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You Need To Learn How To Use a Chainsaw Before You Die
"I could cut logs all damn day!"

Summation of life’s greatest pleasures

Don’t succumb to death’s sweet release until you’ve tried your hand at a chainsaw. Husqvarna is a 324 year old Swedish company that produces the Mercedes-benz of chainsaws. At a recent event called Cut the Cookie, Husqvarna’s PR invited media downtown to try out their Husqvarna 240 Chainsaw ($249.99 retail). Perplexing to me was who, in the financial district, is in the market for a chainsaw.

Certified Arborist Chris Timperon explained that Toronto’s trees have been under significant stress for years. The Emerald Ash Borer and Dutch Elm Disease are taking their toll on the urban tree population. Over-planted Norway maples have roots now encroached upon by urban sprawl and pollution. Limestone screening used in renovation and construction can affect the pH levels in the soil that trees grow in, adding to their woes. While a deep root fertilizer injection system can help, often trees must be eliminated — cut up and disposed of.

Timperon is tasked with tree pruning and removal, working at precarious heights while wielding a considerably unwieldy tool. The 240 model we are testing for occasional consumer use promises to be good for removing trees and clearing out brush – if you’re fortunate enough to have the problem of too many trees in your life. “It’s good for homeowners to have a chainsaw,” said Timperon. “This is the one that we use in the tree. Nice and light. You want to be able to cut large pieces of wood quickly, and then get out of there, and have only so much weight on your belt. I don’t want 30 pounds of weight — I just want 8 pounds.”

The first step is to don ballistics material — tightly woven Kevlar chaps. If the saw slips and lands on your leg, the ballistic fibres will wrap around the sprocket of the engine and will stop the chainsaw from spinning in less than one second. In olden times, chainsaw operators who wanted to keep their limbs could only wear heavily padded pants that were largely ineffectual if you accidentally nicked your leg. “They tear,” said Husqvarna Product Specialist Ed Andria. “It’s not a clean cut. It’s not like a knife.” Next come steel-toed safety boots, containing a bulge filled with more ballistics fibre in the rubber. Then ear plugs and goggles, or a full helmet with ear coverings and a face shield.

This chainsaw is as idiot-proof as a chainsaw can be, containing a computer chip that takes into effect the temperature, operating range, and RPM’s, and calibrates the throttle accordingly. Before the miraculous invention of the lightweight, one-man chainsaw in the 1950’s by Claude Poulan and his brother, the job was considerably trickier. “You’d have one person on the engine, and the unfortunate other person at the tip of the chainsaw bar holding it,” said Andria. “There was a pole that ran through it, and the chain would spin, and both of you together would go up and down through the wood. Extremely dangerous.”

The chainsaw operates with a small 2-stroke engine, requiring oil to lubricate the engine and fuel to make the engine run. For the crowd of amateurs trying it out yesterday (myself included), they came lubed up and ready to cut some wood. The pristine chain chisels the wood forming neat little squares — misty sawdust is an indicator of a run-down saw. The chain has to be oiled and taut, with sharpened teeth. We are told we can use them on wood, or ice (people use them to cut holes in the ice for fishing) — but avoid nails. It will dull the teeth.

“There’s a piston in here, like a little motorcycle engine, the piston firing this way, turning a little crank shaft. At the end of the crank shaft is the same thing that’s like on your bicycle, like a sprocket.” The sprocket sets the chain in motion, which runs along a blade in a rail.

Ideally, noted Andria, you want to choose a saw that’s “low weight and high power” so you can saw all day and “stay fresh, stay nimble and keep on cutting.” My chainsaw aspirations also include nimbly mincing around my apartment and carving up the shitty couch my landlord has unloaded there.

To my slight disappointment, Andria placed the saw safely on the ground, activated the choke and pulled the starter rope. I would have preferred a more cinematic approach by throwing the weight of the saw down to rev it up, but understand that may not be the best life choice. The engine roared to life, emitting a satisfying, motorboat putter. I grabbed the saw with two hands, pressed the base into my hip and brought the blade about an inch above the log, jamming down the throttle. I leaned in, let the chain catch the wood and pull itself through. The saw let out a high-pitched squeal as it slipped through the wood, and the disc (or ‘cookie’) clattered to the ground. I could cut logs all damn day! I would have if I didn’t have to let the others take their turn. Chainsaws have transformed an onerous human burden into a delirious pleasure! “If you have a saw,” smiled Timperon, “zing, zing, you’re done. You can go sit and have a margarita.”


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Toronto Standard.  Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson. 

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