choosing a new (first) chain saw

Discussion in 'Equipment & Survival Kits' started by Dakine, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. Dakine

    Dakine Uber Newbie

    Looking for any suggestions, here's the Popular Mechanics review of 7 models that are all in the 35-38cc range, with 16-18 inch bars. They range from $140 to $300 and they seemed to like three the best, Husqvarna, Stihl and Echo. I wasn't surprised to see Husquvarna and Stihl at the top of the list, I've heard many good things about them, Echo sounds a bit familiar but I haven't bought any tools like this before so I only hear a few people talking about them in the past I think.

    The Husqvarna 240e was one of a couple that they rated 5 stars
    cc: 38.2
    weight: 10.4 lb.
    bar: 16 in.
    decibels: 103
    price: $220

    This seemed like an interesting one, but the reviews I read at Amazon, the negative ones were recent and seemed to describe issues that new users like myself may find irritating or show stoppers, such as poor documentation and fail to start problems.

    Lowe's had many more reviews, and an overall 4 star rating 86 vs. 35 on good vs bad is not a good indicator..., also not on this exact model, similar same engine size 14 inch bar though and that makes sense since Amazon said this one is discontinued..

    The Stihl model is quite a bit more expensive, and that spendy price tag was the only thing they listed that they didnt like about it.

    Stihl MS 210 C-BE

    cc: 35.2
    weight: 10.6 lb.
    bar: 16 in.
    decibels: 102
    price: $290

    Amazon apparently doesnt carry this model because a search for Stihl MS 210 C-BE only returned Husqvarna saws, and replacement Stihl chains.

    A search of Lowes didnt find any Stihl models which I thought was odd because I'm fairly certain I saw them in store last time I was there a couple weeks ago.

    Any thoughts/suggestions? I should also mention that this is intended for light to moderate use on property that I want to buy, and while camping & hunting as needed. It needs to be durable and reliable and I'd rather pay more up front to get the right product than worry about it needing to go to the shop after I try to use it only to find out it was not dependable.

  2. Jason

    Jason I am a little teapot

    Like you said, Dakine, buy a good one. I use a Stihl MS-290 Farm Boss to cut probably 10 cords of wood per year for our outdoor woodburner. I actually have 2 but mainly use one. The automatic oiler on my backup doesn't seem to work so well and I have yet to tear it down and find the trouble.

    I'm happy with my saw. It does the job, is usually plenty powerful, and the 18" bar is plenty for me.

    Mechanically it's a good machine, starts well, and runs like a top.

    Uncle Joe would probably be a great one to ask about this. I hear he's cut down a tree or 2 in his day.

  3. Sentry18

    Sentry18 Well-Known Member

    I have a Stihl as well (unsure of model). I have it because a large branch fell and I needed a chainsaw. Went to the store and the guy said "buy a Stihl and I'll never see you again, buy something else and you'll be back". I bought the Stihl and it has been 100% reliable every time I needed it, which has not been that often but it does come out 1-2x a year.
  4. bacpacker

    bacpacker Well-Known Member

    I have a 20+ yo Husky 51 that has been used a ton. Today I had to get the brake worked on. First issue with it other than chains since I had it. I have no idea if they are still made as well today as they were then. Mine was recommended by a state forester friend of mine.
    OTH I do know lots of professionals today use Sthil's. That says enough for me. Ehco, I wouldn't touch, Poulan either.
  5. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

  6. Dakine

    Dakine Uber Newbie

    Oh my, that is a lot to digest, but the unwavering fact is the high praise for them.

    Hmmm, those prices are not... completely... out of the question, but it's a lot more than I had intended to spend... so if I do this now, I have to put other projects on hold. Probably the new Glock 26 will have to wait, that makes me sad :( :(

    I really appreciate the professional critique and suggestions, thank you very much!

    One more question, I've heard about, still need to research people setting up chainsaw mills to produce their own lumber for... whatever, possibly cabins or just projects around the house, to even selling it I guess. It sounds like these saws you're using have that kind of reliability and are intended for lots of real work. Would these saws fit that kind of work too?

