Simon Bowes gets to grips with the 565 chainsaw from Husqvarna.

I’M no longer a hand cutter. There, I’ve said it.

I get wheeled out when there are big or difficult trees to do now and then but the days when I would fell all day are long gone. It’s not an ideal situation. Having the experience is great, but practice is as important. I last felled full-time four years ago on a steep clearfell, launching big larches down the slope to the harvester. I finished that job fitter than I’d been for years but my knees didn’t enjoy it and that was when my doctor announced I’d need a ball-and-socket in one and, if I were to avoid the other going the same way, I’d need to find something less demanding to fill my days with. I’ve been pretty good at implementing her plans on the less demanding work front but, on the keeping my weight down to what she calls ‘manageable’, I wasn’t so successful. I have a weakness for biscuits, which I’ll come back to later.

There have been some unprecedented events of late that have changed things dramatically. We all know about ash dieback, but the COVID-19 pandemic came as a bit of a shock to all of us (except for the conspiracy theorists who now shout that they saw the disaster coming). The thing is, if you constantly see disasters just over the horizon, eventually one will appear, and you will then be able to claim to have been proved right.

Forestry Journal: Even with a 20” bar buried up to the hilt, the 565 has enough go to get the job done.Even with a 20” bar buried up to the hilt, the 565 has enough go to get the job done.

Strangely, being at home didn’t affect me the way it did many people I know. I lost weight, I got a bit fitter (probably because I wasn’t sitting on my arse all day long) and I had the worry of having a wife who fitted into more than one of the shielding categories. Being infected with COVID-19 was something she couldn’t risk under any circumstances and this didn’t exactly improve my appetite, or hers. This had me rediscovering my garden, repairing neglected buildings, and revisiting stalled projects. Business was stripped back to a mere skeleton with production of biomass using one harvester and the forwarding left to a relief driver doing a couple of days a week.

When I finally got back to work I was filled with worry, but slowly we’ve managed to find ways of working with minimal risk. I travel to work on my own. I drive one machine, there’s no sharing. If there’s extra forwarding, I go in at the weekends and do it myself. We wear masks and gloves if we are doing repairs that need two people, I get a full tank of fuel, and I fill up cans with saw fuel on the few occasions I go to the garage. Gloves, masks and hand sanitiser were everyday things to me long before they were common to everyone else. I haven’t been in a shop for anything other than fuel since the middle of March, with a very few exceptions when essential parts have been required.

Forestry Journal:  Tackling big spruce with extensive toes is no problem. Tackling big spruce with extensive toes is no problem.

One thing I have bought though is a new saw. It seems an odd thing to do, but because my business ticked along without me and just about paid the bills all through lockdown, we are now weeks behind with our annual harvesting schedule. The hardwood felling didn’t get underway until July when it normally gets going in April, so I’ve been forced to take on extra staff and I’m back on the saw myself whenever the need arises. I’m actually feeling quite enthusiastic about doing some sawing again and we have a big area of diseased ash to fell but with the added twist that part of the site has an early Norman motte-and-bailey castle nestling in a far corner. The instructions from the authorities were to remove the trees covering the castle site, with some provisos as to access, of course. In line with the long-term plan to return much of the estate’s landscape back to its Humphrey Repton designs of the 18th century, we are also reshaping some of the boundaries and converting some other areas to pastoral woodland. This is to create an extension to the already partly recreated deer park. All in all, it is an exceptionally interesting project that tempers the misery of felling superb quality ash trees that are dead and dying.

I needed a spare saw so I considered buying another MS 462 Stihl, this being my preferred saw for felling hardwood, but I remembered a conversation I’d had about one particular chainsaw some years ago, around the time of the launch of Husqvarna’s much-lauded 572.

Forestry Journal: The 565 retains the classic Husqvarna identity.The 565 retains the classic Husqvarna identity.

I was invited to the launch of the new Husqvarna in Sweden but because of other commitments I couldn’t go, so I asked a friend of mine if he’d mind taking my place on an all-expenses-paid trip. John Tunnicliffe comes from a forestry family and he’d been felling and working in forestry for almost as long as I had, so he readily agreed. When he came back, we went over his notes and wrote an article for Forestry Journal together. In one of these meetings, which were all about the new Husqvarna 572, he said something that stuck in my mind. He told me he’d used a 565, it was the ‘cooking version’ of the 572 and he’d loved it. He told me then that although the whole trip had been about the 572 it was the 565 that had really impressed him.

