Pros: American made
Cons: Limited availablility
Not for peeling potatoes
Another pine fell on the back fence and broke three rails. The mess needed to be cleaned up before the fence could be repaired, and it was too far from the house to use the Remington electric chainsaw and far too big a tree for the little Black and Decker cordless. I had a Poulan gas saw, but it was so bad that after only a few uses I put it out on the curb next to a FREE sign. I hope the person who took it has better luck with it.
Deciding I needed a new gas chainsaw, I considered the short list of candidates: Stihl, Echo, and Husqvarna. All brands have their advocates and their critics, but after some minimal Googling, I narrowed it down to two and then to one, a Stihl. I have an Echo string trimmer and have found it to be very reliable. I also have a Stihl leaf blower that can be stubborn to start. Based on price, features, and location of dealer I finally decided to purchase a Stihl chainsaw, the MS180C. I could have saved about twenty dollars by going down one rung in the chainsaw pecking order, but decided I wanted the Easy Start feature. I could only hope this feature would be worth the extra money.
I especially appreciate that Stihl products are American manufactured in nearby Virginia Beach, Virginia. Stihl chainsaws come with a one-year warranty.
Stihl MS 180C-BE
Stihl has an extensive line of chainsaws, each one a little more powerful, a little more full-featured, and a little more expensive than the next in line. The 180C is designated for occasional homeowner use, for cutting limbs, firewood, and fallen trees. It promises to have enough power and speed to handle most tree cutting situations that might confront the average homeowner. With our treed lot and a fireplace to feed, I figured on using the saw at least five or ten times a year, if not more.
Toolless quick chain adjustment
IntelliCarbTM compensating carburetor
Oilomatic saw chain
Quickstop chain break system
Front hand guard and front handle
Protected, easy to change spark plug
Hi Tech Polymer housing
"Toolless" fuel and oil caps
IntelliCarbTM Compensating Carburetor
Automatic Bar and Chain oiler
Ematic chain bar - an oil saving guide bar with the special polymer ramp reservoir
Chain catcher helps reduce the risk of operator contact by a chain if it should break or derail
Translucent fuel tank so you can check fuel level at a glance.
Throttle Trigger Interlock must be depressed before the trigger can be activated
Master Control Lever - a single lever operating the choke, starting throttle/lock and on-off switch
Weight - 9.3 pounds
Chain oil capacity - 4.9 ounces
Displacement - 31.8cc
Range of guide bar lengths - 12" - 16"
Fuel capacity - 8.5 ounces
Engine power - 2.0 bhp
The Buying Experience
A Stihl dealership is conveniently located across the street from where I work. On the day I stopped in there were only two other customers, one of whom lived in my neighborhood. The Stihl man answered all of my questions and explained the saws lined up on display and their features. After a bit of conversation he recommended the very saw I had already examined on the Stihl web page and decided to purchase. The saw came standard with a 14" bar and chain, but for 20 dollars more I could get a 16" bar instead. It was one of those no-brainer choices; I opted for the 16" bar and have never regretted it.
My Stihl man installed the bar and chain, adjusted it, and added oil and fuel. After a few more minutes of explanation and conversation we went outside for a demonstration and start up. The initial start took a few more pulls than I though it would, but the Stihl man, also the business owner, didn't strain a bit. I then paid for the saw, completed and submitted warranty information, and the owner carried the saw out to my car for me. He even threw in an extra container of fuel mixture.
The Cutting Experience
The first time using the saw with the Easy2Start system wasn't as easy as I had hoped. After far too many pulls the saw eventually started, and I was ready to put it through its paces. I started out with some smaller limbs and was amazed and the ease of cutting through them. Large oak and pine trunks took a little longer because of their girth, but the ease of cutting was the same. After years of using electric chainsaws and the problematic Poulin gas saw, I was in Stihl heaven. A six-foot high stump I had left standing because the Remington electric saw struggled with it posed no challenge for the Stihl. In less than a minute I had cut that long standing trunk and one like it into manageable pieces.
I've enjoyed using this saw at least five more times since the initial logging session. I enjoy the ease with which it cuts, the minimal vibration, the easy to adjust chain tension, the effective chain brake, the reduced kickback (no far, knock on wood, no kickback) and the ease of starting. Yes, the ease of starting. The problems I had with starting the saw the first time were due to user error and numbskullery. A review of the starting procedures in the owner's guide made all the difference in the world. With the Easy2Start system one still has to pull multiple times but pulls the cord with an easy, unstrained motion, not the thrust one would use in starting a lawnmower. Once I got the hang of it, I appreciated and enjoyed this easier method of starting.
Finally - I have no regrets with my Stihl chainsaw purchase. It's everything I had anticipated and more. The self-oiling chain and toolless quick chain tensioner are fabulous. The toolless caps for chain oil and fuel are indented so one can use the included tool to tighten or remove them. I can never get a good grip on these caps so I just use the tool to help remove them. The saw is quite loud so I use a pair of Stihl ear protectors bought from the same dealer.
It took me hours to write this review because when I visited the Stihl web site, I got caught up in all the videos, and graphics, and slide shows on the site. The videos are well done and can be viewed at full screen. Anyone considering a Stihl tool should definitely visit their site.
And - For what it's worth, the Stihl 480C BE was the top rated gas chainsaw in the October 2006 issue of Consumer Reports.