I chose a Husqvarna 340 for sentimental reasons, more or less, using simple criteria derived from working in the lumberjack business twenty years ago. I'll tell you all about that in a moment, and also why I consider it to be a saw of good quality. I write this review mainly for people with little or no experience of gas chain saws, because I think a saw like this one is perfect when you find out you need to do more than just chop some firewood in the backyard once in a while. Basic service & maintenance points are easy to perform, it is reliable and durable, and the user protection systems are very effective yet transparent in normal operation. A gas chain saw is not ever to be put in the same category as string trimmers or lawn mowers. It is more like a potentially lethal racing machine or weapon, and should be designed and treated with this in mind. This is why I'm happy to see the manual is so comprehensive and easy to understand, it covers virtually everything you need to know to operate it safely and efficiently. They are serious when telling you to read the manual carefully from the beginning to end before using the saw. Even though most professional lumberjacks probably would appreciate a few extra hp for a weight penalty, this one has the important advantages of being light-weight and well balanced, has good acceleration and power that makes it sufficient for felling, limbing and bucking in most situations. Excellent value for the money in my opinion. Toward the end of the review, I will provide you with some ideas and tricks to get the most out of this and similar saws.
What I needed vs. what I wanted
It began when we had to take down some trees and bushes in our overgrown old garden. Having just moved to our house from an apartment, me and my wife thought hand tools would do just fine, besides it was "healthy exercise". We managed to fell one tree after some thirty minutes of sweat and curses, but after a few more hours of sustained effort, using various hand saws and axes in progressive states of dullness, we began to seriously question the value of this exercise method... Seen from a rational viewpoint, a good electric chainsaw would do these kinds of jobs in no time. Yet I walked out from the store with this one, the Husqvarna 340, together with a full logger's protection outfit. Although the saw was affordable as such, my dear wife was a little surprised to see the expenses for this little project pile up. With all that protection equipment that I probably would not have got for an electric saw (although you should), the total cost was more than three times the amount necessary for the task at hand.
To understand this seemingly irrational purchase behavior we need to dig deeply into the domain of the subconscious. I can hardly believe it but it is twenty years since I worked as a logger, very proud of the experience by the way. As I had a look at those electric saws lined up in the store, I could not help but feeling indifferent and bored. Horrible balance, wimpy power and chain velocity, and those cords... Noticed some gas saws then, similar to those I remembered from the lumberjack days, was drawn to them like a magnet. Just to lay my hands on them, perfect balance, ergonomics. These sensory inputs invoked vivid memories of the fine comradeship among us in the logger team, long days of hard work in the frozen, beautiful forests of the Smaaland region of Sweden in the winter, the fragrance of freshly cut pine timber. I could go on forever, boring you all to death, but the focal point in this nice recollection of images was definitely the Saw. We used saws from Jonsered, Partner and Husqvarna in various sizes. Never thought much about the models, I just picked one that felt "right" for me and the application, weight vs. power/performance. They were all built very similar using high quality components, serviced regularly and consequently performed flawlessly. Over time I learned how to adjust the carburetor to achieve top performance from the saws I used, along with the art of keeping the chain razor sharp in just the right angles and raker gap. Those things were critical to get an edge in our little team competitions.
Waking up from this sentimental timewarp in the store, I realized the purchase could not be based on rationality but on gut feeling for me to be happy with it in the long term. So I chose this one, based on very coarse criteria that it should be similar to those saws I was trusting back then, e.g. not have those ridiculous primer bulbs found on string trimmers and lawn mowers (equals trouble to me) but a real choke, and the possibility to set L&H nozzles and T(idle) without anything more than a screwdriver and some experience. This was the one that I could barely squeeze into my budget at that time considering the need to also get the necessary protection equipment - 2.7 hp would be more than enough for our little garden project but who cared!
