Cutting through a 19” log in less than 13 seconds takes a mixture of strength, technique, a good piece of wood and a well-tuned saw. It is easy to understand the time that goes into improving strength, stamina and technique, but a competitor invests just as much time making sure his equipment stays in top shape. Exactly what this maintenance looks like depends on the piece of equipment and how much it has been used.
Razor-sharp chopping axes travel to competitions in aluminum boxes and then get sprayed with penetrating oil to keep water away and remove pitch. Smooth, sharp steel does not like rust, so great pain is taken to keep surfaces clear. If an axe starts to lose its edge and does not cut as well, a competitor may use different abrasive stones to polish or lengthen the fine cutting edge. If an axe is damaged by hitting a knot or a stand, the head is placed in a jig and then a file, belt sander or grinder is used to remove material and reshape the axe.
Single buck saws travel a little less glamorously, riding between pieces of plywood and resembling floor samples. After each cut competitors use a fine bristled brush to remove pitch and chips from the saw teeth. Each tooth is brushed, inspected, and cleaned, taking care to ensure only a fine film of penetrating oil is left. This prevents rust from forming and slowing or dulling the saw. After a season of racing, competitors may use a stone on the back of the teeth to re-square the edges or straighten cutting points that have rolled from use. If a hidden knot is cut, teeth or rakers may be bent or ripped from the saw. This results in the saw returning to its maker or one of the few experienced saw filers to be re-heated, treated and bent back, filed down to even out the saw or even having a new tooth welded on. If this happens, the saw may be demoted to training only.
Hot saws travel in everything from carefully built coolers to elaborate wooden boxes and everything in between. After each race, the razor sharp chains are removed from the saw, carefully wiped down, oiled and either wrapped in a clean towel or placed in a box that prevents the cutters from touching anything hard. The motors are wiped clear of chips, cleaned and inspected to make sure no fasteners have loosened or gone missing and then stowed in their travel crate for a safe trip home. In the offseason, motors are drained of fuel and oil before heading to a shelf in the shop. After a few seasons of racing, some saws return to the builder for new bearings, a bigger jug and piston or new porting to go faster next season.
It takes a huge investment of time and energy to get to the biggest stage in STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS®. Once a competitor has qualified, staying there takes careful maintenance of their minds, bodies and racing equipment to keep all three working together to cut fast.
Maintaining Your Equipment: Gear
Maintaining your Equipment: Gearbox