Thursday, September 24, 2015

Homelite XL

In 1921, Charles H. Ferguson founded  the Home Electric Lighting Company in Port Chester, New York to manufacture 2-cycle gas-powered generators. In 1924, the name became Homelite.  In 1949, the company introduced its first chainsaw, the 20MCS. In 1955, the company was bought by Textron and in 1994 it was sold to John Deere, which passed it along in 2001 to Techtronic Industries Company Limited, a Hong Kong investment firm.

In 1963 or '64, Homelite introduced the XL-12 chainsaw, a very successful 54 cc model that continued in production until 1988.  My dad worked for Ontario Hydro at the time and they bought a lot of these.  On the strength of its performance, he bought one for use at the cottage.  When he sold the cottage several years ago, he gave it to me.  No anti-vibration mechanisms, no chain brake, manual oiling and, at 12-1/2 pounds for the powerhead, a bull to lift.  It hadn't been run for years, so I took it in for a professional tune-up.  I put a tankful of gas through it to try it out, and it snarled and tore through the wood. However, it left me with teeth shaking and a sore thumb from pumping the bar oil plunger.  So, it's been relegated to trophy status.  (As an aside, the model was featured on a poster for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film of 1994.  Don't try this at home.)

Earlier this summer, I stopped at a yard sale to find a little 1995 XL for sale. This model (246Y) uses a 30 cc engine and was introduced in 1991. A sticker proclaimed "Made in the USA" (rare enough these days) and, with a powerhead weight of only 7.5 pounds, I thought it might make a nice little saw for small trimming jobs. Badly rusted chain and non-running,  it actually looked like it had received very little use but had been stored poorly. For $15, I decided to take a chance on it.  At home, I discovered that it still had varnished gas in it. I took it apart, cleaned it thoroughly, bought a carb kit for $25, fired it up and fiddled with the carb settings, and away it went. The original bar was still serviceable and, to my surprise and delight, I discovered I had previously picked up a brand new 14" chain for an XL at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $5.  So, for an investment of about $45 and a little elbow grease, I now have a nice little American-made saw for small jobs!

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