The mighty Hot Saw discipline is the jaw-dropping finale of any STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® event and it’s not hard to see why. Nothing compares to the power or the noise you get from a Hot Saw and the unpredictable nature of this event is what keeps audiences on the edge of their seat.
What is a hot saw?
Weighing in at around 27kg, Hot Saws are custom-built saws usually made with the engine of a dirt bike, snowmobile or jet ski, and delivering horsepower over 60! Carrying one of these beasts is enough of a challenge, let alone controlling the power enough to cut three cookies (or discs) from within a 15cm margin in seconds.
The cookies in question must be cut from a horizontally positioned 46cm log. A line is marked on the log 15 cm from the end, and the first cut must be downwards, followed by an upwards cut, then another downwards cut. The competitor must saw three complete cookies, so if any of the first three aren’t complete, the competitor can make further cuts in either direction to achieve this. But this must still all be done within the allowed 15cm space – crossing the line means a disqualification and zero points, so it can make or break a championship.
Another way to receive a disqualification is breaching the 1-minute time limit for the event, but the power of a hot saw means that competitive times are nowhere near a minute long! The World Record is held by Dirk Braun of Germany who set a time of just 5.2 seconds in the 2016 German National TIMBERSPORTS® Championship! In fact, this is one of the disciplines where German competitors dominate, as they hold six of the top ten fastest times ever for the Hot Saw.
The current British national record was set in 2019, by British champion Elgan Pugh who recorded a time of 7.47 seconds using his Rotax engine hot saw in the final heat of the 2019 British TIMBERSPORTS® Championship.
Competing against fellow British team member Glen Penlington in the last round of the competition, the tension was high as Penlington showed exactly why the Hot Saw delivers such nail-biting drama when his saw wouldn’t start. The TIMBERSPORTS® athletes have 60 seconds to warm up their saw, but despite resetting his saw several times, Penlington just could not get it to start.
Eventually, with the warm-up time running out, he had to reset the saw, wait for the starter’s gun and hope for the best. The audience were rooting for him and once the event began, he managed to start the saw and cut three cookies, but the temperamental saw was pulling at an angle and Penlington suffered a disqualification after cutting over the 15cm line.
It’s not the only time there has been high drama in the final stages of a championship. Czech competitor and STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® series favourite, Martin Komarek also had the crowd rooting for him on the biggest stage of all, at the 2017 World Championship in Lillehammer.
With a place on the podium to play for, his chainsaw chain flew off right in the middle of his hot saw run. Desperately trying to score points and keep within the time limit, Komarek sprinted off stage to retrieve the tools to fix his chain but it wasn’t to be and time ran out whilst he was trying to fix it.
Unpredictability is perhaps the only certainty with hot saws, and some younger competitors may not have had much chance to practice with a hot saw so inexperience can play a part in the action too. Hot saws can cost up to $10,000 dollars and are only made by a handful of people across the globe so not all competitors will have their own saw. Athletes can therefore choose to use either their own saw or one provided by the event organisers.
To try and provide a level playing field for those using a private hot saw, there are some rules related to the build of the saw. A hot saw must be limited to one cylinder only and must be equipped with a tuned exhaust. All saws must have one chain catcher above the bar and a chain cover and a rotor cover must be installed on all saws. The athlete must also be able to carry the saw himself too.
Prior to any competition, the organisers’ saw technician or competition judge will complete a technical check (visual check, running saw, switching off) on each athlete’s hot saw to make sure their saw fits within the competition rules.
Once all checks are complete, the competitors are on their own with the saw. One tiny mistake can make the difference between a place on the podium and disappointment for another year so it’s all to play for with the hot saw. Does the hot saw keep you on the edge of your seat? Is it your favourite discipline? Let us know in the comments!