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John Deere CS40LE Pro-Series Chain Saw

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Made as it is in Italy, we quickly came to regard this as the Ferrari of chain saws – it’s beautifully engineered and a pleasure to use… but a bitch to start at times.

While not a manufacturer immediately associated with chain saws, John Deere actually makes some really nice ones. Perhaps more to the point, John Deere will service its products for decades after they’re purchased, whereas parts for lesser saws can be effectively unobtainable a few years after you beat up your credit card for one.

The CS40LE is a small sixteen-inch saw with a single-piston 39cc two-stroke engine. It weighs about ten pounds, which is about average for a chain saw of this size. It’s extremely well balanced, making those ten pounds easy to work with. It features an automatic chain oiler that shuts down when the saw is idling, saving a great deal of oil. In fact, is uses so little oil compared to other saws as to have initially caused us to suspect that its oiler was broken.

Unlike the more commonly-encountered economical saws from big-box home improvement stores, the CD40LE is built like a tank – albeit a light, ergonomically-engineered tank with ample safety features and an attractive agricultural-green plastic case. It uses caged bearings and a forged crank shaft to keep it running for a long, long time.

In use, the CS40LE is a vicious little monster, exactly as chain saws are meant to be. Equipped with a very high-grade steel chain, it can get through a lot of wood between sharpenings. Its progressive throttle makes it unusually controllable – it’s a great deal easier to apply the correct amount of viciousness to whatever’s being rent asunder without sending the saw into overdrive and having it scream like a liberal politician with bad polling numbers.

The only potential catch in the CS40LE is that it is, as was noted earlier, somewhat harder to get started than most comparable saws. It lacks a priming bulb, which means that considerably more starter-rope action will be called for to get its engine primed. Ours has never actually refused to start, and once you fully appreciate that it’s just a bit reluctant to crawl out of bed some mornings, it’s reasonably easy to get along with.

Starting it also points up a minor design issue in the CS40LE. Its handle is designed to be held down by the foot of its operator while starting proceeds – the handle opening is large enough to accept the toe of a sneaker, but not the toe of the sorts of serious work boots the manual for the saw recommends its operators arm themselves with.

Our CS40LE required more than the usual level of set-up to get started the first time. The saw wasn’t assembled, as it came out of the box, and its spark plug hadn’t been gapped – something we came to appreciate would have been helpful for its manual to mention. Apparently these are issues which your local John Deere is supposed to attend to before you take your saw home, but ours neglected to.

The CS40LE sells for about twice what you’d pay for an economical chain saw made in the far east, but at about three hundred dollars, it’s easy worth what it costs. It’s reliable, easy to use, about as safe as anything this nasty is likely to get and it promises to keep scaring the hell out of trees for long enough for you to hand it down to your desendents.