Jason Chisholm is a familiar sight wielding a chainsaw at the Tenterfield Show where he’s also steward of the chainsaw section of the program. His reputation in the sport, however, now spreads much farther with a number of national titles under his belt.
Jason competed in the National Australian Chainsaw Racing Titles at Mount Larcom, west of Gladstone, a few weeks ago and came away with a stack of medals.
He’s a regular competitor on the chainsaw racing circuit, in both NSW and QLD.
“I spend around half my weekends competing, and the other half rebuilding engines and sharpening chains,” he said.
Jason’s a Husqvarna chainsaw man, owning around 25 ‘Huskies’. He regularly wins or places in the crosscut speed events, where competitors need to slice off three complete discs from no more than four inches off the end of a log.
The competition is so intense and so quick that place determinations these days regularly go to the video ref.
“A race can be all over in seconds,” Jason said.
“In slow motion video you can see the individual wood chips fly off so you can see whose saw cleared the log first.”
Jason said competition had become much more professional over the past three or four years.
“More technical knowledge is coming out of the US, blokes are training up and there are new techniques and better chain sharpening methods. Chains are often sharpened tooth by tooth.”
A better technique can save half-a-second at each changeover, which can be the difference between winning and being a place getter.
Jason gets all his training in competition. He said crosscutting is reasonably easy but the post ripping is hard work. In these competitions a log is broken down into a number of triangular fence posts surrounding a central core. Competitors must accurately slice down the length of the log or ‘billet’ to mark each post, which is then freed using wedges, hammers and crowbars. The number of posts ripped, depends on the size of the billets supplied on the day.
Post ripping races can be either individual or team events. Both Jason and Darren Howard of Taree were looking for partners for the Mount Larcom competition, teaming up to win the Australian Teams Post Rip Championship.
Jason came third in the open post rip and then teamed up with wife Katrina for the Jack-and-Jill post rip. They came 6th with lots of support from eight-year-old son Christopher yelling advice from the sidelines.
Crosscut event categories are determined by engine size and modification. At the championships Jason came first in the over 100cc modified production class (internal modifications allowed, but no external modifications) and first again in the under 100cc unlimited production class (as in unlimited modifications). He came third in the over 100cc unlimited class.
Jason came second in the ‘open hot saw’, which is pretty much any engine connected to a bar and chain.
“Two can start it, but it’s got to be operated by one person,” he said.
His success at the event meant he was the second highest point scorer overall, just beaten to the finish line by Wayne Donovan of Crows Nest.
This is the first national titles the family have attended, although Jason already has a Queensland title in the under 100cc post rip under his belt.
The nationals, hosted at different locations along the east coast, are ideally an annual event but it depends on sponsorship and community support. The Chisholm’s would love to see Tenterfield host the next one, which would be a major coup for the town and for the sport. If the event can’t be organised in time for October next year, Jason said it could be combined with the 2018 Tenterfield Show.
“It would need a lot of fundraising, and the support of local landholders to supply the timber,” Jason said.
The event would consume around 250 billets of consistent quality ironbark, stringybark or New England blackbutt. The landholder can opt to take back the timber as fence posts, or sell it to event organisers who then on-sell the posts to recoup the cost.
The 2016 championships were supported by $25,000 from major sponsors, Santo’s GLNG and Bendigo Bank, and a similar investment would be required for a Tenterfield event, Jason said.
“The last half-dozen championships have been held in Queensland. It’s NSW’s turn, and as I’m fairly new to the sport I’ve put up my hand.
“It would be massive for the show, running over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There were 37 competitors at Mount Larcom, and Tenterfield is a much more central hub, so I’d expect around 45 - 50 competitors here.”
The Chisholm’s have built a good reputation on the circuit through their great organisation of the chainsaw section at the Tenterfield Show the past few years, and competitors are keen to support a national championship event here.
Anyone interested in coming on board, supplying timber or sponsorship, should contact Jason on 0427 363 531.
And while you’d think there are big advantages to having a champion woodcutter in the family at this time of year, the Chisholm household is no warmer for it.
“We don’t even have a wood heater,” Katrina said.