Is a Stihl 251 c-be my best option?

Cfran88

New Member
Jul 11, 2019
27
Central Ohio
Hello everyone!

So I'm looking for a gas chainsaw. My husband gave me the greenlight to seriously scrounge and/or process my own wood after he saw the price of (not even dry) wood and how fast we can burn through it. I have an electric Oregon CS1500 with 18 inch bar, that was my into to chainsaws this year. I really enjoy it but obviously not portable. I'm looking for something appropriate for my needs and skill level. I will be the primary user. I stopped by a Stihl dealer I like (they fixed our lawnmower) and they recommended the MS 251 C-BE, mainly for the easy start.

I need something that's easier to start (I'm not strong enough for the pull cord and my husband has shoulder injuries that could worsen as we age. We tried one gas a chainsaw a while back and starting it was a nightmare).

I also need something that doesn't weigh a lot. My current saw is probably around 10 lbs. I also want something can easily fit the back seat of my truck.

And I need something pretty user friendly for a beginner but still powerful enough to cut logs to a size I can lift them ( I know, I gotta hit the weight room to get stronger)

Right now, wood is not our primary heat source. But I am hoping to finish our basement in a couple years and add a free standing stove in addition to the insert we have. That will allow us to use the gas furnace as secondary (We just really like burning wood and I like the idea of having something that will work for heat and cooking no matter what). So I need a saw that can handle several cords a year as I'm building up our supply for when our wood usage increases (I don't want to have to buy a new saw every few years).

Does the Stihl MS 251 C-BE sound like the best fit? I knew it was gonna set me back a little but I don't want to spend $400 if I can get something just as good for less OR if it's not going to suit my needs. Can anyone recommend anything else?
 

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
2,324
Eastern Ontario
My wife had problems starting the 025 that I use around the house.
So I got her an ms170 (on sale here ) She loves it easy to start and lite
Has a 16 in bar. Not the most powerful saw or the fastest but it gets the job done
 

Zack R

Feeling the Heat
Sep 27, 2017
334
Sisters, OR
flic.kr
I find it's sometimes easier to start the saw on the ground, with your foot in the handle (like the manual suggests) when its cold (for my bigger 365 Special saw). I have a small MS211 that is actually more of a hassle to start in the sense that it takes more pulls of the cord, even though each pull is easy.

Every saw is a bit different but once you tinker around with it for a while you'll know what it takes to make it start easily every time. If you are new to gas chainsaws I'd say the MS251 CBE the dealer is suggesting is a good place to start.

On another note, do you have chaps, boots, safety glasses and earplugs? The gas saw will be a different beast in regard to power and noise.
 

Cfran88

New Member
Jul 11, 2019
27
Central Ohio
Thanks for the replies so far.

We tried starting that saw with our foot on the ground. It was a b**** to start. I honestly don't even remember what it was, went back to Home Depot before the ink was fully dry on the receipt, lol.

As far as a smaller saw, the original recommendation was MS 180 C-BE but they worry it might not be able to handle more than a couple cords a year. They also mentioned the MS 251 C-BE can also use a different chain that more heavy duty, which I may want down the road. Not sure if these are valid points or they're trying to upsell me...

In regards to what size I plan to cut, whatever I can get my hands on and actually lift once cut to 20 inches or less, assuming no assistance from my husband. They can get a little bigger if he's there. But probably nothing an 18 inch bar couldn't handle. My neighbor is clearing land and dropping locusts right now. They're letting me take what I'd like but they're not cutting to size. Those aren't too thick. They had pieces that had been cut years ago that I've been splitting, my electric saw seems to handle those ok but maybe green wood makes a big difference? I do have a couple rounds in the back yard that are about 24 or so inches. They were trunks we just had cut over the weekend and stumps grounded down.

I have started buying PPE. I have purchased chaps and boots (assuming they fit, just came today). I have regular goggles that would fit around my glasses and earsplugs that I used with my electric saw. But I also bought a set that came with a helmet, earmuffs, and face shield. Wasn't sure if that's overkill since I'm not felling trees, can always return it on Amazon if it is. Bought stuff that was reasonably priced but with good reviews, since I'm just starting. I didn't buy gloves yet, any recommendations would be great.

