The Latest Innovations in Stihl Chainsaws

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carved wooden bear

As an avowed chain saw guy, my visits to the Stihl booth at the 2020 World of Concrete show are among my most exciting. One big highlight of their booth this year was the US introduction of the MS 500i chain saw with electronic fuel injection. Yep, the first modern chain saw without a carburetor. The basic specs for this new saw are 79.2cc, with 6.7 hp/5kw of power, placing it in between the MS 462 and MS 661 in the brand’s lineup of pro forestry saws. But whether you’re into gas chainsaws or electric models, read on for what’s hot and new in the world of Stihl Chainsaws. We’ll even talk about a chainsaw that’s not a chainsaw. Intrigued?

author with large chain saw
Now that’s a chainsaw!

Stihl started with fuel injection technology several years ago on their TS 500i Cutquik concrete saw and now it’s being put to use for cutting wood too. One major benefit of electronic fuel injection is easier starting, with no choke to set, and no problems with flooding. Instead of fiddling with full choke, half choke, or no choke settings, you simply pump the purge bulb a few times and pull the starter rope. Another major benefit is the efficiency of the fuel injection system, which gives the new MS 500i the greatest power-to-weight ratio among all of Stihl’s saws. I wouldn’t be surprised if this feature is introduced on other new saws from Stihl, but the size of the fuel injection module will keep it off top-handle saws that need the most compact profile.

large chain saw
The MS 500i, Stihl’s new 79.2cc chain saw with electronic fuel injection.

For much of my tree cutting work I rely on battery-powered saws, and I have gotten a lot of work done with them since 2011 when I first started using Stihl AP battery series saws. Now this professional line has grown to seven saw models, including three rear-handle, one top-handle, two pole saws, and a combination-tool saw head attachment.

We showed the top-handle MSA 161T in brief when it premiered at the GIE show in 2018, but in case you missed it, this is Stihl’s first top-handle battery saw in the US. Configured for working aloft in a tree or bucket, this saw is designed for compact maneuverability. And like the AP battery saws that preceded it, an important factor in its cutting efficiency comes from its thin-kerf bar and 1/4″ pitch chain which removes less wood in a cut than any competitor’s saw. Doing less work to cut through the wood equates to faster cutting speed and longer battery runtime.

battery chain saw
Stihl’s top-handle, battery-powered arborist saw, the MSA 161T.

The newest saw in the Stihl AP battery series is their most powerful yet, and the first model fitted with a 16” bar. To go along with the longer bar, the MSA 220 runs 3/8 low-profile pitch chain, which is a size larger than the 1/4″ pitch of Stihl’s other battery saws. Stihl doesn’t publish the output power of their battery-powered saws, but the MSA 220 is claimed to be 15 percent more powerful than the MSA 200, which was claimed to be 30 faster cutting than the original MSA 160, so you do the math…if you like multi-variable equations. I’ve always appreciated the performance of my MSA 160, and my MSA 200 has a noticeably more power in bigger wood, so I’m sure the mightier MSA 220 will be sure to put a smile on the face of the average battery chain saw user or aficionado alike.

battery chain saw
The MSA 220 (top) is Stihl’s largest and most powerful battery chain saw.

Two other notable additions to Stihl’s professional AP battery tool series include the brand’s strongest handheld blower, and a new powerhead for the brand’s “KombiSystem” attachments. The BGA 200 blower features an adjustable length blower tube, a cable plug for a backpack- or belt-carried battery pack to keep the weight down, and a unique swivel hook that lets the blower hang from the user’s belt for one-handed use with less strain. The KMA 130 R 36-volt powerhead runs the same 15+ tool attachments and extensions as the gas-powered KombiSystem powerheads, but with less noise and fumes. The most interesting new cutting attachment of the system shears vegetation along the ground with reciprocating blades that work like the scissoring action of a hedge trimmer. This method of cutting offers more control than a spinning blade or string, especially when working against the edge of a sidewalk or other hard surface.

battery blower and belt hook
Stihl’s new BGA 200 blower with extended hook that hangs from the swiveling belt holder (shown lower left).
cordless tool
The new battery-powered KombiSystem powerhead.
cordless tools and attachments
Many of the KombiSystem attachments, including the circular reciprocating cutting heads. Note: the splitting axes shown are not compatible with the powerheads, at least not yet.

One other notable battery-powered cutting tool from Stihl is the diminutive 10.6-volt GTA 26 handheld pruner. This tiny tool has a 4” bar, like a mini chain saw, but it cannot be officially be called a saw since it’s designed to be used with one hand. And as we all know…in unison, class…“chain saws can never be used with just one hand”.

cordless pruning saw
Stihl’s GTA 26 handheld pruner for trimming small branches and shrubs.
cutting chain
A pruner, not a chainsaw, but, umm, it saws with a cutting chain.

carved wooden bearAnd of all things to find at the 2020 World of Concrete Show, a wooden bear in Stihl’s outdoor booth, crafted by chain-saw carver Griffon Ramsey who gave us carving lessons a few years ago at a Stihl event.

More Info - via Stihl

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About Michael Springer

Craftsman and former tool magazine editor Michael Springer specializes in testing tools and covering the tool industry for construction and woodworking professionals. Based in Boulder County, Colorado, but going wherever the story takes him, Michael crisscrosses the country yearly visiting tool manufacturers and industry personalities and attending trade shows. He also treks to major manufacturers in Europe to stay apprised of the newest tool developments and track the design influences that shape many construction tool products long before they reach our shores. When not out sleuthing or at the shop or job site running the kilowatts through the latest power tools, Michael enjoys unplugging and getting his hands on his collection of antique and new wood shaping tools. He enjoys nothing more than a day of rustic woodworking, starting with a log and making the chips fly with chain saw, axe and adze.

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