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Thread: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

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    Default Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    I've been walking around our property clearing off some of the stone walls so they are more visible. Plenty of small to medium sized trees that have fallen over the years no one has been spending any time back in the woods on most of our property. I've been using some pretty amazing Japanese saws which have the advantages of no fuel required and little danger of kickback plus lots of exercise. And they are quiet. Portable. Relatively inexpensive. Anything more complicated I will call in someone who works with a chainsaw more often than I do. I'd rather not take myself out with a flying tree.

    But what about chainsaws? I have been recommended two chainsaws - a Stihl MS261C-M and a Still MS 271 Farm Boss.

    But I've also been told that for most of my use I could probably get a Stihl or Milwaukee battery chainsaw. I think the Stihl my neighbor has is the MSA 200 C-BQ and one of the arborists who worked on the site said to look at this Milwaukee saw.

    And what about splitting? Our friends in the Catskills have a pneumatic splitter that works amazingly well, but it also spends several weeks in the shop every year. That means several Thanksgivings (big bonfire with turkeys roasting over coals and 50 of their closest friends) there has been a pre-turkey splitting fest where we take turns with various implements for splitting wood - mauls, axes and wedges. My personal favorite is this Japanese axe and (on the other side of the spectrum) this crazy splitting axe.

    What about wheeled machinery? These same friends have a John Deere Gator that they use to do almost all their hauling tasks on their property, including sliding logs out of the forest. It is a six wheeler side-by-side. I remember Joe Robonza got a Honda Foreman that he can use as a snow plow and liked. I don't think I want a tractor or a Bobcat. That's way above my needs.

    What else? There have to be tools for every day stuff that I am going to want to have handy once we move in. I know I'll need some ladders for roof maintenance.

    Most of the heavy duty stuff I am better off budget-wise hiring someone who knows what the heck they are doing to come in and take care of the problem quickly and efficiently. Definitely I am not going to be bringing down hung-up trees down by myself any time soon. So the goal is to spend money on tools and machinery efficiently. And right now, given the choice between labor savings and a bit of exercise, I'm leaning towards the exercise with minimal requirement for medical attention.
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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    all I can really speak to is the splitting.

    I'm sure you're well versed but I find fancy-pants manual splitters a waste of money. I've never experienced any problems with the relatively cheap ones, and the complicated contraptions like the one you linked seem a little silly to me - it's f=ma and I can't imagine that zany springs or ramps or whatever are going to be of much use. Just have a look at the edge and make sure that there is a good double angle (that is, a few mm of about 45 degrees to the wood, transitioning to a more acute angle to the axe head after this). Not too heavy either - yeah, a 18 lb splitter sounds great until you're doing it more than a few whacks.

    I have a Cub Cadet 22 (23?) ton splitter that I love. I've split probably 10 cords with it, had it for about three years, and it's never been in the shop. Starts on the first pull every time. Of course, SeaFoam or STA-BIL is your friend when you're not using it. Should you go this route, make sure that the contraption can change from a horizontal to a vertical position (I think most do now?) Your back will thank you.

    Should you not go the mechanized route, it's nothing I couldn't manage with a splitting wedge and a sledgehammer. But man, it is so much nicer.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    I cleared our property and built our house; and by built I don't mean I contracted it. Given what you wrote it's difficult to speak to tools and there's an enormous gulf between Japanese hand saws and a bobcat (which you can rent).

    As to chainsaws: Any reasonable and thoughtful person can learn/be taught to use a chainsaw relatively safely and perform hazard analyses of trees before cutting but there is always an element of risk. You might consider contracting out all the tree cutting, debris removal and general land manipulation that you envision before moving in, in one fell swoop. That would be much more cost effective than piecemeal removal of trees over the years. Doing that eliminates a sizable chunk of risk and put you well ahead of the labor power curve. It would also leave you with much smaller trees to deal with later and you might find an electric saw to be suitable; it would certainly be more reliable than a gasoline powered saw over the decades.
    John Clay
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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Quote Originally Posted by jclay View Post
    I cleared our property and built our house; and by built I don't mean I contracted it. Given what you wrote it's difficult to speak to tools and there's an enormous gulf between Japanese hand saws and a bobcat (which you can rent)....
    Sorry - don't understand what you are getting at here. Or perhaps I wasn't clear. I am not equating Japanese hand saws with heavy machinery. I know tools. I worked on house renovation, framing, etc. at various points in my life. I know those sorts of tools pretty well. I am asking about the tools that become part of daily life while living in the woods. Things I might not expect to need but work well and prove valuable.

