Xmas Hols...

Just wanted to wish you all a Happy Xmas and New Year - I'll be back with more chainsaw related articles, and the continuation of the Dealing With Stihl Chains series.
But that's going to be it for this year - I was going to post a couple more articles but as my Nan died yesterday afternoon, just a couple of hours after seeing her, I'm not much in the mood for it.
Anyway, I wish you all well for the festive period. See you in 2013.

The New CS30

You may be aware that there are changes afoot with the qualification structure around all the Certificates of Competence. So, in this quick post I'll just try to set out the main points of (what used to be) the CS30 ticket.

As from May 2013, the CS30 will be no more. It'll now be called the rather snappily titled City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-Cutting (QCF) 0020-03. It's still made up of 2 units, just as CS30 was made up of CS30.1 (maintenance) and CS30.2 (cross-cutting) these have become Unit 201 and 202 respectively.

So much for the renaming, what about the content? It's largely the same; there are a few subtle changes but nothing that will radically alter the underlying and underpinning knowledge. There is now a requirement to show some very superficial knowledge regarding health and safety legislation such as HASAWA (Health And Safety At Work Act), PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) and the AFAG guides (Arboriculture & Forestry Advisory Group). You'll need to explain why maintenance should be undertaken, and what to do with a faulty chainsaw. There are some very minor changes to the chain elements - there is no longer a need to identify the individual components of the chain and state their function, and they've limited the cutter types to just chisel and semi-chisel; although there is still definite merit in knowing this information... if someone tells you to read the model number off of the drive link, but you don't know what a drive link is, then...

Within the crosscutting section, you will now need to explain how to grade timber and present logs for extraction and describe how to move timber safely by hand, with aid tools or using some form of mechanical assistance.

To be honest, it really doesn't appear to be any kind of radical departure from what I would normally cover in one of my courses, mind you trying to fit it all in in 2 days of tuition can be a bit difficult at times!

CS30 is dead, long live CS30! Or at least long live the City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-Cutting (QCF) 0020-03.

Health and Safety: Fine of £111,000...

I was just flicking through the latest (January 2013) copy of hsw magazine, dealing with health and safety at work when I came across this mention of a wildlife park owner was fined £111,000 after a Beech tree fell on a visitor. The site had had trees assessed by an expert, but seemingly had not actioned any recommendations.

To find out more information on this ruling and the events leading up to it, visit http://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/hsw/risk-assessment/manor-house

Dealing With Stihl Chains: Part 2

In the last post, we saw that it, perhaps, wasn't all that obvious how Stihl derive their model numbers - which you need to understand to be able to read a Stihl filing table. Last time, we saw that the first character of the model designator was based on the pitch of the chain. But what about the second character?

To decipher the model number we also need to recognise that the second number relates to the gauge of the chain. Just as there are industry standard sizes for chain pitch, there are recognised sizes for chain (and bar) gauge.

Starting from the narrowest, these are 1.1mm, 1.3mm, 1.5mm, 1.6mm and 2.0mm. Here, Stihl just take the number after the decimal point and stamp that on to the drivelink, thereby indicating the gauge of the chain. Therefore, a chain with a "3" stamped on to the drivelink is a 1.3mm gauge chain. Easy.

The second character of the Stihl model number is just this single gauge reference number. This means then, that with the knowledge gained from the last post and this one, if we have a chain stamped with a "2" on the depth gauge, and a "6" on the drivelink, then we can deduce that it's a 0.325" pitch chain with a gauge of 1.6mm; furthermore the model number (so far) is "26".

With the slightly older chains, the pitch was marked up differently, so a "3/8" on the depth gauge and a "6" on the drivelink would have told us that it was a model "36" chain.

We have now looked at how the model number is formed, but if you look at a filing table, you'll see a whole bunch of letters after this number - they gotta mean something. Surely? Well, yes, of course - and that's the subject of the next post.

Dealing With Stihl Chains: Part 1

When it comes to sharpening, identifying Oregon chains to get the requisite filing information is a relatively simple affair - look up the model number on the drive link, check the profile and consult the filing table.

Stihl, on the other hand, isn't quite as easy... or is it? Stihl have 'relatively recently' changed how they mark their chains, so I'm thinking it might be worth spending a few posts looking at how we can identify the various Stihl chains; starting with the most complex way and arriving at the simplest in a post or two (or more!) time.

The initial problem is that Stihl do not mark their chains with a model number, although the Stihl boxes that you buy a chain in do display model number. So first off, how can we correlate the model numbers on the box, with the markings on the chain? Well, I could just tell you the quick way, but as this is designed to be an educational site, we'll consider Stihl chains in a slightly wider context first of all, and then bring all the information together to identify our chain.

