The sixth and final discipline that ends every STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® contest is by far the loudest and least predictable. After running the comparatively sedate MS661s in the stock saw, the hot saw event throws away predictability and smooth operation, replacing it with fire-breathing, chain-throwing sawdust everywhere. The hot saw is a power tool created only for making three cuts in a 19” diameter white pine log as fast as possible. With the heart of a diatribe or snowmobile, these hot saws are chainsaws in name only.
In addition to being raced last at the contest, the hot saw is usually the piece of equipment lumberjacks acquire last. This is because the hot saw is a significant investment compared to a $500 axe or $2,000 single buck saw. Depending on builder and engine displacement, new hot saws range in price from around $5,000 dollars to upwards of $10,000. If wives or girlfriends are around, the quoted prices are usually lower and very few admit exactly how many dollars and hours went into their hot saw build.
At the center of each hot saw is a two-stroke engine ranging in displacement from 250cc, to upwards of 350cc. These engines start in dirt bikes or snowmobiles before being stripped down to the bare essentials plus a gas tank and reservoir for bar oil. After years of fast times, the 325cc Rotax engine is being replaced by variations of the 250cc Honda with the finest modern hot saws coming out of California with displacements in the low 300cc range and reported horsepower over 60.
The only part of the hot saw that is still chainsaw is the chain. Instead of the 3/8” chain common on STIHL work saws, hot saws run either .404 chain or 1/2” chain from the work saws of the 1950s and life in the big timber. The larger chain is stronger and has a larger tooth to keep a load on the more powerful motor. Chains are hand filed for each motor and wood species to keep the chips flowing and cookies dropping.
With so little chainsaw left, hotsaws are often the source of heartache. The motors are tuned to run on the ragged edge, producing maximum power to make fast cuts. Sometimes they do not start immediately. This can be due to of a weather change, something shaking loose on the ride to the contest, or the motor wearing connections out since it is no longer riding safely in the dirt bike frame. Many stressful moments pass before the scream of a clean start gives the lumberjacks hope they are going to be able to make a successful run. At the same time, after a good warm up, with the decompression buttons depressed and the starter cord wrapped, there is nothing but silence waiting for the starters gun. Then, hammering 60 horsepower through a down cut, up cut and down cut in 5.5 seconds is one of the sweetest feelings in the sport.