Fraser Rummens attends manufacturer Husqvarna’s press event in Huskvarna, Sweden, for the launch of two new battery-powered chainsaws.

SOME 95 miles east of Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, is Huskvarna. Now constituting the eastern part of Jönköping, it was here that in 1689 a royal rifle manufacturer named after the town – then called Husqvarna – was established.

The manufacturer would go on to diversify its offering; beginning to produce sewing machines in 1872, then kitchen equipment (1874), bicycles (1896), motorcycles (1903) and lawn mowers (1919).

It was 40 years later that Husqvarna started production on the piece of machinery with which it would become synonymous – the chainsaw.

The latest innovation in Husqvarna chainsaws was the reason I was spirited away to the city in early February. For the majority of the two-hour car journey from the airport, the road was flanked by a stream of dense, snow-capped conifers.

Arriving at the Husqvarna factory, I was immediately directed towards the Husqvarna Museum a short walk down the road. By the museum is a picturesque waterfall, harking back to the 1600s when hydropower was used to generate energy for the first Husqvarna plant.

The museum is a treasure trove, with artefacts spanning the manufacturer’s 300-year-plus history – from early examples of rifles and the first sewing machine produced, to an endless sea of motorcycles from throughout the years and about every chainsaw imaginable.

Forestry Journal: The sausage and dumplings proved very popular.The sausage and dumplings proved very popular.

The unveiling was due to start around 4:30 pm in the new Husqvarna Innovation Centre, which is situated on the factory site. Having been travelling since 3 am that morning, I was starving, so the huge frying pan outside cooking up moose sausage and Swedish dumplings was very much appreciated.

Forestry Journal: Husqvarna Experience Centre interior.Husqvarna Experience Centre interior.

We were then ushered inside to take our seats. The Innovation Centre is a sight to behold; decked out with sloping grass-like and wooden interiors, information plinths and a number of chainsaw models on show. The hashtags #wearebatterypower and #newchainsawgeneration flashed occasionally on large video screens. There were well over 50 people in the audience, comprising arborists, tree care professionals and press.

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Sascha Menges, president of the Husqvarna division, took the stage.

“Welcome to the woods, ladies and gentlemen,” he told the audience, before talking a little about the Husqvarna brand. He called it an “icon of innovation” and emphasised that today, its “core DNA” is chainsaws and tree professionals.

He went on: “Innovation from my personal perspective is not an invention, it is not a great technical idea; it is offering something new that creates additional value in the eyes of the user, and the best way to do this is to also make the end user part of the innovation process early on, to understand what we can do even better.

“In 1997 we brought the first saw specifically dedicated to arborists to the market. In 2012 we brought the first range of battery saws to the market and we have since innovated in that space significantly … We believe that there is a strong role in the chainsaw market for battery to play, but also for petrol to play, and it depends a lot on the application of the user. Of course, the battery offers advantages like fewer fumes, less vibration, less noise and others.”

Forestry Journal: Sacha Menges, president of the Husqvarna division, welcomes the audience to the event.Sacha Menges, president of the Husqvarna division, welcomes the audience to the event.

Sascha then handed over to Towe Ressman, vice president of global design, who explained the design process – from prototype to the end product. “Today it is all about arborists. It is all about tree climbing and it’s about tree care,” she said. “I think it is very important to understand that the chainsaw is not only about cutting or pruning, it is also part of the ascent and the climbing, so when you design this product you need to understand how you really make this something that you actually can carry 25 metres above ground.”

Weight is a key issue, Towe went on, and when thinking about weight, you must take balance, manoeuvrability, ergonomics and functionality into account. And it’s not just about the arborist up the tree; the ground crew has a vital part to play as well. It’s all about understanding the arborist’s workday – from the rigging to the ascent, the cutting and pruning, the descent and the clean-up.

Towe welcomed Pierre Lanquist, global product manager, professional chainsaws, to the stage to reveal Husqvarna’s latest innovations: two brand-new, battery-powered chainsaws – the T540i XP and the 540i XP.

Dual-wielding the new saws, Pierre said: “For many arborists, this is the only top-handle chainsaw they need. That is why this T540i XP and 540i XP really are game changers.”

The top-handle T540i XP and the rear-handle 540i XP have capabilities equivalent to professional 40 cc class petrol chainsaws and use the newly released Husqvarna BLi200X (T540i XP) or Husqvarna BLi300 (540i XP) batteries.

“The top-handle chainsaw is 100 per cent for the professional arborist working up in a tree – that’s the tool for that. The rear-handle has got the same power but is also perfect for the ground crew.”

Pierre continued: “A chainsaw is nothing if it hasn’t got an excellent chain. That is what does the work. Therefore, we have developed the SP21G chain for efficient and very smooth cuts. We have that on both chainsaws here and that makes a huge difference when working.”

Josephine Hedger and Scott Forrest, members of the H-Team – Husqvarna’s ambassador programme – then offered the audience an end user’s perspective. Jo, a multiple tree-climbing world champion, is director of Hampshire-based Arbor-Venture Tree Care, while Scott, who has made the mammoth journey from New Zealand to attend the event, is an arborist and fellow tree-climbing world champion.

Forestry Journal: The rear-handle 540i XP chainsaw.The rear-handle 540i XP chainsaw.

So, how do the new saws measure up? “They’re just fantastic,” said Scott. “Just a great tool to use. It makes my everyday work life so much easier.

“There are so many new features on these saws but, for me, the most impressive thing I like about them is more power, better performance with longer battery life, and that enables me to do more work, cut more branches, get more stuff on the ground and be more productive in my daily work, and that’s a huge bonus for me.

