Review of the Stihl MSA 200 C-BQ

After spending the summer having fun in the sun, doing many  different projects and just enjoying the East Coast’s short summer while totally neglecting this humble chainsaw blog, we are finally ready to bring you our review of Stihl’s entry into the world of lithium ion outdoor power equipment: the MSA 200 C-BQ.

The Stihl MSA 200 C-BQ is a great saw.  It will make a believer out of most naysayers who doubt that a battery powered saw has any place in the stable of “serious” operators.  This saw will not replace large felling saws or a dedicated firewood cutter, but then it was never intended too.  The 200 C could replace your small limbing saw or your arborist’s saw.  It’s performance is comparable to most sub 40 cc gas saws, although it’s power lies more in it’s torque than in high chain speeds.  What really makes this saw stand out is it’s remarkable ease of use, and its clean, quiet, practically maintenance free operation.  The MSA 200 C-BQ is so quick and easy to use that you will find you reach for it whenever you have a job that doesn’t absolutely require a large displacement saw.

Photo by A.J. Kilpatrick

Stihl MSA 200 C-BQ is a strong contender whose incredible performance coupled with it’s remarkable ease of use will make it a go-to saw in anyone’s stable.

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What’s That, You Axe? Why It’s a Fiskars Chopping Axe

 

If you are going to be felling trees,  then a tool that you need in your kit bag is a quality, reliable axe.  A good axe is an indispensible tool for clearing brush out of the way, stripping thick, dirty bark off the trunk that would otherwise dull your chain prematurely, or driving your wedges.  It can also be a handy tool to check the soundness of the trunk before cutting.  A good, strong whack from your axe can help to reveal if there is any rot in the trunk that might cause your hinge or back-strap to fail prematurely.

Yet another A. J. Kilpatrick photo for the best chainsaw blog.

A look at the business end of the Fiskars 28″ Chopping Axe.

Although the local hardware store is filled with many different axes, not all axes are suitable for use in a forestry application.  When it comes to “forest” utility axes, the Gransfors Bruks is king, but they might not be readily available in your neck of the woods, or, maybe, you’re like us and don’t feel like dropping two to three hundred bones on an axe that will only see occasional use.  Enter the Fiskars Chopping Axe.  With a 28″ Shock-absorbing FiberComp® handle and a razor sharp 2.31 pound (1.05 kg) forged head, the widely distributed chopping axe is a great choice for anyone who needs a high performance forestry axe at a reasonable price. Continue reading

Worx WG303.1 Electric Chainsaw Review

 

Can an electric chainsaw perform as well as a small gasoline powered saw?  The short answer is yes.  What the electric motor lacks in speed, it makes up in torque.  It’s all about the torque, baby, torque.  I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about the buzz on the internet concerning the Worx 303.1 14.5 amp chainsaw being comparable to a small 30ish CC gas powered chainsaw, but it really does handle itself well.  Are there drawbacks when compared to a gas powered model? Yes there are, but there are some advantages as well.

Another great photo by A.J. Kilpatrick of the Worx WG 303.1.

A handsome fellow with his orange and black coloration: the Worx WG303.1.

Pros:

  • No harmful CO emissions which makes it ideal for using indoors (especially in the winter).
  • It is plug and go- no carburetor related issues when starting/operating.
  • Substantially cheaper for those who are all about the Benjamins
  • Low maintenance
  • Much quieter than a conventional chainsaw
  • Weighs 11 pounds

Cons:

  • It is tethered to an electric cord which limits its range and sometimes makes it awkward to maneuver with
  • Ultra sensitive safety brake that is set too close to the handle. This makes the saw prone to stopping at the slightest change in hand position and limits the saws manoeuvrability while greatly increasing frustration for the end user through repetitive stops.
  • Weighs 11 pounds
  • Low grade bar

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Review: Stihl MT2 and Timber Tuff Universal Chainsaw Tool

Stihl MT2 and Timber Tuff Universal Chainsaw Tool

 

Ah Christmas, sweet Christmas.  Santa came and dropped a small piece of Stihl branded Chrome-Vanadium steel and plastic goodness in the form of a Stihl MT2 into my humble stocking this year.  I don’t know about you, dear readers, but anytime I am gifted with some chainsaw tool related piece of awesome, my heart flutters the dance of joy.  Unfortunately, the joy would come with the asterisk of disappointment.

Another great picture from the best chainsaw blog.

The Stihl MT2 is looking good with quality EU construction.

