I last owned a chainsaw when I was in my very early twenties, which means 35 years ago give or take a bit. Compared to today's saws the old Homelite I owned was a brute of a beast, smoking and belching and kicking its way through cord after cord of wood.
Back then I was working with two other buddies trying to cut, split and haul wood for sale to our fellow freezing New England natives. This was the late 70's and unemployment and inflation were high. Jobs were scare so you did whatever you could to make ends meet. It was exhausting labor intensive work fit for stupid young men with time on their hands and a need for some cash to pay the bills. I did it for nearly two years before giving up.
The old Homelite was primitive. It broke down constantly and you needed to manually pump the chain lubricant. If you forgot for too long you fried the chain and bar and there went that day's profit back into the equipment. It was heavy and bulky and underpowered.
It didn't have a chain break and the old chains were not as sophisticated as today's are with their built in anti kick features. More than once I had that old beast kick back and come within inches of my face before I stopped it. One of my friends had a chunk of his cheek removed the hard way.
We all had our own saws, but mine was the most popular simply because it was the most powerful. But you paid for the power with the terrible vibration, smoke and dangerous kickbacks. Ahh....the good old days.
There were two qualities I was looking for when I recently set out to purchase a new saw. I wanted it to be reliable and of quality manufacture and I wanted to purchase locally to keep the money I spent local and to secure local service. It came down to a choice between Husqvarna and Stihl and I went with Stihl because the local dealer was closer and a true small business.
Once at the 'dealer' the owner spent a great deal of time feeling me out including how I was going to use the saw and my experience factor. He steered me to the saw I now own, the Stihl MS251C, and I am very glad he did.
The saw has a 45.6 cc two stroke engine rated at 2.95 bhp (break horsepower) with an 18" guide bar and weighs slightly less than 12 lbs, a far cry from my old Homelite which weighed in at over 17lbs. My Stihl falls into the upper end of homeowner saws as you can see by the following chart from Stihl.
Two features on this saw that are additions to the basic model and which add about 1 lb to the saw are priceless as far as I'm concerned. One is the easy chain adjustment feature. Rather than carrying tools either in my pockets or somewhere onto the wooded site I'm working in order to adjust the chain (something that is done more often than you think and for more reasons than just 'adjusting' the chain) now I can quickly and easily adjust the chain with no tools what-so-ever. This includes removing the adjustment cover to clear debris and sawdust, re-thread the chain and clean the guide bar groove and so on.
The other is the easy start feature built into the pull cord. I shall quote Stihl's propaganda.
"The STIHL Easy2Start™ system makes starting STIHL outdoor power tools almost effortless, eliminating the need for a strong pull of the starting cord. This advanced starting system is designed to make starting STIHL products easier. The specific system may vary by model, but in each case, a quick pull overcomes the engine’s compression to minimize the strength and effort required to start."
It really is as easy as they claim and a real back saver for this old fart.
In addition a real nice feature on these saws are the large easy to open oil and fuel caps that flip up and unscrew with only a quarter turn. Perfect for when you are wearing gloves, which is always when working with chainsaws. Best of all there are strong thin strings that tie each cap to the inside of the tank, preventing caps from becoming lost in the woods. They hang down on the side a few inches when unscrewed, keeping them out of the dirt and sawdust. I love this feature.
The saw itself is vibration isolated from the wrap around front handle and rear trigger handle. I have used this saw for several hours almost continuously and I have never felt what little vibration is remains was intrusive or tiring. No tingling fingers or wrists from this saw.
The dealer showed me a specific sequence to follow in order to start the saw easily....which I promptly forget 2 miles down the road. But the manual also went over the procedure and I have found that the saw never needs more than two or three pulls to get it going. And it has been as cold as 15 degrees when I have been cutting this winter, so easy to start is a real blessing. The old Homelite was a real bear to get started and keep running.
The saw has one of those little flexible plastic push bulbs that primes the carburetor when pushed. Between that and one lever that acts as the choke, run and stop functions makes this easy peasy to start, run and stop. The interlocked throttle prevents the engine from being revved unless the palm of the hand is resting on the interlock switch.
This is very useful when you are moving around in brush and don't want to accidentally rev the motor when it gets caught in some vines or branches. I slipped and fell once and the chainsaw landed very near to me while idling. I had no fear it would rev under those conditions.
The top cover comes off with three easy to reach and undo screws, exposing the air cleaner, carburetor, throttle, cylinder head, spark plug and so on. All easy to reach and to work on. The cooling fan inside the recoil housing must do a great job of cooling the engine because I never have felt the cover or body of the saw get hot after heavy use. These new machines are just amazing.
One 'feature' that came as a complete surprise to me was how fuel efficient this saw is. I am consistently amazed how long I can continuously cut before running out of fuel. The fuel capacity is only 13 ozs (the oil is nearly 7) or a cup and a half of premixed fuel. The first few times I ran the saw I kept wondering when the damn thing would run out of fuel so I could take a break.
As well, the chain oil never runs out before the fuel if you fill both before starting or during re-fueling, a very nice feature since the oiling of the chain is automatic and not on your mind when using the saw.
While I have not used any other chainsaws to compare this one to I have used this saw for several months and not once have I been disappointment or felt something was lacking, very rare these days when it comes to power tools or just about anything else I may purchase.
While the 18 inch bar will tackle just about any tree on my property or the surrounding property I care for there have been a few times where the tree I was cutting was wider than the bar was long. That was when I wanted a larger saw and most likely my next chainsaw purchase. I think I'll stick to Stihl.