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Author Topic: The best clearing saw / brush cutter  (Read 6135 times)

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Offline livemusic

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The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« on: January 31, 2017, 07:24:32 am »
Have been clearing small saplings and small to large vines off of trees on 50 acres of hardwoods. Saplings, vines, briars. I have been using a machete and a Stihl ms200 rear handle chainsaw. I can do it but it's too much bending over for me, as I have much to do! So, I got to thinking that one of those cutters that has a harness and handlebars might be the solution. Anyone have a favorite model? Many of the saplings are oak. And even ironwood! So, tough stuff. I don't know what the limit is, 3" or 4"? I could use the chainsaw beyond whatever the sapling diameter limit is. I like Stihl, but I'll buy whatever is good. Any recommendations for a cutter and which blade are appreciated!

EDIT: First, I am not partial to any brand. Second, this is 50 acres, but spots here and there are what I need it for, not the whole 50 acres. For instance, everywhere there is a dogwood tree (and there are lots!), I want to clear competing small saplings around it. I don't know how far, lol. Maybe 10'-20'? I like just about all hardwoods, but especially dogwoods. Lastly, I will clear a trail for my ATV around the perimeter and down the middle. That is 7,500'! Depends on how long it takes me, might have to buy a DR brush cutter or rent a forest mulcher/Bobcat, not sure what it will take. It's a mature forest, so, lots of big trees and open areas, too.
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Offline KamHillbilly

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2017, 11:01:17 am »
I have a. Stihl fs550 bought it at a pawn shop , works great lots of power .
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Offline VT_Forestry

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2017, 02:15:28 pm »
We run Stihl FS460s at work, lots of power for trees up to 5-6".  For a path that long you would do very well with a forestry mulcher or bush hog if the trees are small enough.  That's a lot of cutting with a brush saw - it can be done, but you wouldn't be happy doing it  :D   
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2017, 06:59:58 pm »
It all depends on what is available to you in terms of equipment and how easy it is to access. Then decide whether you want flat stumps or pointy ones like spears. ;D I have seen lots of brush saw work being done over the years on power lines and traverse lines for gas well drilling. I'd have to say 7500' is a big number for sure. It would be around 1.4 miles (2.3 km) long. That's quite a walk for sure, but broken up over a week it won't be bad. Last fall I had a thinning strip that went 650 m from the road and I had a trail all down the side line next to the older woods for walking in and out. Mind you it was two meters wide, but how wide does a 4 wheeler need? Trusty old 560 cut it. That strip was 7 acres in size. I did that one and 3 others in October. Besides it takes longer to thin ground than to mow it down because stuff can't be left hung up when thinning, so has to be directed a bit and brought to the ground. ;) I had to cut stuff almost 6" in places, which would have been fir. But the most of the strip was maple and birch, which were not much bigger than 3" on the but, except for some pin cherry that gets kind of big, close to 6". And you might not think so, but pin cherry is one hard wood for a weed. ;D Professional Stihl or Husky will both get it done. We have both brands on the crew and some brand loyal guys have even gone Stihl. Never seen the other way around. But that was due more to the dealership than the saw. Both work as good as the other. This spring I have about 3/4 of a mile to trim up on a trail I keep open and maybe cut some walking trails out for winter snow shoeing or just stomping around in the fall. That long trail won't take more than 2 hours that I'm trimming back and it will be as wide as a pickup. Ain't no biggie.  :) Some people like the Stihl harnass, not me. I usually buy a Husky harnass, but I can't use the hook on the harnass to the saw because the metal is too soft on the harnass. I just stick a go between on and works fine, done it for years. We all run the top end for saws on the crew, the biggest you can buy. ;D

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
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Offline 630red

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2017, 05:56:03 pm »
mitsubishi tl 43 or bigger were great for power to weight ratio we hired husky stihl etc but the guys working them all day always asked for the mitsubishi.as long as they were greased and checked they never gave bother,but all depends on your local dealer,

Offline pine

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2017, 12:26:46 pm »
Stihl FS-550/560 or a FS-450/460 nothing smaller
Get the FS 560 and you won't regret it other than when you pay for it. 
After that it is great.

Offline CTYank

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2017, 09:10:24 pm »
My experience with stihl 130 or 460 brushcutters was pretty underwhelming, mostly because their weight made them really clumsy and their elaborate harness was no help.

I do lots of clearing of 10-11' high tangles of invasives like multiflora & privet. Major hp was not an issue, if the blade was well-suited to the task. So we use machines like 27 cc Tanaka, 25 cc Husqy, even 40 y.o. 21 cc Echo. Keeping weight down helps operator endurance immensely.