First off, the Stihl MT2 comes equipped with a 19 mm (3/4″) and a 16 mm socket. The MT2 also has a T27 driver, a 7 mm slotted screw driver, in addition to a 3.5 mm slotted driver for carb adjustment. Let us accentuate the positives: Like most Stihl branded tools, the MT2 is made of high quality materials, as well as a high degree of finish to the parts.  This little tool should withstand years of use.  For a pocket tool, the MT2 is pretty huge: measuring 5 3/4″ x 1 3/8″.  Bigger is better, but maybe not in a pocket tool.  Although quite large, the Stihl MT2 is relatively light- weighing in at a lean and mean 228 grams (8 oz).

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Stihl MS 193 C Carving Conversion

Stihl MS 193 C Carving Conversion

by

A.J. Kilpatrick

 

After a busy summer season of home renovation projects, the beck and call of my chainsaw obsession led me down the road into the savage art form that is chainsaw carving.  As the leaves turned and fell, I finally took the plunge and ordered the parts to convert my Stihl MS 193-C into a dedicated detail carver.  The MS 193 is probably the most popular saw for detail carving in the Stihl line-up as it is a light-weight and nimble 30 CC saw that is more robust than its more consumer targeted cousin the MS 170, but less pricey than its professional cousin the MS 201 or MS 150. It’s lower torque and power also makes it more dime-bar friendly than the MS 200.

The Best chainsaw blog reviews the MS 193-C carver.

The MS 193-C converted to a dedicated detail carver and looking pretty with a 12″ .043″ gauge carving bar.

In order to convert the MS 193-C into a dedicated detail carver, I decided to mount a specialized Stihl carving bar known as a dime-tip to the saw.  Mounting a bar with such a small tip radius involves more than just changing the bar.  In order to make the most out of this specialized bar, you also need to change the drive sprocket from the stock 3/8″ pitch to a 1/4″ spur drive sprocket.  On this model, that also involves changing the worm gear for the oiler (which greatly increases the oil output- a necessity for such a narrow tipped bar).  Stihl offers a specialized carving chain for use on their .050 gauge bars, but I opted for the newer .043 gauge carving bar which gives the finest cuts, but uses the 1/4″ chain usually used on power pruning bars.  There was a two week wait on the newer narrow gauge bar, and I paid the extra thirty dollars to have the tech do the swapping of parts in order to save me some stress (plus, I was unaware that the new clutch assembly comes with the specialized tool to lock the piston-apparently the pistons in these newer small saws are delicate and do not appreciate the standard rope/dower in the piston chamber trick.)  The grand total for the conversion in my area was around $220.00.  Don’t forget to get a small 1/8″ round file for sharpening the new 1/4″ chain.

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Stihl MS 193 C Review

Stihl MS 193 C-E Review

A.J. Kilpatrick

Another review from the world's best chainsaw blog!

Stihl’s newest midrange rear handled “arborist” saw: the Stihl MS 193 C-E.

In a previous post, we reviewed the Stihl MS 170 that was purchased to convert into a dedicated carving saw, but the MS 170 had some issues with the engine (see full review here), so it was returned for a Stihl MS 193 C-E. The MS 193 C-E is a light-weight and nimble 30.1 cc rear handled saw. Weighing in at 10.2 pounds fully fueled with a 16” bar and 3/8”p chain; the MS 193 C-E is extremely light. Its strato-charged engine promises a BHP of 1.8 with lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions. The anti-vibe is incredibly smooth and refined and this saw promises to be a well balanced detail carver once I get around to forking out the additional $200.00 to equip it with a carving bar, chain and sprocket/rim.

Overview

Pro’s

  • Extremely light-weight and nimble

  • Fully adjustable carb

  • Incredibly low vibration

  • Strato-charged engine promises lower emissions and lower fuel consumption with increased power.

  • Outboard clutch for better balance.

  • Easy to start

Cons

  • Strato-charged engine is cold blooded and needs more time to warm up

  • Adjustable carb is quite finicky with a hard to find sweet spot

  • Small, narrow bar is very sensitive to dirt and debris- clogs easily

  • Chain tension system requires breaking in and is difficult to tension out of the box

  • Automatic oiler is anemic with 16” stock bar

  • Outboard clutch makes bar and chain removal more difficult

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Stihl MS 170 Review

Stihl MS 170 Review

A.J. Kilpatrck

One aspect of the chainsaw world that I have always wanted to try my hand at is chainsaw carving. Of course the first step down this road to chainsaw carving glory is the purchase of a chainsaw suitable for use as a detail saw. I had narrowed the quest down to three main contenders: the Stihl MS 170, the Stihl MS 193 C-E, and the Echo CS 370. All three saws are viable contenders for a first time carver. The MS 170 is the most economical and quite light; the MS 193 C-E is the lightest and most nimble; and the CS 370 is the heaviest, but also the most durable with its split magnesium case. The more astute reader will have noticed the title of this post and assumed that Stihl’s MS 170 won out, and this is partly true.