I also bought a LogOx 3-in-1 (Amazon Warehouse had one with a nice discount) to save my back picking up things and chain if I need to cut pieces before I get home. I already had a folding sawbuck I can take with me if needed as well. I split with a 6.5 ton Wen electric splitter, although we do have a splitting ax. I use my eye goggles with those too.

Anything else I'm missing?
 

JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
497
Burlington, CT
My wife had problems starting the 025 that I use around the house.
So I got her an ms170 (on sale here ) She loves it easy to start and lite
Has a 16 in bar. Not the most powerful saw or the fastest but it gets the job done
I have the 170 & 180 ( I have twin boys:)) and love using them. I did upgrade from the picco chain & bar to a .50 chain/bar combo (I think that is the size) and am much happier with it now. You need to be a little careful not to get it bogged down but stays sharp much longer. That being said, I have a buddy that is a chainsaw aficionado and owns at least 1 of every Stihl chainsaws, he traded in his wife's 180 and moved her to a battery powered Stihl - he raves about it. I trust his opinion and would give it serious consideration.
 

Zack R

Feeling the Heat
Sep 27, 2017
334
Sisters, OR
flic.kr
As handy as a electric saw would be for tasks around the yard it just can't compete when it comes to firewood processing in the scale needed to heat a house.


Also if you plan on eventually felling trees there's nothing like the comfort in knowing that a full tank of fuel and bar oil won't run out halfway though.
 
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JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
497
Burlington, CT
I'm not sure what you're saying here. Did he trade in the 180 because he didn't like it? Will a battery powered saw suit my needs?
He loved the 180 but went to the battery powered because he preferred it. I just read your most recent post, seeing how much wood you are targeting - I don't know enough about the battery powered saw to comment (imagine you would need more than 1 battery). As far as the 180 not being able to handle more that a couple of cord a year, not sure what would make them say that. A guess would be that the picco chain would not hold up to that volume and you would be sharpening constantly. As mentioned I swapped out the bar and chain for a thicker gauge and it does fine - I have cut a lot of wood with my 180:). That being said, now that I use 7-8 cord per year, the 261 is my preferred saw (I am a big craigslist shopper - found 1 with helmet, chaps, extra chain, oil, gas/can, tools and a couple of other things for $250). Whenever someone asks me what saw they should buy (or bicycle), I tell them to figure out the most they could possibly spend and then spend more than that:). Philosophy is buy something you will grow into rather than out of. Sorry if I confused you more. Let me know how many cord a year you plan on cutting and I will ask my buddy his thoughts on attacking it with a battery operated saw - one could speculate that is the direction everything will eventually go.
 

Cfran88

New Member
Jul 11, 2019
27
Central Ohio
Let me know how many cord a year you plan on cutting and I will ask my buddy his thoughts on attacking it with a battery operated saw - one could speculate that is the direction everything will eventually go.
I wasn't leaning toward battery operated because I thought they were for light yard work (but I could be wrong). I'm regards to growing into it, not sure... 4 or 5 cords per year? Not sure what it would take to primarily burn with an insert and a stove.
 

Cfran88

New Member
Jul 11, 2019
27
Central Ohio
As handy as a electric saw would be for tasks around the yard it just can't compete when it comes to firewood processing in the scale needed to heat a house.


Also if you plan on eventually felling trees there's nothing like the comfort in knowing that a full tank of fuel and bar oil won't run out halfway though.
Thanks for the video!
 

Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
333
Helena MT
I will have to second the 180. I replaced an older Husky limbing saw with the 180 with an 18 in. bar. It has become my favorite saw and I do almost all of my cutting with it, and I cut a lot. My big 391 with a 24 in. bar sits most of the time unless I absolutely need it. It is so much lighter and very reasonably priced. I like the narrower chain because you have to cut less wood than a wider chain. Get a second chain so you can quickly swap out if you hit a rock.
 

JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
497
Burlington, CT
I wasn't leaning toward battery operated because I thought they were for light yard work (but I could be wrong). I'm regards to growing into it, not sure... 4 or 5 cords per year? Not sure what it would take to primarily burn with an insert and a stove.
Like I said I didn't realize you were jumping right into 5-6 cord:). good for you! I checked with my friend and asked his opinion, his answer was sure t could handle it but slow. I asked him to define "slow", he said about the same speed as the 180. Not sure that means much to you. I can tell you that you can cut 5 cord with a 180 but "CSS" is a lot of work and you would probably want something faster for that volume. Sorry to have lead you down a rabbit hole.
 

JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
497
Burlington, CT
As handy as a electric saw would be for tasks around the yard it just can't compete when it comes to firewood processing in the scale needed to heat a house.


Also if you plan on eventually felling trees there's nothing like the comfort in knowing that a full tank of fuel and bar oil won't run out halfway though.
Thanks for the video! Not sure putting it up against the 261 is a fair "fight" (the 261 is my personal favorite). I have no dog in this fight, all of my saws are gas but I do believe we need to keep an eye on battery power as that technology is changing fast.
 
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Cfran88

New Member
Jul 11, 2019
27
Central Ohio
Like I said I didn't realize you were jumping right into 5-6 cord:). good for you! I checked with my friend and asked his opinion, his answer was sure t could handle it but slow. I asked him to define "slow", he said about the same speed as the 180. Not sure that means much to you. I can tell you that you can cut 5 cord with a 180 but "CSS" is a lot of work and you would probably want something faster for that volume. Sorry to have lead you down a rabbit hole.
No worries! I appreciate the input! 4-5 cords per is probably an ambiguous goal to start unless I just find logs to be delivered as opposed to scrounging. But you never know! It'll keep me busy, I say everyone needs a hobby, maybe this will be mine! I've been addicted ever since I found this site over the summer.

I have split about a cord or so on my little Wen splitter. I definitely understand what you mean in regards to wanting more power. It gets the job done and I bought it because I didn't want to invest a ton of money if it was just a phase. I'll keep using it but if I do several cords next year, I can justify the upgrade.

That being said, I'll do a little more research on the 180, just to compare and be sure.
 

JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
497
Burlington, CT
No worries! I appreciate the input! 4-5 cords per is probably an ambiguous goal to start unless I just find logs to be delivered as opposed to scrounging. But you never know! It'll keep me busy, I say everyone needs a hobby, maybe this will be mine! I've been addicted ever since I found this site over the summer.

I have split about a cord or so on my little Wen splitter. I definitely understand what you mean in regards to wanting more power. It gets the job done and I bought it because I didn't want to invest a ton of money if it was just a phase. I'll keep using it but if I do several cords next year, I can justify the upgrade.

That being said, I'll do a little more research on the 180, just to compare and be sure.
Good luck:). I started this journey about 5 years ago with a 180 - now have a 180, a 170 (as mentoned twin boys:)), a 261 and a 461. This is where my "something you will grow into" comment comes from but with caution - glad I learned on the 180 (moved to a 391 for a while, then my neighbor cleared his yard for a pool and I got the wood).
 

MissMac

Feeling the Heat
Dec 4, 2017
431
NW Ontario
I have a Stihl MS261. It is the entry-level saw in Stihl’s forestry line of chainsaws. I’ve had it for 7 years now, and do between 4-5 cords/year of felling/limbing/bucking. You can put a 16, 18 or 20 inch bar on it, and it’s always had enough jam to do my firewood and then some. I find it light enough that i can cut all day with no issues, and there is also a decompression switch which you may find useful for an easy start. I think it’s a little more money than what you’re currently looking at, but i would highly recommend this saw. Oh, and to qualify, i’m about 5’2” and 120lbs soaking wet, if that’s helpful for you to gauge whether this saw might be too much for you. My two cents anyways! Happy shopping!
 
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PaulOinMA

Feeling the Heat
Oct 20, 2018
379
MA
I have the Stihl MS 180C with a 16" bar that I bought soon after we moved to MA in 2003. Like it a lot. Great little saw for what I need to do: just some home duty use.

Came with a 14" bar, but I had them put a 16" bar on before I left the shop. That way they could give me full credit on the 14" bar since they could sell it as a new bar.
 

Zack R

Feeling the Heat
Sep 27, 2017
334
Sisters, OR
flic.kr
Not that you will necessarily need all of this info just yet, but here's a great series about how to safely fall trees and general chainsaw use. It makes for good winter watching by the fire.


I really enjoyed the series and it does a good job getting you thinking several steps ahead before making a cut.
 
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Cfran88

New Member
Jul 11, 2019
27
Central Ohio
Not that you will necessarily need all of this info just yet, but here's a great series about how to safely fall trees and general chainsaw use. It makes for good winter watching by the fire.


