Thursday, December 04, 2008

Looking to Upgrade My Saw

It is time again for me to appeal to all those great minds that read this little ol' blog. In the past whenever I have been thinking about getting something or doing something the input and feedback I have received has been tremendous, so I thought I would just throw it out there again. This time I'm looking to upgrade my chainsaw. Since we heat our house almost completely with wood this is a very important farm tool and I would like something that will get the job done, last, and of course it has to be something that I can afford.

Currently I have a Stihl 009L, like the one pictured above, that I picked up at an auction. The price was right and I knew I needed one so I jumped on it. This particular saw has a 40.8 cc engine with a 14 inch bar and seems to get pretty good reviews by the tree trimming guys. In fact it has worked alright for me cutting up firewood so far, but I know this is a saw that is meant for limbing and not felling trees or cutting lots of firewood.

Here are what I believe are some of my needs:
  • Mostly I am cutting dead wood that is still standing with the ocassional downed tree depending on its state of rot. I would say the biggest tree I have cut so far was about a 10 inch diameter, but I know there are bigger ones to be had.
  • I'm going to keep my 009L around, but I wouldn't be opposed to trading it in if I could find a place to do that. With that in mind I would like a saw that I can use in lots of different applications
  • I want a saw that is easy enough to handle with good balance.
  • I want a quality saw that can take some serious use in the fall and winter.
Those are just a few of the things that I thought would matter in my search. As far as brands go, I have researched Stihl (that is what my dad has had for 20 years ... one saw), Husqvarna, and Echo. The only dealer that we have in our town is Stihl, but I do know of a Husqvarna dealer close by and an Echo dealer that isn't too far when it comes to service issues.

I have to admit that I'm very impressed with my little 009L. It starts up in two or three pulls and now that I have a new bar it cuts nicely. As I mentioned my dad has been using the same Stihl for over twenty years now and it is still going strong. His saw has been dropped, left in the rain, and run over by a truck. But, it has only been in the repair shop a couple of times and has cut a lot of firewood for the house.

What do you guys think? Are the Stihls of today as long lasting and tough as my dad's old 02-something and my 009L? Are there any other particular brands or models to check out? Any other great chainsaw shopping advice?

Thanks a ton for any help.


Seth - said...

I worked for the Colorado State Forest Service for a while (lived in a great little cabin at 10,000 feet) and we only used Husqvarna saws. I'd get one that could handle a 20" bar, even if you run an 18". I always used the old 66 model and loved it, so I don't know what the new ones are like - don't think I could afford a new one anyway.

As a side note: while in CO I went to a few logging festivals where they trick out their saws with nitrous and modified chains - very crazy stuff.

All the loggers use Husqvarna, Stihl or Jonsered - I'd stay away from Echo.

Anonymous said...

We have a Stihl MS210C with easy start and a MS310. The 210 has a 16 inch bar and the 310 has a 20 inch bar. Both these saws are about 3 years old and we have had zero issues. They may not be as good as the old saws but they sure are a lot lighter! We also have two homelite saws that are about 15 years old and we have had no issues with them and they were only $100 each new at Menards, much cheaper than a Stihl with the same lasting results! Just depends on how much wood your going to cut.

Steven said...

This is of no help but.... a few weeks ago my wife's aunt asked me to move a load of wood for her. We then had to stack it on a few different properties. Turns out that it was for a Stihl photo shoot. She works for a small advertising company that does most of Stihl's graphics for the US. The photos will be used for displays and the 2010 product catalog. My sister in law and uncle were both "models". I tried, but couldn't get a good deal on a chainsaw, even with my connection! :-)

Rich said...

We bought a Jonsered CS2145 a few years ago that I really like so far, it has a 20" roller tip bar, its easy to adjust the chain, it is lightweight and balanced, and seems to have alot of power.

Before buying this saw, I used an older Stihl and a pair of Husqvarna saws.

