STIHL Chainsaws: A Comprehensive Guide

STIHL Chainsaws: A Comprehensive Guide


The History of STIHL Chainsaws

The history of Stihl chainsaws, a cornerstone in forestry equipment innovation, began in 1926 when Andreas Stihl founded an engineering firm in Stuttgart. Initially representing E. Ring & Co. and their arboreal trimming devices, Stihl soon embarked on creating his own chainsaw designs. This period also saw him developing advanced pre-combustion systems, establishing a financial base for his future endeavors.

STIHL Chainsaws: A Comprehensive Guide

By 1927, the first STIHL chainsaw was introduced. This innovative chainsaw, designed for two operators, had a power output of 2.2 kW and weighed 48 kg. It revolutionized the trimming of felled trees in lumber yards but was primarily used for vertical, non-felling tasks due to its design.

1928 marked the establishment of the STIHL brand, signifying Andreas Stihl's dedication to easing the labor-intensive tasks in forestry through his inventive solutions. The brand quickly became known for its quality and innovation.

The most significant breakthrough came in 1929 with the launch of the Stihl Type A Tree Felling Machine, the first chainsaw powered by a petrol engine. Designed for two operators, this 6 hp, 46 kg chainsaw represented a true innovation in tree-felling equipment, setting a new standard in the industry.

These early developments in chainsaw technology laid the foundation for Stihl's enduring legacy as a leader in forestry equipment, continuously advancing the efficiency and capabilities of chainsaw technology.

Why STIHL is the Market Leader in Chainsaws

STIHL reigns as the top chainsaw brand globally, thanks to its exceptional commitment to quality and innovation. Their chainsaws, known for remarkable durability, often last over 20 years, appealing to both professionals and hobbyists. STIHL's focus on safety, with features like the automatic chain brake, makes its chainsaws user-friendly for all skill levels.

Their practice of manufacturing their own chains and bars guarantees high-quality, performance-optimized tools. The brand's eco-friendly, lightweight materials enhance the efficiency of their chainsaws. STIHL’s exclusive dealership sales model ensures personalized customer service, strengthening customer loyalty.

STIHL's long history of advancements in chainsaw technology and their varied product line meet diverse user needs, from casual to professional. Moreover, STIHL chainsaws maintain high resale value, making them a smart investment. This combination of quality, innovation, and customer focus cements STIHL’s position as the leading chainsaw brand.


STIHL Homeowner Chainsaws

STIHL's range of homeowner chainsaws caters to those who need reliable and efficient tools for tasks around the home. These chainsaws are designed with the home user in mind, balancing power, ease of use, and safety.

Models like the MS 170 and MS 180 offer lightweight convenience, perfect for occasional woodcutting tasks and general home maintenance. The MS 250 stands out for firewood cutting with its great power-to-weight ratio. For those preferring electric chainsaws, the MSE 141 and MSE 170 C-B provide excellent cutting performance with the added benefit of being corded for constant power.

Higher capacity models like the MS 271 FARM BOSS® offer more power and are ideal for felling, firewood cutting, and storm cleanup. These homeowner chainsaws combine STIHL’s reduced-emission engine technology with practical features, ensuring they are fuel-efficient, easy to start, and comfortable to use.

STIHL Professional Chainsaws

STIHL's professional chainsaws are designed for demanding tasks and are favored by professionals in forestry, landscaping, and arboriculture. These chainsaws deliver exceptional power, durability, and performance.

The MS 462 series, including the MS 462 R and MS 462 C-M, are lightweight yet powerful, suitable for various professional tasks. The MS 500i models, featuring electronically controlled fuel injection, offer consistent power and efficiency under changing conditions.

STIHL Chainsaws: A Comprehensive Guide

For heavy-duty applications, the MS 661 MAGNUM® series, such as the MS 661 R MAGNUM® and MS 661 C-M MAGNUM®, are ideal. These chainsaws provide the rugged dependability and power needed for tough felling jobs. The MS 881 MAGNUM® and MS 881 R MAGNUM® represent the pinnacle of heavy-duty, fuel-efficient chainsaws, designed specifically for use with long guide bars.

