Monday, September 26, 2016

And Then There Were Chainsaws

I mentioned in a previous post that my dad used an old-fashioned crosscut saw to cut timber when he first came home from WW II, as my granddad had always done when the need arose. Sometime in the late 40’s or early fifties, though, they got a two-man chainsaw put out by McCullough. It was a beast of a machine. It was powerful, but it was big and it was heavy (about 50 pounds). Even then, it was only half the weight of its closest competitor.

Click images to enlarge.

The end that the sawyer used had bicycle-like handlebars, with the gas feed controlled by one thumb-lever and the manual oiler controlled by the other. On the far end of the bar was a handle for the second man. With it, he could help control the direction of the saw and put some down-pressure on if desired. Since all-position carburetors hadn’t been invented yet, the engine had to stay fairly upright to run. To offset that problem, the bar could be locked into three different positions—level, for starting the felling notch and cutting down the tree—45 degrees for cutting the top of the notch—and vertical, for cutting logs to length (bucking).

The bar they used was five feet long, I think, but the attachment to the engine took some length off the back end of the bar, and the handle for the second man took off a bit more at the end of the bar. If you really needed the extra length, you could take off that handle and use the saw as a one man, gaining about three inches. It shows you what the old virgin timber could be like, even in my neck of the woods, that they sometimes had to notch both sides of the tree before they could get the blade to reach through to cut the notch. That was before my time, though. I think Dad and I only used the thing one time together, to saw down a huge old dead elm tree in the pasture field near the house. One of my older cousins remembers Granddad climbing onto the old Ford Golden Jubilee farm tractor and heading over the hill behind the sawmill with the big McCullough on his shoulder. A little later, he’d come back up the hill carrying the saw the same way, but dragging a big log behind the tractor, and steering with the brakes, since the front end was in the air. He was about 75 at the time. When I sold the farm, I gave the old saw to a local collector.

In the late 50’s but still before I was old enough to pay any attention, Dad bought a Mac 35. It was a one-man saw, weighing about 20 pounds. Dad used a 20” bar on it I think. It’s the saw that I remember him using when he cut timber on the ridge here where I live now. It cut a LOT of oak timber over the years.

Sometime in the mid 60’s, Dad got a blue Homelite XL-12. He was cutting a lot of pulpwood on the farm at the time, and the reduced weight (about 12 pounds) was a real advantage. He cut a lot of hardwoods with it, too, but he never put any dogs on it. The dealer said that if you needed dogs, your chain wasn’t sharp enough, or you were lugging the saw too much. Dad tended to agree. He used it for years and then accidentally put the wrong gas in it and locked it up. He dearly loved that saw and hated what he’d done, but the dealer, a friend of his, said it would cost more to repair than the saw was worth.

He’d been using my Stihl 041 Farm Boss and liked it, and thought that it would do for most regular cutting chores, so he got a Stihl 032 AV since he was getting older and the 032 seemed to balance well for him, plus, he was getting “white finger,” and the anti-vibration was a consideration. It weighed about 15 pounds, a touch more than his Homelite, but it became his favorite saw ever. As with the Old Mac 35, Dad always ran 20” bars on the Homelite and the Stihl.  The 032 AV was still the saw he used when he passed away in 1984, so I inherited it and used it even more. After Dad passed away, I gave the old Homelite to a friend and he had it running in no time.

There have been a couple more Stihl saws in my truck since then, but they were purchased for particular reasons and were part of my history, not Dad’s, so this is where I’ll end the story. © 2016


deborah harvey said...

what is 'white finger'?

Gail said...

We have Stihl now but different ones in the past. Dad was a Homelite man.

The blooming Blue Herons keeps our frog legs thinned. We used to gig about three times a year. The population of Bull Frogs are too thin now. I hope they recover soon. I love frog legs.

Gorges Smythe said...

Well, dh, you might get a better explanation by googling the term, but it's the destruction of the small veins in the hand due to the operation of vibrating equipment. That can include chainsaws, jackhammers electric hedge clippers, etc. A casual user won't have the problem, but those who use such tools a lot suffer numbness in the fingers and a whitish appearance of the fingers, due to a lack of blood. The fingers also tend to get cold more easily than they once did.

I'll never have anything but Stihls myself, Gail. Can you EAT blue herons! - lol