I hated the Stihl (it was about 25 years old), it was hard to start, hard to clean, hard to keep the chain tight (chain oiling system didn't seem to work right), and didn't feel like it was balanced right. The newer models might be better, but I don't have any experience with them.

I liked the Husqvarna's, an old Rancher model and a slightly less old 55 (bought on eBay for a song), they both had alot of power, were lightweight, etc.

The new Jonsered is like an improved version of the old Husqvarna. (I think the two companies are or were somehow linked)

Regardless of the brand of chainsaw, I think a chainsaw should have at least a 20" roller tip bar (24" would be better). The roller tip seems to keep the chain tighter which seems to keep it sharper for longer, has less chance of kickback, and makes things like plunge cuts easier and safer.

Choose a saw that has enough power, has a roller tip bar, has a reasonably sized bar length, is easy to service, and is lightweight and you will be happy.

Don't forget to keep your chain sharp either, buy a couple of extra chains and a sharpening device, and swap in a sharpened chain about every other time you fill the saw up with gas. Swapping the chains on a regular basis will make sure that your chain is tight, the bar is clean, etc., and your saw will work better and last longer. At the end of the day, sharpen up the dulled chains and you will always be ready to go.

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

From Blessed Beyond Measure's Husband -

I just got a Dolmar this year, and I love it. I've also got an 041 farm boss that was my dad's. It was a cuttin' machine, for sure, but for the newer saws, I think Dolmar is hard to beat. It is lighter than the husky and runs on average about 1000 rpm faster than a husky. It starts 2nd pull, and I've heard from a lot of others that this is the norm. I'm running a 20" oregon bar, the bar the Dolmar comes with is an all-purpose, and the chain is a safety chain - not very aggressive. Mine is the 5100 (53 cc motor), but I'll probably upgrade to a 73 cc next year if wifey agrees, just to have a couple of different setups for felling and limbing.

Anonymous said...

Stihl all the way!

Anonymous said...

I am a Stihl dealer so I am bias however, its my opinion when you venture out to buy high ticket items such as a chainsaw you need to consider all options but most importantly...service. After all this is an important tool for the farm, not just another toy. I have read in your blog that you heat mostly with wood so do you want to be out cutting wood, have a break down, find out your not able to get the part for a couple days then, you have to figure out how to install it yourself? With a Stihl, our technicians can fix anything that may go wrong and many dealerships have loaner saws if its a serious issue. You get what you pay for thats why the discount stores do not sell Stihl!

Another plus is you said you have a local dealership so you would be supporting your community just as they are supporting you.

Its your choice Ethan, I just wanted to put my two cents in.

Andrew the Organic Maven said...

As a former arborist now turned market farmer, my advice is to standardise your on farm equipment as much as possible.

If you go with Stihl for saws, then have both be Stihl. That way you are familiar with the engines and workings of the brand, and you don't need to learn more than one set of quirks for your saws, or mowers, or brushcutters.

I started out with Husqvarna and then 'upgraded' to Stihl because the service centre that I relied on went that way.

All brands are having their machines made in third world countries now and using more plastic than in the past - this makes for lighter machines but generally they don't last as long.


Mike W. said...

Ethan, There's a great comment over at the Promised Land blog about chainsaw selection.

Gatherin Wood

Cary said...

It took me about 6 years on our current farmstead to finally figure out I could make my life easier by buying a "Logger Chain" at the Husqvarna shop (for less money!) rather than a "consumer" chain at Lowes. Yes, it's more prone to 'kickback' but will sure cut faster and easier...also easier to keep sharpened. Just ask your dealer for a more professional chain. Just be'll do fine. I love my Husqvarna 155 rancher. It's been great. Just be sure to use some Stabil or Seafoam in the tank between uses.

Ethan Book said...

Thanks everyone, there is a lot of wisdom and great advice in your comments. I've been doing a lot of research and checking out lately, and based on what a lot of people say I do think it is a good idea to buy a saw that has local service available. In my neck of the woods that means Stihl or Echo ... my dad (who is a bit further away) has those two plus Husqvarna and Jonsered. It isn't fair that he has so many choices!