    I've also wondered why I don't seem to get any recommendations for chainsaws other than Stihl (except for the battery powered Milwaukee.) There is a large Husqvarna dealer the next town over, but I haven't heard anyone mention those. Someone has to be keeping that guy in business.
    Last edited by j44ke; 11-25-2019 at 12:49 PM.
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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    For small stuff you will be better off with a battery powered reciprocating saw.
    Anything bigger call someone.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Quote Originally Posted by monadnocky View Post
    all I can really speak to is the splitting.

    I'm sure you're well versed but I find fancy-pants manual splitters a waste of money. I've never experienced any problems with the relatively cheap ones, and the complicated contraptions like the one you linked seem a little silly to me - it's f=ma and I can't imagine that zany springs or ramps or whatever are going to be of much use. Just have a look at the edge and make sure that there is a good double angle (that is, a few mm of about 45 degrees to the wood, transitioning to a more acute angle to the axe head after this). Not too heavy either - yeah, a 18 lb splitter sounds great until you're doing it more than a few whacks.

    I have a Cub Cadet 22 (23?) ton splitter that I love. I've split probably 10 cords with it, had it for about three years, and it's never been in the shop. Starts on the first pull every time. Of course, SeaFoam or STA-BIL is your friend when you're not using it. Should you go this route, make sure that the contraption can change from a horizontal to a vertical position (I think most do now?) Your back will thank you.

    Should you not go the mechanized route, it's nothing I couldn't manage with a splitting wedge and a sledgehammer. But man, it is so much nicer.
    Splitting wedge and sledge hammer was the tool of choice when their splitter was last down. The Chopper thing is more a curiosity simply because it launches the pieces in rather dramatic fashion. Bookmarked the Cub Cadet website.

    Quote Originally Posted by cny rider View Post
    For small stuff you will be better off with a battery powered reciprocating saw.
    Anything bigger call someone.
    Huh, that's interesting. I have one of those. I guess a 2x4 is just a small rectangular tree.
    Jorn Ake
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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    My take on chainsaws is that you buy the shop, not the saw. A Stihl, Jonsered, Husqvarna will serve you well but it's a 2 stroke that rips at 13,000 rpm. it's going to need service and having a shop close by is invaluable.

    we have an old cabin in the woods, and the things i could not do without are:

    - maul (Stihl) and splitting wedges including good hearing protection
    - chain saw
    - good small axe for making kindling (including sharpening implements)
    - i don't have a hydraulic splitter but if I had more wood to split, I'd get one in a heartbeat. Monadnocky's experience mirrors mine; get a simple one with a good engine and off you go. I don't love the ones where you have to lift the wood off the ground at all.
    - i can easily see the use of a battery-powered reciprocating saw

    If I took one class, it'd be a sharpening class. there are also excellent videos online on chainsaw safety (by Husqvarna, among others).

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    I cleared 5 acres of brush, post oak, mountain cedar and mesquite prior to building our house in Texas.

    I've got the Stihl MS 261 chainsaw you mentioned. Has worked great for the last 4 years cutting all the above mentioned wood. I recently also got an inexpensive chainsaw chain sharpener from Harbor freight that works really well, after using hand files and doing a suboptimal job for the last few years. I have friends that swear by Husqvarna saws, but I've never used one.

    63803_I.jpg

    I've got a friend that offered to give me about a cord of old aged cut oak pieces, but most are about 24" in diameter. I've shopped splitters, but I'm not sure that I really "need" one due to the relatively small amount of really big wood that I'll ever need to split. But just this morning I got a Fiskars X27 splitting axe. Wow....one swing and I'm splitting 12 - 16" pieces of mesquite and oak into fire ready manageable pieces. I don't know if it will be effective at all with 24" pieces (I doubt it) but I'm planning to go over and see what I can do.

