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Best chainsaw for me

Post in 'The Gear' started by Vic99, Apr 19, 2008.

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  1. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    All right, it's time to upgrade from an electric chainsaw to a gas powered. I like the grab and go of the electric, but it just takes too long.

    I've used the remmington electric for 1.5 years now. Went through 2 in that time.

    My cutting habits:

    Plan to cut 4-5 cords a year to stay a year ahead for wood burning;

    I'll fall the occasional tree (got 2 this year and plan to take 2 to 3 more this spring), but most of my wood comes from scrounging;

    I figure typical tree widths for me are under 14 inches. Absolute max 20 inches;

    I'll butcher any species I can get locally, but hardwoods are preferred. About 80% of what I have for next year is hardwood. Half of that is sugar maple and white birch.

    Based on what I've read, I like the Stihl MS180 . . . but I have no experience with gas saws, only electric. So I'm not a novice, but I realize with more power comes a need for more respect.

    What saw do you reckon? Many thanks.

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  2. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I like my Stihl MS290. It has plenty of power and isn't too heavy. I cut 3-4 cords per year, if your cutting 4-5 cords per year don't get a too small under powered saw. Get something with some guts.
  3. 11 Bravo

    11 Bravo New Member

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    Same cutting habits here. I have a Stihl 310 and a smaller Craftsman 16". Stihl or Husky for your main rig, you can't go wrong. I chose Stihl because there are 2 dealers with all the gear and equiptment within 5 miles and no Husky shops. If it was the other way around, I would be a Husky user.
  4. 90 Degree Elbow

    90 Degree Elbow New Member

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    I bought the MS 290 and I really like it.I bought it with a 16" bar and I just put on the 18" bar.Must say that I like the 18" bar better. I have 10 cords to cut and I am 3/4 through and I like this saw.
  5. ericjeeper

    ericjeeper New Member

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    Dolmar 5100. Go to the Arboristsite.com for chainsaw advice
  6. flewism

    flewism Member

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    Find local dealers for Stihl, Husky and Dolmar , check out their saws, talk to the dealers. Both stihl and husky have at least 4 saws each in there product line that will fit your general requirements. Feel, touch , they might let you cut with a demo saw. For the money the dolmar 5100 is considered the best 50cc saw on the market today , subject to change tomorrow. That said their dealer network is small in some areas of N America. You need to visit saw shops.
    I believe that the the MS180 is considered a pro-grade limbing saw. The MS260 is also a Pro-saw and a step up in power, the MS290 and MS310 are homeowner grade saw and are good saws, . Also to get to 4.0hp you need a pro-grade 50cc saw or 60cc in a homeowner grade saw. I don't see that you need 4.0hp for the tasks you described. You need to go to saw shops first.
  7. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks everyone.

    I'll hit the dealers this weekend, I hope. Didn't even think of finding out if they let me try one.
  8. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    I've been cutting for several years with a Stihl MS170. It does a good job but I recently decided I needed something bigger for bucking larger logs. I figured I'd still use the 170 for limbing, etc.

    I bought a Husky 353 with an 18" bar. Wow! Much faster, and still easy to use. The MS170 hasn't been getting much use since I bought the 353.

    I would have considered the equivalent Stihl, but the only local Stihl dealer is a Radio Shack store and their sales kids didn't impress me ;-) Heck, they didn't even know that Stihl makes a winter weight bar oil!

    The general consensus is that Stihl, Husky and Dolmar are all good saws but make sure you find a good dealer who can do quality service work. That's why I went with the Husky.

    Note, both Stihl and Husky make light use, mid use and professional saws. The better grades are lighter, and made for more rugged use. The 353 that I got is in the mid range.

    Ken
  9. GrantC

    GrantC Member

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    I'm going to suggest something a little different - if you have a local Shindaiwa dealer, take a look at a 377. It has a little more displacement and power than the MS180, so it will handle a little bigger bar.

    Why Shindaiwa? They are well-crafted saws, and have a reputation for extremely long service life. They are the easiest starting saws I've ever used, and unlike some others I could mention aren't easy to flood. I've been cutting with friends who use some of the better-known brands, and while they're still yanking on their pull starters I'm already cutting.