Pitch. There are a number of commonly available, industry standard pitch sizes - 1/4", 0.325", 3/8", 0.404" and 1/2" (unlikely to see that last though). On Stihl chains the pitch is stamped into the depth gauge, and you'll see "1/4", "325", "3/8", "404" or "1/2" (or at least you would have done before Stihl changed their markings!). You might also see the letter "P" stamped into the depth gauge too, and that denotes a Picco™ chain.

However, this has changed and now you'll see a number from 1 to 7 instead. So, "1" relates to a 1/4"; "2" relates to 0.325"; "3" is a 3/8" chain, "4" is a 0.404" pitch chain, "5" is a 1/2", "6" is the 3/8" (Picco™) and "7" is a 1/4" (Picco™) chain.

Remember those numbers, as the first character of the model number for the Stihl chain relates to the pitch; so a model 26 chain is a 0.325" pitch chain (as the "2" denotes a 0.325" pitch).

Let's leave that sink in first, and in the next post we'll get to grips with how the second character of the model number is derived.

Sharpening The Chain (HD Video)

The latest in a line of DriveLink videos brings you sharpening an Oregon chain. The video is really designed to be for those undertaking the chainsaw maintenance and crosscutting assessment, as a reminder of the stages to go through when sharpening the chain on your chainsaw.

And... if you're about to take your CS30, or the new CS0960 (which is CS30!), then the very best of luck to you!

Chipper Maintenance

Although I want to keep the site mainly about chainsaw usage, every now and then I'd like to post something that is industry related, but not chainsaws... you can have too much of a good thing you know.

Find out more after the jump...

And so, in a fit of pique I decided to create a short video about basic maintenance tasks for a woodchipper...

Up & Coming

Just to let let you know that I've started shooting a new video, about chain sharpening. Why chain sharpening? Because it's still the thing that I see poorly executed time and again - incorrect sharpening angles, rounded cutters, damaged cutting edges, different cutter lengths, and so on. Many students also find it hard to get to grips with filing tables - something that I have tackled before in these pages - and I want to help those that do have troubles getting sharpening sorted. Find out more after the jump...

I know many people will take their chains to the garden machinery centre and have them professionally sharpened, and yet others just don't bother to sharpen them at all. There is still a place for getting back to basics and using a file though, especially when you're out in the woods and the chain gets dulled... and quick sharpen and you're off cutting efficiently again.

The two images that are on this page are frame grabs taken from the video that I've just started - and I want to go through the whole process of identifying the chain, filing tables and sharpening. In this video we'll be using Oregon chain, but if it proves popular perhaps I could make one dealing with Stihl... who just do it differently!

Is it worth it?

I got asked a great question when I posted the above video on YouTube (which is a more complete version of the earlier version)... "For home use is there a cost or performance benefit?". So, for Michael, and anyone else that is wondering whether it is worthwhile making your own chains, find out more after the jump...

I'd have to say that for home use, I doubt whether it's worth the cost in purchasing the equipment needed, when you might just be an infrequent user of a chainsaw, or only have one saw to keep running. However, as usual things aren't always that clear... what if you live in a very rural area where you can't just pop down the raod to your nearest chain stockist, what if you cut lots of firewood, what if you run multiple saws that all use the same type of chain? For professional users, it's almost certainly going to work out cheaper in the long run to invest in the equipment, but let's take a look at how the figures stack up. All costs are worked out in GBP, using prices correct at the time of writing and take no account of any discounts that you might be able to get.

First off, you're going to need to purchase two tools - a chain breaker and a rivet spinner. A standard chain breaker will cost you £66, as will the rivet spinner (http://www.theoregonshop.com/userimages/Chain-Making(1664821).htm) and a reel of chain comes in at either £99 for a 25' length, or £319 for 100' (30m).

Let's assume you need a 1.6mm gauge chain, 0.325" pitch, suitable for something like a Stihl MS261; that's going to be an Oregon 22 chain and a 14" bar needs a 56 drive link chain. That's going to cost you £18.50 from the link given above.

That same chain is roughly 3' (90cm) long, so armed with that knowledge we can deduce that we'll get roughly 33 chains from that 100'. If the 100' reel costs £319, and we can get 33 chains from it, that makes each chain £9.67. That's half price.

What's more, with a difference of £9 per chain, it's going to take 15 chains for you to recoup that investment in tools - after that, it's money in your pocket. So, I guess the question is... how quickly would you get through 15 chains?

