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coppicer

Stihl MS 261 vs Echo 501SX vs AN Other

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Since the autumn of 2014 I have been using a Stihl MS 181 for felling small trees (up to 15" or so) and ringing up windblown firewood on my property. I'm strictly an amateur but I like working outside and I like being self-sufficient in fuel for our wood burner. This year I have been working to clear an old paddock and return it to pasture. I have been giving the saw a lot more use - not daily, but averaging a few hours a week - and it has struggled.
 
The 16" bar is arguably too large for the saw, but that's what it came with, and I didn't know any better at the time. But beyond that, despite having the carb replaced and taking more care with chain sharpening and bar maintenance, it seems to be cutting much more slowly. (I have also replaced the bar this year and gone through a couple of chains as well. That helped, but not for long.) Yesterday was a good example. The chain was reasonably sharp and generating smallish chips rather than dust, but it wasn't pulling into the cut like I remember it doing a couple of years ago. It generates more heat, and it feels hesitant, if that's the right word. It has become a slow old process, and I was standing at the saw horse getting annoyed rather than enjoying being outside and getting things done.
 
I have reluctantly concluded that the saw's a bit old and tired, and that I'm just asking too much of it. I want to be spending more time cutting and less time trying to make the saw work better. After six years it no longer owes me anything, so I'm looking for something new this winter when funds allow. While I'd prefer not to spend loads of money, I still have a lot of cutting to do (by my standards). I want a quality saw that will allow me to get through work more quickly, and that will cope with regular use better than the MS 181. A 50-cc class saw with a 15-16" bar looks like the right combination of weight and power.
 
My local dealer is decent and handles Stihl and Echo. The nearest Husqvarna dealer is a bit of a hike and I don't know them, so I'd prefer to avoid a Huskie. The two main contenders are the Stihl MS 261 and the Echo 501SX. Pricing is similar, so here are the advantages and disadvantages as I see them.
 
MS 261 Pros                       
- People seem to like the later ones
- Parts availability is good on internet through places like L&S
- Local dealer
 
MS 261 Cons
- M-Tronic worries me a bit (not sure if I'm disciplined enough to always keep chain sharp, etc.)
 
501SX Pros                         
- People seem to like it
- Light weight is mentioned frequently
- No M-Tronic / auto tune means less complexity
- Local dealer
- Echo seems to have reputation for easy starting (though MS 181 has been fine in that respect)
 
501SX Cons
- Parts less widely available on the internet than those of Stihl
 
Which of the two would you recommend? Should I consider something else - go smaller (e.g. MS 241) or even larger? (e.g. Echo 620SX)
What about Makita? (Our dealer has Makita tools, and I think saws as well.)
I have thought about the MS 220 with a couple of AP 300S batteries, but at close on £900 the upfront cost of the kit with charger is a bit too high - about 50% more than the MS 261. The 14" bar is also maybe a tad short.
 
Many thanks!
Edited by coppicer

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1 hour ago, coppicer said:
Since the autumn of 2014 I have been using a Stihl MS 181 for felling small trees (up to 15" or so) and ringing up windblown firewood on my property. I'm strictly an amateur but I like working outside and I like being self-sufficient in fuel for our wood burner. This year I have been working to clear an old paddock and return it to pasture. I have been giving the saw a lot more use - not daily, but averaging a few hours a week - and it has struggled.
 
The 16" bar is arguably too large for the saw, but that's what it came with, and I didn't know any better at the time. But beyond that, despite having the carb replaced and taking more care with chain sharpening and bar maintenance, it seems to be cutting much more slowly. (I have also replaced the bar this year and gone through a couple of chains as well. That helped, but not for long.) Yesterday was a good example. The chain was reasonably sharp and generating smallish chips rather than dust, but it wasn't pulling into the cut like I remember it doing a couple of years ago. It generates more heat, and it feels hesitant, if that's the right word. It has become a slow old process, and I was standing at the saw horse getting annoyed rather than enjoying being outside and getting things done.
 
I have reluctantly concluded that the saw's a bit old and tired, and that I'm just asking too much of it. I want to be spending more time cutting and less time trying to make the saw work better. After six years it no longer owes me anything, so I'm looking for something new this winter when funds allow. While I'd prefer not to spend loads of money, I still have a lot of cutting to do (by my standards). I want a quality saw that will allow me to get through work more quickly, and that will cope with regular use better than the MS 181. A 50-cc class saw with a 15-16" bar looks like the right combination of weight and power.
 
My local dealer is decent and handles Stihl and Echo. The nearest Husqvarna dealer is a bit of a hike and I don't know them, so I'd prefer to avoid a Huskie. The two main contenders are the Stihl MS 261 and the Echo 501SX. Pricing is similar, so here are the advantages and disadvantages as I see them.
 
MS 261 Pros                       
- People seem to like the later ones
- Parts availability is good on internet through places like L&S
- Local dealer
 
MS 261 Cons
- M-Tronic worries me a bit (not sure if I'm disciplined enough to always keep chain sharp, etc.)
 
501SX Pros                         
- People seem to like it
- Light weight is mentioned frequently
- No M-Tronic / auto tune means less complexity
- Local dealer
- Echo seems to have reputation for easy starting (though MS 181 has been fine in that respect)
 
501SX Cons
- Parts less widely available on the internet than those of Stihl
 
Which of the two would you recommend? Should I consider something else - go smaller (e.g. MS 241) or even larger? (e.g. Echo 620SX)
What about Makita? (Our dealer has Makita tools, and I think saws as well.)
I have thought about the MS 220 with a couple of AP 300S batteries, but at close on £900 the upfront cost of the kit with charger is a bit too high - about 50% more than the MS 261. The 14" bar is also maybe a tad short.
 
Many thanks!

Are you taking down the rakers when you sharpen up ?

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2 minutes ago, Stubby said:

Are you taking down the rakers when you sharpen up ?

Good point. I didn't on my previous sharpen as it was a relatively new chain, but I did on my most recent sharpen a few days ago and that seemed to help yesterday. It felt better, but still didn't pull that well.

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12 minutes ago, doobin said:

There’s a thread on here about the merits and problems on all three. Fairly recent. 

Difficult to search on here for chainsaws as it doesn't pick up model numbers. Searching for "261" gives "Found 0 results".

Edited by coppicer

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5 minutes ago, Paul in the woods said:

Possibly this thread:

 

Yes, think I saw that one, thanks for the link. To sum up:

 

a) If I could get a 501SX for £400 like the OP in that thread I'd certainly go for it; been quoted £550-600

b) Was interested to see that one poster claimed Stihl AV is much better than Echo

c) Lots of love for 550xp

 

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MS 181 v makita ea4300  is a completely dIfferent beast having used both.

 

Using  the eA4300 makes ms181 feel rubbish /slow in comparison

 

ms261 is another step up in power....

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