    Very well regarded saws with an almost cult following. Check them out.

    -=[ Grant ]=-
  10. precaud

    precaud Minister of Fire

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    I have two Dolmars, a 5100S for felling and bucking, and a PS-401 for limbing. I really like them both alot, it's a great combo. They're very smooth, very well built, and excellent power to weight. I used them today to cut a truckful of logs and couldn't be happier with the way they perform.
  11. computeruser

    computeruser Feeling the Heat

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    For a one-saw guy like yourself who has been able to more or less get by with electric so far, I would look for a lightweight saw in the 50cc class. This is going to be your most versatile choice, I think. Models worth considering include:

    Stihl MS260/260Pro, MS270, MS280, MS290 (bulky but reliable).
    Husqvarna 350, 353, 346xp(NewEdition). Skip the 450, 455.
    Jonsered 2150, 2152, 2153
    Dolmar 510, 5100s, 540 (discontinued but still around)
    Echo 520

    Any of these saws will be a good all-around setup with a 16" bar and the appropriate non-safety chain for the task at hand. Pick your brand based on the local dealer you feel the most comfortable working with. Then pick the saw that feels right in your hands and fits your budget. And grab the appropriate protective gear, too: chaps, eyes/ears, and the steel toe boots you're probably using already.


    The MS180 you mention is a good little saw, but you will beat yourself and the saw up asking it to spend any amount of time in 12"+ wood. It just doesn't have the oomph for serious cutting. For trimming and clean-up, for packing along to clean up trails in the woods, or for limbing, it is a fine choice at a very friendly price. But you're looking at 4-5 cords/year, not two or three fallen limbs and a Christmas tree.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of small displacement saws. You can get a lot of work done with them, and sometimes it is nice to just finish the job with a little saw. But a 50cc machine isn't that much larger in weight or bulk, but will cut with markedly more authority than most <40cc saws, and a competent 50cc machine can be had for less money than one of the few authoritative <40cc machines left on the market.

    If you're set on something in the 35-40cc class, the new Echo 370 and 400 seem like very nice machines at a reasonable price. Dolmar's 401 is a good saw, too, and is one of the few with "pro" construction - vertically split magnesium crankcase, bolt-on cylinder. Shindaiwa and RedMax have good models in this displacement range, too, as does JD/Efco/Emak/CubCadet (the 40cc machine). The other offerings from Stihl and Husqvarna in this displacement class are either underwhelming (Husqvarna 142, Stihl 170/180/210/230) or price-prohibitive (Stihl MS200, Husqvarna 339). If you buy one of these smaller saws, buy from a dealer and see about swapping the 16" or 18" bars that the saws usually come with for a shorter bar - 13-14" would be about perfect. These little saws can cut if you can keep the revs up on them, which recommends a shorter bar - fewer cutters in the wood, less friction, etc. But with the overly long bars that they usually come with, they end up being poorer performers than they need to be and are asked to do things that they aren't all that well suited to do.

    Attached are two pictures of my 38cc Husqvarna 238se. With its 13" bar it pulls hard even when buried in hardwood, and if you do your part to keep it in its powerband (use a light touch - it's a low torque 15,000rpm screamer), it cuts VERY fast. It is a great little firewood saw, a superb limber, and a light and nimble machine. It cut 1.5 cords of firewood last week alone - a mix of 5-18" ash, shagbark, and silver maple. A current vintage machine similar to this would definitely meet most of your needs, though it would quickly be outclassed in 20" wood, whereas the 50cc machine would have an easier time in that sort of stuff.

    Attached Files:

  12. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    I question the wisdom of recommending a non safety chain for someone just starting out with a gas powered saw. Sure, it would cut a bit faster, but the standard safety (low kickback) chains do a decent job. For a few cords a year, what's the rush?

    As I understand it, at least on the Huskies with .325 pitch chain, the only way to get a non safety chain is to replace the bar and sprocket and go to a larger pitch chain, which may slow down the saw a bit anyway.

