Jan Feb, 2003





A Word on Chainsaws

Selling chainsaws for over 40 years, Milt Moore has seen it all 

By Barbara Coyner

Milt Moore ran chainsaws for over forty years, but never spent a day logging. As a saw shop owner who recently retired, heís sold, demonstrated and repaired hundreds of saws, definitely giving him a handle on the loggerís essential tool. His thoughts on chainsaws? Theyíve gotten better and better. "The young people working out there today couldnít go back and work on what I was working on," says Moore, who ran a saw shop first in St. Maries, Idaho, and later in Potlatch, Idaho. "The quality has gotten a lot better. Theyíre lighter weight and sturdier because of the plastic parts, though you donít dare call it plastic because people think itís cheap. But thereís actually a certain amount of give to plastic that isnít there with metal that makes newer saws able to stand more impacts. The new saws are easier to run so theyíre easier on the sawyer."

Milt poses by a prized chainsaw carving he got while working n the saw shop business

Moore, who grew up in South Dakota before coming west with his family, ventured into the saw business at age 21, sharpening his skills in Charlieís Saw Shop in St. Maries. It was a good fit, and Moore even put his musical background to good use in the bargain. "I was always mechanically inclined, so it wasnít hard to pick up working on saws," says Moore. "I think my music helped too, because I had an ear for it and could adjust saws by sound. The company told us we had to use a meter to adjust rpmís, but I proved them wrong several times."

Working on Homelite and McCulloch brands initially, Moore eventually added Stihl, Sacks Dolmar, Poland, Pioneer and Jonsered to his lineup. He singles out Stihl as his hands-down favorite, both for product quality and company reliability. "Stihl is probably the best company I ever worked with. They were good at getting stuff to you and had few back orders. They make reliable, good quality parts, but frankly, the company got too good on us and we didnít have a big amount of repairs on their saws."

Interior of Miltís first saw shop at St. Maries.

Interestingly enough, Moore figures he could scope out a loggerís professional attitudes merely by the way the lumberjack treated his saw. It was easy to peg the top loggers. "Some loggers just plain donít take care of their saws. They throw them in the back of their trucks in the rain and the snow and then expect them to work. Iíve seen more than a few melted parts when some guy tried to thaw his saw out over the exhaust of a cat. A good logger keeps his equipment in good repair because it makes him money," says Moore.

Milt Moore still comes by the saw shop in Potlatch to visit with Dana McGreal, and sometimes offer advice, as well. He trained Dana and says women oftentimes have a better touch when it comes to fine-tuning and detail work.

"A used saw is not for a pro, and some guys would come in every six months and buy a new one. The best customers I had to work with wanted me to fix their saw, but others came in and just wanted to get by. Some would even gripe about the prices, but then Iíd look at the new truck they were driving and remind them that it was the saw that made him his money for that truck." Moore was more than willing to show the old hand or the chainsaw rookie how to care for equipment. Rule number one: keep the fuel and filter clean. Keep the saw maintained so itís ready to work. During his business years, Milt knew the loggers depended on their saws to pay their bills, and depended on him to keep their equipment running.

Training his share of technicians, he points with special pride to two women who worked with him. He inherited RaeDean Scofieldís chainsaw know-how when he bought out the Atkisonís saw shop in Potlatch, and he later trained Dana McGreal in the trade. Both women were well respected for their expertise by area loggers. "In finer work, I think women can do better because they have smaller hands and can set the carburetion better," Moore says. Moore admits that heís a people lover and misses many of his old customers now that heís sold out, but he gladly leaves chainsaw repair to Idaho Rigging, the new owners of his shop in Potlatch.

Miltís bar machine, which he built himself and used in his shop.

The general shape of the timber industry worries him a little, and he thinks he picked a good time to exit the profession. "The business is down in saw shops because of all the mechanization in the woods, but I think in the future, down the road, theyíre going to go back to the saws. Mechanization benefits the mill, but not the logger." Safety is now a bigger issue in the woods, Moore says, and he watched sales on chaps, ear protection and eye protection go up considerably since he first broke into the trade. "People didnít willingly buy chaps," he quips. "They usually stopped on their way home from the hospital and bought them." After surviving heart surgery, Milt Moore is definitely kicking back and savoring his retirement, especially the chance to make more music. He plays rhythm guitar and sings, and his wife Bev plays bass for his band Moore Country.

The two gear up for several yearly campouts that offer non-stop old-time music and dancing. In the meantime, Milt keeps the home fires burning, puttering with household projects and working his draft horse team. As for chainsaws, Moore doesnít go looking for them. He keeps a couple around for work at home, and sometimes even helps some of his friends and neighbors with their logging and thinning chores. Itís about the closest this seasoned chainsaw expert will ever get to being a logger


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004