts easily and securely to the chainsaw bar and allows you to consistently file the same angle to your chain’s teeth.  Once the guide is mounted to the bar and the appropriate angles have been set, the Granberg allows you to sharpen each right or left cutter tooth in succession.  After you have finished sharpening all of the teeth on one side, you can quickly flip the file to the other side and file each tooth to a razor’s edge on that side.  It is a good idea to count the number of file strokes used for each tooth in order to keep the cutter teeth length the same in order to ensure a smooth, straight cut.  You should also pay attention to how hard you press the file on each stroke in order to be consistent with the amount of material you remove from the cutter with each stroke.  Consistency is the key.  If you sharpen your chain after every two tankfuls of fuel or so, you will find that two or three strokes of the file are usually sufficient to restore the cutter’s edge.

World's best chainsaw blog image with too much information.

A close-up pic of a Granberg G106-B with words and arrows.

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Carver Kings Review Part II

 

A.J. Kilpatrick

 Today’s chainsaw blog post is another review of HGTV’s Carver Kings.  This post reviews episodes 2,3, and 4.

Carver Kings Review

Dean Ross and Ken Sheen from Carver Kings’ “Tree of Life” episode.  Here we see dean pulling a salmon from the log under Ken’s guidance.

Pain of Thrones

In this episode we see Paul Frenette and Ryan Cook teaming up to create a massive dining room table for a U.S. senator.  The massive table is a thanksgiving rush job and has to be able to seat twenty.  Because Paul is a dreamer, he also adds two massive thrones into the mix to comply with the clients’ wishes for a “King Arthur” feel.  Poor Ryan is once again thrust into the role of the talented rookie as he is shut out of the design process when Paul arrives to their morning meeting with the design already completed.  Apparently, Paul couldn’t sleep until he had finalized the design.

This episode contains the same memes and reality TV machinations detailed in the previous review.  We don’t need to keep going over this as it is pretty much the nature of the beast.  Let’s just accept it and focus on what this, and future episodes, have to offer.  This episode does not have a secondary sub plot like other episodes as the scale of the project more than fills the brief twenty two minutes available.  The sheer massive scale of this table is mind boggling for us mere regular Joes in TV land.  My university summer job as a mover many years ago has me wondering how many homes would even accommodate these massive thrones and table through their humble entrance ways.

This time around, we see Paul making the “big” mistake as he, in his haste to speed up the carving, cuts off a sword pommel that is integral to his throne design.  Back to the wood shop for another throne.  In addition to Paul’s costly mistake, we also get a bit of dramatic friction as Paul allows Ryan to carve the dragons on one throne with the stern direction not to make them too “cartoony”.  Ryan digs in with zeal and carves two impressive dragons only to be told by Paul that his dragoons are now too “angry” and will be too aggressive for a family centered dining room.  Sometimes you just can’t win, Ryan, (and for the record, I kinda preferred your original dragoons over the softened final version.)  Ryan dutifully re-carves the scales and makes the dragons more suitable for Paul’s design.

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Review of HGTV’s Carver Kings

Finally, after one of the hardest winters in memory, one that brought us the most snowfall since we began keeping records, I find my mind turning to this year’s projects and adventurous forays into the world of chainsawing.  One aspect of playing with chainsaws that I am most anxious to try my hand at is carving.  Is there anything more exciting than taking a hunk of wood and using the manliest of power tools to transform it into a piece of art?

Just as my mind turns to such dreams and visions, HGTV, in a move that is serendipity itself, launches a new show devoted to, you guessed it, chainsaw carving.  This spin off from HGTV’s hit show Timber Kings doesn’t follow just any carvers, it follows some of the best carvers working in Canada.

Carver Kings Pete Ryan, Paul Frenette, and Ryan Cook illustration

Carver King’s Pete Ryan has a new power gouge and it’s no HarryCarry, and that has Paul and Ryan spitting chips!

