Cutting machines prevail in this business

When I worked on a golf course in Massachusetts, I looked at winter as a time to clear the woods of dead trees and brush that lined fairways. The course was called Maplewood, named for the 200-year old sugar maples that lined the access road and that were scattered about the course. Maples as well as white pines, paper birches, ash and oak formed a wall of vegetation along fairways. To speed play, we annually trimmed the jungle-thick vegetation to a more manageable glade, enabling golfers to find their errant shots during the next season.

Because of the noise from chain saws and brush cutters, we couldn't do any clearing during the golf season. The work had to done in the dead of winter. During the wood-cutting season, I would start my day sharpening my chain saw and loading fuel, saws, axes, wedges and coffee on my toboggan for the long haul through the snow to the sites to be cleared. We stacked all the usable firewood that we cut and piled all the rest of the debris and brush in strategic spots for burning later in March.

Remembering these times, this issue focuses on grounds-care equipment.

Aside from the coffee that helped ward off the cold, my chain saw was my most important tool of the day. Early on, I learned the importance of a good, sharp chain and properly adjusted chain saw for more efficient cutting. A dull saw made for very difficult cutting and was a drain on time and energy. A chain saw is not as simple as an axe with one cutting edge, so sharpening it is a little more complicated. If you know how the saw cuts and the various cutting surfaces that must be maintained, you are well on your way to getting your chain saw in shape for cutting. To help you in this task, Michael McCaskey, professor of agricultural engineering at the State University of New York (Cobleskill, N.Y.), leads you through the steps of chain saw sharpening in "How to," beginning on page 20.

Chain-saw maintenance doesn't end with sharpening. You have to perform additional maintenance tasks to keep your saw in top running condition. These tasks include changing the air filter when necessary, selecting the proper oil for the fuel mix and bar lubrication, setting the spark-plug gap and adjusting the bar tension. Learn more about these maintenance steps in "Chain saws are 'safety-first' tools" on page 34.

Chain saws aren't the only machines doing the cutting in your operation-string trimmers do their share too. String trimmers have become an integral part of grounds-care operations since they were introduced about 30 years ago. Can you imagine where you'd be without them? I can. I spent many hours laboring with grass clippers before string trimmers came on the market, and I assure you that you wouldn't want to go back to those days. Find out more about string trimmers, the string they use and how to maintain them in "Getting the line on string trimmers" on page 14.

Last but not least, how can we write about cutting units without a discussion of mowers-zero-turn-radius mowers, to be specific? Check out "Equipment options" beginning on page 26 for a comprehensive list of zero-turn-radius mowers that are available today. Also provided are tips on selecting zero-turn-radius mowers.

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