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Top Handle or Rear Handle Chainsaw?

Discussion in 'Chainsaw' started by alocsin, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. alocsin

    alocsin New Member

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    I’m a homeowner looking for a second saw to go with my Stihl MS250 that I will use to remove limbs prior to running the branches through a chipper. My chipper is limited to 3” diameter branches. All of the limbs I’ve cut down from my cedar and poplar trees are under 6” diameter. Since I’m a woodturner, I would use this smaller saw to make bowl or spindle blanks.

    I’m looking for a second smaller saw because the MS250 does a great job of removing limbs, but I get tired after ten minutes of removing limbs because of the size and weight of the saw. The MS201T appears to be the choice for a limbing saw but I think that might be too much for my needs. I don’t climb nor fell trees.

    I prefer a gas saw over an cordless saw because I keep my power tools for a long time (ten years or so) and by the time I need a new battery, the replacement is expensive or no longer available.

    For my needs, would a rear handle like a MS170 or MS 180 be better than a top handle saw?


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  2. ammoaddict

    ammoaddict Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I would look at the echo 310 or 352. Very light and cut great for their size. Top handle saws are for climbing and bucket work. They can be very dangerous if not used correctly. I would stay away from a top handle if it were me.

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  3. MacAttack

    MacAttack I love the smell of 2-stroke

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    I love my top handle saws for work like that. Your arms don't tire as quickly because you have both hands at the center of mass of the saw, versus your left arm holding most of the weight.
     
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  4. Del_

    Del_ Get outside.

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    Top handle chainsaws are very dangerous and does not sound like a saw this homeowner should have. He has pretty well laid out his level of ability and experience. No top handled saw for you sir.
     
  5. Skunkdynamite

    Skunkdynamite ArboristSite Lurker

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    I've been beating this topic up too...keep going back and forth between an 015l and a Dewalt 20v saw. Avoiding a top handle saw, The Ms 170 looks like a good deal to me. 179 new at my local store.
    What is so dangerous about the top handle saws? I have been wanting one for pruning and limbing but never considered it any more dangerous.
     
  6. EchoRomeoCharlie

    EchoRomeoCharlie ArboristSite Operative

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    Physics. Your hands are closer together while running the saw therefore kickback is harder to handle. Because of the light weight, kickback is more intense. People also really like to one hand top handle saws which makes it almost impossible to control any kickback that may occur.

    Being small and light they're easy to just get complacent with. Non-saw people also seem to consider them safer because they're small and light...which breeds complacency. We all know complacency kills.

    I don't consider top handle saws a good option for people are aren't 'saw' people. Rear handled saws are much easier to handle and keep the user in safer positions by virtue of the design.
     
  7. Skunkdynamite

    Skunkdynamite ArboristSite Lurker

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    Very well stated, Thanks!
    I'm not a pro at all, I have a good amount of trigger time with a chainsaw. Definitely enthusiastic about it and seeking to learn more. I'm an ironworker by trade, it's not the same animal, but the safety mentality is already in place. Zero room for complacency!
     
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  8. ammoaddict

    ammoaddict Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Very well said.

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  9. Jwilliams

    Jwilliams ArboristSite Operative

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    Been cutting wood for about 5 yrs now and for the last yr have been doing side work with a friend who owns a tree service. Unless I need a bigger saw my go to saw is a echo 2511. 6lbs and can run that thing all day long My vote if for a top handle. And look at a echo 2511
     
  10. Del_

    Del_ Get outside.

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    I have a couple of MS200T's. Love that saw.

    On occasion I one hand. The upper power line (11.5kv) is at my knee level and I'm whittling away at small branches during a removal. You always have to know where the tip of the bar is and have the strength and body positioning to not let the saw go swinging. It helps to know where the limb is going to go, too. The rule is you are not supposed to use a chainsaw with one hand.

    IMG_0070 - Copy.JPG
     
  11. Ketchup

    Ketchup Smells like 2-stroke.

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    @alocsin

    Top handle saws are like hand guns. They’re extremely maneuverable and carry more easily. They’re also a lot easier to “aim” at yourself. I love top handles. I use them most days.

    But you have no need of one. Ground limbing and blocking work is done far safer, and often better with a rear handle saw. It irritates me when I see my crew using climbing saws for ground work. Most people using a tophandle for ground work are doing it for reasons related to ego or laziness. They really aren’t the right tool.

    There are many light rear handle saws out there at affordable prices. Stihl 170/180 or Echo 310 would be good choices for precision work like blocking. Check out what chainsaw carvers use.