    Stihl is now by far the frontrunner for my saw. So now it's just a matter of settling on the model and finding an authorized dealer.
  7. AdmiralD7S

    AdmiralD7S Supporting Member

    I would recommend against it. Cutting short chops across the grain is one thing. Cutting down the grain for long hauls is another. I suspect you can do it with these saws, but I think you're going to burn out a good number of chains. Hopefully someone else with more experience than I can confirm/refute what I've said.
  8. Tirediron

    Tirediron RockyMountainCanadian

    I agree on stihl , If you can afford it buy a pro model, they are lighter and designed to work all day every day,
    Second choice would be a Husky, but they come with a crappy chain and the oiler tends to leak and are often hard to start.
    Don't waste your money on the cheaper consumer saws, If you are trying to go low buck get the Stihl designed for ranchers, they weigh what a pro saw 3 sizes bigger weighs, but it is a choice you have to make.
  9. Dakine

    Dakine Uber Newbie


    definitely a lot more reason to go the bandsaw route, doesnt take many boards to lose a board in the waste.
  10. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    I've done some ripping and it takes a lot of power and you'll be spitting sawdust out of your mouth for a week! I use it to make square sided timbers. If I wanted to do more than the occasional job I'd hire someone with a bands mill.
  11. goshengirl

    goshengirl Supporting Member

    Dakine, this is definitely not my area of expertise, but I can pass along a smidgen of personal experience. We moved out to the country a few years ago, and with that came a huge jump in chainsaw use - our Poulan wasn't going to cut it anymore. Hubby researched and researched again, and settled on the Stihl Farm Boss (same saw as Jason's). He loves that saw. It gets A LOT of use. It's dependable. It's solid. It gets the job done. We didn't have a bunch of money to spend, but we wanted to get a solid piece of equipment that would be lasting. My husband has been very satisfied with his choice.
    crabapple likes this.
  12. cowboyhermit

    cowboyhermit Supporting Member

    I can't disagree with anything that has been said here, can't go wrong with a Stihl imo.

    I will throw out my $0.02 though. I have used everything from cheapo to the biggest Stihls with 3-4' bars (you wanna see wood chips fly put a 4' bar into a west coast cedar:D watch the eyes). Typically I would always recommend something in the middle of the road, not on the bleeding edge and not on the bottom. BUT I have to be honest and say that my "favorite" saw is the Stihl ms170:nuts:. This is the saw I use 90% of the time these days. Yes it's mostly plastic, no it doesn't have many features like "easy start" or what have you. On the other hand it is amazingly light, really affordable, relatively simple, etc. Because of the extra thin kerf chain and bar it is really efficient at cutting and punches well above it's weight imo. It's limitations are pretty clear, if you are cutting hardwood you will have to be more patient, putting a longer bar is not going to do well, small gas tank, etc. With it I have personally felled, delimbed, and bucked up many "hardwood" trees that were larger in diameter than the 16" bar though mostly under 24". That is pushing it's limits and I should know what I am doing, someone with less experience may have a tougher time. That is the thing as well, everyone's circumstances are different. While I cut plenty of elms, maples, etc, most of what we cut here are spruce, birch and poplar not the toughest of woods to deal with.

    So, while I have to admit that I feel the 170 is the best value in a saw that doesn't mean it is right for others.

    Btw, not sure it applies in the U.S but in Canada every fall Stihl seems to offer a "kit" deal with their saws, last one I picked up (never used except to test, I am a big believer in the "one is none ..." idea) came with a case, extra chain, tool and file I believe, for the same as regular price (under $200), hard to beat that.
  13. goshengirl

    goshengirl Supporting Member

    That's what we got when we bought the saw. (I want to say it was the month of October...?) Buying a case won't break the bank, but "free" is best. :)
  14. PreparedRifleman73

    PreparedRifleman73 Well-Known Member

    Great topic and great advice - I'm also looking at buying one and had it narrowed down between Husq and Stihl. You've sold me on Stihl. If you don't mind me asking, what do you do for a living (or do you use it quite a bit at the homestead)?

