He quietly cursed as he pulled on the starter rope. This was the third attempt to get the chainsaw started , and the second time he’d adjusted the carburettor settings. It was always the same when he’d had the machine apart for cleaning; it never liked to start first time. Putting his toe back in the handle grip, he gave the rope another sharp pull, and the saw spluttered – Excellent! Pushing in the choke lever, he pulled again, and the saw chugged into life. This was the dodgy bit. He mustn’t try revving it up yet, or it would die on him, and be the very devil to start again. The sound of the exhaust was almost like laughter, the saw teasing him, and urging him to pick it up and flick the trigger, but no, not yet – it wasn’t warm enough yet. Let it run another minute. The saw slowly settled back to a more regular chuckling noise, and he recognised from the changing tone that the engine was warming up now, and the playful pixie in the engine had given way to a more workmanlike wizard – one who was ready to magic its way through any log that it was rested on.
He picked the saw up and tickled the trigger, the saw burst into life, and the chain whirred, flicking sticky chain-oil forward. Tweaking the trigger again, he immediately pushed the back of his wrist against the safety bar, which jumped forward, and the whirring chain stopped dead. It was said to stop in milliseconds, but a chain could still do a lot of damage, given the speed it was travelling at full tilt. Still, a few milliseconds was better than seconds in the event of a kick-back or snag, or stumbling while working which is such an easy thing to do.
Thinking to try out the newly cleaned saw, he revved it and gently laid the chain against the bark at the butt end of a recently felled tree. The chain started to bite and a shower of chips streamed out from the underside of the blade, shooting out behind the saw off to his side. The cut felt good and even, each tooth of the chain cutting the same sized chip as the one before it, a smooth flow of minute slices which would make easy work of the log. Pushing the toothed dog at the front of the body into the bark, he pulled harder on the trigger and levered the saw to put more cutting pressure on the chain. The exhaust note deepened as the engine worked harder to take a deeper slice. This wasn’t necessary, as the saw would perform best if not under pressure, but this was a trial to see how the engine performed under pressure, and it passed with flying colours; no coughing or spluttering; the settings were just right for a change. There was nothing worse in his book than a saw spluttering or failing halfway through a felling cut, leaving him “out on a limb”, with little control over how the tree would behave until it was finally through.
He was pleased too that the newly sharpened chain was in excellent condition – he took great pride in his sharpening prowess. It had been the same with hand-saws – there were very few could sharpen and set a saw these days, very few who had even used a two handled cross-cut before, but that was how he had started, and it was a fine introduction to learning how to “feel” trees, and just what was going on inside them. It just seemed to him that there was very little point in having an edge tool that didn’t have a sharp edge, be it a saw, axe, chisel, knife, plane or chainsaw. Sure, you could burn your way through a log with a blunt chain and a lot of brute force, but what was the point of that, when your saw could zip through a log like a hot knife through butter with the least effort on your part, and the greatest satisfaction of a job well done?
He knew that he’d never fell another tree. His forestry days were long over, and the Juggernaut logging machines had come to take the work from him. One man in a cab could fell, sned, cut to length and roughly stack a tree in a matter of seconds, and all without even having to lift his backside out of the seat.
Picking up the saw again, he gave the trigger a squirt, and turned, smiling, to the stack of logs he was to cut today.
All his cordwood was delivered these days on a truck, (all of it spewed out by the loggernaut machine) but nobody would ever deprive him of the pleasure of using the tool that had been an extension of his right hand for so much of his working life.
©Rob King 2014