Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Your Chainsaw and Old Fuel

Your Chainsaw and Old Fuel

By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

I recently was contacted by a friend who has taken on distribution of some new fuel additives that are designed for today’s fuels and their effects on small engines. We met and he went over some of the formulas that B3C Fuel Solutions has to offer. They focus on the moisture attracting properties of Diesel Fuel and Ethanol Enhanced Gasoline on the market today. How ethanol enhanced effects fuel and oil mixtures. They are concentrating now on the small engine, especially the chainsaw. This is where I come in.

I am cornered consistently by training attendees with these questions and others regarding proper fuel -

How long does gasoline today stay fresh in my saw or fuel can?

Today’s fuels are produced to burn cleaner and to reduce emissions. They have ethanol, detergents and other additives to accomplish this. Fuels today are not only more environmentally friendly but also better clean your internal engine parts for longer engine life. The addition of higher concentrations of ethanol to gasoline makes it a positive for volatility, cleaning and performance. However, with storage, drops stability and offers too many scrubbing bubbles, so to speak, for good chainsaw powerhead health. This evaporation of the positive’s limit the shelf life of your fuel in your saw or fuel can.

Small engine manufacturers are recommending to not store fuel without stabilizers for more than 30 days.

What does ethanol do to my chainsaw?

Ethanol will run great in a chainsaw if the carburetor metering and fuel supply parts are designed to regulate and contain it. It causes very little problems if you don’t allow it to sit or start to breakdown in your system.

Ethanol can be corrosive to aluminum, magnesium and because of the water collection properties, even some steel and other metals. It’s an excellent solvent, that because of its characteristics and water absorption, separates or even will inhibit the gasoline from mixing with the 2-cycle engine oil you are trying to blend with it. Ethanol can soften some fuel lines, dry out rubber parts and carburetor diaphragms and when it evaporates, leaves a slimy sludge and varnish that can stop up the best-designed fuel and valve trains.

So - without fresh gasoline mixed, without stabilizers, without water management, without proper carburetion and or adjustments- you most likely will have trouble.

Will my chainsaw run on E85 gasoline?

Your chainsaw, in its current state, will not run E85. It will not successfully adjust and live long with ethanol blends higher than E10 without parts upgrades.

I’ve never had any problems before. Why do I need to be concerned now?

The problem with ethanol-enhanced fuels is not so much the current blends but those coming to a pump near you soon. It’s going to be a battle between your auto fuel and your small engine fuel supplies and storage. All this is going to happen quickly as the push to E15, E20, E30 and E85 blended fuels are brought to market. Yes, the ethanol effects of engine corrosion, adjustment problems, water, etc. exist with E10 but it will all be magnified and multiplied with future blends.

Now there may be hope! (Back to my first paragraph…)

B3C Fuel Solutions has two products that can assist with today’s ethanol woes and they are working diligently to hold future fuel issues at bay.

Mechanic in a Bottle and Ethanol Shield from B3C –

  • · Fix the fuel system & deep clean the carburetor without removal, even on non-running engines
  • · Revitalize old fuel and delicate fuel system components safely
  • · Cleanse power robbing carbon deposits from the engines internal components
  • · Stabilize the fuel to ensure quick starting

Ethanol Shield from B3C –

  • · Remove water to prevent Phase Separation
  • · Protect the rubber & plastic components from ethanol
  • · Stabilize the gasoline to ensure quick starting and prevent stale fuel

Fuel Test Kit from B3C –

  • · A simple swab test that will tell you what condition your fuel is in.

My Test

I had an old saw that my father had for years. He passed away five years ago. I know he didn’t use the saw for at least a year before he passed. I had it stuck back on a shelf in the shop. Long to short, the fuel in the saw’s tank was over 6 years old. You can see in the photos what it looked like when I poured it into a glass for my test of Mechanic in a Bottle.

The fuel was almost black in color, stunk to high heaven, and I was amazed to see that it had no signs of water in the tank. Most likely no ethanol was in the fuel tank. Well, since there was no visible water, I added three tablespoons to it. You can see the water in the bottom of the glass.

I first added one ounce of MIAB to the fuel and stirred it up. It seemed to absorb a little of the water quickly and the fuel color lightened slightly. I decided to add the whole four ounces of MIAB to the glass since the instructions said I couldn’t overdose the fuel. I also figured it would have to have a pretty good initial dose of MIAB to absorb all the water I added.