Specialized models like the MS 201 T C-M and MS 151 T C-E are tailored for in-tree professional use, focusing on efficiency and maneuverability.

STIHL's professional chainsaws are known for their robust construction, advanced engine technology, and features like STIHL M-Tronic™ for optimal performance. These chainsaws are not only powerful but also engineered to minimize fatigue and maximize productivity.


Engine Power and Efficiency of STIHL Chainsaws

STIHL chainsaws are renowned for their powerful engines and efficient operation, a result of advanced technology and innovative design. Here's an overview of the key features that contribute to their engine power and efficiency:

1. STIHL Long-Life Air Filtration System

  • Extended Filter Life: Compared to conventional systems, STIHL's air filtration extends the life of the filter, reducing maintenance needs.
  • Longer Service Intervals: The pre-separator and large fabric filter reduce the load, allowing for longer periods between services.

2. 2-MIX Technology

  • High Engine Power and Torque: The 2-MIX technology enhances engine power and torque, ensuring high cutting performance and pulling power.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Despite their power, these engines produce low emissions, meeting the EU Emissions Directive Stage II.
  • Fuel-Efficient: Fuel consumption is significantly reduced, up to 20%, compared to conventional two-stroke engines.
  • Economical and Future-Proof: These engines are not only cost-effective but also comply with stringent future environmental regulations.

3. M-Tronic: Fully Electronic Engine Management

  • Consistent Performance: M-Tronic system manages ignition timing and fuel dosage with precision, ensuring optimal engine performance in varying conditions.
  • Adaptive to External Conditions: It adjusts to temperature, elevation, and fuel quality, eliminating the need for manual carburetor adjustments.
  • Intelligent Starting: The system allows for easy starting, whether the chainsaw is cold or warm, and remembers previous settings for quick restarts.

4. Intelligent Engine Management

  • Optimum Engine Performance: An innovative system that automatically regulates the fuel-air mix and top speed of the chainsaw, providing constant maximum speed and good acceleration.
  • Automatic Adjustments: The system adapts to changing temperatures and conditions, maintaining the correct carburetor setting.
  • Environmentally Efficient: The fuel-air mix remains within the optimum range, reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

5. Self-Sustaining Power System

  • Energy Generation: The fan propeller not only cools the engine but also generates electricity to power the M-Tronic system.
  • Digital Precision: The solenoid valve in the carburetor opens and closes rapidly, ensuring a precise fuel supply.

6. Constant Top Speed

  • Speed Regulation: The intelligent engine management actively maintains a constant maximum speed, even under full throttle, by adjusting the fuel-air mix.

Innovative Technology of STIHL Chainsaws: Enhancing Efficiency and Safety

STIHL chainsaws are equipped with a range of innovative features designed to improve efficiency and safety during use. Here’s an overview of some of these key technologies:

1. QuickStop Super Chain Brake

  • Enhanced Safety: This unique braking system, exclusive to STIHL, can be activated from the rear handle. It quickly stops the chain in various situations such as strong kickbacks or when the front hand guard is used.
  • Operational in Any Position: It functions without additional levers or handles, offering protection during starting, carrying, or frequent stopping, like when removing branches.
  • Efficiency in Operation: This system allows for immediate stopping of the chain, reducing downtime and enhancing user safety.

2. Chain Quick Tensioning

  • Tool-less Tensioning: Adjusting the chain tension doesn't require any tools. It's done quickly and effortlessly using a thumb wheel.
  • Maintenance Simplicity: This feature simplifies the process of changing the chain or guide bar, making routine maintenance more efficient.
  • User-Friendly Design: The guide bar automatically secures when the sprocket cover is re-tightened, streamlining the adjustment process.

3. Toolless Tank Cap

  • Easy Access: STIHL's special fuel and oil tank caps can be opened and closed without tools, simplifying the refueling process.
  • Clean and Convenient: These caps reduce the risk of spillage and incorrect tightening, making refueling cleaner and more efficient.
  • Visibility: Transparent fuel tanks on some models allow for easy checking of fuel levels at a glance.

