My New Favorite Power Tool
I have a new love. At first my wife didn’t understand, but she’s coming around. It helped that my new beau and I cut down a 70-year-old maple tree that was blocking construction of our family’s new workshop and studio space. No, my new love isn’t a burly lumberjack. It’s a new chainsaw, a Husqvarna 455 to be precise. After years of making do with an underpowered Poulan, my new Husky was love at first cut.
Over the years, I’ve noticed there are only two brands of saw that pro tree cutters use: Husky and Stihl. Armed with this inadequate research and the need for an 18-in. bar, I threw the dice and ordered a reconditioned Husqvarna from a vendor I found on Amazon. With shipping, the saw came to $279.04, which was only about $30 more than the cheapest estimate to have the tree cut by a pro. And I still would have had to buck the logs and stack the wood.
When the saw arrived this past Wednesday, I began doubting whether I could really pull this off. But when Saturday rolled around, I figured I had to give felling the tree my best shot. After doing some limbing, I made a notch and started the felling cut. It was going great, and I was almost all the way through when the saw got bound up and stopped cutting. With the saw stalled and the tree just standing there, I nearly panicked. But instead, I went looking for a wedge. I don’t have a plastic or hardwood wedge, and I didn’t think I had time to make one, so I searched out my steel splitting wedge. I couldn’t find that either. Now I was panicking.
I went back to the tree with a flat bar. When it became clear I wasn’t going to cleave the trunk with a 12-in. pry bar, I started the saw again. Miraculously, it started cutting, and the tree fell to the ground within a second or two—well, almost all of it. About three large branches got hung up in a neighboring oak—the last of which I had to pull down with a rope and my compact SUV.
Bucking the trunk and dealing with the slash pile took my wife and me the entire weekend, but in the end everything worked out OK, and I ended up with a great chainsaw in the process. So would I do this again? You bet! But I’d do some things a little differently. For starters, I’d make sure I had some hardwood wedges close by to prevent the kerf from closing on the saw’s bar and chain. Next, I’d plan my notch cuts more carefully. The notch I made was about 2 to 5 degrees from where it should have been, which is why part of the maple tree I was cutting got hung up on the neighboring oak. When I look at the stump, I can see that the tree fell exactly where my poorly placed notch directed it.
I can say I’ve had my fill of being a lumberjack for a while—even with my cool new saw.
My new favorite tool—a Husqvarna 455 18-in. chainsaw with a 45.7 cc engine. Buying it reconditioned saved me about $120 over a brand-new one, even though they have the same warranty.
You can see the maple tree I'm planning to cut in the foreground. Behind it is the well-drilling rig that motivated me to get the tree out of the way sooner rather than later. Digging the trench for the new water line would have cut through half of its roots. As it turns out, the tree was in the exact spot of a planned workshop/studio.
A poorly placed notch sent the tree too far to the left, so a few branches got hung up on a neighboring oak. Freeing the last branch required a sturdy rope and a sharp tug from my Chevy Tracker.
Typical of a rookie, I grossly underestimated how much work it would be dealing with the slash. My dutiful wife worked for hours attacking the pile with a pair of pruners. She withheld comment when I said, "Just think of the money we saved, Honey."
Here I am at the end of the day, victorious—and extremely tired. We worked all day Sunday, too, getting the slash cleared and the wood piled. I'll split and stack it next weekend.
This is a shot of the 20-in. stump my four-year-old son affectionately refers to as "Stumpster." If you look closely, you can see a faint impression of "Husqvarna" left behind when the bar was temporarily squeezed inside the kerf.