    Resource_FiskarsAmericas_378841-1002.jpg

    I've burned through tree limb loppers....small hand shears....small hand saws...and gloves, not really finding any favorites.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    JoB's list is pretty comprehensive. A good eight pound splitting hammer and a set of three wedges for the twisty stuff is all you'll need unless you're splitting a lot of wood. I'd add that a good smaller chainsaw with the capacity for a decent size bar is very useful. I'm partial to Husqvarnas only because when I used a saw many years ago their power to weight ratio was excellent. They don't make Brush Kings any more if I remember right but some kind of powered scythe is useful unless you want to learn how to use an actual scythe. You can cut brush with one of those if you're good at it, you just have to sharpen a lot if you do. Using one is very meditative, too.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    You'll need a mattock for chopping up ice and chopping out roots and stuff. Way more useful than a pickaxe.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    Sorry - don't understand what you are getting at here. Or perhaps I wasn't clear. I am not equating Japanese hand saws with heavy machinery. I know tools. I worked on house renovation, framing, etc. at various points in my life. I know those sorts of tools pretty well. I am asking about the tools that become part of daily life while living in the woods. Things I might not expect to need but work well and prove valuable.

    I've also wondered why I don't seem to get any recommendations for chainsaws other than Stihl (except for the battery powered Milwaukee.) There is a large Husqvarna dealer the next town over, but I haven't heard anyone mention those. Someone has to be keeping that guy in business.
    I misunderstood. Kind of impossible to guess; your woods and conditions are a lot different than mine. For me the usual mechanics, carpentry, gardening, plumbing and electrical tools and instruments plus a good wheelbarrow, ladders, line & harness for a fast roof, good portable lighting, small generator, come-along. Ditchwitch, tractor, bobcat and manlift are things I've rented as needed.

    Quote Originally Posted by JoB View Post
    My take on chainsaws is that you buy the shop, not the saw. A Stihl, Jonsered, Husqvarna will serve you well but it's a 2 stroke that rips at 13,000 rpm. it's going to need service and having a shop close by is invaluable.

    If I took one class, it'd be a sharpening class. there are also excellent videos online on chainsaw safety (by Husqvarna, among others).
    +1 on buying the chainsaw shop, not the saw. The Huskies and Stihl are pretty well equally represented down here and for us, Southside Mower is where you want to get service; happily they sell both. You might ask around, including talking to folks who use saws every day.

    I've heard good thing about Jonsered. Considered one after one of the hurricanes, I can never remember the names, but ended up using a friend's Stihl 440 Magnum and my little 011, (of 30 years and which is a dandy small saw)

    If you get a saw, get a chain file! Two, actually. Which reminds me....I put my vise on a pedestal (for framebuilding & 360 degree access) but it comes in awfully handy for chain sharpening and other household tasks. Leave the chain on, clamp the bar in the vise, and go to it with the file. I kinda think that might be an excellent addition to the workshop that every house in the woods needs!
    John Clay
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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    These are questions near and dear.. I’ve owned most everything and every brand-that being said, I’m not a huge fan of Stijl, never had good luck..

    But, the one brand for me that has been most consistent and reliable is Shindaiwa.. pretty available in most areas and for hand held stuff has been great.

    Also look into getting a saw at a box store and buy the extended warranty. I make a living with tools and absolutely fucking hate when they don’t perform.

    I realize you need to get to know your local repair folks, but you really shouldn’t need them on speed dial. One absolute is to never run ethanol through on of these.. shit might not ever start again.
    ‘The Earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those that are killing it have names and addresses-‘ Utah Phillips

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    I really, really like my new battery operated chain saw better than my old gasoline powered one. Because I only use it occasionally I always had trouble getting it started. But the main reason I really like it is because the battery powered one only runs when I pull the trigger. I wouldn't have realized this made much difference but the kind of use it gets is I make a cut and then do something with the cutoff. This means constantly putting it down. Of course with the gas one I would leave it running and it continues to make a racket and I would have to be more cautious. The battery one is much quieter and I don't even need to use ear protection. I don't have to drive the extra distance to get non-alcohol gasoline and bother with mixing the oil with the gas in a special container. The chain oil and gas are designed to run out about the same time and of course there is always a bit of a mess pouring them into small openings and not overflowing. I like only having one battery because it runs long enough I want a break from work. I could get 2 batteries but I like the break in action.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    That Fiskers is the absolute best. I've got the splitting axe and the splitting maul. The axe is so good I rarely need the maul. Fiskers puts my Swedish axe to shame and that's a d@mn fine axe.

    If I didn't have a hot rod Dolmar I'd have the Farm Boss. Maybe in a hundred years when the Dolmar dies I'll get the Farm Boss. Do yourself a favor and never ever fail to use some sort of Ethanol treatment in your gas can. If you can find ethanol free gas you are done. I use Ethanol Defense from Bell Labs. Let's not get into the weeds why, just do it.