    Ken
  13. computeruser

    computeruser Feeling the Heat

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    I happen to be of the mind that "safety chain" encourages complacency by the sheer virtue of the fact it has the word "safety" in its name. Apart from specialty stuff, a sharp chain with a standard compliment of cutters that is free of rubbish - triple-hump tiestraps, huge bumpers, etc. - is an entirely appropriate choice for any saw user, at least in my opinion. I also think that round chisel is easiest for a novice saw user to perfect his or her sharpening technique on, as compared to semi-chisel, since you can clearly see the quality of your edges, angles, and working corner on the chisel chain. And I find that raker maintenance is easier when there aren't additional things sticking up and getting in the way. I should also throw in the fact that a number of reduced kickback chains in .325" pitch (Oregon 95vp, and particularly 20lp) are actually superb chains in spite of their low-kickback status; my primary beef is with those safety chains like Stihl RM3, Oregon 91VG, and the like, which have substantial anti-kickback features that interfere with chip clearance and the ability to bore. My 2c, of course, and others are free to disagree.

    As for the Husqvarnas with .325" pitch, I'm not quite sure what your remark was aiming at. It is not necessary to convert to 3/8" pitch to get non-safety chain, a swap which would likely produce a slower cutting saw. There are myriad safety and non-safety chain varieties available in .325" pitch, so swapping between chains would not necessitate a change in bar or sprocket. Granted that some Husqvarnas come with narrow kerf .325" pitch chain these days (running Oregon 95vp or the Husqvarna-badged version), but this stuff is still .325" pitch .050 gauge, and you can easily (and happily and safely) run standard kerf .325" pitch in a NK bar. Now Husqvarna may not be selling a wide variety of Husqvarna-branded chains in .325" pitch, but so what? Stihl, Carlton, Oregon, Bailey's WP, and others all offer faster cutting and easier-to-sharpen .325" pitch chain options.
  14. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Still reading and taking it all in. Based on what everyone has said, 50cc with a 16" bar seems to be the way to go. Some have stated in earlier threads to start with 3cc for every 1" of bar for good power and speed.

    Husky, Dolmar, and Stihl dealers are all nearby and I will visit late today or tomorrow.
  15. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Clownfish, I second everything that computer user has said. You simply can't go wrong with any saw in the list above and I also agree with his theory on chains. I am personally gonna throw in my 2c for the 260 pro in the list. Good power/weigh, its a proven saw and looks to fit your bill almost to a "T". It has a good track record for years of use, (as many of the saws in the list do).
  16. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Very cool.. .260 pro looks like a great saw . . . however, I saw the price tag of ~$520. Don't think I can swing that. I guess I'm looking for $300-350 range. Probably should have brought that up earlier.

    I appreciate that you guys are so thorough.
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The MS290, aka Farm boss, is very sub 400$ saw. The Dolmar 5100s is too if you can find one. I am saving my pennies for the 290.

    You've been using Remingtons and electrics. Have you considered one of the cheapy Poulans from Walmart? I'm on my second one and I use them as brush saws as well as cutting logs as wide as up to twice their bar length. It is not a pro saw, it is a throw away saw but you don't throw it away until it dies and mine just won't die and always has easily started cold or hot. The Poulans have a place as a homeowner saw.
  18. Jake

    Jake Member

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    I picked up a clean used one for 200
  19. WOODBUTCHER

    WOODBUTCHER Minister of Fire

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    [quote author="computeruser" date="1208768539"]For a one-saw guy like yourself who has been able to more or less get by with electric so far, I would look for a lightweight saw in the 50cc class. This is going to be your most versatile choice, I think. Models worth considering include:

    Stihl MS260/260Pro, MS270, MS280, MS290 (bulky but reliable).
    Husqvarna 350, 353, 346xp(NewEdition). Skip the 450, 455.
    Jonsered 2150, 2152, 2153
    Dolmar 510, 5100s, 540 (discontinued but still around)
    Echo 520


    Hey Computeruser,

    Your second picture, nice pignut hickory sitting on that white ash.........I am spoiled now from burning Hickory............
  20. Outdoorsman

    Outdoorsman New Member

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    I bought a 029 once, and wore it out to. Great saw for home owner cleaning up his yard or a farmer cutting back a fenceline, but not what I'd suggest for 4-5 cords per year for long term longevity.