But, the Stihl dealer is the closest ... so I may go with them. I'm just not sure what saw to get. I wish I could get a slightly used ms270 or ms310 ... maybe if I look a bit.

Wayne said...

My first reaction on reading your post is that it sounds like you have a perfectly good saw and based on your other posts you don't have the $500 extra you need to get the good saw that will last 20 years. Cheap saws are more costly in the long run.

A saw can cut twice the length of the bar, and your firewood trees will mostly be 10" or less.

The other post that says you really learn how to properly sharpen your chain is right on. Take it to a good Shihl dealer and buy an extra chain and the proper files for your existing saw and have them train you how to use them. Even if you think you already know. Then take the extra time to keep those chains sharp and you will be amazed.

The other thing is, as you have time, to start stacking to wood for next winter. Create wood piles at the edge of the woods with the long side facing south. No need to cover them. Then next fall you can haul them up to a shed near the house. The difference between burning properly seasoned wood and stuff you just cut in a wood stove is amazing. The guy who suggested that being without a working saw for a week in the winter is a problem was wrong. You should always be burning stuff you cut last year. (This year is unfortunately different for you.)

Even your standing or fallen dead trees really need to dry after being cut up before you burn them.

A good resource is The guy that runs that site is a bit extreme, but he knows his stuff and the advice on that site is very good.

Now on saw advice since you asked. I recently spent a while researching saws and bought a Stihl 260 Pro. It is the smallest professional call Stihl and at 50cc's it has plenty of power for firewood uses. I have had people that I trust tell me you really want a 260 and swap the bar for a 14" or 16" version and then have a bigger saw. The shorter bar is easier to handle and faster to sharpen and 90% of the time you don't need anything longer. Your 41cc on a 14" bar is really not a bad radio.

Anonymous said...

Ethan, you already have a good/reliable limbing and general duty saw. Assuming a large part of this is for firewood I'd jump up a little bigger than the 50cc for felling and bucking

I've used only a MS460 with 24" chain for firewood this winter. I found it used for the right price. If I had a smaller chainsaw I'd never consider going lighter or shorter. I really don't mind it by itself, but I won't be 23 forever.

Keep the smaller chainsaw, and hold out till you can jump into the upper-60cc size. They are bigger, and heavier (and more expensive)...but you spend a lot less time holding and using them. I'm comparing my MS460 to the farm's MS290. (There is no comparison) Personally wouldn't even look at that 50cc size. In the perfect world I'd have a 40cc (like you have now) and my 75cc. 2 Bars for each and 2 chains for each bar.
P.S. Learn to really really sharpen your chains, don't let the shops do it. Spend 10 minutes sharpening ever gas refill. Job will be easier and faster in the long run.

This is Houston from the "Titan" emails awhile back. Don't have a "google identity"

seekingchristnow said...

I have A stihl 028 Super and a Stihl 361. Both are exceptional saws. i cut all our firewood with the 361 it is 2trs old and still like new. also my friend who is a logger does not suggest the new smaller Husqvarna saws because they have subbed out they're smaller saws to polan.

jorge016 said...

I just discovered your site or would have answered this post a few weeks ago. We live on a 320 acre farm on the western Minnesota prairie and heat our 90+ year old home with a outdoor central boiler. I burn about 10-12 cords of wood per winter. Currently I'm cutting with a Stihl MS 270 with a 16" bar and would highly recommend it. If you are going to be felling trees and cutting lots of firewood consider spending more money and look into the MS360. I got a lot of great advise on saws from My decision to buy a Stihl over a Husky or any other saw was based on the availability of local sales and service. I haven't needed much service during my 2 years of heavy duty firewood cutting, but when I have I can't overstate the pleasure and convenience of a good local service shop. If you do decide to upgrade I'd consider hanging onot your little saw-you'll be glad to have it.

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