The other thing is where you are running multiple saws, that each require the same chain (or different bar lengths on the same saw). In this case, the ability to make the required chain quickly might be worth it instead of holding a stock of several chains for each bar length.

I hope that helps answer your question about whether it's worth it. For some it will be, for some it won't.

Making A Chain

After investing in some new camera gear, I'm going to be posting up more videos related to forestry and arboriculture. Although I'm still getting used to the new equipment, here's a quick trailer of one new video that I've shot. There's more to come, and I've got plenty of ideas for short programmes to help you to work safely with a chainsaw.

I hope you like the trailer, and the much improved quality!

New Video... At Last!

How long has it been since I last posted? I don't even want to think about it! However, all that waiting hasn't been for nothing... I've just finished shooting and editing a new video for the forestry and arboriculture team at Sparsholt College. Find out more after the jump...
Firstly, a huge thanks go to Neil (you know who are) for letting us dismantle and fell one of the Beech trees on the estate. Thanks to Rich for sorting out the equipment and acting as Phil's groundsman - and thanks to Phil for getting up the tree to do the arb-y stuff (we had trouble trying to slow him down enough to get the shots we needed!). Final thanks to James for doing the forestry stuff - nice one!
Anyway, here's the results... a 3-minute video called "Arborestry"- put it full screen too!

Arborestry from D Vickers on Vimeo.

CS31: Check the tree out...

In the last post we took a quick dive into choosing the direction of fell for your tree; but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, in this post we'll chat about inspecting the tree.

Click here to find out more...

Before you take chainsaw to tree, you really need to know what you're dealing with; we've already looked at how the tree canopy (or the tree's form) can affect the weighting and therefore the felling cut used, but there's a bit more to check out first.

Completing a quick visual tree assessment is a great idea; you're looking for potential hazards (dead wood in the tree or hanging branches that might come down), anything that might cause loss of control of the tree (rot caused by fungal growth - see the image at the top) and whether there are signs of birds nesting, hornet / wasp / bee nests, bat roosts and so on. Look for signs of old remedial work on the tree... are there wire braces in it? Indeed, are there any other wires running to it, or through it (power lines, telephone lines, aerials, etc.). Once you have this information you can take the appropriate action, which may mean talking to the local council, government agency, landowner or other relevant authority before commencing work.

CS31: Before you start the saw...

There's always a great clamour to get out into the woods and fell the biggest tree! But just stop and think for a moment... is that really the best thing to do if you've only just started your CS31. Cutting down a big tree requires a lot of clearing up! If something goes wrong during the fell, how are you going to deal with it? You can also get away with being slightly less accurate in your cuts with bigger trees, masking potential problems that you might have with your cuts. So, before we even start the saw, let's work through the next few posts discussing how to make it safer, as well as ensuring that you get the most out of the training that you're doing.

Click to find out more...

The first thing to do before you take a saw to the tree, is just to look at it, and the surrounding environment. Ask yourself questions such as... "Are there powerlines or other cables within two tree lengths?", "Are there public footpaths or bridleways that might require the use of a banksman, as well as signs?", "Are the weather conditions conducive to maintaining control of the tree during the felling operation?".

Of course, this is just the start of the process, as you need to be thinking about the direction of fell, the state of the tree, the weighting of the tree and so on.

In this post, we'll take a quick look at deciding on the felling direction. There are always instances where it doesn't really matter which way you fell the tree, but certainly on your assessment, the assessor will want to know which way you want to fell it. If you lose control of the tree and it falls down in a completely different direction, then that's not going to look good!

Of course, in many circumstances you are limited in your choice, be that due to other trees, buildings, fence lines, public areas or just the form of the tree. All these things, and more, need to be taken into account when you decide which way to fell the tree. Here's a quick tip to help you decide if you need to consider whether the weighting of the tree is definitely going to be a factor when choosing the direction of fell and the type of felling cut...

If you've got an idea of the direction you wish to take the tree down, then it's not a bad idea to walk in that direction and look back at the tree, checking for anything that might get in the way of it coming straight down... branches from another tree, a powerline, etc. But here's the real tip... now walk over to a point at 90 degrees from the tree (i.e. to the left or right of the tree) as this will allow you to properly assess the weighting of the tree canopy. Remember, if you only look at it from one direction you might not notice that the weight of the tree's canopy means that it actually wants to fall in completely the opposite direction!

With the direction sorted, and the weighting of the tree assessed, you can choose which type of felling cut to use. In the next post, we'll take a look at visually assessing the state of the tree.