    I now have the 460 Mag & 260 Pro.

    For the size trees you described cutting the 260 or 260Pro is a great saw. Husky 346XP, also a pro grade saw, would be another good choice depending on what dealers you have in your local area.

    I use that 260 as my limbing saw & for stuff up to about 8" depending on the tree type. A great saw for me for this. Much over 8" I use the big saw as I try to get maximum wood for hours spent. I also like to use the big saw, at least a bit more than I'd have to just for the heavier workout value, though I'm prolly in the minority doing that.

    Buy top quality for the kind of cutting you're doing, cheaper than paying twice.
  21. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    I have a Husky 359 and so far, I find it pretty good for what i use, however, I'm still a novice and I've never tried another saw except for my electric Makita so I can't compare.

    However, there are a lot more Stihl dealerships near me than Husky ones and it's hard to tell whether they service/carry chainsaws and not just generic farm equipment because Husky makes tractors, weedwackers, etc. I wonder if the reason for that is that you can buy some of the lower end Husky chainsaws in places like home depot and Tractor Supply....

    Jay
  22. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Finally got 90% of the Gunk outa my Stihl MS440 . . . great all around saw for me. I found this sweet +24" Red oak last week and when sharp it makes chunks quickly. Any friends of mine that do/did make a living with a saw always ask me when I am getting a 460.

    As soon as she lets me ;-)
  23. Outdoorsman

    Outdoorsman New Member

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    If you started out with that 440, then I don't feel to bad for you.

    I had Homelite, McCullough, Remington & Poulan saws before I owned my first Stihl. Then FINALLY did it right and bought both a limbing saw & drop/log/big limb saw.

    My first Stihl was a 029 & a buddies Poulan Pro grade could almost keep up. First time he cut with me after buying the 460 I was doing 9 cuts to his one. Now he wants a Stihl REALLY BAD, but wife is his hold up to.

    To be honest that 460 is so much more saw that it about scared me to wind it out the first time I used it. But I'm well over that now.

    Now I just need to get it modded out by Washington Pro Saws.....lord would that ever scream.......I shouldn't even think such things....but do. ;-)

    But as far as advice for the post starter goes. Most of all buy a pro grade saw of one of the better makers! I know I'll never own another of those other brands again.

    Nor would I suggest a Farm Boss or Rancher grade of Stihl or Husky.

    Sure Stihl or Husky pro grade saws cost more, but they are well worth the price in the long run. I've never even seen a Dolmar where I live, but are spoken of very well here. And you're clearly cutting enough wood to make the extra cost well worth your while.

    In your place I'd look at those 3 brands of pro grade saws then buy based on these points.

    1) Dealer near you? (NOT a chain store, someplace that services what they sell.)

    2) Power to weight ratio.

    Get the lightest for power saw of the size you want that has a dealer within reasonable drive distance.

    I worked to hard for to many years without the best tools for the job. I've always loved cutting wood, but love it even more with the saws I have now.
  24. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Well, today I bought a Stihl!

    MS290 Compared to the electric . . . night and day. It's wicked fast! Only got to play with it for 20 minutes before it got dark. I wanted a 260 or 270, but the store near me only carried a 180, 250, 290 and some other 390 or something saw. The 250 was lighter, but I didn't want to be looking again in another year or two. Who can really know, but the 290 was only another 35 bucks. I'm hoping that maintenance and such would eat up the saw speed time I save.

    Still working out a few things like starting the engine properly, etc. Just not used to a pull is all.

    Thanks for the advice.
  25. chad3

    chad3 Feeling the Heat

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    Choke, pull till it pops once.
    Turn up to high speed run, give a few yanks and it should start. Blip throttle to shut off the high speed, let run about a minute to warm up with a few more blips.
    Cut.

    If warm, you may just be able to turn on and pull, if not, again just go down to high speed.
    They are easy if you get the hang of it.
    Chad
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