Pros: Great design, light weight, and extremely fast cutting speed.
Cons: Gas and oil fillers could be better designed to reduce contaminating the tanks.
November 26, 2004:
Wow! This is the most positive purchase experience I've had in many years.
Before I comment on the saw, you need to understand the author has a sick mind. I don't have a fireplace to burn wood, and I live on a neighborhood lot where a chainsaw is an occasional novelty. One of my fondest childhood memories, however, is going out each winter with my father and 4 brothers to cut and split wood for the winter. Now I crave any excuse to breathe 2 cycle exhaust and watch big trees fall to the ground and be carved into pieces. I'd rather spend all day cutting lumber than go on a vacation!
If you're accustomed to big saws with loads of torque, you're in for a little adjustment. My other saw is a late 80's 3.7 c.i. McCulloch 610 clone that weighs 20 pounds fueled. The name of the game with such saws is to press the trigger, mash the bar into the wood, and let the saw manhandle its way through. Push all you want, use the bucking spikes, and the saw's brute power will keep the cutters turning. If you were weaned on chipper chains and softball sized chips hitting your feet, don't expect that with this Husky. It's all about efficiency. What you can expect is a steady flow of high velocity "chiplets" while the saw effortlessly glides through the wood. In other words, this saw is a "slicer" versus a "cutter". The supplied narrow kerf bar and 95VP chain remove a minimal cross section of wood, requiring less power. The 2.7 c.i. motor winds up to an incredible speed. Just spin the engine up, place the bar onto the workpiece, and let the weight of the saw pull the bar through the wood. Keeping the motor spooled-up near max rpms provides the fastest cut.
And fast it is!
I ordered my saw with a 16" bar, since I wanted it predominately for limbing and other close work. I was also somewhat concerned its small motor wouldn't handle a 18" or 20" bar gracefully. Now I know better; a 20" bar wouldn't pose a problem if you have the need for a longer bar. I'm already using the saw for bucking cuts up to 16", and occasionally making two cuts for larger diameters when necessary. Making a second cut is often faster than fetching a larger saw.
**Jan 5, 2005 update **
I ran into a great deal on two 20" Oregon Micro-Lite Pro bars, and gave the saw a whirl with the longer cut on a 25" sappy pine. It worked reasonably well, but I had to be careful to keep the rpm's up and had to back out a few times to prevent stalling. I found wedges were very necessary on the stump cuts to keep the weight of the wood off the bar. All in all it worked well. The longer bar might be handy for some people to reduce the reach for limbing, but the 16" bar is probably the best size for this saw if you have a person running a larger saw for the big cuts. Otherwise the 20" bar makes this a good "universal" combination, realizing a larger saw like a 372XP would be a better big-lumber saw. If I have to use only one saw though, I'd rather take a little extra time on the larger cuts with a light saw than lug around 5 extra pounds all day. I personally will keep both lengths of bars handy and set the saw up for the work planned that day. Even with the larger McCulloch in the stable, I'll probably use the 346XP with the 20" bar if I'm the only cutter and the wood demands a longer bar.
** End Update **
** Dec 14, 2005 Update **
I've run a number of tanks through the saw now and it continues to loosen up and gain power. I used the 20" bar on a red oak and a white oak and the saw pulled fine even when totally sunk into the tree. Obviously I couldn't force the saw, but it cut well, actually faster than the old McCulloch. I think when I get 20 or so tanks through this thing it's really going to be hitting its stride. I'm tempted to reduce the back pressure on the muffler a bit to eek out a little more power, but I hate to mess with a good thing! I'm loving this saw.
** End Update **
Initially the motor was very tight but it loosened up after the first tank of gas. I broke the saw in on a 30" diameter white oak, still wet with sap. Another guy with a big, older Poulan equipped with a 20" bar and a new low-kick chain was the "competition". We were at a point on the tree where my 16" bar would barely cut in one pass. My competitor was already 1/4 the way into his cut. I put the 346XP in, finished the cut, and was 1/4 the way into the next cut before he broke through. No words were exchanged, but we both took note of the result. I'm sure it would have been much closer had he been using a LG chain, but my saw was running a safety chain as well. Later the same guy used my saw and as he handed it back all he said was "That's a Hoss". Pretty interesting comment given the diminutive size of my saw compared to his!