For woody stems <3/4", 12" 3-knife Husqy blade works best. Takes some initial sharpening work, but is really forgiving on hitting debris & easy to touch up with a file.

For bigger woody stuff:
-- 10" 20-tooth carbide-insert "renegade" blades slice through anything up to where they hit the hub. They can be had as 6-packs for ~$10 each. Just don't do quarrying. Dull one, you recycle it.
-- 9" Forester chainsaw-cutter blade is a really aggressive cutter that'll handle 6-inchers pretty easily, hitting from both sides. It can cut well for ~6-8 hours or more. Very undemanding to sharpen with 3/16" file. Very affordable at $15 each. Best used with visor down and lips sealed- they really shower you with chips.

Yes, all of these work very well with antique 21 cc Echo. Energizer Bunny of brushcutters. Too bad the smaller Echos now seem to have flexible shafts, totally unsuited to brushcutting, IMO.  :new_year:
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Offline LeeB

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2017, 02:27:35 am »
I've got a Husky 336 FR. I like it but have never run anything else so have nothing to compare it to.
'98 LT40HDD/Lombardini, Case 580L, Cat D4C, Ford 851 tractor, JD 3032 tractor, Husky 346, 372 and 562XP's. Stihl MS180 and MS361, 1998 and 2006 3/4 Ton and 2005 1 ton Dodge 5.9 Cummins 4x4's, 1989 Dodge D100 w/ 318, and a 1966 Chevy C60 w/ dump bed.

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2017, 04:07:39 am »
They used to make a professional Echo brush saw, but it was pulled. It even had the best warranty at the time. They had a year on them where the top sellers only warranted 90 days. You got longer warranty on Stihl and Husqvarna if it's just occasional use. For pre-commercial thinning, only 90 days. Some of the crew ran them, I think there were 2 or 3 men using them. But most of us use Stihl and a few Husqvarnas. I work an 8 hr day on a 560, we usually begin at 6:00 in the summer and out of the woods by 3:00, 10 minute breaks. If it's 90+F I'm gone by 1 though, too hot for this gringo. And I'm usually one of the last to leave, just me and the song birds left. :D There are lots of big talkers in this racket, you soon find out who the real men are. :D Now there is lots of guys that barely work 5 hours, don't matter what they are cutting with. :D I never sharpen unless I hit rocks or the ground on a Maxi Blade. You guys can't seem to get those from dealers down there. They have sold and used them for 30 years up here, it's all we use. We cut fir, spruce, maple, pin cherry, ash, beech, birch mostly, sometimes aspen and oak. I cut up to 5" inches in hardwood and 6" in softwood, which is usually between buncher trails where it was not trashed by the harvesters. Pre-commercial thinning is part of forest management in these parts, just like tree planting.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
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Offline John Mc

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2017, 11:06:33 am »
I never sharpen unless I hit rocks or the ground on a Maxi Blade. You guys can't seem to get those from dealers down there. They have sold and used them for 30 years up here, it's all we use.

SwampDonkey recommended the Maxi blade to me years ago, when I had first purchased my Jonsered GR2036 brush cutter saw. I admit, I was skeptical that there would be much of a difference between the Maxi and what came with the saw, but I noticed the difference immediately. Not sure why, but it just cuts better and lasts longer than the other type - seems like better steel. I found mine on Amazon (this is a Husky blade, but I believe Oregon makes the same thing? My saw takes an 8" diameter, but they do make other sizes):
Husqvarana Maxi Brush Cutter Blade

 


Here's the type that came with the saw (Husqvarna calls it their "Scarlet" blade). The most obvious visual difference is in the gullet:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.   - Abraham Maslow

Offline John Mc

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2017, 11:11:27 am »
Just noticed that there are some companies on Amazon selling something labelled as a Maxi blade, but the photo shows the other style. Make sure you know what you are getting.
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.   - Abraham Maslow

Offline LeeB

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2017, 11:26:45 am »
John,
So, you're saying you prefer the maxi to the scarlet? I've only tried the scarlet that came with the saw when I bought it. I'll try the maxi when I wear out the other one.
'98 LT40HDD/Lombardini, Case 580L, Cat D4C, Ford 851 tractor, JD 3032 tractor, Husky 346, 372 and 562XP's. Stihl MS180 and MS361, 1998 and 2006 3/4 Ton and 2005 1 ton Dodge 5.9 Cummins 4x4's, 1989 Dodge D100 w/ 318, and a 1966 Chevy C60 w/ dump bed.