4. Carburettor Heater

  • Cold Weather Performance: STIHL chainsaws with a carburettor heater are designed to function smoothly in frosty conditions.
  • Automatic Heating: When the carburettor temperature falls below +10°C, the thermostat activates the heating coil, preventing carburettor icing.
  • Consistent Operation: This feature ensures that the engine runs smoothly, even in extreme temperatures, maintaining efficiency and performance.

STIHL chainsaws stand out for their innovative features that combine efficiency, safety, and user-friendliness. The QuickStop Super chain brake, exclusive to STIHL, enhances safety by allowing rapid chain stoppage from the rear handle in various situations, including strong kickbacks. This feature works in any position without additional levers, increasing safety during start-up and frequent stops. The chain quick tensioning system offers tool-less and effortless chain adjustment, simplifying maintenance and ensuring optimal tension. Additionally, the toolless tank caps allow easy and clean refueling, with transparent tanks for quick fuel level checks. For cold weather performance, the carburettor heater in select models prevents carburettor icing, ensuring smooth engine operation even in frosty conditions. These key features collectively make STIHL chainsaws reliable, efficient, and easy to use in a variety of settings and conditions.

Durability and Reliability of STIHL Chainsaws

STIHL chainsaws are renowned for their unmatched durability and exceptional quality, a testament to the company's rigorous and innovative testing regimen. The saw chain testing, featuring cutting robots, ensures optimal cutting performance under real-life conditions by slicing through moistened wood. In the displacement force test, steel alloys are subjected to 10 tonnes of pressure, which aids in identifying the ideal blend of hardness and toughness necessary for effectively cutting through tough grass and undergrowth. The endurance testing is equally comprehensive, with the tools being tested around the clock in 36 state-of-the-art chambers, simulating real-life usage to guarantee continuous, reliable performance.

In the temperature chambers, the chainsaws are exposed to extreme temperatures, from -30°C to 40°C, ensuring they perform flawlessly in various climates, from the freezing Siberian cold to the scorching heat of Africa. This extensive testing extends to the microscopic level, where STIHL's material engineers use scanning electron microscopes to examine the steel's structure, enhancing the company's understanding of material properties and behaviors.

STIHL's expertise in magnesium diecasting, developed over four decades, ensures that the components of their chainsaws meet the highest quality standards. STIHL's commitment to excellence is evident in every aspect of their chainsaw production, from meticulous design to exhaustive testing. This approach guarantees that customers receive products that are not just built, but engineered to withstand the most demanding conditions, making STIHL chainsaws reliable partners in the toughest tasks.

Safety Features of STIHL Chainsaws

STIHL chainsaws incorporate advanced safety features, notably the QuickStop Super chain brake and low kickback chains. The QuickStop Super, unique to STIHL, allows the chain brake to be activated from the rear handle. It rapidly stops the chain during strong kickbacks or when the operator releases the rear handle, enhancing safety in various operating positions. This feature is evident in models marked with a "Q".

Additionally, STIHL emphasizes cut protection. Their chainsaws are tested with cut-resistant fibers, designed to halt the chainsaw instantly if it contacts the protective clothing. These safety tests adhere to stringent standards, ensuring that STIHL chainsaws are not only efficient but also prioritize user safety.


Factors to Consider when Choosing a STIHL Chainsaw

Choosing the right STIHL chainsaw involves considering a range of factors to ensure the model you select best fits your specific needs. Firstly, decide between a gasoline or electric chainsaw: gasoline models offer greater power and mobility for heavy-duty and professional tasks, while electric chainsaws are lighter, quieter, and more environmentally friendly, making them ideal for homeowners and light yard work.

Consider the intended use of the chainsaw. Professionals may require more powerful and durable chainsaws for intensive cutting tasks, whereas homeowners typically need chainsaws for occasional use like pruning, light cutting, or small tree felling. In these cases, a less powerful but user-friendly chainsaw is more suitable.

Bar size is critical. Select a bar size based on the amount and size of wood you plan to cut. Larger bars are needed for thicker trees, but can be cumbersome for smaller jobs. Conversely, shorter bars offer better manageability for smaller tasks. Engine power and displacement also play a key role in performance, with higher values indicating a chainsaw's capability to handle tough, dense wood. However, keep in mind that more powerful chainsaws are also heavier and may be more challenging to handle over long periods.

