Market report - Chainsaws

The latest models have reduced emissions while remaining powerful and lightweight, says Sally Drury.

MS 150 C-E: chainsaw model uses STIHL 2-MIX engine with four-port technology - image: STIHL
MS 150 C-E: chainsaw model uses STIHL 2-MIX engine with four-port technology - image: STIHL

When the EU began talking about restricting the level of emissions from engines, there was concern that legislation could mean power tools such as chainsaws would gain a pound or two in weight while losing power as manufacturers sought to overcome the problem of the polluting two-stroke engine. We need not have worried.

Today there is a wide choice of chainsaw models that provide masses of oomph, remain lightweight, are still relatively simple to maintain and, as required by legislation, are much sweeter smelling. But manufacturers have achieved so much more that just cutting emissions. The latest models are powered by engines that use less fuel, need fewer adjustments, are far easier to start, are quieter and have low vibration levels.

An example is Husqvarna's X-Torq technology - boosting performance while lowering emissions by up to 60 per cent and giving a saving of up to 20 per cent on fuel.

Four-port technology

The STIHL 2-MIX engine combines a cylinder with four-port technology and stratified scavenging. It has set new standards - high torque over a wide speed range, fuel consumption cut by up to 20 per cent and exhaust emissions down by up to 70 per cent on conventional STIHL two-stroke engines. The new engines are now fitted to all but the firm's largest professional chainsaws.

The lightest of its new saws, the flyweight 2.8kg MS 150 C-E, is fitted with a 2-MIX engine. Suited to professionals tending young trees or pruning branches, this saw is not only the company's lightest but it is also believed to be the world's lightest rear-handled machine. The weight reduction should enable users to work for longer without tiring, so increasing safety and productivity. With its 1kW power output, it claims to have the best power-to-weight ratio of any chainsaw, making it a serious contender for best in class.

It is additionally suited to pruning and young-tree work by fitting a narrow-tipped guide bar and low kickback Picco Micro saw chain supplied as standard. A manual fuel primer and STIHL's ErgoStart feature ensure that the engine is simple to start, while low fuel-consumption and long refuelling intervals make the saw both costand time-efficient to run.

Maintenance has also been made simple - fuel and chain oil tanks are large and easy to reach. Access to tension the chain is via a single nut to release the sprocket cover, and the air filter is easily accessed via a single-piece shroud. The MS 150 costs £385 + VAT with a 10in bar and £395 + VAT with a 12in bar.

Two other new arrivals from the STIHL stable are intended for work varying from cutting firewood to thinning out small trees. The MS231 and MS 251 are all-rounders and, as well as being powered by the new 2-MIX engine, benefit from a new chain with stay-sharper-longer properties to give a consistently keen edge. The engine delivers 2kW power output from the 40.6cc MS 231 and 2.2kW from the 45.6cc MS 251 to drive the Picco Duro chains.

These chains feature precision-soldered carbide tips so they stay sharp for up to four times as long as standard saw chains, reducing the frequency of sharpening and making it suitable for cutting dirty wood such as mud-covered fallen timber or railway sleepers. The saws are available with ErgoStart and Quick Chain Tensioning features. The MS 321 and MS 251 typically cost £460 and £520 + VAT with 16in bars.

Compact professional

The MS 241 C-M, packed with technology, is STIHL's most advanced compact professional ever. As well as boasting the ecoand fuel-efficient 2-MIX engine, this model has clever M-Tronic technology - a fully electronic engine-management system that means the engine is effectively self-tuning, always at its best and always raring to go.

With M-Tronic, manual carburettor adjustments become a thing of the past. Ignition timing and fuel supply are automatically adjusted to take account of variables such as external temperatures and fuel quality. It compensates, for example, for ethanol admixtures of up to 25 per cent (E25), assuring the engine's outstanding performance.

"Users will not, of course, notice this is all going on," says STIHL product marketing manager Sally-Ann James. "What they will clearly see is the result - an engine that is very easy starting even after prolonged breaks in use, that accelerates quickly to speed and remains constant in use. Making the new chainsaw even easier to work with right from the start, a decompression valve helps to reduce the force needed to pull the starter cord and electronic cold/warm start recognition means there is only one start position on the control, so no potential to misjudge whether to choke or warm start."