I covered the glass and let it sit for almost 48 hours. When I returned, I stirred the solution, which had really lightened a lot in color, and it only seemed to have just a little amount of the water left in the bottom of the glass. When I stirred it up, it appeared the water disappeared and when allowing it to just sit about ten minutes only a small spot of water seemed to reappear. I was amazed!

Then the supreme challenge – will the fuel run in a chainsaw? I took my saw, started to make sure it ran ok. Cleaned the fuel out of the tank, then poured in the old gas solution. I did try to not pour any of the water residues into the tank. There wasn’t much left in the bottom of the glass.

I pulled, it started, and I ran it for a couple minutes or so to make sure it had pulled the old fuel from the tank. The adjustments seemed to change slightly but the saw ran just fine.

Pictures and video are downloadable at https://public.me.com/timard/OldFuel

Now that’s some extreme old fuel and I wouldn’t recommend trying to revitalize gas mix that’s that old. But I was amazed that the old gas with the MIAB would run. I’ve experienced fuel, not nearly that old, to be dead as a doornail.

I’m working on a test with carburetor adjustments and the Ethanol Shield to see how it works. They may have the solution…

Tim Ard is president and lead instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. a national chainsaw safety and productivity training company. For more information contact us info@forestapps.com

© Copyright 2011 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cracks and Splits

Cracks and Splits

By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

One of the most unpredictable and dangerous situations confronting us in storm damage and sometimes rotted trees, is the too often presence of cracks, shatters and splits in the tree trunks, logs and limbs. There are somewhat natural windshakes, or cracks, in most standing trees but when wind, tornados, hurricane, fire or bugs start working on a tree - multiple cracks, splits or crevices tend to make planning and control an even greater concern.

Cracked, split and twisted fiber in storm broken limbs and downed trunks can be shattered and twisted into many strands. Just cutting through the log when in this condition can be challenging. Every cut releases a fiber strand that attempts to grab your saw chain and with moving weight loads tries to pinch your saw chain and guide bar.

A standing tree, that’s been fire damaged or has started the drying process at near deadwood state, sometimes creates vertical splits. Some I have seen are impossible to plan around and in these cases you are even taking a chance to make a cut unto them. The tree may collapse vertically, or twist and shatter heading in an unpredictable direction. Often times, if the tree is vertically straight, even equipment pushing or pulling is too risky. Maybe this is a good application for dynamite or a planned knock down by another tree. These killers are found often in the Western USA but you can find plenty of them in the all the states.

Winston Rall, USFS, sent me this photo of a shell of a tree from out in his part of the country. That’s a hardhat stuck in a crack in the trunk…. As I said, some trees may need dynamite.

One technique option for more simple cracks or shatters may be a bore or plunge cut. They can be used to remove tension or shorten fiber length to make it possible to cut some split fiber situation. Using a bore cut slightly before or after twisted fiber may allow you to take tension out of the log or limb.

I received the following message from a Massachusetts contact:

Tim, I was in the May class in Southbridge that you taught for basic skills and storm cleanup. On June 2nd, we had an F3 touch down in Massachusetts. The skills you taught us were extremely useful in the cleanup following the storm. The hinge is truly my friend! Yesterday, I took down a 20 ft. remnant of a red oak that had been stripped of its bark. The top had been smashed off also, leaving the remainder of the trunk splintered in many pieces but still vertical. To take it down, I notched each separate splinter as if it were a separate tree, making a plunge cut for my back cut. From this plunge cut I would make my back cut for the next piece. This allowed me to fell each piece in a controlled manner exactly where I wanted it to go. Thank you for the training. I have been telling anyone that will listen what a great training program you have. Thanks again, Butch Meyer

Offset cuts can be used to remove shattered fiber. Cut the compression side first and then offset the cut on the tension side. Cut a distance just far enough to intersect the fiber you cut from the compression side, but do it a distance left or right of the compression cut to stay to the edge of shattered/split area.

Be very careful that the split, crack or shatter is not under bowed tension. They can mimic a spring pole in this scenario. When you cut, the fiber may attempt to straighten and move rapidly. Watch your position and the cutting location. Try to cut in the middle of any formed arcs.

I plan to put some of this into video form this fall along with several other techniques for applications in storm debris clean up. Until then, a great way to visualize a lot of these techniques in action is to attend one of our three-day storm debris and falling workshops. More information at www.forestapps.com

Good Sawing!

