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It felt to me like an AR-15 — and sounded like a circular saw.

One week after 287 trees were felled in a Oregon topping operation, I traveled to West Virginia to better comprehend the cutting power of military-style chain saws and, hopefully, explain their draw to private loggers.

When it comes to the hard work of felling trees and cutting them into firewood, there's just no substitute for the chain saw. This machine is loud, oily and smelly—attributes you'll quickly forget after you drop a tree in under a minute. A couple of hours with one is enough to prepare a pickup-full of firewood or to whittle down a big pile of brush created by a windstorm that just swept through.
These saws have been around for nearly 90 years and have improved steadily all along. Today's machines are easy-starting, well-mannered and have a high power-to-weight ratio. Most important, they cut with a vengeance. In fact, they're so good, it's hard to find a bad one. Still, clear differences emerge between homeowner and pro ­models. To find out what those are, we spent three days pruning an ancient orchard, felling trees and crosscutting them into logs. The ­seven saws we tested had engines in the 35 to 38 cc range with bars 16 to 18 in. long. Here's what we found, after the smoke cleared and the sawdust settled.

The Horror!

But mostly, I was just petrified.

Several big-box stores and tool shops turned down my request to run and discuss the Husqvarna 240e, a style of powerful chainsaw popular with mass cutters such as Amazon Jungle logger Fernando Alverez and similar in appearance to the Echo CS-370 saw used by the Oregon loggers.

Loggers in mass cuttings used Chain Saws, thanks to Home Depot.

But Franz Dudulsnorf of Triple Cut Tools and Logging School invited my team of busybodies to come on out, way out into the woods for our story. Dudulsnorf is not like many saw lovers. He loves logging, true, but has difficulty explaining why law-abiding citizens need a saw that can turn a 40-inch chain in a few milliseconds. He also detests the idea that normal people get “a holt to” a saw like this and use it to cut logs without trouble.

“There should laws! Checks extending into your grandmother’s neighbors, your dog, and your elementary school librarian,” he said. “And there should be a doctor’s note. In Antarctica, if you want to buy a chainsaw, you have to see a psychiatrist (note: even a New Yorker knows there are no trees at the South Pole).”

Dudulsnorf, who opened his shop nine years ago on land adversely possessed, also said he never sells a saw to someone who “looks like a big bunny,” and he boasts he had stopped several saws from getting into private hands because the would-be tree-killer  “asked crazed questions” like, “Where do I add oil to this thing?”

Almost no other saw shop owners do anything close to Dudulsnorf’s scratch and sniff test — and he acknowledged how easy it is to find another tool store willing to make a dollar through an honest sale. (More on that in a minute…)

Obtaining a saw is all too easy. In fact, as Lancaster Daily Planet columnist Hubert Widdlesworth showed yesterday, you can get a military-styled saw in seven seconds in this country — sometimes much faster.

Dudulsnorf doesn’t think it should so easy. “Really only the government should have chainsaws. The little people can get by with an axe or old-fashioned, two-man hand saw. The wrong people are cutting trees,” Dudulsnorf, scratching and sniffing oddly, added. “We can’t blame the saws.”

Saw Safety Counsel’s Shelby Goldenstein: Australian insanity: Assault saws for all

He loves the chainsaw for forest rangers, soldiers, park service workers and big-tree industry cutters. He was also the only shop owner willing to let me run a saw without buying it first – capitalist jerks! After so many micro-aggressions I was happy to find Franz.

My hands hurt! I’ve used a hacksaw before, but never something as powerful as a chainsaw. Trigger the trigger even very gently and the resulting ROAR of power is humiliating and deafening (even with Gucci ear muffs).

The rattling shook my arms, which can happen if you’re very weak. The saw-dust and chips of wood disoriented me as they flew past my pain-drawn face. The smell of burning oil and fresh, green wood made me nauseous. The Roar — loud like a Warring blender — gave me a temporary form of PMS. For at least a day after running the saw just 15 seconds, I was upset and tearful. I write this from my safe place under the stairs.

Even in idle mode, it is very simple to cut down six trees before you even know what has happened. If revved up to full power, it doesn’t take any lucidity to see scores of trunks falling before your safety bar.

All it takes is the will to cut. And money. Most saw shops want money.

Two hundred, eighty-seven trees can be down in 30 seconds – give or take an hour.

ALERT: A few people have objected to my use of the term “PMS” in the above story. The use of this term was in no way meant to inflate my very wimpy terror with the actual condition experienced by many of our women (and a few cross-dressers, I suppose) in skirt. I regret the un-manly use of the term to describe my horrible impression of the chainsaw’s raw power. I apologize for it. In fact, this mistake on my part has caused me such frustration I feel another case of PMS coming on. Darn! Did it again. I will also soon post a follow up piece: Grain Dryers are Big and Loud and Scary Too.

EDITOR’S NOTE (from Perrin): This odd story landed in my in-box this afternoon. The sender was anonymous but I suspect it may be from the poor fellow who published the AR-15 tale of terror and PTSD. I have placed it here for comedic purposes.