Features such as a substantially longer air filter life - a new long-life air filter system with pre-separation and a newly developed HD2 air filter - and vibrations so low you can work all day with the MS 241 C-M make this a genuine advance in its compact class. When it comes to performance, the impressive 2.2kW engine delivers excellent drive power, responsive pick-up and plenty of torque.

Reduced emissions

Echo launched its first chainsaw back in 1963. Today, the Japanese/American company prides itself in designing and manufacturing products that are kinder to the environments in which they work. Wherever possible, it strives to beat the ever tightening emissions regulations but without compromising performance. Since 1997, most Echo chainsaws have achieved at least an 85 per cent reduction in engine emissions.

The new CS-610 is the latest example of the firm's technological advance. This saw is Stage-II compliant yet more powerful than its predecessor, better balanced and more reliable. The modestly sized 59.8cc engine provides 3kW of power. An important feature is the new G-Force Air Pre-Cleaner. With this technology, engine air is spun around, eliminating dirt and debris before the air enters the air filter, so increasing maintenance intervals and reducing engine wear.

Engine durability is further improved with the addition of a chrome-plated cylinder and die-cast crank case. Bar options are 45cm, 50cm and 60cm, making it suitable for a variety of applications from general forestry operations to sectioning large trees.

The latest chainsaw from Makita is the EA3201, an entry-level machine for all grounds care and site operations. But this model is packed with features normally found on advanced compact saws. At its heart is a 32cc engine with a catalytic exhaust system that meets all current emissions regulations. It is a lightweight engine of full aluminium construction and has a new electronic system that controls stable idling, increases power output at the optimum rpm range and gives engine overrun protection.

Spring-assisted EasyStart reduces recoil resistance and a primer is located to the right of the rear handle. In addition, Memory-Power-Ignition is used for restarting when hot and the on/off choke combination switch has an automatic lock at half-throttle.

When the engine is running, a light downward touch on the on/off switch kills the motor but the control returns to the run position automatically so that the motor is ready to start when pulled, eliminating the risk of flooding. Supplied with a 35cm bar and 3/8in pitch chain, it also features a tool-less chain tensioning system and Makita's M2M vibration-damping system. The saw weighs 4.3kg.

Weighing just 3.1kg, the new Makita EA3100T is a 30.1cc professional top-handled chainsaw for use by tree surgeons with a full training certificate. It features a 30cm bar, easy-start recoil starting and M2M vibration reduction. A new air cleaner on this model prevents ingress of dirt and debris.

Intense hobby use

Emak has a new family of low-emission chainsaws. The 35cc MT3700 and 39cc MT4100 are designed for intense hobby use - lopping, pruning and cutting small to medium trunks. At their centre is a classic two-stroke engine that can be equipped with clean Compression Wave Injection technology or a catalytic converter to minimise emissions and reduce fuel consumption. A digital ignition coil ensures better combustion control, while another new feature is the multifunction lever incorporating on/off, half-throttle and choke control.

The choke/start/stop controls on the new Efco MT-6500 from Emak UK is also a single, integrated system. This aluminium-cased saw has a generously proportioned filtration surface to protect the engine. An on-board clutch with drum and brake belt built into the crankcase prevents the ingress of foreign matter between the centrifugal weights.

Offering hobby, semi-professional and professional chainsaws, Solo has also been working hard to provide users with new and convenient features. The brand's latest enhancements include digital ignition to reduce fuel consumption, advanced materials to deliver better ergonomics and low weight, plus Easy Start with intelligent management to provide power when it is needed.

Quieter and cordless options for professionals

Suited to carpenters, contractors and tree care workers, the 536 Li XP from Husqvarna can be fitted with bars of 10-14in and is powered by a Li-ion battery giving 35 minutes run time with the "savE" feature activated. Two batteries are supplied, requiring 25 minutes to reach 80 per cent charge or 35 minutes for full charge. For use off the ground, it is also available in a top-handled format.

The first STIHL cordless chainsaw is the 36V MSA 160 C-BQ. Suited to use in garden locations and noise-sensitive areas, cutting firewood or working in confined spaces, it is supplied with a 12in bar and 0.25in PM3 chain. STIHL is also about to launch a backpack battery.

Pellenc's C20 and C15 weigh 2kg, and the M12 just 1.7kg, and are supplied with Oregon 0.25in chain. Tension is adjusted using an integrated, patented retractable key and power is supplied from a backpack battery. Depending on the battery used, the chainsaw can operate for up to two days.

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