What I appreciate about this saw
This saw fulfils my high expectations of reliability and ergonomics, and it is a true pleasure every time I can find a reason to start it up. I really appreciate that it behaves exactly consistent, every time. Pull choke. A few strokes until it pops. Push choke back, another few strokes and it starts in fast idle. Rev it once to release the throttle hook-up, and it is ready for work. I am surprised to see how well it performs despite its relatively small cylinder volume, it is not that different performance-wise from those heavy saws I used twenty years ago. Very good cutting performance with the chain and the 13" bar it came with, I find it fast and easy to work with. Just keep the RPM high and the chain sharp and it rips through anything in no time. Center of gravity lies right in the middle of the left handle curve so the balance is superb when swinging it around during limbing and so forth. I cannot remind myself to have experienced more than one potentially dangerous kickback with the original bar/chain setup, which also gave a good illustration why the inertia-activated chain stopper was invented. The incident was due to a careless plunge cut, got a violent kickback to the right that could have ruined my protective trousers in a microsecond if not the chain stopper kicked in. The point is that this saw has an excellent passive safety due to the bar and chain combinations used, combined with a lot of other almost invisible safety devices such as the very fine handle design that steers things away from the trigger while working and preventing the chain from hitting your hand should it break, there is a trigger lock that you never notice, an extremely effective anti vibration system that prevents you from getting tired. All this and more are then complemented with proven active safety systems designed to work even when the left hand cannot be held in its usual place to activate the stopper with the wrist. Check these important safety systems often as part of the daily routine (by the methods shown in the manual, not like I did
A very nice feature with these saws is the centrifugal air cleaning system that really works to keep dust from the air filter, thus reducing needs to clean it as often. Further, it has a quite low mass for the moving parts and consequently the acceleration is good, a feature that is much appreciated during limbing. Here a short bar is safer and quicker to work with, in my opinion, I always preferred those bars regardless of saw size/power. Felling and cutting is no problem for me since this bar is enough to deal with 90% of the trees I encounter, the remaining ones takes just a little more time and caution. Should you have much felling/cutting of timber in excess of 12 inch or so, you should of course get a longer bar. The manual says it takes up to 20" bars, but keep in mind that you add weight and lose cutting power and control with long bars. If you experience poor cutting power with long bars it usually means you would need a much more powerful saw for the job, i.e. consider 5-6 hp saws if H340-350 is what you have.
The issue of "needs" is why this story became so long, besides the fact that I love to share some thoughts about this dear subject. Like other reviewers remarked, these saws are so ergonomic and efficient in use that you almost become disappointed when there is no more work to do... There was a definite limit to what could be done in our garden, so I was more than happy to lend a helping hand to friends and relatives once in a while for some "recreational forestry" as I like to call it. Later, the cost of heating our house rose by 50% when our electricity contract had to be renewed. This made us consider different options to cut down the heating costs which are substantial here in Sweden. An attractive and effective solution for us was to upgrade the existing fireplace with a high efficiency tile stove. Since it turned out that we get all firewood we need in exchange for this recreational forestry now and then, this saw finally came to good use and works perfectly for this purpose.
Things to know
For all you people that are looking for just the right chainsaw and how to keep it running, consider these points.
1. Choose a saw (or any tool for that matter) that is more powerful and has better quality than you think is necessary at first. A high performance, quality saw like this one is a pleasure to work with, having many essential features in common with the saws that professionals use. Ergonomics is extremely important, center of gravity, proven user safety systems. A good saw is recognized as being relatively lightweight yet sufficiently powerful. For me, this one is. If you must choose due to budget constraints as a non-professional user, low weight is almost always to prefer over high power. I made exactly that choice in the store, there were saws with more power for that money in the store but also heavier and not so well balanced. Easy choice.
2. In my opinion, the inherent quality and reliability of basic components such as carburetor and ignition is what makes your saw start and run just as fine after 10 years of service as when it was new. Quality saws use quality components from well-renowned specialist firms, which make up a fair share of the production costs for the saw. Now keep in mind that within a given product family, it is very common that the different sizes have exactly the same type of carburetor and ignition system. In the product manual for the 340 for instance, you will see that it shares those components with the 345 and 350. Considering the exaggerated difference in price to the larger displacement models for just 10 - 15 % power gain, it is easy to see why the 340 is a great value choice if you do not need the extra increments in power.
3. Consider using only special premixed 2-stroke fuel for chainsaws based on alkylate synthetic gas, e.g. brands like Aspen. I never run my saw with pump gas for a number of reasons. First, you will notice a much more pleasant work environment for yourself, the exhaust fumes are much less annoying and also less hazardous since they are free from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other nasty substances. Invaluable for professional loggers in particular, but also for people like us. Second, it is better for your saw, much reduced carbon deposits. A critical advantage for hobby users in particular, if fuel is left for prolonged periods in your saw it will not clog the fuel filter or carburetor, and it will not lose much power. With alkylate petrol, you can start your saw just as easy after six months (and maybe more) on the gas left in the tank, as if you used it the day before! This is absolutely invaluable for me. Sure, this stuff is almost double the price of regular pump gas here in Sweden but the trouble-free operation and the other advantages makes it well worth the extra money. Available at every gas station, have no idea about the situation outside Sweden though. Also good for the environment!
