Chainsaw Dreams, Reconditioning An Old Echo Chain Saw
Sometimes, It Just Works Right
Way back when, in the days between the dinosaurs dying and the mammoth hunters, my Dad bought an Echo 280E chainsaw. It wasn't a big saw, more for tree trimming, brush cutting, taking down medium to small trees. I'd guess that was around 1985 or thereabouts. I was just about not a kid anymore. Chainsawing was (and is) great fun.
I used it a bit, clearing out fence-rows and taking down the soft maples that were overgrowing the yard. My Dad used it some too, for the same kinds of tasks.
Now, I wasn't too mechanical in those days, didn't know the difference between a two-stroke and a four. Didn't know that they took different kinds of gas. My memory, clouded with age, is that I just poured in the same gas we used in the car. Maybe not, my Dad probably had the right mix. The saw worked fine anyway.
The saw got put away, never to be used again, until today. When I say 'put away', I don't mean that it was carefully cleaned, had the gas drained out, snugged into its case with the blade-cover in place. No. It was stuck on a barrel, in an old, half-blown-down corn crib. The case was left lying on the concrete floor beside it. Snow and rain blew in through the slatted walls. Bugs invaded.
So, in October I decided to get the fireplace reconditioned and use it this year to save on some heating expenses. Money is tight this year. I got some free wood, but it isn't going to last through November, let alone through March. I remembered Dad's old saw. Would it run again? After what, twenty or more years abandoned to the mice and bugs and weather?
I dropped by Dad's place after church, got his permission, and took it home. Got on the interwebs, read up on Echo chainsaws, read up on two-stroke engines, read about people who pulled fifty-year-old outboard motors out of garages and got them running.
I pulled off the guards and cover plates. Dead bees, lots of them. Live spiders, three species. Lots and lots of oil-caked, ground-in sawdust. Took me about two hours to get the saw clean. Air filter looked okay, cobwebs out of the cooling fins.
Chain nearly frozen. Hose the chain down with WD-40 and let it sit. Soak the chain in gasoline. Dump the gas out and do it again. Slosh it around. Chain almost clean. Scrub it, more WD-40, wipe it, oil it. Okay? I think so.
Was it left with gas in it, twenty years ago? No gas now. Maybe it evaporated, leaving a scum of old varnish. Fill the gas tank with gas and let it sit. Dump and refill. Again. Trying to dissolve any gunk left behind, hoping this will work.
Put the chain back on, adjust the tension. Chain moves freely. Pretty good, but not like a new saw. Still a bit stiff. Oh well, gotta give it a try.
Went to town and bought a gallon of gas, the expensive kind I don't use in my car. High octane, like the internet chain-saw gurus say I should use. Bought a bottle of two-stroke oil, mixed it up in the correct dosage 50-to-1. Take a breath. Fill the gas tank, and the chain oil reservoir.
Moment of truth. Pull out the choke. Flip the 'on' switch. Pull the starter cord. Was that a 'putt' sound? Once more. Putt-putt-putt! Push the choke in and yank the starter cord.
It started. Right. Up. Three pulls on the cord. After, I figure, twenty or twenty-five years.
Sometimes things just work right. Do you suppose I have good things to say about Echo chain saws? I don't know how they are being built today, but I guess that back in 1980, they were some pretty darned well built machines.
I don't know what condition the innards of that machine are in. Maybe there are some weak tubes that are going to blow out if I try to actually do some serious work with it. I don't care, right now.
*An update, after three months. The saw needs some adjustment, not a lot of power. I have cut all the wood I need for this year, but when the weather warms up I'll take it out again and fiddle with the adjustment screws and see if I can't get it working a bit better. Also, it uses an enormous amount of chain oil. I cranked the oil adjustment screw all the way shut and nothing changes. Have to figure that out too. All good. All fun.
**Update two. That Echo saw worked through two winters, and cut enough wood that we burned in the fireplace every cold night. It kept us warm and made a cheerful home. It saved us several hundred dollars. Sadly, the saw is no more. The engine still runs great. But, the chain adjustment never worked very well, so I was constantly having to loosen the lug nuts that hold the blade in place, adjust the chain tension by hand and re-tighten the nuts. Finally, one of the lug bolts sheared off.
I was pretty sad, and the Echo company tells me they have not made that particular part for many years, so I can't repair it. Recently Menard's had a big sale, and I bought a new Poulan 3416 chain saw. Click this link to read my review. It is colored fluorescent green, has a bigger engine and a longer blade than my little old Echo. I put some mix in it, filled the chain oil sump, and gave it a try. Weird, starting this new saw is a lot more complex than the old one, more fiddling with the choke. I followed the directions precisely. It started right up. I'm happy. I cut up some hard, seasoned logs, right through like butter. But I still miss my Echo.