When working at height, the balance, performance and reliability of your tools is critical. This is where the top-handle chainsaw comes into its own. All chainsaw manufacturers offer at least one model, but their use and which is best raises much debate among arborists.
"Having the right gear to do the work quickly, efficiently and safely is imperative," says Fife-based Special Branch Tree & Hedge Surgery lead climber Niall Campbell. "Nowhere is the gear debate more hotly contested among arborists than that of the top-handle chainsaw."
Campbell won an Echo CS-360TES at the Confor APF Fair in autumn of 2014 and he is impressed with it. "Having used all of the popular arborist chainsaws I am extremely happy with this saw, having given it hard use in a professional environment. In an industry dominated by two ‘big boys’, Echo has stepped out of the shadows with an excellent product."
In designing the latest-generation top-handle chainsaws Echo, part of the Yamabiko Corporation, looked at everything and started from scratch. This began with maximum control over the machine so the saw would work in the safest possible way. The aim was to create excellent balance in saws so lightweight that they could be used throughout the day without excessive user fatigue.
Arborists also want a clean-running chainsaw that accumulates very little debris. The Echo G-Force engine air pre-cleaner reduces the chainsaw’s maintenance for less downtime and safer operation. As a result, Echo now has three models of top-handle chainsaw — the CS-280TES and CS-360TES
having recently been joined by the CS-2510TES. Shown for the first time at the Arb Fair 2015 at Westonbirt Arboretum, the latter is attracting much attention.
Challenging the big boys
Over the past few years Makita has also done much to challenge the two "big boys" in the chainsaw market — witness the EA4300 F38C. One of a number of new saws manufactured in Germany by the Makita-owned Sachs Dolmar company, this model features a 43cc two-stroke petrol engine and comes fitted with a 38cm bar as standard. It is classed as a "farmer" saw for semi-professional users but is attracting attention from arborists.
Fitted with an automatic chainbrake and AV system, it weighs in at 4.9kg. The engine produces 2.2kW (3hp) and, due to a new port liner design on the exhaust outlet, the engine cylinder temperature operates at 20°C lower than other two-stroke engines.
The saw also benefits from the latest starting technology. It boasts a combination of Memory Power Ignition System, primer carburettor and Makita’s Easy Start recoil system to give a simple and reliable start-up. Once up and running, vibrations are dampened by Makita’s Two Mass (M2M) system and chain lubrication is taken care of with a fully adjustable metal automatic oiler. This intelligent pump switches off the soil supply when the saw is in idle mode.
Likely to be of interest to a wide variety of users, the range of Harry chainsaws is now available from FGM Claymore. The line-up of four units starts with an entry-level 39.6cc machine with 14in bar and rises to the higher-level 54cc ZM5410 with 20in bar. The latter has a rated power of 2.2kW (3hp) and weighs 5.1kg. All Harry chainsaw are fitted with Walbro carburettors as well as Oregon bars and chains.
A new player in the chainsaw market, Sherpa Tools comes from brothers John and Jez Hall putting their decades of garden machinery experience into developing new products. Distributed through a growing dealer network stretching from Cornwall to Scotland, the range includes a wheeled trimmer, earth auger and, most recently, a petrol chainsaw.
Suited to pruning, felling or logging, the Sherpa chainsaw has a 45cc engine and comes with 18in or 20in bars plus a spare chain, tools and carry bag.
While there have been plenty of new petrol models come to market over the past 12 months, battery powered chainsaws have also seen growth. Where noise and emissions are not wanted, arborists along with professional gardeners, groundsmen and landscapers are turning to cordless machines and interest from users concerned about working close to petrol-engined units is helping to drive development. Such tools can also be lighter.
A new lightweight professional pruning chainsaw, the Selion C21 HD chainsaw from Pellenc weighs just 2kg and is believed to be the lightest on the market. Designed to meet arborists’ expectations in terms of weight, balance, manoeuvrability and power, the battery powered saw allows work without noise or emissions pollution.