Another great photo of a Stihl MS 170 by the world's best chainsaw blog

Looking and performing like a bigger saw than it is: the Stihl MS 170.

Being economically minded, and considering that converting any of these saws over to a dedicated carver would cost an additional $200.00 for a carving bar, chain and rim/sprocket, I decided to give the MS 170 a try as it was light weight, had a good reputation as an entry level carver, and ,most importantly, cost exactly half of what the other contenders were going for because of Stihl’s Spring promotion which ended on June 30th. Enter the MS 170. The MS 170 feels fairly solid and is well balanced. It weighs in at around 11 and a half pounds fully fueled and comes equipped with a 16” mini bar and picco chain. The MS 170 also still sports the older non strato engine, and I do love the older engine style’s more “rumbly” sound.

The MS 170 is an older design in the Stihl line-up, and, as such, it sports the older style gas and oil caps that are slotted for opening and tightening with a scrench. There are many who prefer this older style of cap as the newer “flip top” caps are more susceptible to breakage at the hinge. If I ever break one of the flip tops, my opinion will definitely change, but as of right now, I marginally prefer the newer style for its slight edge in convenience, but, from a durability/reliability perspective, the older style is superior. The air filter in the MS 170 is a little on the slight side, but that opinion is based solely on the look and feel of it, and not on actual performance.

Yet another great photo by the world's best chainsaw blog!

A close up of the Stihl MS 170 air filter.

Before starting the saw, I decided to check the saw’s oil tank, fuel level, and chain tension, and it was a good thing that I did. The dealer had filled the fuel tank, but not the bar oil reservoir. Not a good sign. I am learning that it is not wise to assume the dealer is doing what they are supposed to be doing. The Stihl MS 170 fired up with out any issue and for a small saw with a tiny bar and chain, it was an impressive cutter. The small chips just flew as this saw cut through the small birch trees that I felled. The saw did not bog in the cut (although I didn’t force the saw-I let the saw do its work). The MS 170 was also an able limber. Its light weight and good balance came through limbing some spruce and cedar trees. The cutting performance of this small saw was impressive. Continue reading

Chainsaw Sharpening

In our quest to become the world’s best chainsaw blog, we often ask ourselves some basic questions, such as: What is the most important piece of the chainsaw performance puzzle?  The single, most relevant variable governing the cutting performance of your beloved chainsaw is the chain.  Think about it, it’s called a chainsaw for a reason.  The chain does the actual sawing.  We’ve all seen the videos of some well meaning guy sawing away at a huge log that is much too big for the saw being used: the dude’s pushing and rocking the saw back and forth. The saw’s engine is bogging and groaning, and, after a couple of minutes of agonizing footage that you were afraid (or hoping) might document some horrible accident, this chainsaw warrior proudly vanquishes the mighty log.  Besides using a saw that is too small for the task at hand, and yes, besides the poor technique, there was another factor at play.  A factor that costs next to nothing, and improves performance and safety dramatically.  A properly maintained cutting bar with a sharp chain.

There are many different products available to keep your trusted saw razor sharp and ready for action.  These sharpening systems range from a few dollars for the appropriate sized file to several hundred dollars for a specialized grinding machine.  If you are new to saws or only use them occasionally, it doesn’t make sense to fork out the big bucks for a professional grinder, and you probably aren’t comfortable (or don’t have the time) to start in on the simple hand filing approach.  That’s where the bar mounted file guide comes in.  Priced at around forty dollars, these guides offer an almost fail-safe, easy to use option to keep your chain razor sharp; thereby ensuring optimum performance and safety.

World's best chainsaw blog pic of MS 271 with a Granberg G106-B

The Granberg G106-B File-N-Joint attached to a Stihl MS 271

Another great pic from the world's best chainsaw blog.

Up close and personal with a Granberg G106-B File-N-Joint.