When it comes to limbing, the 346XP is more like a motorized machete than a chainsaw. On 6" - 10" limbs the saw will cut just about as fast as you can place it on the lumber. I'm talking 2 - 5 seconds per cut. This thing is insane! I was concerned at first that the 95VP chain would be safe-but-slow. It does seem to minimize kickback, but still cuts with impressive speed. It is also easy to sharpen and holds an edge well. I don't feel the need to hunt for a more aggressive chain, this one matches the saw very well. Reducing kickback while limbing is of great value.
Back to "adjustments" for big saw converts. You have to be a little more careful to not get this saw in a bind. Unlike the bigger saws, it doesn't have the torque to pull free when pinched. Always make a 1/3 cut on the compression side of the lumber first, then make the final cut through the opposite side. I also recommend wedges to prevent pinches and to free your saw in a jam. Also realize that with the cutting speed of this saw, things happen quickly. You can end up with a face full of limb or a tree on top of you because this thing cuts so incredibly fast.
Another amazing aspect of this saw is its fuel and chain oil efficiency. On my older saw I can plan on refueling about every 15 minutes or so. I cut with the 346XP for about 4 hours with only 3 refills (I guess you'd get 35 - 45 minutes of active cutting per tank). It only ran dry once, the other refills were due to lapses in work to fell a tree, split lumber, or sharpen chains. I didn't measure anything, but I probably used 2 to 3 quarts of gas over 4 hours. My old saw would have likely consumed 5 to 8 quarts of petrol for the same work.
I'm an engineer that specifies and designs equipment, and I really enjoy the thought that went into the 346XP. The single choke/fast-idle/stop lever is great. The air filtration system is incredibly effective. I'm used to having to scrape, brush, wash... air filters after a day of cutting. The Husky's filter was barely touched after a good half day of cutting and very little dirt found its way into the area surrounding the filter. I guess the "turbo" filtration system or whatever Husky calls it really works. I think you can wash the filter and reuse it, so I'll probably get a spare and put in a clean dry one while I clean and dry the dirty one for the next change.
I was originally torn between the Husky 350 ($270 internet), the 346XP ($360 internet), and the Stihl 260Pro ($489 dealer). The Stihl was just too expensive and even the Stihl dealer positioned the 260Pro as a pro-sumer saw. The 346XP is all-out professional grade, the 350 is pro-sumer grade. I had a hard time choosing between the 350 and 346XP, given similar statistics, the $90 difference in price, and knowing the 350 was ample for my needs. I sided with the 346XP because I wanted the extra horsepower (3.4 versus 3.1) in case my big saw dies and I need a 20" bar for felling and bucking. I also like the sprocket rim set-up on the XP versus having to change the entire spur sprocket on the 350. I also like how the oiler on the XP stops pumping when the chain is not moving. This prevents wasting oil and creating a pile of goo inside the saw if you leave it idling between cuts. It's also nice to have an adjustable oiler to match oil flow with cutting conditions, which both the 350 and the XP have.
The only negative point of the saw is the oil and gas fill caps/receptacles. The area around the fill holes are designed to efficiently funnel liquids in. Unfortunately there isn't an easy way to clean dust and chips out of the crevices around the caps before removing the caps for filling. I've seen saws that have a raised inner lip around the the fill holes to keep debris out of your tanks, although they do cause you to spill more liquid. Choose your poison. I'd rather spill a little and keep the tanks clean.
Truth be known, I really decided on the 346XP because it screams "Professional" and I'm a self-identified weekend lumberjack. For those of you worried about my McCulloch, understand it still has a place in the world. Until it finally dies (almost anything breaking will put it out of commission given lack of parts) it will be used for dirty felling cuts, large lumber, and getting the new 346XP out of pinches. When the McCulloch does bite the dust, I'll be looking at a 372XP...
** Dec 14, 2005 Update **
Hearing the Husqvarna was discontinuing the 372xp line due to new emission standards, I picked one up while I could. I hope to write an article on it after I break it in.