Innovative features on the saw include a kick-back sensor with an electronic start-up function. It instantly triggers an electric chainbrake in the event of a fall or kickback and is said to be eight
times more rapid than a petrol-operated chainsaw chainbrake.
This feature is combined with a low-kickback Oregon chain so the rebound effect, should it occur, should be less violent than on a conventional chainsaw.
Other features include a self-diagnostic system that verifies the electronic kickback sensor is operational and a double-press start-up trigger that prevents accidental operation.
As with all other Pellenc products, the Selion C21 HD uses the ultra high-capacity technology of the Pellenc lithium battery and guarantees non-polluting, odourless operation with quick start-up and up to one-day battery life when fitted with the Poly 5 ULib battery.
Capacity levels displayed
Makita’s DUC302 LXT cordless chainsaw, seen at Saltex 2015, generates 800W output from twin 18V batteries that provide ample power to run the 3/8in chain over the 300mm bar at up to 8.3m/sec.
Battery warning indicators show capacity levels and when these drop below a preset level the machine stops and indicates which battery requires replacement.
Tool-less chain adjustment is facilitated by a new and easier-to-operate single lever positioned on the side of the housing. The model is classified as a top-handle chainsaw and as such should only be used by certificated professionals.
EGO’s 56V Lithium-ion cordless products offer quiet use in noise-sensitive areas such as residential sites, schools and colleges, hospitals and conservation areas. The company’s CS1400E chainsaw boasts a brushless motor and delivers a cutting performance said to be equivalent to that of many petrol saws. Chain speed is 12m/sec.
Weighing 3.8kg without the battery, this model features a 35cm Oregon bar and chain, tool-free tensioning, chain kickback brake and electric brake, plus automatic lubrication system and oil inspection window. But what about the all-important runtime question? According to EGO, using the 2.0Ah battery will give 100 cuts of 4x4in timber, depending on the timber type and user technique. Move up to the 6.0Ah battery and you can get up to 300 cuts per charge.
With lightweight cordless chainsaws also available from Stihl and Husqvarna, plus new introductions from Cobra and Hyundai, perhaps in future we will see more arborists using a mixture of petrol and battery powered tools according to the particular demands of the job and the site.
Beyond the boundary
Pole chainsaws are increasingly finding uses in professional arboriculture and one tree surgeon who knows their advantages is Coventry-based Treetop Arboriculture business owner Jaime Bray. He uses the Makita telescopic pole chainsaw (below) in his daily tasks of tree maintenance, but finds it especially useful when working close to neighbouring properties.
"In boundary disputes, where there is a problem with access to an adjacent property, the full reach of the Makita pole saw is a blessing," he says. "Overhanging vegetation can be reached with ease, ensuring that trespass does not occur on neighbouring property."
Makita’s pole chainsaw extends from 2.7m to 3.9m. It is powered by a 25.4cc Makita MM4 four-stroke engine with pressurised oil system producing 1.03hp. The 10in bar carries 3/8in pitch, 0.05in gauge chain with a 0.12 litre chain oil tank.
"The balance is excellent, even when fully extended, and the Makita engine has lots of torque. It starts first time, every time, and has never missed a beat," adds Bray. "The telescopic tubes have sufficient wall thickness and a sturdy clamp so there is little flexing. It’s this feature that enables the operator to prune branches accurately."
The pole saw weighs 7.2kg and, according to Bray, does not become excessively tip heavy when fully extended and held at arm’s length.
Do you leave you chainsaws in the back of the pickup or utility vehicle and let them bounce around as you drive through woodland and across bumpy parkland? Carrying chainsaws can be a struggle, but Saw-Mate (below) offers a new solution.
Made up of saw holders and boxes, the storage system for chainsaws, tools and combi bottles is modular so you can choose as much or as little as you need.
It comes with mounting brackets to secure it to a van, 4x4, quad bike, trailer or tractor while a sturdy plywood insert protects the chainsaw bar and chain. Prices start from less than £55 for a single saw holder.