Tim Ard is president and lead instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. a nationwide training firm for operators in all chainsaw applications.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stuck in the Storm

Stuck in the Storm

By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

We have all been there...take down a tree or we’re removing a tree already down from a storm and begin to make a cut on the trunk or limb. The wood grabs our saw with a vengeance before we can complete the cut. Yes, it’s happened to me one time a long, long time ago (Right, it’s a lie. Maybe twice...). If you cut trees it’s a fact, you will occasionally get stuck. The challenge is to limit the occurrence's and you can if you understand why and plan well.

When you make cuts with a chainsaw you have to constantly take information on compression and tension. Compression is the side of the pressure or bind in the log or limb that will close the kerf cut, pinching your saw bar. Tension is the opposite side, the side that will open away from your bar during the cut or movement of the limb or log. These reactions, I will call them, can take place from side to side, up and down or even at some unexpected angles, as the weight and pressures in the wood are released. There are a few common scenarios to plan around.

Open Air

In this case the smaller log or limb is supported by air or it is simply a limb that is coming from the trunk and is not touching anything at the end. Its not supported in other words. The compression side is on the bottom of the limb. The Tension is on top. You can simply make a severing cut from the top and the limb falls.


What if it’s a heavy limb? What if the limb has weighted branches to one side? In this case the limb may split or begin to twist as you cut and it still pinches your chain and or saw bar. You have to anticipate the movement and out-cut the separating wood fiber. A notch or deeper compression side kerf cut is important here.

End Support

The log or limb is touching or supported on two ends or two pivots. It has a downward movement potential between the two points of support. The wood wants to drop in the middle. Top compression is found in this scenario.

Side Object

If a limb or trunk is against a side object, like a tree or anything that is applying pressure on the piece sideways. This may also be determined to be a horizontal spring pole. The compression is going to be usually on the away from object side or the inner arc side.

Other Considerations

Pivots may be formed by objects or limbs supporting the limb or trunk above ground level. Back pressure can be formed by the limb or log being more vertical or up against something in the end pushing backward. There can also be situations formed by fences, cables, electric lines, etc that require additional caution and specialized training.

In all the scenarios above, and there are many more actual situations that can be met in the field, it is so, so, important to have a good planning process to assess the needs and dangers before making each cut. Hazards, Side Pressures, Up and Down Pressures, Back Pressures and the Individual Cut Technique must be confirmed.


Next, I’ve planned and decide to make a cut, why do I still get stuck? It could be because trees grow in circles.

Picture the growth rings on a round piece of wood. Every ring (in most climates) represents a year of growth. Each ring is supporting the growth of the tree or limb cylindrically. As you cut through from any side, according to the shape of the cylinder at that given point, you remove support fibers. When the weight or pressure over comes the strength of the growth ring a split or twist usually (will) occurs. This split or twist can also be accompanied by unsightly peels of bark and outer growth layers. Most often this combination causes pinches of the bar and saw chain.

I am convinced the number one thing that causes the stuck is the weight and pressures that move the wood piece during the cut, sometimes very quickly. Because limbs and logs grow in circles it is very hard to determine at what point in the cut the fiber will separate or twist. When this happens, stuck city....

When you make a straight cut into the round wood piece, the externally applied pressures in the growth rings begin to separate. They push outward at the side corners of the cylinder rings and this causes resistance and splitting of the fiber. If again there is weight or pressures, it can cause you to become stuck in these separating fibers.

You must always observe the compression and tensions working. However, a cut or notch on the compression side can reduce the chances of unexpected fiber release and movement. Understand that just a straight cut creates a kerf (slot) but if the piece can only move the width of the kerf, when it closes, other pressures are created at the end of the kerf. A straight cut will often relieve the bind or twist of the cylinder fiber but binds and pulls can still be expected. Also, think about that in the kerf there are end grain fibers that should they bind against your bar or saw chain are like vise jaws. Stuck city...

A very useful technique I have been shown to virtually eliminate the compression side bind is to use a notch, or even simpler the slide notch, on the compression side. A slide notch, just to a depth of as little as a couple growth rings, will relieve the outward pressure at the ring growth and stops the split and or fiber pull. Outcome - Less bar and chain pinches.

Please understand that storm damaged trees and limbs are heavy and often are twisted and loaded with pressures and binds. You need to be familiar with these issues before picking up the chainsaw. Personal injury or property damage does not offset the perceived savings of not calling a professional or seeking special training first.

Should you decide to DIY, please make the investment in Personal Protective Equipment to hopefully lessen an injury should an accident, unplanned event, occur. Visit www.Elvex.com

Good Sawing!

Tim Ard is President of Forest Applications Training, Inc., a training company for chainsaw safety and operations techniques. For more information on training send a question or request to info@ForestApps.com or visit www.ForestApps.com