STIHL chainsaw models are designated by "MS" (Motorsäge, meaning chainsaw in German) with a series of numbers and letters indicating specific features. The first digit typically relates to power, engine size, or displacement, with higher numbers indicating more powerful, larger chainsaws. The second digit refers to the model or series, with different configurations and features available within the same type. The third digit ranges from 0 to 3, indicating the level of added features, with zero being the base model.

Additional suffixes on STIHL chainsaws provide more information about their features. "B" indicates a Quick Chain Adjuster for easy tension adjustments. "E" stands for Easy2Start™, making starting the chainsaw almost effortless. "M" denotes the M-Tronic™ system, a microprocessor that optimizes engine performance in real-time. The "R" and "T" suffixes refer to the type of handle, with "T" for top-handle models designed for professional in-tree use and "R" for wrap handles that allow multiple position use.

Lastly, the "Q" suffix (when present) signifies the inclusion of Quickstop® chain-stopping technology, enhancing safety by rapidly stopping the chain in kickback scenarios.

In summary, when choosing a STIHL chainsaw, balance your needs with the chainsaw's features, considering factors like power source, intended use, bar size, engine power, and additional features. Understanding the "MS" designation and the numbers and letters that follow will guide you in selecting a model that is not only efficient and powerful for your tasks but also comfortable and convenient to use.

STIHL Chainsaws: A Comprehensive Guide

Recommendations for Different Uses of STIHL Chainsaws

  1. For Professional Heavy-Duty Use:

    • MS 881 R MAGNUM®: Ideal for heavy-duty tasks with its fuel-efficient, high power, and wrap handle. Suited for use with long guide bars.
    • MS 661 R MAGNUM® : Offers professional power and rugged dependability, great for tough felling jobs with its wrap handle.
    • MS 500i R: The first STIHL chainsaw with electronically controlled fuel injection, providing consistent power and a wrap handle for varying conditions.
  2. For Homeowners and Light Yard Work:

    • MS 170 : A lightweight chainsaw designed for woodcutting tasks around the home, perfect for occasional use.
    • MS 180 : Reliable and lightweight, ideal for occasional use in residential settings.
    • MS 251 WOOD BOSS®: Packed with reduced-emission engine technology, offering power for felling, firewood cutting, and storm cleanup.
  3. For In-Tree Professional Use:

    • MSA 161 T : A top-handled, battery-powered chainsaw designed for professional landscapers and arborists.
    • MS 201 T C-M : Advanced arborist chainsaw with STIHL M-Tronic™ engine management, ideal for tree care professionals.
  4. For Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services:

    • MS 462 R C-M Rescue : Designed exclusively for fire, rescue, and emergency service personnel, offering reliable power.
  5. For Environmentally Conscious Users:

    • MSE 250 : An electric chainsaw designed for professional users who prefer a minimal carbon footprint.
    • MSA 220 C-B : A lightweight and powerful battery chainsaw with up to 40 minutes of run time, ideal for eco-friendly cutting and cleanup tasks.
  6. For All-Round Use with Advanced Features:

    • MS 362 R C-M : Combines torque, power, and weight with the benefits of STIHL M-Tronic™ and a wrap-around handle.
    • MS 261 C-M : A popular mid-size professional chainsaw with STIHL M-Tronic™ technology, suitable for a variety of tasks.


Regular Maintenance Checklist

  • Wear Protective Apparel:

Always wear appropriate protective gear when handling and maintaining your STIHL chainsaw.

  • Spark Plug Maintenance:

Check the condition of the spark plugs. Replace spark plugs if they are worn out or damaged.

  • Air Filter & Debris Inspection:

Examine air filters for dirt accumulation and damage. Clean or replace air filters as needed. Remove debris from bars and chains.

  • Equipment Inspection:

Thoroughly inspect the chainsaw for any broken or damaged parts. Replace any parts that are broken or show signs of significant wear.