“It’s easy to hang on the harness and climb around the tree. It follows you around nicely when you’re swinging on the branches, and when you’re hanging in really awkward positions, you can lift the saw off and get it into a good position because it’s easy to handle.”

Jo also praised its power and performance: “It’s really important for my job that the saw is reliable and I’m confident that the saw is going to perform as I want it … And then the benefits of using battery for reduced vibration, reduced noise and no emissions. From a health point of view, to look after myself and my employees, it’s a massive benefit, and if I’m being employed to look after trees, why would I not also look after myself and the others around me?”

Touching on durability, Jo added: “We’ve been testing a number of them at our company for six months. They have been treated no differently. Just because they’re battery, we haven’t wrapped them up in bubble wrap. We’ve chucked them in the trucks, they have been bashed about in the trees; back at the yard, all the saws get put back in cabinets, so they might be at the bottom, and we’ve had no issues durability-wise. There is no reason why this wouldn’t outlive the petrol saws that we’ve got.”

Forestry Journal: The top-handle T540i XP chainsaw.The top-handle T540i XP chainsaw.

With the big unveiling over, the audience were given the opportunity to see the saws up-close, with members of the H-Team dotted around, giving their insight.

Sometime later, we were ferried to our hotel by coach – the rather splendid Hooks Herrgård. A half-hour drive from the factory, it is a manor house situated on the edge of Lake Hookasjon. The evening included dinner, with one of the H-Team even opening a few bottles of beer with their chainsaw. Under controlled conditions, of course.

Forestry Journal: Left to right: H-Team members Tim Bendle and Scott Forrest during the tree-climbing demonstration.Left to right: H-Team members Tim Bendle and Scott Forrest during the tree-climbing demonstration.

It was an early start on day two. After breakfast, I was out into the biting cold for the first in a series of workshops. Everyone congregated around a large tree on the hotel grounds where members of the H-Team showed off the new kit in action. Jo Hedger was up in the canopy with the T540i XP, supported on the ground by Andy Campbell, Tim Bendle and Scott Forrest. Scott and Tim talked the audience through the work process, with Andy carrying out cuts on the ground with the rear-handle 540i XP.

Forestry Journal: Left to right: Jo Hedger and Pierre Lanquist during the session on product design and improvement.Left to right: Jo Hedger and Pierre Lanquist during the session on product design and improvement.

We were then split into groups and got to see the chainsaws in action, making short work of large logs, before going inside for a presentation led by Pierre Lanquist on product development and improvement. He was supported by Jo, who outlined her role in the process as an H-Team member.

“Our aim is to be able to bridge the gap between the end user and the manufacturer because you can make good products, but you may not be familiar with how we use the products and how we work, and what’s good and what’s bad while we’re working,” she explained.

“We’ve been testing the 540i XP for six months. I run a tree-care company in the south of England. We employ eight people, predominantly doing domestic work. It’s not just me who has been testing them; my employees have been testing them. We all work differently – some are harder on their tools than others – so I have been able to gather quite a lot of information about how these tools have been used at work and then been able to help (Husqvarna) develop these products.”

Pierre emphasised the importance of the H-Team members’ role: “We are working together. You don’t work for us, but we are working together, and we get excellent information.”

Forestry Journal: Jo Hedger, director of New Forest-based Arbor-Venture Tree Care, and H-Team member, in the canopy.Jo Hedger, director of New Forest-based Arbor-Venture Tree Care, and H-Team member, in the canopy.

The final stop of the morning was a run-down of new Husqvarna products for arborists including chains, bars and climbing equipment. The presentation began with the X-Cut SP21G semi-chisel chain, which has been developed for full-time-use battery chainsaws and is intended to increase cutting speed and efficiency. The X-Precision bar was next up, which is said to reduce the risk of kickback, thanks to the optimised overall geometry and small nose radius.

The SPIRE Vent arborist helmet features multiple air intakes, offering increased breathability, and utilises quick-dry, easy-removal padding, high-vis orange reflective stickers and a four-point chin strap made from washable eco-leather. The helmet can also be used with Husqvarna hearing protectors as well as the X-COM R connected hearing protection. A visor – available in clear, smoke and silver mirror – is sold separately.

Husqvarna’s Technical Extreme Arbor protective trousers have been developed specifically for arborists. Features include slightly longer legs, designed to help avoid the trousers riding up the user’s boots; reversed direction zip pockets, allowing for easier access when wearing a harness; and easy-to-remove braces and pockets fitted with loops for carabiners and other equipment. The trousers have been reinforced with Dyneema, Cordura and Kevlar for added durability on the legs, thighs and knees, and the crotch has reinforcements with stretch.

Also new is the Husqvarna Arborist Essentials range, which includes throw weights in four different weights (226 g, 283 g, 340 g, 396 g), throw line (length 55 m and diameter 1.75 mm), rope bag, carabiners, and wedge.

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Following the final workshop, the groups reconvened for lunch at the hotel before the coach left for Gothenburg-Landvetter Airport.

Reflecting on the trip during the long drive through the Swedish wilderness, I have to say I was quite impressed with Husqvarna’s operation overall. The focus on greener innovations can only be a good thing, and the involvement of the H-Team in refining those innovations through on-the-ground – or up-the-tree – use and feeding back their thoughts, is great to see. It’s also worth mentioning that having observed the H-Team across the two days, there seems to be a real sense of community, and their shared passion for arboriculture really does shine through.

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