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Choosing a Saw - What's important?

Post in 'The Gear' started by cgeiger, Jan 28, 2009.

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  1. HittinSteel

    HittinSteel Minister of Fire

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    If Stihl, and money is not a concern, get the MS 361.

    If Husky, and money is not a concern, look at the 357xp and quickly decide for very little more money, you can get the 70cc 372xp.

    I have been researching saws for months and will be buying the 361 this summer when my dealer has the annual pro saw sale.

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  2. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    IMO, 50cc is a little saw, and a good limbing saw. 60cc to about 79cc is mid size, and over 80cc is getting into large. Very large is the 120cc class saws. My 880/3120 both weigh almost twice what the 7900 weighs, and have far more power too. So no, 80cc is not a "very large saw". And yes, I do occasionally use my 120cc saws. Although, the 7900 generally covers just about everything I need to do in one light weight, robust, and powerful package.

    I don't know anything about the "pros" in your area, but every pro I know uses 70+cc saws on a daily and routine basis. Guys typically run 372, 388, 395, 460, 660, and 7900's when there's real work to be done. We often give the groundies 50 and 60cc saws to use for limbing and for most average wood, and they have access to larger saws when we're dealing with 20"+ stuff. When I'm getting paid to do a job, time is money and I'm sorry, but even pro level 50-60cc saws are usually slower and sometimes under powered for some of the work I do in the northeast. The 7900 weighs only a hair more than the lightest 60cc saw, but has a lot more power so it's an all around great saw. One downside to it IMO, is that it doesn't hold a lot of gas/oil... but you might see this as a plus since that extra pound or two seems to be a lot to carry in itself.

    I can see saying a 60cc saw should be plenty for cutting 16" wood, which it is. But to say a 79cc saw that weighs a pound and a half more (and cost almost the same money) is "very large saw" and that "master loggers" typically don't use 70+cc saws is horse-crap. The OP already has a little saw, he wants something bigger that will get the job done quick and something he won't have to replace with a larger saw next year. This doesn't sound like a 50cc-60cc saw to me! I'm not sure I've ever heard a 7900 owner say they wish they had bought a less powerful saw... but I see a lot of 50cc and 60cc saw owners looking for something bigger! In fact, I don't hear of hardly any unsatisfied 7900 owners at all, just a lot of praise.

    I'll just leave it at that...
  3. cgeiger

    cgeiger New Member

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    So I suppose I should ask if there is generally a better time to buy new? HittinSteel referenced an annual sale by his local dealer - is this common among dealers? I figured now with the economy in a bad way there would be sales and incentives across most product lines, including saws - though I know we're getting into the heavy part of cuttin' season... Thoughts?
  4. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    Stihl generally is pretty fixed on their pricing. Unless you do a lot of business with a dealer or have one that does an annual sale, finding a deep discount on Stihl products is pretty rare.

    Husky dealers tend to be more willing to negotiate, so don't be afraid to ask. Dolmar dealers are harder to come by, some will work with you, others wont. But it never hurts to ask...
  5. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    I beat the crap out of my "homeowner grade" MS290 and have been for 5 years and have never replaced anything but chains. Good saws are very tough to wear out @ 10 cord per year.
  6. akhilljack