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Man I have had so many different tools. I like Stihl and Husky. Have an 021 Stihl bought new in '97 still runs great has had many chains and a few bars. Never been to the shop. Plugs, good gas, and clean the air filter. I sharpen my own chains on the bar with a file and a guide. Pretty simple, and takes off a lot less material than powered sharpeners. I like that Fiskars splitter. Living in OH we burned 5-6 cords per winter and I had a Tractor Supply 22 ton splitter with a 5hp Tecumseh that worked great. In the shop once for warranty on the hydraulic unit and once for the key fitted thing I forget what it's called that keeps the hydraulic motor turning. That was in 14 years. Good gas, change oil every year. I went through several used Stilhs trying to get a more powerful saw and not wanting to pay new. My used versions cost more than new at the end of the day and they both sucked. The Husky I bought I used for one season and now it sits in my pole barn in urban Greenville. It will get used someday. I like the Gransfors Bruks stuff a lot. It is spendy but good. I have axes, splitter, and lust after their wedges. I've been through tons of cheap Home Depot wedges that peel off little .22 style projectiles as that soft steel gives up. Sledges are just heavy but the yellow handle ones, and for matter yellow handled any tool is worth it. Shovels etc. I miss the farm life and we're looking at some dirt down here but it will be 5-10 not 50. I had a great Massey Ferguson 235, but you don't want that much machine. Plowing, pulling logs, oh yeah baby that Perkins diesel was awesome. Had a Honda Foreman 450 bought from my pal's dad's estate and that thing was very useful too, but I was careful about not putting too much strain on it, since I had the Massey for that. And I've cut tons of trees both down and up, made piles of firewood, and was born in Shaker Heights and grew up in suburban Atlanta. I learned a lot through trial and error, neighbors, and sometimes the innanet, especially Tractorbynet. Lots of good folks on that site. OK whew that's a handful someone buy my Look frame!

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Pleabs:


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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    The firewood processing centers have nothing on the 60 year old neighbor of mine who’s been logging in the PNW since he was a ‘tweener’. He did 80+ chords of hand split firewood on top of commercial harvesting each year. I followed the guy as he walked around a pile of bucked lumber with a smallish full axe. He had this crazy wrist snap action that popped each piece, first hit, every time. So fast three folks couldn’t keep up loading the truck in his wake.

    Then there was trying to stack it with him...

    So, you just need an old-timer logger.
    Jason Babcock

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Thanks! This is all great.

    That's smart advice - buying the shop not the saw. I hadn't considered that. I think one of the best shops here is a retired guy who works out of his garage. Our landlord is always worried he's going to stop working (condemning a beloved old lawn tractor to the scrap heap) and move to Florida but so far he's staying put.

    I definitely need a vice. I had completely blanked on that. And a bench grinder for that matter. Would really like the grinder on a pedestal.

    Mattock might be useful for trail building. I hope I am going to be able to just clear the ground cover, iron rake and sweep. The deer keep everything clipped so short, they do most of the work for me. Once I reduce ground cover to dirt level in the pathways, they'll keep any new sprouts nibbled flush. We're actually going to start fencing some saplings to try to rebuild the understory.

    Splitting maul, wedges, sledge - all sounds like good advice. Just with the smaller trees standing dead now, that will be plenty of wood for a while, so the mechanical needs aren't going to be too great. Getting the stuff out of the woods, even if it is cut and split, that's going to be more strenuous. A strong wheelbarrow maybe.
    Last edited by j44ke; 11-26-2019 at 12:46 AM.
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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Jorn, Wheelbarrows don't acutally hold that much and are tippy. Consider a good old Vermont Garden Cart. Giant wheels and a manageable ctr. of balance.

    That's all I got. Will check back when this thread hits 30 pages ;)

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    Default Re: Hand Tools and Machinery for Country Living

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post

    What about wheeled machinery? These same friends have a John Deere Gator that they use to do almost all their hauling tasks on their property, including sliding logs out of the forest. It is a six wheeler side-by-side. I remember Joe Robonza got a Honda Foreman that he can use as a snow plow and liked.
    An alternative to the John Deere is the Polaris "Ranger". We use one as the vineyard runabout and it's taken everything we've thrown at it in its stride, or at least it did until the owner's daughter ran into an end post with it. Since our endposts are pieces of old railway line driven into the ground, the Ranger came off second best.

    Re the Honda: beware any quad without rollover protection, they are the deadliest of farm vehicles.

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