Starting from scratch - power tool talk

Originally posted this in Climber Talk then realized it probably belongs here.

When I worked for a company, we always used Stihl gas saws. I had a 201t that I was allowed to keep with me and could use for personal stuff too. When I left the company, I had to give everything back and lost access to the bigger saws. So here I am, occasionally working for myself, with some money in my pocket, and looking to build a reliable kit for the not-too-big jobs I take on independently. I've gone back and read lots of threads comparing small saws of all kinds. Here's what I've concluded; shared in the public's interest and in hope of criticism/support.

First, as a solo practitioner only working for family, friends, and neighbors, I won't take on anything with much risk at all. So I don't need a big saw. I'll get one eventually if I truly go into business myself and when I do, obviously it will be a gas-powered saw. I'm a Stihl fan so it will probably be a 261 (I know that's not exactly BIG but it's bigger than I need right now) cuz damn if those aren't reliable and easy to use in-tree or on-ground. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Eventually this summer I will return to work for a company to get my fix for big climbs. They'll have the necessary equipment. For now, during quarantine, there's money to be made out there for a certified arborist who likes to climb and has enough tools to do what a homeowner can't.

I have all relevant climbing gear, a pruner head, silky saw head, four 6' fiberglass poles, a new Zubat handsaw, and a big ass truck ('96 Ram 2500 5.9l Cummins with a long utility bed covered in lockable boxes). All I need in order to do what I'm trying to do is a chainsaw for finishing larger cuts. My main need right now is a saw for cuts in the 4-10" diameter range. However, I am also taking into account my lack of other useful power tools that come in handy whilst traveling about solving problems for people.

I'd been racking my brain considering buying my own 201t since I know they're great but very $$$. Then I thought, I should step it down a notch since I'm only doing smaller jobs and go for the 193t. But what I've always really wanted is to go electric. I'm a huge fan of a quiet worksite and will usually push my handsaw farther than most on a removal just to preserve the calm. I'll be traveling/working/camping on/around my truck for the rest of the year and I'm hoping with the right solar set-up I can charge overnight off a battery bank and reduce my fuel costs to zero. Or else just plug-in at client's houses during the days to stay charged. So I've been digging deep on battery saws.

Husky is currently the most professional-grade battery saw. A co-worker had a T535i and it basically replaced his handsaw for pruning. Husky is set to release the t540i this year (one TB poster was told August 2020 but not to hold his breath) and that looks like a really good saw. I can't really wait though and in my current position, I want to buy something that is as new a technology as possible. Plus, aside from a blower and hedger, this would be as far as my investment in Husky batteries would take me.

Stihl is just too slow to the blocks here. The early reviews of the 161t are not great. They'll probably still get my gas-powered purchase but I'd be in the same position battery-tech investment-wise as with Husky.

Of the major manufacturers, Echo seems like the choice for battery saw at this exact moment (could definitely change once the Husky t540i comes out). I've never used Echo saws before and hadn't heard great things from industry friends but from what I'm reading here on TB they are worth consideration, especially at their price point. However, same issue regarding the limited use of their battery tech.

Once I started considering my overall tool needs I finally started reading about the second-tier (non-forestry specific) tool manufacturers and their chainsaw offerings. Since I'm starting from scratch, the benefit of investing in one battery tech and using it across five or six useful tools has finally outweighed my hesitancy to use a not-top-of-the-line chainsaw even for my admittedly limited applications.

I've used Dewalt's top-handle saw and didn't like it. Fancy YouTubers don't seem to like it either.

Milwaukee hasn't come out with a top-handle saw yet which is a shame because people really seem to like their M18 FUEL line.

So it's come down to Makita and I like what I'm hearing. In the very in-depth "Lithium powered saws?" thread, several people of worthy regard reported positive experiences with the Makita line of saws. I particularly like @treebing 's blatant-disregard-for-safety-protocol mod converting his 18v into a slim, powered hand-saw. With the package deals Makita offers it seems like I could get 13 x 5.0Ah batteries (that's like $1300 right there), a few chargers, an angle-grinder, a 14" top handle climbing saw (I wanted a 12" but it seems like those are all their old brushed motor versions and not as available/desirable), a 16" rear handle saw, an impact driver, a drill, a sawzall, a 30" hedger, and a blower for ~$2,000 (I might even throw in the little 10-incher and do what Mr. Bingham did just for kicks). The list of tools that can be powered with these batteries is longer than I'll ever need to read. I'm going to buy the tools at an authorized dealer to try to eliminate some of the package redundancies and maximize my savings.

One day, when I'm in business for myself and doing removals I'll buy the Stihl gas-powered kit of 201t, 261, and 661. But until then, I'll go make some money with my affordable, expandable, turquoise tool-kit.

Please feel free to roast me if I misinterpreted the publically available information or give me the thumbs up if I should rush ahead with this plan. Planning on making these purchases next week so there's still time to change my mind. I hope this was a useful summary of the current state of power tools for our industry. It was also my first real post here on TB so, hello.
 

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