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Would appreciate advice for chain saw purchase - Stihl MS 290, Stihl MS 260 Pro, Homelite UT10520

Post in 'The Gear' started by DBoon, Apr 15, 2009.

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  1. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    I was working with my father-in-law last weekend trying to buck up some hickory logs - his two cheap chain saws were just more fight than they were worth. One was an underpowered and flimsy Poulan 16" and the other an underpowered 18" with more wrong with it than I can describe. It cuts, but between the chain brake not working right, having to manually pour bar oil on the chain, and the lack of power, it was more hassle and unsafe than I care to repeat. He isn't about to buy a new one, so I'm shopping for one for myself so I can have an easier time of it next time. The reality is that as he gets older, I'll be doing more of the cutting, and I don't want to use old tools that are more trouble than they are worth.

    His woodlot is primarily sugar maple and hickory, with a mix of beech and cherry also. Yeah, I know, pretty nice woodlot. Mostly, trees blow over due to the wind (he owns on a large wooded hill, and the winter wind usually brings down what he needs). He'll cut about 7 cords a year, and I'll be cutting 2-3. It's safe to say that the saw I'll buy will cut more than 2-3 cords/year since I'll be helping him with his 7 cords. Some of the rounds can be 18" or more in diameter easy, sometimes bigger.

    My dad had a Homelite when I was younger that we used to clear our land for a house and driveway. I remember that it was pretty rugged and pretty trouble free. He's had it for 30+ years now and tells me that it is time to put some money into it - so it's been a good saw for what he has used it for. So I'm predisposed to at least look at the Homelite saws.

    I see that a lot of the serious woodburners on this site use Stihl saws, so that is worth a look for sure.

    So I did some web searching and saw the Homelite UT10520 for about $200, the Stihl MS 290 for about $400 and the Stihl MS 260 Pro for about $500. I'm interested in your opinions on these saws, and would appreciate knowing why I would consider one over the other. I don't mind spending good money for something built to last, but I do have an upper limit - no more than $500 and I would be more comfortable at $400. I figure once I narrow down my options, I'll find the dealers and see what the real prices are on the street.

    For what it's worth, I'm a slightly built guy (5'-9", 150 lbs., but in pretty good shape). I know how to handle a saw and not muscle it. I'm not looking for the lightest saw, but I want to be realistic about the overall weight and balance also.

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  2. Brian VT

    Brian VT Minister of Fire

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    Either of the Stihls would make you happy for many years.
    If you have access to Dolmar you might check out the 5100s. It's in the $400 range and has a great power-to-weight ratio. I really love mine.
    It puts a HUGE smile on my face every time I run it.
    Same h.p. as the MS290 and almost 2 lbs. lighter and you're getting a pro. level saw at a similar price. That was my reasoning anyway.
    The MS260 Pro is also a great saw but a bit more $.
    If local dealer service is important to you then that should be the biggest factor in your decision.
    Find a good dealer and they'll sell you a good saw and keep you cutting. It might be a Husky or Jonsered or Echo...but it won't be a Homelite.
  3. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I have a 290 and chose the 16" bar. It's been a while since I took on anything I couldn't hit from both sides with it. If I see something like that again I can always pick up the 20" bar and hopefully that will be large enough. It's not a light saw, but filling the gas tank, oil tank, and sharpening the chain gives me more than enough time to rest.

    It's a good saw. The air filter is a bit smaller than the saw I used before I picked this one up but once you realize it's smaller you know to clean it more often. It's plenty powerful enough for me at this time. Maybe I'd think differently if I saw thicker trees or more cords/yr.

    If there was a Dolmar dealer anywhere near me I might have looked closer at the 5100. The Stihl dealer is about 2 miles from my house and I'm the 3rd generation of my family to buy from him.

    Matt
  4. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    You might as well put the 310 and 390 on the list - same weight/dimensions as the 290 but more power.

    EDIT - forget the homelite. If you want to look at an off brand for kicks and giggles look at ECHO.
  5. Jamess67

    Jamess67 Feeling the Heat

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    I have a 290 with a 20 inch bar. Love the saw but 20in can bog down pretty easily. Maybe its my cutting style.
  6. Brian VT

    Brian VT Minister of Fire

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    I got my saw with 18" bar, 3/8 chain, and it pulls it very well. It bucks ash and maple like a hot knife through butter. I'm thinking a 16" bar would be even more fun (faster) and plenty long enough 90% of the time. Really, go measure the rounds you've bucked. A 30"+ diameter tree is BIG firewood.
    If you need a 20" bar you need a bigger saw, imho.
  7. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the input. I knew I'd get some good advice. There is a Stihl dealer 15 miles away and a Dolmar dealer 6 miles away, so I'll check both brands out. Good thoughts on the max 18" bar - I'll stay at that or under. I was getting a lot of binding on the hickory, so some extra torque with a smaller bar would be a good idea.
  8. wldm09

    wldm09 New Member

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    I agree with Bigg_Redd. I have the MS390 and have not had it slow down, ever, with my 18" bar on it. I have run 10+ cords through it already. Really nice weight with incredible power too.
  9. struggle

    struggle Minister of Fire

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    I have a 20" waiting for my 290 but will not try it until I mod the muffler to get a little extra umph out of it. THe muffler mods can be a great improvment for power so I have read on the MS290...

    My chews through wood very well with the 18" bar on it.

    I would though if to do it over again would seriously consider a Dolmar. It seems for my area we do not have any real dealers anymore for stihls. They seem to be going more the way of box store type business model for my area.
  10. Zzyk

    Zzyk New Member

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    I'm probably the only one who feels this way but I don't like the 290. It just didn't seem to cut well given its size, even after being working over by a good saw guy.
    I mostly use a 210C which for smaller stuff or an 036 for large stuff.

    Just my half cents...
  11. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    i have the 260 it a heck of a saw. All 3 great saws I went with the 260 because the bar off my 460 also fits it.And I need it to be bullet proof because my son-in-law runs the 260 and he is very hard on anything he touches.
  12. CowboyAndy

    CowboyAndy New Member

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    I would absolutly stay away from homelite, they are not who they used to be. Older homelites are badass... newer ones are for homeowners that want to feel empowered by owning a chainsaw.

    You can also look at husqvarna if there is a dealer in your area. STIHL maked some great saws, but you can probably save a few bucks by going with husky. I have a 142 and a 455 rancher and both are great saws. I paid $379 for my 455 rancher. 20" bar, 55cc.
  13. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    I had a Homelite that my father bought in 1990 or so. I don't remember the model, but was 16". It never really worked right. I had a hard time with the chain tension adjustment, and eventually the starter rope just pulled right out. We bought my 029 with 20" as an upgrade in '96. As expected, there was no comparison. The Homelite was a very cheaply made low quality very lite use tool. It wasn't even that much cheaper than the Stihl either. I find that the 20" bar is OK for me.
  14. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Don't know if it's a nationwide sale or not but I just saw an ad in the local paper on Monday for MS 290 on sale at $349.
  15. computeruser

    computeruser Feeling the Heat

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    Buy a 290. See how it works for you; it will be heads and shoulders above the crap you're using now, that's for sure. If you need more saw and decide to upgrade, you should be able to get most or all of your money back out of it. Just make sure you keep it clean and feed it good fuel and synthetic oil.

    I'd not buy the 260Pro for an all-around saw. I've owned them and used them commercially as small felling and limbing saws, and they shined in this role, but I felt that the 290 was a better all-around saw for the home firewood cutter.

    Current Homelite/Poulan/McCulloch saws are garbage. Period.


    If you want to go the Dolmar route, that would be a decent choice. The 5100 runs like a bigger saw than it is, and can pull an 18" bar with real 3/8" pitch chain. It will outcut a Stihl 290 by a wide margin, and will leave you much less tired for doing so. I'm still not convinced that it is a 100% reliable platform, based on some of the experiences that others have had with the earlier models; maybe that has been fixed, maybe not. If I was going to own one saw that could be serviced anywhere, it wouldn't be a 5100.

    My 5100 cut this firewood:
    [​IMG]
  16. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    If you go 290, see if you can have the dealer change it to a clutch drum with replaceable rims (hopefully at same price or maybe a few bucks more. Then for $5 you can change 'gear ratios' and run different bars very well. most of the pro saws run rims not one piece spur drums, just for that reason. also cheap to change often.

    I am partial to the 026, very light and nimble. the 290 is too heavy for me for what it is, but I get mostly wood under 24 inches, usually under 16. Most wood for me is fine with the 026, up to about 12 inches easily. Did for years up to 20 inches or more. I run a 20 inch .325 bar, 7T on it for reach. Takes a light touch but handles it just fine with some skill. Weight is a bigger issue to me each year.

    Now, the Dolmar 7900 is about like the 290 with way more power and smoother. Love that one..... Now the 026 gets the small stuff.

    Homelite/Mac have no relationship to the good old saws you recall. Homelite went thorugh various owners, including John Deere for a while, and is plastic to the very core. Off the list totally.
    Any of the others will make you very happy. Pick the best dealer and have fun.

    k
  17. Brian VT

    Brian VT Minister of Fire

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    DBoon, you're getting great advice here.
    I can't believe this hasn't turned into a "Huskies suck, Stihls rule !" thread like so many of them do. LOL
  18. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    Thanks again for all the good advice. I have dealers for Stihl, Dolmar, and Husqvarna all within 5-15 miles of me, so in about 3 weekends I'll go check out models from those companies. It sounds like personal preferences aside, the mid-range models from at least Stihl and Dolmar are both pretty well respected amongst people with similar or more demanding needs than mine, so I think I'll be in good shape if I keep in mind the power, weight, bar length, etc. advice you are passing on. It sounds like I'll have a lot easier time cutting once I upgrade from the stuff my father-in-law has.

    Too bad about Homelite. It's funny how something that you used with you dad when you were a little kid can leave such a powerful impression on you. That was a pretty tough looking saw in those days (late 70s), really solid. I remember it taking some serious abuse, and always starting in cold winters.

    I've seen some references to an 026 and an 036 - who makes those?
  19. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Older models from Stihl.

    Matt
  20. Brian VT

    Brian VT Minister of Fire

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    Husq./Jonsered, Echo, Red Max, really anything a good outdoor power equipment dealer sells will be a good saw. I wouldn't shy away from any of them if it feels good in your hands. The 026 and 036 are older Stihl models that, updated, are now called MS 260 and MS 361(previously 360), I think.
  21. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    Thanks again to everyone who gave me advice about saws. Just came back from looking at a few different saws. I think I am going to go with the Dolmar P5100-S, but if anyone has any last minute advice, I'm all ears. Here is what I looked at and what I thought about it:

    Stihl MS-290 ($369) with an 18" bar - looks pretty good, but heavy to me. This would probably only be used for cutting logs on the ground - it would definitely tire me out for felling and just not usable for me for overhead work. With gas and oil, this would probably weigh close to 10% of my body weight, and that just sounds and feels like a lot after a while. However, for bucking logs on the ground - who cares about the weight, and that's mostly what I would use this for.

    Stihl MS-270 "Wood Boss" ($399) with a 16" bar - a little less power, but less weight as well. Also has anti-vibration "technology" (would be nice on the father-in-law's hands).

    Husqvarna 455 "Rancher" ($399) with a 20" bar - a little lighter than the MS-290, seemingly the same power (if you believe the specs), but a longer bar, which I'm now convinced I don't need and which may only slow me down in the tough hickory I'm buying the saw to go through. Plus, more expensive than the MS-290, and I'm not convinced I'm getting anything better, and maybe getting something worse.

    Husqvarna 346XP ($499) - this looks like one nasty little saw - lots of power, light weight, really nice. High price, though, and not sure I really need something this small and light. I'm ok with some weight.

    Dolmar P5100-S ($394) - This is the last saw I looked at. The balance seemed really nice on this saw - better than the others. Couldn't beat the weight, and with great power to boot (the best in it's class). And it's got anti-vibration technology (not necessary for me, but a tie-breaking feature). The dealer is 6 miles away from me, and there are two others within ~25 miles should something happen to the close-in dealer. I could see using this for limbing as well as bucking, where I wouldn't say that about the MS-290, MS-270, or 455, and it's not the high price that the 346XP is. I think this is the one.

    One other comment - I have an inherent mistrust of any brand I see in a big box store nowadays. I know how these stores operate - they chisel the vendors down on price, and pretty soon the vendors figure out that to hit the cost targets of the big box retailers, they have to scrimp on quality. It's a horrible, downhill slide that I've seen too many times before. Just the other day, I saw Husqvarna in a big box store (I don't go to these places often) and it just ruined my image of their brand. In the case of Husqvarna, if they are not there yet with lower quality, they will be sooner or later. Worse, they may be there today, and I'm making a buying decision today based on yesterday's quality. No thanks. Stihl and Dolmar don't sell through these big box retailers, so I trust their brands and quality levels far more than Husqvarna.
  22. Brian VT

    Brian VT Minister of Fire

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    That sounds like the same trip I made and it ends with the same result.
  23. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    346 hushy 5100 dolmar and 260 pro stihl all the same class dolmer as the edge with 15500 rpm stock
  24. Brian VT

    Brian VT Minister of Fire

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    14,500 rpm. I set mine to 14,200.
  25. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    I seen on ther sight that the 5100 is 15500 your right must have seen that on racesaw.com then the edge goes to the 260 pro lol
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