It's harder than it looks: the delicate business of chainsawing

In his move from the city to the country, Rob Wynen had to learn a new skill set, not the least of which was chainsawing

Moving to Bowen from the city added a new dimension to my skill sets. Activities that would simply be unacceptable in downtown Vancouver are common place on the island.  

Many of us who were not raised in rural settings learn these skills as we go, often through trial and error, hoping to eventually get it right. For instance, I’m still getting the hang of putting up fence posts and metal fencing; at least I didn’t install the deer fencing upside down this year as I did on my first try. Note to self: smaller squares go on the bottom.

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Another skillset I have slowly been perfecting, somewhat, is chainsawing. We heat our home with wood and have access to mature forest to gather fallen wood from. Being of Dutch ancestry I refuse to buy wood … although last year I was scavenging wood mid-winter and drying it out in the living room. This year we will start the collection process earlier.   

My first year of sawing wood was interesting. Just getting the saw started was a 10-minute cardio workout interspersed with bouts of cursing. Mixing fuel, not forgetting to add chain oil, keeping the chain tight but not too tight, were early lessons, often learned through mechanical breakdowns.  

My first attempt at cutting a dead standing tree involved about 60 seconds of cutting and two hours of removing the pinched saw from the tree. It did eventually come out, but I had almost given up on the saw to go purchase a new one. I’m Dutch, so I stuck to it and eventually freed the  blade. 

While chainsaws look and sound robust, they are actually quite finicky. I cut a lot of old downed trees and I’m not one to spend too much time planning my cuts. Through trial and error I learned that sand and rocks don’t mix very well with the chain, one touch on a rock and the chain is pretty much useless for cutting anything more dense than a block of cheese. This is unlike circular saws which I regularly use to cut through planks embedded with nails. Thankfully Jeff at Bowenworx helps keep our chains in running order.

As a fitness professional I have also grown to appreciate the physical demands of using a chainsaw. Gary Anderson recently showed me a picture of him operating a massive saw that probably weighed the equivalent of a medium-sized deer, one that is belching fumes, vibrating and emitting enough noise to drown out the horn on the Queen of Capilano. All this while standing on an unstable surface and wearing heavy clothes in hot conditions. I don’t know how he does it, but I was impressed.

I don’t have the confidence to put my chainsawing skillset on full public display, but I am looking forward to the upcoming Logger Sports competition on July 28 to 29.  t will be a great chance to sit back in the beer garden and see some pros work their saws along with axe throwing, pole climbing and much more.  

Gary mentioned that this year they will also have a gold panning station with real gold, an event that may appeal to those planning an early retirement.  

The event will be held at Veterans Park with beginner and intermediate events on Saturday and the pros coming out on Sunday.  

While I’m not expecting to get my cutting skills up to Gary’s standard and I’m sure I’ll keep Jeff busy enough sharpening my chains, next week will be a great opportunity to develop a bit more of my cutting skills.  Hope to see lots of you at the event! 

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