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A view from the sharp end

A review of our newest chainsaw the Stihl MSA220c battery saw

a Stihl msa220C battery saw
Our Stihl MSA220C out in the wild

Background

Before we review our newest saw we thought a bit of back ground was in order for those not so familiar with the Chainsaw landscape.

Historically the two big players in the forestry industry, chainsaw wise, have been Husquavana and Stihl.

As a forestry worker you were expected to be either a Husky or Stihl man (this was the 1980’s). Over the years both have made some brilliant saws and some not so good ones. There are also other issues that pop up from time to time as far as designs go but that is probably for another blog.

As a company and family, we started off in the Husky camp and have sort of drifted over the years now running a mix of saws. Our oldest and biggest saw a Husquavana 372xp running a 2’ bar is great for big felling and despite its age will run whatever.

Then there are a pair of Husquavana 357xp’s; one with an 18” the other a 15” bar, these are general felling saws.

Then we go to the Stihl saws a MS260 running a 18” bar and a 241 running a 16” bar; these are used for the smaller work and coppicing.

So why then with all of these petrol saws did we decide to go electric?

The Quiet Revolution

So why battery powered and why Stihl?

Anyone who runs chainsaws for a living can tell you they are noisy, smelly and the fuel and oil isn’t getting any cheaper. While the bigger saws are great for their tasks, we needed something that was a bit lighter and a lot less smelly for cutting small diameter coppice and birch. Also, if you are working in a tight packed crop like hazel or birch the fumes tend to build up which not much fun long term.

We have been keeping an eye on the Battery chainsaws for a while and know a number of people who run them, including a lady hedge layer who used one right through pregnancy a couple of years back. Her view was they are a lot quieter and a lot lighter especially on slopes.

So why Stihl?  We went up to Honey Brothers with an open mind and spoke to the team there. They gave us the pro’s and con’s of the two options (Husky v Stihl) and it boiled down to price. At the time, December 2020, Stihl had an offer on that included a charger and 2 batteries (normally these are extra). Of course if Husquavana would like to lend us a battery saw we would be more than happy to review that as well 😉

So, the review bit

Since we purchased the MSA220c in December it has been used for a number of tasks including clearing a 10” windblown ash tree, cutting knots from timber so we can put it through our firewood unit, and now birch cutting.

For a small saw it is amazingly pokey; it cuts just as well as a larger saw with a lot less drama. For cross cutting it is ideal, although you can’t rush it, whereas a petrol saw would just keep going until the clutch start to slip, the 220 doesn’t have as clutch so if it gets stuck the saw just stops. That said, it will go through a 10” log in no time, as long as it is sharp and the battery is fully charged.

Cutting smaller timber is where the 220 comes into its own. We have just started cutting Birch on a local National Trust site, which is on a steep slope with public around. Most of the birch is around 1”-4” and there is also a lot of stop start between cutting to allow us to move the stems. The great thing about the electric saw is it isn’t sat there idling between cuts and this means you can get a good bit of work out of a battery; we managed about 2 hours from the first battery which had already done some work.  Unlike a petrol saw, the electric only needs to be topped up with chain oil so a refuel is as simple as popping in the new battery and checking the chain oil.

Compared to the MS241, which is around 6kg, the 220 is only about 4.5kg so a lot less weight to carry around, which on the 40-45°slopes we have been working on is a massive bonus.

The noise level of the electric saw is also a bonus, most petrol chainsaws are pushing out 110db; the 220 is producing 84db most of which is the chain running round.

The one thing that takes a little getting used to is the position of the dead man’s switch; unlike a standard saw it is on the side of the back handle, rather than the top. We suspect this is because the saw will run any time without warning unless you put the chain brake on (which of course you should have done).  

So a conclusion for now (pending further use): The Stihl MSA220C is a great little saw for cutting small diameter coppice and birch. It is light and quiet and there are no fumes. This saw is ideal for both professional users and hobby users. The one thing that does hurt is the price of purchase as it is substantial more than a petrol saw of the same size, but there are no fuel costs to speak of, apart from the cost of electricity to recharge the batteries, so there is a potential saving there.

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