  • Tighten Screws and Nuts:

Check all screws and bar nuts, tightening them if necessary.

  • Check Saw Chain :

Adjust, sharpen, or change the saw chains as required.

  • Lubrication:

Lubricate all moving parts to reduce friction. Check Bar oil levels and add if necessary.

  • Power Cord Check (for Electric Models):

Inspect power cords for damage or wear. Replace cords that show signs of damage.

  • Battery Tool Inspection (for Battery Models):
Check the electrical contacts for damage. Avoid using or charging a battery tool with damaged, cracked, or deformed batteries, cables, or adapters.


  • Proper Fuel Mixing and Usage:

Follow the proper guidelines for mixing fuel. Use fresh fuel (stored for less than 2 months) with new 2-cycle engine oil. Utilize STIHL MotoMix® Premixed Fuel for optimal performance.

  • Warm-Up Before Use:

After a season of storage, allow the chainsaw to warm up for a few minutes before use.

Safety Gear and Practices


When operating a STIHL chainsaw, prioritizing safety is essential. Ensuring you are equipped with the right safety gear and following best practices can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Here are the key elements of safety gear and best practices to consider:

  1. Helmet: Always wear a sturdy helmet. It provides crucial protection for your head against falling debris and accidental impacts. A helmet can be a lifesaver, especially when cutting in areas where there is a risk of falling branches or debris.

  2. Ear Protection: Chainsaws are loud and can cause long-term hearing damage. Using ear protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs, is vital to safeguard your hearing. This is particularly important during extended periods of use, where the cumulative noise exposure can be particularly harmful.

  3. Gloves: Wear gloves specifically designed for chainsaw use. These gloves not only protect your hands from cuts and abrasions but often have enhanced grip to improve handling of the chainsaw, thus increasing overall safety.

  4. Chaps: Chainsaw chaps are essential. They are made of special fabrics designed to provide a barrier against cuts, particularly in the case of a chainsaw kickback. The material in these chaps is designed to snag the chainsaw's chain, causing it to stop and minimizing injury.

  5. Eye Protection: Protecting your eyes is non-negotiable. Use sunglasses or, preferably, a brush shield protector when operating a chainsaw. This eye protection guards against flying wood chips, dust, and debris that can cause serious eye injuries.

Beyond wearing appropriate safety gear, there are several best practices to follow:

  • Read the Manual: Familiarize yourself with your STIHL chainsaw's operating manual. Understanding the manufacturer's safety instructions and operational guidelines is crucial.

  • Chainsaw Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain your chainsaw to ensure it's in good working order. A well-maintained chainsaw is safer and more efficient.

  • Work Environment: Keep your working area clear of obstacles. Ensure you have stable footing and adequate space to work safely.

  • Avoid Working Alone: If possible, avoid working alone. Having someone nearby in case of an emergency can be lifesaving.

  • Stay Alert: Always use the chainsaw with full attention and focus. Avoid operating the chainsaw when you're tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

By adhering to these safety gear recommendations and best practices, you can significantly mitigate risks and ensure a safer working environment while using your STIHL chainsaw. Safety should always be your top priority.


Upcoming STIHL Chainsaw Models and Features

In 2024, STIHL is set to introduce an exciting lineup of new chainsaws, each designed to cater to a range of needs and preferences. Leading the pack is the MS 212 C-BE, a feature-rich model that combines optimal operator comfort with powerful performance. Although its availability details are not yet released, this chainsaw is poised to set new standards in its category.

For homeowners, the MS 182 C-BE and MS 182 are notable additions. The MS 182 C-BE, priced at $279.99, is a lightweight yet powerful chainsaw, perfect for various woodcutting tasks around the home. Its ease of use and efficient design make it an ideal choice for those seeking a reliable, user-friendly chainsaw. The MS 182, slightly more affordable at $239.99, shares these qualities and is designed to be an easy-to-use, effective tool for home woodcutting needs.

Rounding out the new offerings are the MS 172 C-E and MS 162. Both chainsaws are entry-level, gas-powered models that promise robust performance for home use. While specific details about the MS 172 C-E are yet to be revealed, the MS 162 is expected to appeal to homeowners seeking a dependable and straightforward chainsaw for occasional use.

