Rob's Blog Archive

November 29, 2015

It’s Not the Length That Matters










Early on the eighteenth of November, the worst winds I’ve seen since moving to Montana blew through Silly Lake.  My house and driveway are in a depression, and it provides a lot of wind protection.  With this, I had not previously had to clear a fallen tree off of my driveway.  That changed last week. 

With that, I was reminded that I didn’t have a good working chainsaw.  Fortunately, I do have a good axe and know how to use it.  The tree had split and had two eight inch trunks I had to chop through, but that took well less than an hour and I took breaks.  Of course, a chainsaw would have taken only a few seconds.

Early this fall, I helped out as members of the Montana Mountain Mushers----I should say all guys on this trip---brought their chainsaws with them as we cleared a path to take sections of a bridge out.  I was impressed with the size and power of their tools.  Me, I could just move logs and branches off of the trail, which I did.

I knew I needed a chainsaw, just like all the other guys had.  I do have an old chainsaw but it doesn’t work.  It’s a Craftsman.  I bought it without consulting anybody.  Actually, it could probably be brought back into working order quickly.  The problem is it’s leaky.  Showing my saw off to some of my friends, they said I should get a Stihl.  That was over a decade ago. 

Since fall began, between training dogs, training myself, and starting to plan out my trip to Alaska, purchasing a chainsaw dropped off of my A-List.  Only after the storm did it reappear.

And so, on my most recent Missoula run, I headed to the big ranch supply store in town. They stock both Husqvarna’s and Stihl’s.  Being practical---read cheap---I didn’t want to spend a lot.  Given that I had lived at Silly Lake and didn’t actually need a chainsaw most years, along with the fact that nobody would see it, a small low power tool seemed easy to rationalize.  I still wanted to have something I could count on to work after years of non-use---something past experience has shown to be my reality.  With this, I figured a small Stihl would do the trick. 

I was standing by the display of Stihl’s---at least ten different saws---when Michelle asked, “Can I help you?” 
“I’m looking at buying a chainsaw and I think I’m going to get a Stihl.”
“Well,” she said, “we have a good collection of both Husqvarna’s and Stihl’s.” 
“Which is better?”
“It’s like Chevy and Ford,” (that set her age as being close to mine…..), either you’re a Chevy person or a Ford person, but there really isn’t that much difference.  Over here, we have our professional grade saws, (Read: probably more durable and definitely more expensive).”

“No, I don’t need anything like that. Tell me about this $180 16” model.”
“It’s a good saw---not much power and it has only a 16” blade,” she said, perhaps a little disappointed.

The next Stihl up also had a 16” blade, but a little bit more power.  The length of the blade could make a difference, but while it might take more strokes, I could finesse my way through a very big downed tree.  Even without any finesse, 16” was long enough for anything I was likely to deal with. 

As for power, all that does is speed things up.  I’d be forced to take my time while cutting, but that was probably a good thing too.  Like most men, I tend to be impatient while cutting timber.  Michelle actually seemed somewhat interested when I said I could make up for a tool’s power and size with a little more care and time. 

I asked a couple more questions just to make sure I understood what having a small low powered tool meant, then said I’d take it.  Michelle took it back, fueled it, and started it.  I asked her to instruct me how to get it going, which she did. 

I probably shouldn’t have, but shortly after I got home---it was dark---I started it up and cut the tree that had fallen on the driveway.  I had cleared the driveway, but with a couple more cuts, I could move the lower trunk away from the driveway’s edge.  The saw worked great.  My new tool may be small, but I know how to use it.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 

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