There are many different bar mounted file guides out there.  Stihl, Oregon, Granberg, and various Asian brands all offer a version.  The one feature that is essential when choosing a bar-mount file guide is all metal construction. The consumer grade guides have plastic construction in key areas that lead to a too inconstant filing angle due to the plastic’s flexibility, as well as being parts that would not stand up to long term use.  Oregon and Stihl offer all metal bar-mount guides, but they are expensive.  The best buy in these guides is the original from Granberg.  The G106-B File-N-Joint can sharpen your chain to the precise angles as specified by the chain manufacturer.  it can also be used to precisely file the rakers or depth-gauge in 0.010 inch increments.  Although the file guide can be used to file depth gauges, it is much faster and easier to purchase a separate gauge that, in conjunction with a flat file, quickly and easily files depth-gauge teeth to the appropriate height.

World's best chainsaw blog pic of a depth gauge tool.

A Stihl depth gauge tool.

The Granberg File-N-Joint mounts easily and securely to the chainsaw bar and allows you to consistently file the same angle to your chain’s teeth.  Once the guide is mounted to the bar and the appropriate angles have been set, the Granberg allows you to sharpen each right or left cutter tooth in succession.  After you have finished sharpening all of the teeth on one side, you can quickly flip the file to the other side and file each tooth to a razor’s edge on that side.  It is a good idea to count the number of file strokes used for each tooth in order to keep the cutter teeth length the same in order to ensure a smooth, straight cut.  You should also pay attention to how hard you press the file on each stroke in order to be consistent with the amount of material you remove from the cutter with each stroke.  Consistency is the key.  If you sharpen your chain after every two tankfuls of fuel or so, you will find that two or three strokes of the file are usually sufficient to restore the cutter’s edge.

World's best chainsaw blog image with too much information.

A close-up pic of a Granberg G106-B with words and arrows.

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Carver Kings Review Part II

 

A.J. Kilpatrick

 Today’s chainsaw blog post is another review of HGTV’s Carver Kings.  This post reviews episodes 2,3, and 4.

Carver Kings Review

Dean Ross and Ken Sheen from Carver Kings’ “Tree of Life” episode.  Here we see dean pulling a salmon from the log under Ken’s guidance.

Pain of Thrones

In this episode we see Paul Frenette and Ryan Cook teaming up to create a massive dining room table for a U.S. senator.  The massive table is a thanksgiving rush job and has to be able to seat twenty.  Because Paul is a dreamer, he also adds two massive thrones into the mix to comply with the clients’ wishes for a “King Arthur” feel.  Poor Ryan is once again thrust into the role of the talented rookie as he is shut out of the design process when Paul arrives to their morning meeting with the design already completed.  Apparently, Paul couldn’t sleep until he had finalized the design.

This episode contains the same memes and reality TV machinations detailed in the previous review.  We don’t need to keep going over this as it is pretty much the nature of the beast.  Let’s just accept it and focus on what this, and future episodes, have to offer.  This episode does not have a secondary sub plot like other episodes as the scale of the project more than fills the brief twenty two minutes available.  The sheer massive scale of this table is mind boggling for us mere regular Joes in TV land.  My university summer job as a mover many years ago has me wondering how many homes would even accommodate these massive thrones and table through their humble entrance ways.

This time around, we see Paul making the “big” mistake as he, in his haste to speed up the carving, cuts off a sword pommel that is integral to his throne design.  Back to the wood shop for another throne.  In addition to Paul’s costly mistake, we also get a bit of dramatic friction as Paul allows Ryan to carve the dragons on one throne with the stern direction not to make them too “cartoony”.  Ryan digs in with zeal and carves two impressive dragons only to be told by Paul that his dragoons are now too “angry” and will be too aggressive for a family centered dining room.  Sometimes you just can’t win, Ryan, (and for the record, I kinda preferred your original dragoons over the softened final version.)  Ryan dutifully re-carves the scales and makes the dragons more suitable for Paul’s design.

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Review of HGTV’s Carver Kings

Finally, after one of the hardest winters in memory, one that brought us the most snowfall since we began keeping records, I find my mind turning to this year’s projects and adventurous forays into the world of chainsawing.  One aspect of playing with chainsaws that I am most anxious to try my hand at is carving.  Is there anything more exciting than taking a hunk of wood and using the manliest of power tools to transform it into a piece of art?

Just as my mind turns to such dreams and visions, HGTV, in a move that is serendipity itself, launches a new show devoted to, you guessed it, chainsaw carving.  This spin off from HGTV’s hit show Timber Kings doesn’t follow just any carvers, it follows some of the best carvers working in Canada.