 

Carver Kings is more of a promo show created to showcase finished pioneer home after people have moved in, and Pioneer’s log homes are incredible enough to warrant a little more showing off.  Although not a “How To” show, it does give us some insight into the various tools and techniques that are used to create some incredible carvings.  These carvings are as ostentatious and “bigger than life” as the log homes in which they will be showcased, but then, that is part of the show’s appeal.

Carver Kings is an entertaining half-hour docu-drama, and its reality show roots drive some recurring contrivances.  There is a sense of manufactured drama in that every job is a last minute order that has a ludicrously tight deadline (who orders a twenty foot long, carved table one week before Thanksgiving from a company several hundred miles away?).  The show also makes use of the rookie versus crusty old mentor meme almost every episode.  The part of the rookie and the part of the mentor may change, but the end is always the same: the rookie will overcome an early mistake to prove his ability and win the begrudging respect of the veteran.  It’s a bit obvious and contrived,  but the personalities of the carving team are so amicable, and their banter is so genuinely entertaining,  that it easy for the viewer to overlook the machinations necessary to create drama in order to drive a storyline.

First Cut

In addition to displaying amazing carvings and the incredible homes that will showcase them, Carver Kings is blessed with a great cast of talented carvers.  The first episode features Ryan Cook pairing up with master speed carver Mark Colp.  Ryan’s good looks, carving talent, and experience as an actor make him a valuable asset to the show.  A newcomer to carving, Ryan has amassed an impressive carving C.V. in a short time which allows him to fill the role of young hotshot/rookie trying to prove himself.  Both Mark and Ryan are affiliated with Echo chainsaws, and this episode gives us a good look at several models in action.

The debut episode is aptly titled First Cuts as it presents us with Ryan’s first task on this project, namely making the first cut in a seven foot tall soaring eagle carving which will be the crowning focal point of this episode’s commission- a thirteen foot tall modern totem pole:.  The long, curved cut is a difficult one, and this episode amps the drama on whether Ryan can handle such a crucial cut.  But, not surprisingly, the rookie who has been to the World Carving Championships manages to impress Mark with his cutting abilities.  Although a little heavy on the mock drama, the two carvers’ charisma and banter more than make up for the production shenanigans (which, to be fair, are very mild compared to most “Reality” programming).  Mark is a carving wizard and both his, and Ryan’s formidable skills are well displayed.

http://www.hgtv.ca/video/first+cuts/video.html?v=2661984301

During the episode, Ryan mistakenly cuts off the eagle’s tail, but is able to save the piece.  This first episode also lifts the veil in that it does provide some insight into some of the different tools and techniques that go into making these impressive carvings.  The show also gives the viewer some information on which size bars and tips are used.  If you are looking for a how to guide, Carver Kings will disappoint, but it does offer a glimpse into the technical aspects of carving.

The debut episode also introduces us to master animal carver Pete Ryan and junior carver Dean Ross.  Pete is quite good at providing some comic relief with his quirky sense of humour, (but his carving skills are no joke).  Dean Ross is touted as a junior carver, but his skill and ability to bring his Native inspired flair to life leave little doubt that he is a rising talent in the carving world.  Dean also brings his own brand of good natured humour to the show.  In addition to Pete and Dean, this sub-plot also introduces us to “Cento” (Ceintario Beaulieu) and “Little Man” (Bryan Reid III).  The inclusion of the youngest Bryan Reid helps to set up a recurring theme on the show: the father-son dynamic.  A son struggling to prove himself to his father is a common experience that many viewers will be able to relate to.  That family is important to the Reids has been well documented on Timber Kings, and it is an important concept at play on Carver Kings as later episodes will also feature Paul Frenette’s working with his son Jacob.

All things considered, Carver Kings debut episode is a great way to spend a half hour on a Sunday night.  The carvings are phenomenal and the guys behind the saws are entertaining as hell.  There is always one or two quotable moments from one of the guys.  Tonight’s stand out quote: “I learned an important lesson this week, not to touch another man’s wood.”  Words to live by Ryan.

Carver Kings airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

Check back later for a brief review of later episodes.