    Thanks for the help!
  15. LincTex

    LincTex Jack of all trades?

    My .02......

    I have had two Stihls.

    One 028AV Super (51cc) I bought "used" in Polson, Montana in 1991 for $225 and used VERY heavily for 7 years until I sold it to a good friend who needed a reliable chainsaw that would NEVER let him down ;) . :D

    The Makita saw I had next (Dolmar) is worth mentioning here for historical purposes only and nothing more. Same with the Poulan Pro I bought new (but was returned stock) for extremely cheap and used for one year.

    Many years later, I then bought bought a Husq 51 for $175 and though it was a very capable saw, it just wasn't a Stihl. Yes, it was always hard to start (why?) but did start, and had good power, but the oiling system was never quite the same as the Stihl and I never liked their version of anti-vibe. The Stihl was just SOOOO much smoother. I used it for two years and sold it when I got my MS290 that I bought used on Craigslist for $250.

    Wow, what a Cadillac. Yes, it is bigger and heavier, but the power and smoothness is the best ever. It is 57cc and is about the largest I will ever truly need... except when cutting knotty oak, but I can't justify going up in size/power... it just takes a *tiny* bit longer.

    I really would like to know what your plans are for the saw you intend to buy.
    I hate to recommend something without knowing what you intend to do with it.
  16. LincTex

    LincTex Jack of all trades?

    Ok, I missed this.

    It sounds like you will be carrying it around a lot, so definitely get something under 50cc (although I personally never would, but I have a different use for my saws than you - I never take mine hiking/camping/hunting!)

    Cowboy hermit has the right size saw suggestions (But I would get at least 38-40cc). Small and light for portability will be your friends.
  17. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    I cut about ten cords per year and I've done it with small cheap and large expensive saws. I love using my Stihl but others will work. I needed a saw to take down an old elm tree at my mother's house and since my saws were 1500 miles away we bought a Poulan Pro with a 20 inch bar. It's my second favorite saw. It's lighter than my Stihl but cuts slower. If I couldn't afford a Stihl I'd stay with the Poulan Pro and just plan on the job taking longer. When you get a replacement chain buy a skip chain. They work better IMO.

    The Poulan Pro is lighter and more compact so it's easier to transport. Mine costs less than $200.00 and came with a plastic case.
  18. GrinnanBarrett

    GrinnanBarrett Member

    Buy the one made in the USA. Also buy from a local dealer who will back up the warranty on the product. It is sort of like buying a stove from Home Depot or Sears and finding out later you have to call an 800 number to even schedule service on it. You want parts available NOW and Service NOW not in two weeks or whenever they can get to you.

    Another example is buying a tractor from India claiming they are the biggest in the world (NOT THE BEST but the BIGGEST). Then you find out you have to order the parts from India. Husky and Stihl are both made in the USA if I remember correctly. We have had both of them and on the low end a Poulan. Pay a little more to get the right product from the right dealer who you know and trust. GB
  19. goshengirl

    goshengirl Supporting Member

    Thanks for the chain recommendation. I still use my husband's old Poulan Pro (because it's smaller and lighter than his Stihl). After he downs a tree I go in and take care of the smaller stuff from the top of the tree. The three chains we have for that saw are, as my husband says, "duller than snot." I'll have them sharpened, of course, but I really want a new chain. :)
  20. LincTex

    LincTex Jack of all trades?

    I hate the Poulan/Craftsman saws.... at least the ones from 10-15 years ago. Their oiling system is the worst of any saw out there, and trying to keep the chain on the bar where it belongs seems to be a constant battle. I have also had many issues with their recoil start system parts (all plastic) and their resale value is very little, even when nearly new.

    They make a great saw for someone who will use it for three hours a year and then toss it after 8-10 years (your typical suburban American)... same with weedaters. Designed to last about 25-50 hours. Sigh....