Industry Trends and Predictions for STIHL Chainsaws

In recent years, the chainsaw industry, led by prominent brands like STIHL, has been undergoing significant changes, primarily driven by advancements in technology and shifting consumer preferences. A major trend that's becoming increasingly apparent is the growing popularity of battery and electric chainsaw models. This shift is largely fueled by a heightened awareness of environmental concerns and the desire for more user-friendly, lower maintenance tools. STIHL, known for its innovation, is likely to continue investing in and expanding its range of electric and battery-powered chainsaws.

One of the key areas of development in this sector is the creation of higher capacity yet lighter batteries. This advancement addresses one of the primary challenges of electric chainsaws - limited run time and excessive weight. By integrating lightweight yet durable alloys and polymers in chainsaw construction, manufacturers like STIHL are enhancing the portability and ease of use of their products without compromising on durability.

Electric motor technology is also witnessing significant innovations. Future models are expected to offer increased output while using less electricity, making them more efficient and powerful. This could potentially close the performance gap between traditional gasoline-powered chainsaws and their electric counterparts, making the latter more appealing to a wider range of users, including professionals.

Advanced safety features are another focal point of the chainsaw industry. As chainsaws are inherently dangerous tools, manufacturers are continually seeking ways to enhance user safety. This includes improvements in chain brake systems, kickback prevention, and even smart technologies that can automatically detect hazardous situations and react to prevent accidents.

The use of eco-friendly materials in chainsaw construction is another trend that aligns with the global push towards sustainability. By using materials that are more environmentally friendly, companies like STIHL can reduce the ecological footprint of their products, appealing to environmentally conscious consumers.

A particularly intriguing development is the potential for on-the-fly 3D printing for replacement parts. This innovation could revolutionize chainsaw maintenance and repair, allowing for quick, on-site production of essential components, significantly reducing downtime and potentially extending the lifespan of the equipment.

Looking to the future, it's likely that these trends will not only continue but accelerate. We can expect STIHL chainsaws to become more efficient, environmentally friendly, safer, and user-friendly. These advancements will not only benefit consumers in terms of usability and safety but also contribute positively to environmental conservation efforts.


STIHL Chainsaws: A Comprehensive Guide

In conclusion, STIHL chainsaws, with a rich heritage stretching back to 1926, have established themselves as market leaders through continuous innovation and dedication to quality. The brand's unwavering focus on enhancing efficiency and ensuring user safety has made its products a top choice for both professionals and home users. STIHL’s diverse range of chainsaws, from models tailored for homeowner use to those designed for professional applications, demonstrates their commitment to meeting a wide array of cutting needs.

Key to STIHL’s success are its innovative features, such as the QuickStop Super chain brake for enhanced safety, and the use of eco-friendly materials and advanced engine technologies for better environmental sustainability. The brand's chainsaws are renowned for their durability, requiring minimal maintenance, and offer a high resale value, making them a wise long-term investment.

Looking forward, STIHL is poised to continue its legacy of innovation with new models like the MS 212 C-BE, which promises optimal operator comfort and performance. The industry trends suggest a growing shift towards battery and electric models, spurred by advances in battery technology and electric motors, which STIHL is expected to embrace and lead. Moreover, the potential for on-the-fly 3D printing for replacement parts points to a future where chainsaw maintenance and repair become more efficient and user-friendly.

STIHL's journey, marked by relentless innovation and a deep understanding of its users' needs, indicates a future where chainsaws become more efficient, eco-friendly, safe, and adaptable to various cutting tasks, reinforcing STIHL’s position as a pioneer and leader in the chainsaw market.

Translation missing: en.general.buttons.article_previous Translation missing: en.general.buttons.article_next


The Gilford Hardware and Outdoor Power Equipment blog posts exclusively reflect the views of Gilford Hardware and Outdoor Power Equipment and do not necessarily reflect those of the device manufacturers. Please be aware that product availability, specifications, and suggested uses are subject to change. For the most recent details, always refer to the manufacturer's website and product manual.