READ MORE: Stihl MSA 220 C-B review

I’d considered testing the 565 from that day on, but I never got round to arranging it and so, needing an extra 70 cc saw that would run a 20” bar, I slipped my mask on, sanitised my hands and navigated through the one-way system into Hopkinson’s, our local Husqvarna dealer. They had a built-up and ready-to-use 565 with a 20” bar on the shelf – list price just over a grand! I walked out with it and my bank account £730 lighter (no need for any subtlety, that’s what I paid for it, but, bear in mind, I buy all my saws from two local outlets and they both know I could get them cheaper off the internet, but I prefer to support local businesses and they appreciate that).

Husqvarna has a long history of producing what you might call parallel models. The all-singing, all-dancing, top-of-the-range powerhouse machine and the cooking version. There was the 266XP. Everyone who was anyone had a 266. Stick a 15” bar in one and fell first thinnings, then swap it for a 20” bar and fell hardwood, or you could use it with an 18” bar and do a bit of everything. There were plenty of people who didn’t like the cost and maintenance you committed to with a 266, so they bought the cheaper, less frantic 61. Yes, the 61 was a farmer’s saw, but it would still fell trees and you could abuse it. I knew one guy who never measured the oil he put in his petrol and he used cheap engine oil, no expensive Silkolene two-stroke oil for him. Later, there was the 372, one of the best all-round saws Husqvarna produced, although I thought it was harsher and lacked some of the charm of the 266. It had the 365 as its stablemate and that was a wonderful saw, unbreakable but pedestrian was how I once described it. The 365 could stand incredible abuse. I’ve rebuilt ones that were so packed with crap under the covers that I had to chisel it out and then soak them for hours to get the remnants off. I’d swear they had never been cleaned once and had suffered like that for hundreds of hours before finally succumbing. Seized barrels and pistons were usually the end due to overheating from lack of maintenance. Rebuilding the top end using pattern parts is still inexpensive and successful, so long as you avoid Chinese and try to find European parts. I’ve had good results using Italian barrels and pistons and, if you have the time to wait, you can get good oversize kits from the States.

Forestry Journal: It might be damning the 565 with faint praise, but this is a saw for every occasion.It might be damning the 565 with faint praise, but this is a saw for every occasion.

So now we have the 572 and its less illustrious cousin, the 565. The 572 is undoubtedly a bit of a lunatic fringe machine; it’s high speed, all noise and fury, but it can consume bars and chains faster than a fat bloke can get rid of a packet of Jaffa cakes, and before anyone cries ‘you can’t say that’, I say I can because I love Jaffa cakes and I’m the fat bloke. I’ve made no secret of the fact that, while I understand the 572’s obvious attractions, there’s just something about it I can’t appreciate. I prefer the Stihl 462CM and, for my sins, I prefer the 462 to the 500i. I guess I’m just a bit old school and to me it’s not the figures that matter. In a game of chainsaw Top Trumps the 500i would come out on top on power and on capacity, the 572 would win on low vibes and the 462 would be struggling on all counts, but I’d take it to go felling on that motte-and-bailey site any day over the other two – and what about the Husqvarna 565 that this review is supposed to be about? In this particular game of Top Trumps, it would win in one category alone and it’s the same as if you’d included the 61 or the 365 with their contemporaries. They would all win on price. The 565 is a tad different though; it can compete on power and not only on how it delivers that power, reduced though it is. The 565 produces 5 bhp and that is way more than saws that were seen as more than adequate only a short time ago. Saws in the 70 cc category are now so powerful that they are bordering on excessive, and that makes an easy-to-use saw with slightly less power into a different proposition. I’ll explain why.

The 565 is a nice saw. It’s not really brilliant at anything but it’s good at everything. Diving straight in at the deep end, any 70 cc saw fitted with a 20” bar will need a good dollop of power and torque to turn the chain. Power alone isn’t any good without the accompanying torque but, conversely, less power but more torque will work just fine, so that’s where the 565 scores. It has all the torque associated with a 70 cc engine and this is produced without the sky-high engine rpm a more frenetic machine might utilise. You can feel the docility of the 565, it doesn’t ever feel ‘on the brink’, and in fact if you had the option I’d say it feels like it has more to give, a bit more fuel on the low screw to prop the bottom end up and less fuel on the high screw to make it scream and it would feel a bit more like the rest. However, it’s not necessary: it works just fine as it comes from the factory, and it doesn’t have any tuning screws anyway, something I’m finally coming to terms with.