4. Learn how to adjust the carburetor by careful study of the manual or preferably from an expert. This is a point in the manual that I found rather difficult to follow, and had to use some experience to get it right. A good carburetor setting makes all the difference between a wonderful and a lousy saw, in starting and in work performance. A too lean setting will kill the saw. When new, it is important that the saw gets a richer mixture during the break-in of the motor, otherwise the saw will never run like it was designed to. I could not put faith in the factory settings since the right mixture depends on so many things, for instance the fuel type and quality. After the stipulated breaking-in period, make sure to readjust the carb in order to get the full performance, big difference! If possible, learn from an expert so you get the right feel for how it should run and sound like when perfectly adjusted.
5. Never use a chain saw without good personal protection equipment; hearing protection, helmet w visor, steel-reinforced logger boots, protective trousers and gloves with saw-protection. You cannot imagine the damage a high-velocity saw chain can do to you. No matter if you are amateur or pro, always count in a full protection equipment in your purchase if you do not have it already.
6. Service your saw according to the manual, or have someone do it for you. Very important! Everything you need to know should be right there to read, just do what it says when it says you should do it. A good saw should have basic service points such as air filter and spark plug easily accessible. I found that the use of high quality alkylate fuel / synthetic oil premix greatly prolongs the periods between change of spark plug, fuel- and air filter. Those components look almost like new after years of use due to this clean burning, stable fuel.
I hope you will be as successful as I was with your choice, and that you find these thoughts and ramblings helpful!
Appendix: when you know how to adjust the carb for perfection, and want more power
Even though I thought the saw was very good also for the new needs as I revived the lumberjack side of myself, at some point I simply felt an urge to squeeze some more power out of it. I prepared myself with some information caught on some obscure forum for chainsaw enthusiasts and started the little operation. First the drawbacks of this exhaust/muffler tweak:
- You must expect a more aggressive grunt from your saw. This is no problem for me since stock chainsaws makes a hell of a lot of noise anyway. Using it in the garden, the neighbors probably can't tell any difference the few hours per year I'm there with my saw. Would not surprise me if it could be illegal in some places of the world, though.
- In regions where spark arrestor is legally required, a metal mesh arrangement that complies with applicable standards is necessary as complement. This is not an issue where I live.
What you are seeking to get from this modification is increased power/torque at the mid-high cutting rpm range, and improved acceleration/responsiveness for even better limbing performance. The tweak may require some experimentation to get just right. The carburetor needs adjustment after the modifications since more air flows through the engine and thus alters the mixture. The carb is adjusted according to the usual principles, it is just that the resulting performance will be noticeably improved. The engine characteristics will remind somewhat of a racing engine, a distinct power boost at high RPMs.
The mod is performed like this, proceed at your own risk of cause (will void warranty). Make sure the saw runs properly before the operation, and is well broken in.
1. Remove the muffler and the exhaust gasket, rotate the engine with the starter so that the piston cover the port to prevent things from falling into the cylinder while you work.
2. Assess the exhaust port, make sure the surface is smooth and nice. Use a dremel if necessary to very carefully remove any deformities, taking necessary measures to prevent metal dust from reaching the piston/cylinder. I saw no reason to do this operation on my engine.
3. Now measure very carefully the area and shape of the exhaust port, and make it align perfectly with the muffler inlet through the gasket. In my case, the alignment was quite poor, with gasket and inlet area a little too small. This was corrected by the dremel, I had to grind quite much to achieve a perfect alignment, leaving a lot of metal dust in the muffler.
4. Modify the muffler outlet. The optimum according to the instructions I found if I remember correctly (lost trace of the site, sorry) is that muffler outlet area should be around 0.9 - 1.2 times the area of the exhaust port. Some experimentation is necessary to determine exactly what is needed for optimal performance. The modification can be made in many different ways, I just drilled some holes beside the existing outlet to produce the necessary area. Look inside of the muffler so there is no obstructions where you drill, I chose an area close to the existing outlet but maybe that is not important (comments, anyone?). Make sure hot exhaust gas from the holes will not hit parts of the saw that can be damaged. If necessary, steer the exhaust in the desired direction (forward) by a metal shield/guide which is fastened securely to the muffler. This method allows for some experimentation and fine-tuning by closing/opening the additional holes by sheet metal screws/bolts for instance.
5. Clean the muffler carefully to remove the metal dust. I simply soaked it in brake cleaning spray, then blew it thoroughly with compressed air. Use goggles! Allow to dry completely before reinstalling the muffler.
6. Start the saw, adjust carb, assess the result. Some experimentation may be necessary, increasing the area in steps until you are entirely satisfied with the performance. Carb adjustment is necessary after each alteration.
You have now tampered with your saw, and according to the manual you should never use a saw that has been tampered with
All I can say is that this modification appear to be common among professional loggers and arborists, reporting that the engine runs cooler under hard load and therefore has a positive rather than negative effect on durability. As always, a correct carb adjustment is a must.
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