Purchasing and Using a Small Gas Powered Chainsaw

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Purchasing a New Small Chainsaw

About small gas powered chainsaws
Small Chainsaw - Echo CS-310. Steve Nix image

Small gas powered chainsaws are very popular but can exasperate a new user. Most entry level purchases are made by people not familiar with a power saw who pick one boxed and off the shelf of a major hardware outlet. They can fast become frustrated with a finicky small saw. Not all saws are of the same quality and some have dubious service warranties.

Important: buy your first small saw from a reputable dealer with full service and warranty guarantees. They will be glad to help break you and your saw in.

For starters, I consider a small chainsaw to be less than 10 pounds in weight. You should not expect a large bar that will cut a large tree. You should expect to have enough power to easily run a 12 to 14 inch bar and chain for limbs and small trees.

Unboxing the Echo CS-310 Small Chainsaw

I purchased what I think is one of the best small chainsaws on the market. It rated very high on every list of reviews and I have a local dealer who expresses total commitment to honoring the service warranty. I am now the owner of an Echo CS-310 and will use it as my example of a small saw for your first purchase.

Let's start with price vs power.

This little gem can be purchased for less than $200. It will handle a 16" bar and it has the engine displacement power of 30.5 cc for support. A standard 14" bar comes with the package and that is all I need. However, you can also downsize the bar to 12 inches in addition to a 16" upgrade.

This Echo has a 5 year warranty covering any purchase not used for rental or for commercial use (landscapers and arborists). This warranty is unconditionally honored by certified Echo dealers who sold you the fully assembled saw.

Purchasing a Small Chainsaw versus an Electric Chainsaw

I am not often faced with cutting down a large tree so I don't need the extra power or the extra bar length of a large saw. I do want to be able to use the saw in a large landscape so a tethered electric saw is not an option for my use.

I will be using my saw mainly for tree limb trimming but it may be needed for larger jobs in a pinch. This saw has that kind of power and supports several chain bar sizes.

Since there is a considerable compromise in cutting power when comparing gas operated chainsaws to electric chainsaws, I chose the gas-burner. The loss in power and mobility would limit me to only cutting backyard limbs and not appropriate for bucking logs and felling even small trees. You cannot ask an electric saw to do a power job just as you cannot ask a larger gas saw to perform well without extra costs and care.

 

 

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The Basic Parts Under a Chainsaw Hood

Inside an Echo CS-310. Steve Nix image

A gas powered chainsaw has many important parts and you need some basic understanding of them. Hopefully this introductory small chainsaw review, along with your owners manual, will have you sawing quickly and easily. ALWAYS read your owners manual before using any chainsaw!

My "out of the box" gas operated chainsaw has all the important features recommended for safe and successful sawing. There should always be a chain break over the handle of all gas burning chainsaws as shown in the above photo. When pushed forward, the saw will stop, protecting you from serious injury. I will show you a new safety feature on this particular model called a "kick guard". More on this safety feature on the next page.

Cranking and the Hood

All small chainsaws have approximately the same cranking, oiling and cutting schemes. This Echo is no different. Cranking is a combination of filling the fuel bulb, setting the choke and pulling the crank cord. Cold starts need a choke pulled out - warm starts usually do not. Always make sure your start toggle is on.

I love the Echo's easily detachable hood on top (removed in this photo) which immediately gets you to the spark plug and the air filter. The odd looking "on top" air filter is isolated from a lot of dirt and trash.

Oil and Gas

This Echo has the usual automatic bar lubrication tank which always needs to be full. It will provide enough bar oil to protect both the bar and the chain through a tank full of gas mixture.

"Use bar oil or motor oil; SAE30 in summer, SAE10 in winter or when cutting conifers." - the Echo manual.

 My Echo dealer let me in on a secret that I will share with you. There is a product on the market called TruFuel (see photo) which is great for the saw owner who only uses a chainsaw a few times a year. Saws that sit unused for long periods of time will often fail to crank.

TruFuel comes in both 40:1 and 50:1 mixtures in 32 oz. color-coded cans. It has a long self life and can preserve your two cycle engine. The mixture can be found in larger hardware outlet and is not cheap at about $6 per can. This stuff will keep your saw running and save you in service costs over time.

 

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Non-Kickback Attachment and Chain Tension

kick guard on Echo CS-310. Steve Nix image

Tensioning the Echo Saw Chain

The chain travels in a guide bar groove around the blade tip driven by the toothed sprocket. All small saws have the ability to adjust to the correct tension. This Echo saw has a nice Phillips head "screw" on the outside of the right body to adjust for the correct chain tension. You don't have to go into the plastic outside cover and you can use your spark plug tool courtesy of Echo.

To adjust the chainsaw tension: (1) let the chain cool. (2) locate and loosen both guide bar nuts. (3) turn tension screw to loosen or tighten chain. (4) allow the chain a 1/8th inch gap off the groove edge. (5) make sure the chain moves freely.

Echo's Kick Guard

Echo now includes a "Kick Guard" in the box (see photo). It attaches easily to the symmetrical low-kick guide bar and reduces the danger of chainsaw kickback. Kickback is a major source of chainsaw injury and I have attached this device to my saw.

New chainsaw owners are the users most likely to have a kickback injury. There is a danger zone at the tip of the blade where beginning chainsaw users can get into trouble. Kickback is a strong thrust of the saw back toward the sawyer. It is usually happens from improper use of the nose of the bar or the pinching of the bar in a cut.

Attach this safety device if you are a new user.