Sawyer says: It’s the little McCulloch that could
November 23, 2005
It’s all over now, so I can write about it with the dispassionate, observational perspective that is expected from journalists – the wood is in the shed, the gas can is empty, and the only remaining task is to split a few remainders and burn it all up.
But when a friend and I were up at his cabin above Blue Mesa Reservoir some weeks ago, dispassionate observation was nowhere to be found. While all around us hunters crept through the woods in search of big game, we were seeking a less elusive kind of prey: deadfall trees of spruce or Douglas fir.Strewn across some 30 acres of wooded high country, the fallen trees seemed almost as numerous as those that were still standing. Thus, we were able to get to work with minimal delay – me with my trusty little 14-inch McCulloch chain saw and Matt with his huskier 18-inch Jonsereds.Prior to the actual lumberjack work, though, we both took care and considerable time to sharpen the blades. It’s tedious, but necessary. Neglect the task, and your chain saw performs more like an old-fashioned handsaw. Your back will thank you for taking the time.The McCulloch has lived up to its reputation (at least among McCulloch users) as “some of the best on the market,” in the words of Inside Woodworking’s online magazine site. Of course that “market” is at the lower end of the price spectrum, along with Poulan and Homelite and other such brands.
The website also says that McCulloch was the company that invented “the first hand-held chain saw” in 1942, which Matt, who was a professional firewood cutter at one time, says might well be true. He recalls his dad long ago had a McCulloch that “looked kind of like a combine with a saw blade attached at one end.”But back to the present. The little McCulloch is more than adequate for my level of woodcutting, meaning once a year, well before the snow begins to fly, and for a couple of days at the most. It vibrates more than some of the better saws, such as the Jonsereds, Stihl or Husquaverna. So you wouldn’t want to use it every day, or every nerve in your hands would go dead.The blades that came with it a few years ago, when I bought it from a co-worker, have held up well in the face of their annual sharpening. I’ve used them for two days running without having to stop to sharpen, though I don’t recommend it unless you really are looking for a serious upper-body workout.
And it does cut wood like a champion, as long as the trunk isn’t too thick. It will handle a tree of up to a foot in diameter with only a moderate amount of repositioning, and smaller boles present no trouble at all.Some online reviewers have criticized McCulloch for switching from the original all-metal body to something that is half-plastic, which likely accounts for the increased vibration. But what was lost in vibration-dampening density has been made up for in the tool’s lighter weight, which makes it easier to handle for us non-lumberjacks.It’s more than enough saw for a weekend sawyer. It starts easily, and the trigger is sensitive enough to allow for delicate adjustments in the gas feed. It is well-balanced and it has all the requisite safety features, including a clutch mechanism that allows the blade to stop if it gets squeezed, rather than rebounding out of the lot and slicing into your leg.So for adhering to the old adage that “using a wood stove heats you twice – once while you cut it and again when you burn it,” the little McCulloch saw has earned my endorsement.