Carver Kings Pete Ryan, Paul Frenette, and Ryan Cook illustration

Carver King’s Pete Ryan has a new power gouge and it’s no HarryCarry, and that has Paul and Ryan spitting chips!

 

Carver Kings is more of a promo show created to showcase finished pioneer home after people have moved in, and Pioneer’s log homes are incredible enough to warrant a little more showing off.  Although not a “How To” show, it does give us some insight into the various tools and techniques that are used to create some incredible carvings.  These carvings are as ostentatious and “bigger than life” as the log homes in which they will be showcased, but then, that is part of the show’s appeal.

Carver Kings is an entertaining half-hour docu-drama, and its reality show roots drive some recurring contrivances.  There is a sense of manufactured drama in that every job is a last minute order that has a ludicrously tight deadline (who orders a twenty foot long, carved table one week before Thanksgiving from a company several hundred miles away?).  The show also makes use of the rookie versus crusty old mentor meme almost every episode.  The part of the rookie and the part of the mentor may change, but the end is always the same: the rookie will overcome an early mistake to prove his ability and win the begrudging respect of the veteran.  It’s a bit obvious and contrived,  but the personalities of the carving team are so amicable, and their banter is so genuinely entertaining,  that it easy for the viewer to overlook the machinations necessary to create drama in order to drive a storyline.

First Cut

In addition to displaying amazing carvings and the incredible homes that will showcase them, Carver Kings is blessed with a great cast of talented carvers.  The first episode features Ryan Cook pairing up with master speed carver Mark Colp.  Ryan’s good looks, carving talent, and experience as an actor make him a valuable asset to the show.  A newcomer to carving, Ryan has amassed an impressive carving C.V. in a short time which allows him to fill the role of young hotshot/rookie trying to prove himself.  Both Mark and Ryan are affiliated with Echo chainsaws, and this episode gives us a good look at several models in action.

The debut episode is aptly titled First Cuts as it presents us with Ryan’s first task on this project, namely making the first cut in a seven foot tall soaring eagle carving which will be the crowning focal point of this episode’s commission- a thirteen foot tall modern totem pole:.  The long, curved cut is a difficult one, and this episode amps the drama on whether Ryan can handle such a crucial cut.  But, not surprisingly, the rookie who has been to the World Carving Championships manages to impress Mark with his cutting abilities.  Although a little heavy on the mock drama, the two carvers’ charisma and banter more than make up for the production shenanigans (which, to be fair, are very mild compared to most “Reality” programming).  Mark is a carving wizard and both his, and Ryan’s formidable skills are well displayed.

http://www.hgtv.ca/video/first+cuts/video.html?v=2661984301

During the episode, Ryan mistakenly cuts off the eagle’s tail, but is able to save the piece.  This first episode also lifts the veil in that it does provide some insight into some of the different tools and techniques that go into making these impressive carvings.  The show also gives the viewer some information on which size bars and tips are used.  If you are looking for a how to guide, Carver Kings will disappoint, but it does offer a glimpse into the technical aspects of carving.

The debut episode also introduces us to master animal carver Pete Ryan and junior carver Dean Ross.  Pete is quite good at providing some comic relief with his quirky sense of humour, (but his carving skills are no joke).  Dean Ross is touted as a junior carver, but his skill and ability to bring his Native inspired flair to life leave little doubt that he is a rising talent in the carving world.  Dean also brings his own brand of good natured humour to the show.  In addition to Pete and Dean, this sub-plot also introduces us to “Cento” (Ceintario Beaulieu) and “Little Man” (Bryan Reid III).  The inclusion of the youngest Bryan Reid helps to set up a recurring theme on the show: the father-son dynamic.  A son struggling to prove himself to his father is a common experience that many viewers will be able to relate to.  That family is important to the Reids has been well documented on Timber Kings, and it is an important concept at play on Carver Kings as later episodes will also feature Paul Frenette’s working with his son Jacob.

All things considered, Carver Kings debut episode is a great way to spend a half hour on a Sunday night.  The carvings are phenomenal and the guys behind the saws are entertaining as hell.  There is always one or two quotable moments from one of the guys.  Tonight’s stand out quote: “I learned an important lesson this week, not to touch another man’s wood.”  Words to live by Ryan.

Carver Kings airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

Check back later for a brief review of later episodes.