    As far as “limbing”. Sounds like you are cutting limbs off standing trees? Definitely advanced territory there. If that is what your doing, a top handle might actually be a better call. When you said you were getting tired with the MS250 I was surprised. Now I’m thinking it’s because you’re making repeated overhead cuts?!? The ideal tool for that is a Power pole or chainsaw-on-a-stick. Such as a Stihl HT 101.

    For cuts from shoulder to waist height removing limbs on standing trees, a top handle is what you want. For your purposes an Echo 271 or stihl 192 would suffice. An Echo 2511t or Stihl 150t would be lighter and better designed, but carries a high price tag. If you plan on making 10” cuts on the regular, you would want a Stihl 200t/201t, Echo 355t or Husqvarna t540xp (also a high price tag).

    Be careful out there! I have a feeling you’ll be cutting whole trees down at some point soon.
     
  12. Colt Marlington

    Colt Marlington ArboristSite Guru

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    The 2511 is a wonderful little lightweight saw for everything under three inches(although it will cut much larger timber when needed). And it's compact size is nice for getting into nooks and crannies. Also doubles as a hedge trimmer some times.
    20190105_111638.jpg

    But my rear handle Echo 346 has a mile more reach that makes life easier for jobs that don't require me to be so nimble. And far far more control if I wanted to use it for any kind of carving.
    This is a sweet sweet little 7 pounder for your criteria if you were to come across one in excellent condition.
    20190330_105401.jpg
    The Echo 352 is a little bigger and heavier, but readily available and spanks the 346 in ease of starting and is also more powerful. It's a better choice if you are regularly cutting six or eight inch bowl blanks.

    I have an old Stihl 009L that would also work well for this type of work. A kind of hybrid top handle.

    And an Echo CS-361P, which is kind of the cream of the crop of small Echo rear handle saws. Their most powerful and lightweight in the 35cc class. It's a real nice little saw. But maybe more than you need.
    20191109_134503.jpg
    I haven't used the Stihl 170 or 180, although I wouldn't be opposed to a 180 if that was the most convenient option.
    I'd skip the 170 and Echo 310.
     
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  13. andy at clover

    andy at clover Woods!

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    As a guy who stays on the ground, I have zero love for top handle use myself.
    They are very useful for their purpose... which is roped in the tree.

    Stihl has an excellent lightweight rear handle adaption of their prime top-handle saw.
    For less money Echo also offers similar. (don't recal model id's)
    I checked them both out prior to my latest purchase.....
    ....an MS241 which is around 10lbs... it's as small as I need but not as small as they come.
    Good luck and be careful!
    Lotsa gotchas waiting to happen when break down loose limbs and what I consider "un-anchored" cutting at the chipper.
     
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  14. jackjcc

    jackjcc Addicted to ArboristSite

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    It’s the ms201 CM or the ms 150, rear handled versions of the arborist saw. The 150 has a real advantage over the 2511 due to the 1/4 pitch chain.


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  15. catbuster

    catbuster Catskinner. And buster.

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    A lot of people try to one hand a top handle, and are complacent because it’s a small saw. It’s just a bad ideology to follow. They’re slick up in the tree. They suck to run on the ground.

    If you’re not spurring up or tying in get a rear handled saw. They offer more control to the operator and give the operator less chance to do something stupid.
     
  16. James Miller

    James Miller Addicted to ArboristSite

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    20191117_095139.jpg Last time I worked in the air I only had an ms250. Wasn't bad working from the lift. This time I used my 355t much better in this situation but I would switch back to the 250 or cs490 to clean up on the ground for the same reasons others have mentioned.
     
  17. full chizel

    full chizel ArboristSite Guru

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    Hardly an advantage at $100 more and slower even with the smaller 1/4” chain.
     
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  18. buttercup

    buttercup Major General Fool

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    The MS170 is a really light weight and nimble second saw for limbing and small-tree work, and it's cheap.
     
  19. alocsin

    alocsin New Member

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    I have a Stihl Kombi with a pole saw attachment, which I use to remove the limbs in standing trees. I don’t use my chainsaw to cut above shoulder height.
    In an effort to eliminate the chance of a kickback, I avoid using the tip, which means I’m bent over. The bent over position is what is tiring. Perhaps my problem is with my technique?



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  20. alocsin

    alocsin New Member

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    Thank you for your replies. Sounds like an MS 170/180 or equivalent Echo rear handle saw would be the best and safest chainsaw for my purposes.

    I’ve done some research on felling trees and have decided that I would only fell trees whose trunk diameter are less than 6 inches. Too many things that can go wrong if I attempt to fell larger trees.


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