A quick guide to buying secondhand chainsaws. The majority of petrol chainsaws are used by professionals and have a hard life. They are generally only sold on when they’ve used the end of their useful life and are really only useful for spares. There are a few saws that are viable as second hand buys but they are quite few and far between. Here are a couple of things to look for…
First off, chainsaws are one of the most dangerous tools around. They can injure, maim, dismember and even kill in the blink of an eye. If you don’t know what you’re doing get someone in who does. Always wear all the correct safety kit, even when just testing a saw. I cannot and will not be held responsible for any injuries to people whether heeding my advise or not. If in doubt, go do your CS30 course.
Make sure it’s got the right label on. I wouldn’t go for anything other than Stihl. Husquevana are okay-ish but have some interesting ‘design features’. I’ve found almost everything else to be pretty pony….
Make sure that the saw is right for what you want to do with it, bar length, weight of machine, etc.
Check for any physical defects – cracked casing, heat damage to the bar, condition of chain (a new chain can be £20+++, make sure tooth wear is even and that there are a good few sharpenings left in it). Check that the chainbrake engages and that the on-off switch has a positive action.
While the saw is cold (check the exhaust to make sure it hasn’t been run before your arrival) turn it over by pulling on the pull cord. Pull slowly and feel for compression, it should feel lumpy on turnover with a definite ‘lump’ every time the piston compresses the cylinder.
Next, turn on the switch, make sure the chainbrake is braked, engage choke and throttle lock and pull the cord – three sharp tugs and it should cough – just a quick fire. Disengage the choke but keep the throttle lock on – it should start on first or second pull. Any difficulty starting from cold points towards there being something fundamentally wrong with the saw – walk away..! Take the throttle lock of by ‘blipping’ the throttle.
With the saw running, it should tickover slowly, disengage the chainbrake. The saw should still be ticking over without the chain moving. Rev the saw to full throttle, it should get there with no hesitation. While running at full speed engage the chainbrake (with the back of your wrist while still holding the top handle, not the palm of your hand which could end up with you losing it). The chain should stop instantly.
Next try cutting something, ideally wood! And ideally hardwood which will put a strain on the saw. The engine note should change as it’s under load but the revs should not drop away too much, even with a blunt chain (if the saw produces fine dust then the chain is blunt, chipping and the chain is sharp).
That’s the basics covered, I think. Be very careful out there. And if in doubt go get a cheap saw from Homebase!