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.

 

Chainsaw Instructional Videos

Turning To YouTube

A.J. Kilpatrick

After deciding to take the plunge and purchase a chainsaw, I realized that when it comes to the safe operation of a chainsaw, I was relatively clueless (of course, the truly clueless are those who do not realize that they are in need of knowledge).  Anyone can cut a tree down with a chainsaw, it’s not rocket science, but felling a tree safely without endangering life, limb, and property is another matter.  In my searching of the interwebs in an effort to acquire clear instruction in how to safely accomplish my mission to fell the trees near my home, I came across many different articles and videos on how to safely operate a chainsaw.  All of the major brands had their own videos, as did countless others.  Some of the videos were by skilled and knowledgeable individuals, and some videos left me cringing as I wondered if I was watching a snuff film.

Chainsaw operation videos reviewed

Finding good, quality chainsaw instruction videos on the interwebs can be hard.

Of all the videos I watched on chainsawing, the video series that I found to be the most well done and informative was offered by Husqvarna.  Although the other major brands also offer informative videos, the following Husqvarna series succeeded on the strengths and abilities of its instructor, who, for me, presented the material in a clear, concise, and professional manner.  I would love to praise this individual by name, but, as of yet, I have not tracked down his identity.

There were three videos in the series that I feel are particularly worthy of your time.  The first video is quite short, clocking in at three minutes and twenty-five seconds, and it explains the proper stance and position for safely operating a chainsaw.  In addition to demonstrating the proper stance, the instructor also presents the various ergonomic design elements that have been incorporated into the modern chainsaw to make felling a tree easier and more intuitive.

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Chainsaw Music

Chainsaw Music

A.J. Kilpatrick

To break up the information tsunami, this week’s post will offer a couple of links to songs featuring chainsaws.  I do not know how many chainsaw songs are out there, but it is my promise to you to find them and pass them along.

Chainsaw Music volume 1

Music featuring chainsaws: You betcha!

The first offering in chainsaw music is the legendary 90’s “redneck” rock band Jackyl.  In 1992, Jackyl released their self-titled debut album Jackyl, and it brought us a modern masterpiece of chainsaw music: “The Lumberjack”.  This chainsaw master work made it to number 24 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart, and, although filled with the cheesy memes of late eighties/early 90’s hair metal, the song features some masterful playing of the chainsaw.  Using the chain brake, Jackyl front man Jesse Dupree displays the full musical range of what appears to be a 50 cc’ish Jonsered chainsaw.  This song doesn’t just feature sound samples of a chainsaw; it features the actual playing of our favorite power tool.  From the deep, melodic four stroking to the high octave whining of WOT, Jesse gives us the greatest chainsaw solo ever recorded in music form.

A word of warning, Jackyl‘s first album contains some salty songs, but “The Lumberjack” is fairly safe (it contains a little rock n’ roll sexual double entendre, but nothing too overt).  Definitely a theme song for all chainsaw fanatics.  Once again, please take the hair metal video clichés with the good humour in which they are presented.  Without further ado, the greatest chainsaw song: “The Lumberjack”:

Everyone knows the best things come in two’s, so here is a modern nouveau country song by The Band Perry.  In this song, which made it to number 20 on the Country charts, we see the Perry siblings sing about erasing he heartbreak of failed loves by destroying the trees in which the ill-fated couple’s initials have been carved.  For those worried about the needless killing of trees just to make a video, there is a disclaimer at the end explaining that the trees felled in the video were scheduled for harvesting on a farm in Oregon.

This song, sadly, does not feature chainsaws as musical instruments, but it does feature the aesthetically pleasing siblings slinging some handsome Stihl chainsaws. A shout-out has to go out to the band for being safety conscious and wearing the appropriate P.P.E for the task at hand(except for the CGI’ed Ninja Scroll chainsaw chop near the end by the lovely Kimberly Perry).  Displaying a lot more polish than the boys from Jackyl, the video for “Chainsaw” is a tamer, more modern offering which uses our favourite power tool as a symbol for emotional closure.

Without anymore unnecessary verbiage, here is The Band Perry‘s “Chainsaw”: