Ideal saw for small volume firewood

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neverbilly

Member
Dec 27, 2015
118
Louisiana, USA
I have a Stihl ms290 and I keep thinking I would be better off with a lighter saw. Maybe 2-3 cords of firewood a year, at most. A saw that will last 20 years will probably outlast me. Not concerned much about price. Would prefer to buy Stihl, Husky or Echo, as I have nearby dealers for those. Reliability and ease of starting is high on the list... who wants to yank and yank on a rope. I could use whatever it is to cut within the capabilities of the saw instead of having the most powerful saw. But if a certain saw is more 'fun' to use, I wouldn't mind paying for the best overall saw for me. I don't know enough about chainsaws to know which size engine and which size bar, but I would think 45cc to 55cc would be enough, as would maybe an 18" bar. I haven't cut a lot of wood, so, not sure about that. But if it were 50cc and 18" bar, I could just cut whatever that would cut! I also am willing to do a muffler mod or other tweak if need be. Thanks for suggestions.
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
4,916
07462
My mom and dad got me a Husky 359 5 years ago as a house warming gift, absolutely love this saw, plenty of power at 59cc, I run a 20" bar (which is married perfectly for it) but no loss on a smaller bar either.
Take this for what this is worth, I'm by no means a chainsaw expert but for an easier starting saw look for the decompression button built into these newer units, this makes life easier.
 

TheAardvark

Burning Hunk
Oct 26, 2015
231
Central PA
I bought an Echo cs352. Comes with a 5 year warranty. Stihl and Husq cant touch that. Its super light and extremely easy to start. It also costs a LOT less than Stihl and Husq. Its a no brainer.
 
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Firefighter938

Feeling the Heat
Dec 25, 2014
440
Central Indiana
Husqvarna 450
Stihl ms250
Both good homeowner saws that should last many years and not break the bank.

I cant comment on echo because I havent used one but I have heard many good things. If price isn't an issue look for a pro saw in the 50cc range. That would be a good saw and could run 16-20" bars.
 

BenTN

Feeling the Heat
Aug 30, 2015
345
East TN
Husky 550xp 16-18" bar.
 

claydogg84

Minister of Fire
Sep 9, 2013
1,792
Salt Point, NY
What exactly is it that you don't like about the 290? While a bit heavy for its power, it's a pretty solid "firewood" saw. If you're looking for similar power output with a little less weight, I'd consider the Husqvarna 550XP or the Stihl MS261.
 

Lake Girl

Moderator
Nov 12, 2011
6,940
NW Ontario
Years ago when we had the OWB, Hubby got me a small Jonsered as the Stihls he had were more than I could handle and start comfortably. Worked well for bucking up tree length into manageable sizes when he was out of town.
 
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24vcummns98

Member
Oct 24, 2015
66
Northern VA
I'll toss in the 346xp with a 16 inch bar into the mix for a great smaller firewood saw.

Or go with a STIHL 461 with a 24 inch bar and have crazy amounts of power and manageable size.
 
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neverbilly

Member
Dec 27, 2015
118
Louisiana, USA
Whomever asked... the ms290... I just keep thinking that I might 'enjoy' a lighter saw more. I don't have much experience cutting firewood, so, I really don't know. Maybe I should rent a smaller one! Seriously, it would help to use one and compare.

Actually, what I need to do is get in better shape! My lower back kills me leaning over holding a saw and I am sure it is due to a weak core; I have been a couch potato for years, after having been very active my whole life.

Today, I cut some oak that was 16" diameter. Would a 50cc saw running good with, say, 18" bar get it done with no problem? I don't understand bar length... I mean... what to use on a saw and the ways bar length affects it.
 

claydogg84

Minister of Fire
Sep 9, 2013
1,792
Salt Point, NY
Whomever asked... the ms290... I just keep thinking that I might 'enjoy' a lighter saw more. I don't have much experience cutting firewood, so, I really don't know. Maybe I should rent a smaller one! Seriously, it would help to use one and compare.

Actually, what I need to do is get in better shape! My lower back kills me leaning over holding a saw and I am sure it is due to a weak core; I have been a couch potato for years, after having been very active my whole life.

Today, I cut some oak that was 16" diameter. Would a 50cc saw running good with, say, 18" bar get it done with no problem? I don't understand bar length... I mean... what to use on a saw and the ways bar length affects it.
A 50cc pro saw will handle an 18" bar quite nicely in wood around 16" or so. If you bury the nose in something larger, it may struggle.
 

jeffesonm

Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
862
central NJ
Saws are generally made so you can switch out a few different sized bars. For example your 290 could probably use a 20", 18", or 16" bar... maybe even a 14" or 12". A bigger bar lets you cut more tree at once, however cutting 20" of tree is harder than 16" of tree. If your saw doesn't have the power to cut that much tree at once, it will bog down. When you get to much bigger bars like 25"+ then the saw needs both lots of power and a strong oiler. Don't forget you can cut from both sides, so with a 16" bar you can realistically cut a tree up to maybe 30" in diameter.... that is a really big tree, and moving/splitting rounds that size will be more work than sawing them.

Bar size is separate, but related, to the power of the saw. For your 56cc MS290 a 18" bar would probably be a perfect match, but a 20" or 16" would be just fine too. If you went down to the 45cc range you would probably want a 16" bar.

You could sell your 290 and buy a 261 and be out a few hundred bucks and have a 1.5 lb lighter saw, but why bother? If I were you, I'd stick with the 290 for now. It is a good sized saw for what you need. Get yourself a Fiskars X25 or X27 axe and split the wood by hand... that will build up the core in no time. Just take it slow... do a little cutting and a little splitting every day or two, and don't tire yourself out. Once you are in better shape you will swing that thing around, no problems at all.
 

neverbilly

Member
Dec 27, 2015
118
Louisiana, USA
Saws are generally made so you can switch out a few different sized bars. For example your 290 could probably use a 20", 18", or 16" bar... maybe even a 14" or 12". A bigger bar lets you cut more tree at once, however cutting 20" of tree is harder than 16" of tree. If your saw doesn't have the power to cut that much tree at once, it will bog down. When you get to much bigger bars like 25"+ then the saw needs both lots of power and a strong oiler. Don't forget you can cut from both sides, so with a 16" bar you can realistically cut a tree up to maybe 30" in diameter.... that is a really big tree, and moving/splitting rounds that size will be more work than sawing them.

Bar size is separate, but related, to the power of the saw. For your 56cc MS290 a 18" bar would probably be a perfect match, but a 20" or 16" would be just fine too. If you went down to the 45cc range you would probably want a 16" bar.

You could sell your 290 and buy a 261 and be out a few hundred bucks and have a 1.5 lb lighter saw, but why bother? If I were you, I'd stick with the 290 for now. It is a good sized saw for what you need. Get yourself a Fiskars X25 or X27 axe and split the wood by hand... that will build up the core in no time. Just take it slow... do a little cutting and a little splitting every day or two, and don't tire yourself out. Once you are in better shape you will swing that thing around, no problems at all.
I already bought a Fiskars x27 and have been using it. My aim is not very good, and I was a good athlete, lol. Plus, my wood is green, it doesn't split well. I should let it sit! I also thought of buying some rounds from somebody. Even an entire log.

Let me ask this... the saw was bogging down (has a new carbueretor) cutting the 16" log and I eventually got it done but it kinda made me nervous because I see talk of 'too lean' and I don't know what that is like. I don't want to burn my saw up. So, if I take this to a dealer mechanic and he tunes it, am I good to go or is this something that has to be tweaked from time to time forever. In that case, I would need to learn how, because I can't drive 45 miles everytime I need it tuned better.

I am also very interested in a muffler mod (and carb tuning adjustment) on this ms290. The only negative I have heard is from a dealer mechanic. Everybody else seems to like what it does.
 

TedyOH

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2015
559
NE Ohio
After 20 years (and turning 40) of using my 076 for everything, from light trunk work, removing limbs from blow overs and cutting 36" diameter trunks to length, (and feeling like I ran a marathon afterwards) I went to the Stihl dealer to look for something a little "lighter". I never weighed the 076 but with the 36" bar and chain it has to be close to 35 lbs. I picked up a MS170, it felt like a toy I could run with one hand, thinking it was made for light limb work I asked if I could start it, I was mildly impressed by the little 30cc motor (I think the 076 has a 110cc's). Well long story short, was glad I bought it, you get 15" of cutting width from the bar and it can handle all 15" of wood as well. Perfect small saw that I would buy again in a heartbeat .
 
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jeffesonm

Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
862
central NJ
If your 290 is bogging down cutting a 16" log, the chain is probably dull. It should almost pull itself down through the log, nice and easy. If you have to push down at all or rock it back and forth to get it to cut, chain is too dull. Working with a dull chain is dangerous and can tire you out real quick.

Easy test would be to buy a new chain and try it out. You can also look at what comes out of the cut... if it is chips of wood, like from a wood chipper, only smaller, you're in good shape. If it is really small chips, or worse yet, powdery type sawdust, your chain needs to be sharpened. There are lots of threads in here on various tools/guides that can help with that.

One upside to a newer chainsaw is many of them have auto-tuning carburetors, so you never really have to worry about that. But on the other hand, my 036 was tuned probably 2 years ago after I did a muffler mod and it's been fine ever since.

Most important thing is to make sure you've got a sharp chain... that will make way more a difference than any saw you buy.
 

chopp056

New Member
Dec 17, 2015
28
Virginia
290 is a great firewood saw with a good chain. Make sure chain is sharp, put a oregon semi chisel round corner chain and will cut all day. the 290 is a work horse and certainly a classic stihl saw. I have a 391 for bigger stuff and even my 250 will eat all day through some of the smaller stuff with the 16 or 18 bar on it. The reason the other saw have that longer warranty is cause they need it and need a reason to sell.
 

Wood Duck

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2009
4,790
Central PA
I think the recommended saw should depend on how strong you are. If you are a pretty strong guy, I'd think a larger saw would be easy to use and the extra power would be fun and convenient. On the other hand, if you are not especially strong, a lighter saw would be safer and easier.

I do not deliberately let wood sit before I split it. I start immediately, and never get done very quickly so some is split green, some is split more seasoned. I have never noticed a consistent difference in ease of splitting between green and seasoned wood.
 

Poindexter

Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
2,196
Fairbanks, Alaska
If your 290 is bogging down cutting a 16" log, the chain is probably dull. It should almost pull itself down through the log, nice and easy. If you have to push down at all or rock it back and forth to get it to cut, chain is too dull. Working with a dull chain is dangerous and can tire you out real quick.

Easy test would be to buy a new chain and try it out. You can also look at what comes out of the cut... if it is chips of wood, like from a wood chipper, only smaller, you're in good shape. If it is really small chips, or worse yet, powdery type sawdust, your chain needs to be sharpened. There are lots of threads in here on various tools/guides that can help with that.

One upside to a newer chainsaw is many of them have auto-tuning carburetors, so you never really have to worry about that. But on the other hand, my 036 was tuned probably 2 years ago after I did a muffler mod and it's been fine ever since.

Most important thing is to make sure you've got a sharp chain... that will make way more a difference than any saw you buy.
I came right to this same post based on post #15 above. Try a new chain, keep an eye on your chain tension as the new chain gets broken in, plan on sharpening the old one.

FWIW up to ten cords annually, a 16" bar is all I need. It is unusual for me to fell a tree with a butt at the stump in excess of 16", yes I do have small trees up here, but I would rather make a second cut every once in a while on big logs rather than carry around any extra saw all the time.
 

Oldman47

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2015
1,011
Central Illinois
Whomever asked... the ms290... I just keep thinking that I might 'enjoy' a lighter saw more. I don't have much experience cutting firewood, so, I really don't know. Maybe I should rent a smaller one! Seriously, it would help to use one and compare.

Actually, what I need to do is get in better shape! My lower back kills me leaning over holding a saw and I am sure it is due to a weak core; I have been a couch potato for years, after having been very active my whole life.

Today, I cut some oak that was 16" diameter. Would a 50cc saw running good with, say, 18" bar get it done with no problem? I don't understand bar length... I mean... what to use on a saw and the ways bar length affects it.
If a 16 inch log is the biggest you run into then a 50cc with an 18 inch bar is plenty.
Does this look easy enough to start?
Check this out
 

JBinKC

Feeling the Heat
Jan 14, 2006
305
Lake of the Ozarks
If you split by hand I would rather see you look into buying a limbing saw and keep the 290 for the trunks. Trust me you will prefer to score firewood under 12 inch in diameter given the greater ease of splitting the smaller wood.
 
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TedyOH

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2015
559
NE Ohio
If you split by hand I would rather see you look into buying a limbing saw and keep the 290 for the trunks. Trust me you will prefer to score firewood under 12 inch in diameter given the greater ease of splitting the smaller wood.
Yes - Especially because the OP seems to imply weight / lifting seems to be a major factor in his wood processing.
 

aansorge

Minister of Fire
Aug 12, 2011
911
Southern Minnesota
I agree with JBinKC: keep the 290 for bigger stuff (and get a full-chisel chain for that sucker!) and get something small for everything else.

I sometimes use my uncle's little 192 stihl and that little sucker is nice but expensive. Once you start using a small saw you'll immediately see the advantages on the small stuff and you simply don't get fatigued.
 
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