    akhilljack New Member

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    i have a stihl 036 with a 20" bar (older model 361) which is my favorite saw of the 5 or 6 few saws i have. isnt that bad on gas, has a good balanced weight, lots of power. on the other hand lately i have been using my 024 with 16" bar also a few years old. you could put an 18" bar on it if you wanted it feels powerful enough, but the 16 feels realy balanced. i cut everything with it and after cutting mostly with my 036 it feels much lighter. i didnt realise how much it makes a difference as far as how long you could cut in a day until lately. i think its about even now depending on what im cutting. either would be great but the 024 is only $300-$350 the 036 (361) is like $600-$700. you decide. i also have an old 1976 husky 162 with a 24" bar that honestly cuts just as well. it feels just as light maybe even lighter. i ususally use it for big stuff it has lots of power and it is almost 35 years old. very dependable. the biggest thing though is the chain. if you dull your chain any saw sucks. i have an old mccullough eager beaver i use with a good chain on it for little, little stuff and it serves its purpose just as good as long as the chain is sharp. a dull chain makes a $700 saw as good as a $150 saw in the end. so i guess use what you can afford and just keep your chain sharp until you need something bigger. to me lately the weight seems more important as anything else. after about $300 on up all the saws seem about the same besides engine size. each one has its pro's and con's, all of them spin a chain though so really its only as good as your chain.
  7. fyrwoodguy

    fyrwoodguy Feeling the Heat

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    how close is the longest in business,most knowledgeable,honest. and what brand does he sell?
    www.woodnsaws.org
  8. HittinSteel

    HittinSteel Minister of Fire

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    Blue Ridge, the pro saw sale I was referring to probably doesn't happen at every dealer and the savings is relatively minimal. I think the 361 lists for around $600 and the sale I was referring to brought the price down to $549. Not a huge difference. Check out Amick's online in I believe NC, I think their price is $589 or so. You will have to take a roadtrip to the store though...... not sure how far it is from you.
  9. cgeiger

    cgeiger New Member

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    Yeah, I think I caught something on AS or another wood site (google search on the 7900) about whether you could or couldn't mail order a chain saw. Looks like you most definitely can't, or at least shouldn't ;).

    So let me shift the thread slightly (since it's all about choosing the right saw)... What about the bar and chain? I get the powerhead part and the various options/features/benefits but what makes a good chain good and a good bar good?

    For reference I have slung mostly Oregon bars and chains on the Poulon. I've used both safety chains as well as speed cutters (I think they're called) and I know Stihl has a yellow/green chain coding system.
  10. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    what saw you going with? Then you can match up bar lenths and chains.
  11. HittinSteel

    HittinSteel Minister of Fire

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    All kinds of combos, but it is hard to beat (again if price is not an issue) Stihl bar and chains. I run the yellow (chisel) RSC 3/8" 0.50 on my 20" farm boss...... it is an outstanding chain and when sharp cuts like crazy. From what I have read it dulls a little faster in dirty wood over the RM (which is also a yellow/ non safety chain and highly recommended).

    My wife's saw, the 210 runs the green Picco. It is okay for her or a novice, but I wouldn't recommend green for serious applications.
  12. cgeiger

    cgeiger New Member

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  13. HittinSteel

    HittinSteel Minister of Fire

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    You can definitely mix and match chains...... not sure on bars. I would think the standard Dolmar bar would be fine and then consider the stihl RSC or RM full chisel. Unless you are running a longer than 20" bar then maybe research the skip chain RSLFK.
  14. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    The 7900 uses a standard large mount husky bar, very common. If you get your saw from the place I think you might be considering, the saw will come with a B&C;. He'll give you your choice of gauge, I prefer the 50 rather than the 58 or 63. The 50 is more common, so it's easy to get anywhere. The chain will be round ground full comp (what you'll want) and I don't know what brand it is... nothing wrong with it though. He'll probably give you a 20" Forester bar, unless you want something else, nothing wrong with that either.

    You don't need skip chain on the 7900 if you're running a 28" bar or less on it. I'd suggest the skip if you go larger though. I know it pulls skip just fine on a 32" bar (in hardwood) if you need it to. Not sure about a 36", but I suspect it would do so..
  15. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    7900 I would go with (20 in bar and full chiesl no skip)(28in bar full chisel skip) 361 I would go with (16 in bar full chisel no skip and 25 in.bar skip chisel) the stihl version of the 7900 would be the ms 460 magum very nice saw! you can use a stihl 361, 441,460,660,880 for a couple of years and still get 90 percent back out of them not sure on the dolmars
  16. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    I suggest a skip tooth chain regardless of bar length. They cut just as well and who wants to sharpen all those teeth?
  17. cgeiger

    cgeiger New Member

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    Pardon my ignorance but what's are the main pros/cons between skip and no-skip chains?
  18. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    Standard chain has a cutting tooth on every other link. Skip chain has a tooth on every fourth link.