I’ve been felling the big ash left after the harvester’s been through a compartment and the 565 feels completely at home cutting hardwood. The chain has to be sharp, not only sharp but properly sharpened, as in the rakers need to be just right and the cutters have to be all the same. You can’t afford to have a chain running off one way or the other in ash of questionable soundness. If you haven’t done much hardwood felling, the first time can be a shock, and one of the biggest differences is just how much attention you need to give to bar and chain maintenance. I’ll admit I do have a problem with the Husqvarna chain; it’s good in softwood, you can get it really sharp and it performs beautifully while it’s sharp, but it doesn’t stay sharp in hardwood, and it stretches and when it gets old it breaks. The bars are probably more disappointing; they don’t last long, they bend easily, the rails wear, and boy are they expensive.

The 565 hides these issues because it doesn’t rip chains up like the 572 does. It’s not mild mannered by any means but it is more civilised. One of the more amusing things I’ve noticed when other people have been using it is just how much it sounds like a Garelli moped when it’s ticking over. That probably won’t mean anything to some readers, but there’ll be a few who get misty eyed at the thought of the Garelli Tiger Cross they couldn’t afford when they were 16. My fellow chainsaw operators are all of the same mind; they like the 565. Its slightly more docile nature doesn’t detract from its usability and after a week of hard use the original chain found itself in the skip and a replacement Oregon took its place. The bar needed a good dressing with the rails already showing signs of wear and one problem had begun to appear, the saw I bought leaks oil when it’s left in the back of the van overnight. I’ll investigate and try and add what I found later in this article if time allows.

Time did allow and actually events overtook other considerations. In one of the pictures I’m felling a big Norway spruce, which was the second of about six that were to do by hand as they were too big for the harvester and they were close to big oaks that were to be protected at all costs. I noticed the chain was dry as I cut the first log off that tree. I removed the bar and chain and cleaned the bar groove and oilways. Everything looked clean but it still didn’t oil and, looking at the sawlog I’d rested the saw on while I cleaned the bar and chain, I noticed a pool of oil. Looking into the oil tank, I saw it was almost empty, so I filled it up and topped up the fuel even though I’d only felled two trees and dressed one and a half out. The saw oiled properly again but half way up the big spruce I felt the unmistakable sensation of warm oil on my leg and I immediately presumed I’d forgotten to tighten the oil cap, something all chainsaw operators will be familiar with, but I hadn’t. The oil was flowing out from under the clutch cover. I held the saw up and revved the engine a few times and there was a steady drip of oil from around the oil pump casing. I rang the dealer and dropped the saw off the following morning, I got the distinct impression the fitter I talked to knew exactly what the problem was and it was quickly repaired, under warranty. The fault was a leaking oil pipe and that’s the first time I’ve had a warranty claim on a new saw for more than 30 years.

I like the fuel caps, the chain tensioner works fine, the captive bar nuts are good, but I don’t like the primer bubble, unlike the population of mice in my workshop who nibble holes in them for some strange reason. I have a strimmer that needs a new bubble every spring because the pesky rodents have chewed holes in it. The saw has very comfortable handles and it starts easily, as you’d expect from a modern saw, with or without the primer bubble being operated.

I like the 565. It’s not a match for a 462, simply because the cutting equipment on the Stihl is far superior, but as for everything else, there’s nothing else I couldn’t live with. It is just so much more like the Huskys I used when there was no other option we would consider. I know there’ll be people who think I’ve lost the plot but it’s down to personal choice and if I was felling all day in medium-sized timber, I’d consider the 565 with a 15 or 18-inch bar fitted. If I wanted to use a chainsaw to make a wage, I’d want something that had enough power, was easy to handle, cheap to run on fuel and spares, and wasn’t going to require a huge financial commitment right at the start, and on all these points, the 565 fits the bill. It might not be a flagship saw that warrants a huge fanfare to introduce it to the world but, in my opinion, it’s a hidden gem.

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £69 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link:

Thanks – and stay safe.