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2017, 12:06:29 pm »
And if ordering online, make sure you get the right diameter centre hole. ;D

All the brands we get up here, and there are 6 or 8 that come to mind, come from Sweden, except Stihl brand which is Japan. Although I have had them from Sweden as well in years past. The saws when we buy them up this way have the Maxi blade on them. We can buy them other kind though. Well, one shop I did have to educate on the blades, and they came around.  ;D They were a new shop in town carrying them. I see there is a chainsaw like blade and a Skil saw type blade down in the US, I've never seen them in a shop around here and I've been in 6 shops just taken notice of what is on the shelf when buying stuff.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
Dirty Harry

Offline John Mc

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2017, 03:48:36 pm »
John,
So, you're saying you prefer the maxi to the scarlet? I've only tried the scarlet that came with the saw when I bought it. I'll try the maxi when I wear out the other one.

Definitely! I figured SwampDonkey did enough of it that he must know what he's talking about, so I tried one. It's a much nicer blade.
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.   - Abraham Maslow

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2017, 04:43:10 pm »
They will call them both chisel tooth, but one has "Maxi blade" written in the Stihl blade carton as well.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
Dirty Harry

Offline livemusic

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2017, 08:30:21 am »
I ended up buying a Husqvarna 345FR after reading tons of reviews and comments, plus, the fact that the Stihl (slightly more powerful HP) would be several hundred dollars more. I bought it online and I will never do that again. I could have bought local for $150 more. I will never try to save 20% again on something like this. The local dealer was a bit off-putting because he did not recommend this brush cutter type of device, he recommended a Stihl Kombi unit that has a kind of hedge shearing blade on it. I think he's wrong for what I want to do -- cut saplings. I finally decided against him, as noble as his cause was. He kept commenting that buying the blades would be expensive, as the blade is not oiled like a chainsaw chain and friction wears the blades out too quick.

Anyway, I would not buy online again for something like this that I knew nothing about. It would have been worth it to buy local and pay the premium IF he would have assembled it and been able to coach me through how to use it and assemble the harness.

Putting it together was not without issue. The manual has some mistakes, and it is not nearly as clearly written as it should be (which is a common complaint of mine about manuals). I finally got it together and it fired up first pull! And has performed perfectly.

I am satisfied with the machine, it certainly cuts well. The Scarlett blade it comes with does fine but I bought a carbide Renegade type and tried it and it seemed to cut even better, but ten minutes in, I hit a piece of concrete and destroyed its cutting power! Bummer. But I have another one of those. I think they were about $11 each.

Can the Scarlett blade be sharpened?

I will see if I can find a link to buy a Maxi blade and try it.

Offline John Mc

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2017, 01:15:40 pm »
I sharpen both the Scarlett and the Maxi blades with the same 7/32" file I use on my 3/8" pitch saw chain. I use one of these guides with it to set the depth:



You file these blades at a 15˚ angle, rather than the 25 or 30˚ angle used on a chainsaw chain. Sharpening is quick and easy on these blades.

I don't use the carbide tipped blades for just the reason you ran into: too many rocks in my area, many of which are hidden by the brush I am cutting. Hit the rock with the carbide blade, and you can just throw the blade out. Hit it with a Maxi (or Scarlett) blade, and you just sharpen it and move on. I'd guess the life of the carbide blade would be great, if all it ever touched was wood.
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.   - Abraham Maslow

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2017, 01:37:52 pm »
The maxi's last quite a while. I've used them  4 weeks if we was on good ground with no rocks. That's 20 days of cutting, not 4. ;D Some people don't know how to file very good and eat up a blade more from filing than from hitting rocks.  ::)  ;D :D  I saw a fella file his so much there was barely tooth metal left, didn't cut much neither. :D

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
Dirty Harry

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2017, 01:45:46 pm »
I ended up buying a Husqvarna 345FR after reading tons of reviews and comments, plus, the fact that the Stihl (slightly more powerful HP) would be several hundred dollars more.

What was you comparing to? I know a Husqvarna 555 is same price as a Stihl 560, not several hundred dollars difference. Same HP and Stihl slightly heavier. It comes down to the dealer. I can usually get $200 off list price.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
Dirty Harry

Offline 7sleeper

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Re: The best clearing saw / brush cutter
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2017, 07:45:04 am »
A little late, but I have a 38cc Tanaka/Hitachi brushcutter with full antivib, that I am very satisfied with. I would definately recomend a heavy duty antivib, like on the brushcutters/clearing saws, if you intend to work for longer periods!
For saplings I also prefer the "circular saw blade" type, when clearing underbrush I prefer a mulcher blade. Mulcher blade = 2 or 3 blades with the blade ends bent at either a 45 or 90 angle downward. Absolutely devastating! But you need a real brushcutter/clearing saw type with a heavy duty gearing head up front to stand the punishment from the mulcher blade when it hits a rock or similar.
And definately wear eye and ear protection for this type of work! I wear safety glases and my chainsaw helmet!

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