Magazine article American Forests

The Well-Appointed Woodcutter

Magazine article American Forests

The Well-Appointed Woodcutter

Article excerpt

Here's a closeup look at the cream of the new crop of chainsaws, pole pruners, and safety wear.

It wasn't long ago that a woodcutter's equipment and apparel were purely utilitarian; except for color, all chainsaws looked pretty much alike and headgear was woolen. But that was then, and this is now; the advancements in both areas are widespread and welcome. The result is a manyfold increase in productivity, reliability, and attention to safety.

Chainsaw research and development departments have been striving to make improvements in various areas simultaneously: anti-vibration devices, power-to-weight ratio, innovative features, and just plain power. Since all manufacturers claim to have made headway in the above-mentioned departments, a closer look is warranted.

Stihl is showcasing two models: the 044C and 066M. The 044C improves on an existing model by adding an automatic choke that is advantageous during periods of intermittent operation. When cold, the 044C is choked as usual, but once warmed, it can sit for two hours and still start reliably without further choking.

Every maker brags about its saws' power-to-weight ratio, but the 044C really impresses me in that department. And Stihl isn't shy about talking-up its grooved chain drive-links for better oil conservation and distribution. One of the things that caught my eye was cleanliness; even after several hours of cutting, only traces of oil and sawdust were inside the sprocket guard. This rascal's housebroke!

At a hair over 70cc, the 044C is a dynamite saw light enough for firewood projects but also capable of handling the occasional large-diameter "homesteaders" found during selective-cut operations.

Consistently big timber calls for a big saw that is capable of handling any size job--enter the 066M. Thirty percent larger than the 044C, Stihl's 066M (Magnum) is wrapped around a 91.6cc cavity setting atop the piston. The 066M shares a number of features with smaller Stihl models. Examples are switch and choke functions combined in one control, a choke that automatically opens when the throttle is touched, and a side-access chain-tension screw that is truly handy.

Lest you think that size is the only characteristic distinguishing the 066M, take a look at this: A light-emitting diode (LED) is located immediately above the carburetor adjustments. High-rpm tuning is critical to the life and performance of any two-cycle engine, and the LED acts as a tachometer, coming on when the high-speed needle is properly adjusted.

Just any old ignition system won't do for a saw of this caliber, so Stihl installed a digital ignition module to constantly adjust spark timing for maximum performance.

Such details as these--and a translucent fuel-tank panel, which allows Stihl operators to see the fuel level at a glance--are indicative of innovative manufacturing.

You'll find an equal attention to detail in equipment made by Echo. This company's CS-8000, its largest at 80.7cc, and the CS-6700, a mid-size 66.7cc unit, share many desirable features with their smaller siblings. The first innovation that caught my eye--or, as it were, my finger--is the throttle-control insert. Made of a soft material, the trigger is the most comfortable I've ever squeezed.

Echo has developed a Pro-Fire Electronic Slope Advance Ignition System that automatically matches ignition timing with engine speed for optimum cutting power. And the Echnos I tested had cutting power in excess of all my tasks.

As with other Echo models, the CS-6700 and CC-8000 have a knob for convenient idle-speed adjustment and an oil-flow adjustment control that doesn't get hidden under sawdust on the bottom of the saw. Both controls can be manipulated without a screwdriver.

The third pair of saws in my test lot were Husqvarna's 272XP and the new 394XP, which has a 94cc power plant tucked under its shroud. Both saws also have Husqvarna's Air Injection system, which precleans and compresses combustion air as it's sent to the carburetor. …

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