The other day a massive thunderstorm blew through my neighborhood—wind gusts up to 70 mph and dime-sized hail.
No major damage, but the storm did shear a massive branch off of one of the black cherry trees behind my house, sending it toppling into my backyard.
Actually this “branch” is more like a mid-sized tree.
The base is thicker than a linebacker's thigh, and end to end it measures more than 20 feet.
The local arborist quoted me $250 to remove it—high enough to get me considering alternatives.
I figured $250 could get me a tool that would easily handle this branch, and any that might fall in the future.
I started my search by looking at electric chain saws. Turns out you can get a pretty capable chain saw for around $50.
Around the house, I have a rule of thumb:
I try to avoid “adding motors” whenever possible.
Power tools are great when you absolutely need them.
However they can add a lot of extra maintenance.
In my brief research on chainsaws, for example, I learned that I'd probably need to buy and store special oil to keep the chain from binding.
The model that I was looking at had a problem with spilling the chain oil, so you had to drain it after each use.
Since the tree is at the back of my property I'd probably need to buy and store a 100' extension cord.
The chains dull and need to be sharpened every few hours of use.
There's a part called a “bar” that also wears and needs to be replaced eventually.
You have to properly adjust the chain, or it can fall off mid-cut, which seems like a Bad Thing.
And we haven't even started talking about the motor, which I'm sure has some consumable parts that need to be replaced, and is vulnerable to burning out if you push it too hard…
I ended up finding a high-end hand saw for around the same price.
This thing has teeth like a barracuda, and professional arborists say it's just half a step down from a chainsaw.
I'll probably spend an extra 30 minutes or so breaking down this branch with my new hand tool.
The tradeoff is, the only maintenance I'll need to do on this saw is to wipe it down with oil after I use it.
I'm re-reading Anti-Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Teleb right now.
One of the key ideas in this book is:
Complex = fragile.
This becomes painfully apparent when you spend time tinkering with the different email automation tools that are so popular now.
It's very tempting when you get a tool like Drip or ConvertKit to go crazy and “automate all the things,” thinking it'll save you gobs of time.
Three months from now though some virtual “chain” will fly off while you're in the middle of something important, and you'll have to stop everything and figure out how it broke, and how to fix it.
Email automation is a power tool, and just like any power tool, it's going to need regular TLC.
Before you add complexity, be sure extra fragility is worth it.