I really enjoyed the series and it does a good job getting you thinking several steps ahead before making a cut.
Thanks! Nice history lesson, I'll check out the rest.
 

EbS-P

Member
Jan 19, 2019
124
SE North Carolina
I got a 16” Ryobi a year ago at the big box store for 140$. It’s 36cc I think. It has been able to cut every piece of firewood I needed. It’s not a great felling saw but the chains are cheap and if I messed one to bad learning to hand file I didn’t care. Once I took off the tip protector I could take down a tree 26” or less in diameter. I’m probably not skilled enough to do it safely yet. It has started every time for a year and it bucked nearly 4 cords of wood.
I ended up with a bigger saw it has 28” and 36” bars and is a beast for me to run. I’m 6’ and 195#. It cuts faster but I need to take more breaks and when it comes to firewood I only truly needed it once to cut a very flared stump to the ground.

things I didn’t understand when I bought it. Chain pitch and type the ryobi runs 3/8 low profile where 3/8 it’s the standard chain for bigger saws. They take different size files. In general you will wear through the 3/8 LP faster as the cutters are smaller. Pico and .325 and .404 different chains. And it’s not simple or in some cases possible change chain type. Gage is the thickness of the driver bar and chain need to same gage


Chainsaws get heavy after awhile. Lighter is better.
Bending over gets tiresome longer bars mean less of this but are heavier. Being a weekend woodcutter shorter and lighter is better for me.
Learn to file your chain by hand.

You can get a lot of money wrapped up quickly in a new saw or saw.
If budget isn’t a to big concern get the best you can afford. If it is I’ve been impress with my little saw. Given you are like me just starting down the saw path you can always upgrade later and have a backup saw to cut yourself out if you get pinched. ( my upgrade was not firewood related I wanted to mill up a big tree).

hope that is helpful.
 

Jags

Moderate Moderator
Staff member
Aug 2, 2006
18,039
Northern IL
The 251 is 3 hp at just under 11 pounds and considered a homeowner saw. The 261 is 4 hp and the same weight and is considered a pro saw. I guess it comes down to how serious this wood thing is gonna get. At 4-5 cords per year I would be jumping on the superior performance of the 261 saw. But if starting the saw was a big concern, I would give both of them a few test pulls at the dealer to see what you think. Also note that there is quite a price difference between the two.

As a side note...4-5 cords is a pretty sizable task for most folks. The appropriate tools for the task only make it easier. Make no mistake, harvesting your own firewood is work.
 
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JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
497
Burlington, CT
The 251 is 3 hp at just under 11 pounds and considered a homeowner saw. The 261 is 4 hp and the same weight and is considered a pro saw. I guess it comes down to how serious this wood thing is gonna get. At 4-5 cords per year I would be jumping on the superior performance of the 261 saw. But if starting the saw was a big concern, I would give both of them a few test pulls at the dealer to see what you think. Also note that there is quite a price difference between the two.

As a side note...4-5 cords is a pretty sizable task for most folks. The appropriate tools for the task only make it easier. Make no mistake, harvesting your own firewood is work.
Went to pick up some wood from a craigslist find, took my 180 and my 261. Used both, was reminded once again how much I love the 261. I would agree with you, definitely worth the extra $'s.
 

mtcox1791

Member
Aug 16, 2017
19
Upstate South Carolina
I just wanted to share my experience. I bought a MS 250 about 4 years ago as we bought a home with wood stove. I bought the MS 250 as it was the same saw a friend of mine owned and he was happy with it. I cut about 1-2 cords of wood per year and have been very happy with it. I have never had a problem with it. If there is a tree that it won't cut, then I don't have the skill to cut it or the strength to lift the rounds. However, I do think that I decompression valve would be nice when my shoulder is sore. Also, I would not want a heavier saw as I also use it to cut low limbs. I do recommend the 2 in 1 sharpener and all the PPE. An ER visit will cost you much more.
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
1,982
Lackawaxen PA
Many saws can be hard to start. Until you know exactly what the saws procedure is. I can't say all Stihl start well, but mine does. The best thing on my 260 Pro model is the decompression valve button. It makes the cord pull easy. Two easy pulls and it fires, then move up the choke lever on notch and it starts the next pull.