    If the saw has enough torque to pull the chain at full speed with standard chain, then standard chain will cut faster. If the saw doesn't have enough torque to pull the chain at full speed, then switching to skip chain puts half as many teeth in the wood and eases the stress on the saw/speeds up the chain.

    Think of switching to skip chain as downshifting the transmission. You go slower, but the engine doesn't need to work as hard...
  19. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    nicely done, skip tooth good on larger bars also cleans out the cut better
  20. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    No you don't have to sharpen as many teeth, but they typically don't cut as fast or as smooth as full comp either (generally speaking on bars <30"). If the saw has the power to pull full comp, you're better off using it... unless you're talking about running longer bars, and then full skip is often better since it clears better and puts less stress on the engine.
  21. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    Mostly correct.

    "Full comp" is the chain generally used and has the usual number of cutters... Cutter-driver-cutter-driver-cutter-driver.

    "Skip tooth" means that every other cutter has been left out... Cutter-driver-driver-cutter-driver-driver-cutter-driver-driver-cutter.
    Most people believe skip tooth has 1/2 as many cutters. In reality, it has about a third less cutters, or 2/3 the number of cutters full comp has.

    "Semi-skip" is just a compromise between skip and full comp. It has every third cutter left out of the sequence... Cutter-driver-cutter-driver-driver-cutter-driver-cutter-driver-driver-cutter-driver-cutter-driver-driver...
  22. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Skip tooth pros: Half the teeth to sharpen, cuts as good (or better) than a non skip tooth

    Skip tooth cons: none
  23. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    have almost no softwood here, and none of it bigger than about about 16 inches, so my biases:
    Skip in hardwoods can be rough in the cut and grabby starting cut. also more prone to kickback.
    Sharpening is a mixed blessing. more teeth to do, but more teeth to cut and it seems to last longer between filings than skip. Rock or steel sucks though with full comp.

    If you have the motor to pull it, I would not consider skip for smaller bars.

    k
  24. ccwhite

    ccwhite Member

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    I run a Stihl 039 (18" bar chisel chain) and Love it. I also have a Husky 455 "rancher" (20" bar chisel chain) and a little Homelite 16". Mostly the Husky and Homelite never leave the basement. As far as I can see the Husky doesn't hold a candle to the Stihl. I know all the cool kids are getting Dolmars but I don't like the look of them. I know that sounds silly but you have to like your saw or using it is a drag. There are also no dealers in my area for Dolmar. So Service/Parts would eventually be an issue. I don't know how you're fixed for dealers in your area but you should consider this. For what its worth I would go with a Stihl ms290 "Farm Boss" or ms390. You'll never regret buying a Stihl saw. Go with a chisel chain ... anti-kickback chains are for beginners and ice carvers. You'll do well with a bar length of 18" or 20". Shorter bar will make the saw seem more powerful and Longer chain will seem less powerful. If (like me) rarely cut anything any bigger around than 18" there's really no need for the longer bar. Remember that you can cut up to 36" with an 18" bar or 40" with a 20" bar. There's no reason to use a full-skip or semi-skip chain on a bar of this length. A skip tooth chain makes a 30" bar have the same # of cutters as a 20" bar and therefore make the saw seem more powerful with the long bar.

    Hope this helps.
    Go with a Stihl and never look back.
    Just my $.02
  25. rayburn

    rayburn New Member

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    I recomend the stihl ms361. Great saw, plenty of power, not overly heavy to cut with all day,and its built to last. I also got the model with the quick adjust and I love it. :)
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