advice for next saw to add to my CS milling setup

gnef

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Greetings! I've been a long time lurker, and only just now started posting.

I am a hobby woodworker, and as I got more in to it with both flat work and turning on the lathe, the more interested I became in harvesting my own lumber. Fast forward to now, and I have a 56" mill with an MS661c, also two 32" bars, and a 36" bar with many chains for each. I do flitch slabs, as well as cut turning blanks. I know it would be recommended to go up to an 880 for this length of bar, but I've had great results so far. I also use my Laguna 18 BX bandsaw for further processing.

My first saw was an MS250 that is now about a decade old with an 18" bar and chain. I didn't realize how little power it had until I started running the MS661! I have good local dealer support for Stihl, and that is why I plan on sticking with them.

So here's where I'm looking for advice. I've been thinking about next additions to my setup. I know I eventually want to replace the MS250 with the MS261. I was thinking before I do that, to get a 70-80cc class saw (looking at the MS462 or MS500i) for cutting logs to prepare for milling with the 661 and to keep the 661 just for milling. But then I was thinking that it may make more sense to get another 661 first as a backup, and then also in the future if I wanted to run a double bar setup with the two 661's. This is especially because the price isn't that different for these saws and would require about the same time to save up for one. If I were to get a second 661, I doubt I would get the slightly smaller saw later, just leave one on the mill, and the other with a 32" or 36" bar.

Right now I am only milling for myself, but I have a couple possible leads to make this into a side hustle, which could be fun for me. If this were to start making money for me (instead of spending everything on it!), I think I would definitely want a second 661 to make sure that I could always fulfill any obligations and not be stuck because a saw broke.

Right now, I basically cut and mill everything with the 661 - I use it in the mill, of course, but I also use it when bucking a section off and then rip it in half for a turning blank. I typically use the MS250 to cut off the shoulders to make a rectangular shape for the turning blank (which I later put on the bandsaw to make into a cylinder), as well as to reduce weight. I also use the MS250 for limbing, but that's about it.

If there is any interest in pictures of my setup or things that I've made, just let me know! (I didn't want to clutter the first post too much)

So do any of you double up on your big saw as a backup? Any other recommendations or advice for things I haven't thought of?
 
foeke

foeke

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As much cc as possible. Interesting that you can make do with a 661 with those bar sizes.
I cut and mill manly european oak, but I wouldn't even consider less than 100cc on a 56 inch bar unless I'm milling styrofoam. Maybe I'm the impatient type.
I don't have the 261, but tried it out at the dealer. It felt nice. Preferred the 550 xp. Still waiting for the 353 to finally break.
 

Bmac

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Welcome to the forum. I too mill my own lumber for my woodworking hobby (addiction). Started with an older model used 660 for milling and kept adding saws from there. So I do have some toughts on this.
Before i got into milling I had a 025 (the precursor to your MS250) and a 039. Picked up a used 660 to try milling and got hooked. Since then I've added another 660, 044, 440, and 084, all used saws to my lineup. My milling setup includes an Alaskan mill and a Logosol jig. Now my 084 lives on the Alaskan and my 660s each have their own Logosol attachment. The Logosol attachment allows me to quickly square up the logs and even helps process the logs.
My advice to you is go used, there are a lot of saws out there you can pick up, they are easy to work on and they are easily repaired. Milling with a new saw is likely to void the warranty anyway. I've had to repair the 660s a few times, but in the end the cost is still likely less than a new saw. For bucking and limbing I'd look for a 440 or 460, I absolutely love my 044 and 440 for that. For milling I'd start with a back up 660, get it used or even consider a clone as it will be a backup saw. Moving up to an 880 or 881 would be nice, but the bar mounts don't match the 660s so you'll need all new bars. I just got my 084 two years ago after patiently looking for a bigger saw, millied with the 660s for years. In the end the 660s got it done on the Alaskan, but I do much prefer the 084 now.
The trading post here has some very reputable guys to buy used from. Ebay even has a few sellers that are frequent, sell alot of product, and you'll likely get a solid used saw from them. What you need to watch out for are the one off sellers. They could be selling a good saw or it could be a dog. Even if you get stuck with a dog either you or a quality shop should be able to put it in good working order.
 

J D

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+1 for picking up an older saw... you can tune it a bit fat & run a bit more oil without a "better" carb getting in the way. You seam to be a Stihl man, but if you got a Husky 3120 you'd be upgrading your mill saw & you should be able to get an adapter to run your Stihl bars on it.
 

gnef

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As much cc as possible. Interesting that you can make do with a 661 with those bar sizes.
I cut and mill manly european oak, but I wouldn't even consider less than 100cc on a 56 inch bar unless I'm milling styrofoam. Maybe I'm the impatient type.
I don't have the 261, but tried it out at the dealer. It felt nice. Preferred the 550 xp. Still waiting for the 353 to finally break.
The 661 has been surprisingly great for me. Admittedly, I may not know what I am missing, but the only times that I thought it was cutting slowly were the times the chain had dulled. The widest I've milled is also only a bit over 3 ft (I was milling for a friend, and I cut about a dozen slabs out of two sections of a Red Oak). The max on the 56" bar and mill is just at 4 ft, so I know that if/when I mill at full width, the cut will be slower. I don't expect to do that very often, mostly due to weight since I'm moving these slabs by hand!
 

gnef

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Welcome to the forum. I too mill my own lumber for my woodworking hobby (addiction). Started with an older model used 660 for milling and kept adding saws from there. So I do have some toughts on this.
Before i got into milling I had a 025 (the precursor to your MS250) and a 039. Picked up a used 660 to try milling and got hooked. Since then I've added another 660, 044, 440, and 084, all used saws to my lineup. My milling setup includes an Alaskan mill and a Logosol jig. Now my 084 lives on the Alaskan and my 660s each have their own Logosol attachment. The Logosol attachment allows me to quickly square up the logs and even helps process the logs.
My advice to you is go used, there are a lot of saws out there you can pick up, they are easy to work on and they are easily repaired. Milling with a new saw is likely to void the warranty anyway. I've had to repair the 660s a few times, but in the end the cost is still likely less than a new saw. For bucking and limbing I'd look for a 440 or 460, I absolutely love my 044 and 440 for that. For milling I'd start with a back up 660, get it used or even consider a clone as it will be a backup saw. Moving up to an 880 or 881 would be nice, but the bar mounts don't match the 660s so you'll need all new bars. I just got my 084 two years ago after patiently looking for a bigger saw, millied with the 660s for years. In the end the 660s got it done on the Alaskan, but I do much prefer the 084 now.
The trading post here has some very reputable guys to buy used from. Ebay even has a few sellers that are frequent, sell alot of product, and you'll likely get a solid used saw from them. What you need to watch out for are the one off sellers. They could be selling a good saw or it could be a dog. Even if you get stuck with a dog either you or a quality shop should be able to put it in good working order.
Thanks for the welcome! Just lurking has been a wealth of knowledge for me. I appreciate your insight!

I had this internal debate on whether to go new or used for this first setup. I eventually decided to go new since I'm not a small engine mechanic, and I didn't want to learn so soon (I tend to learn my lessons the hard way!). My tendency is also to keep accumulating used equipment and spending more on the used stuff than I would've on one new (this happened recently with handplanes - I had been thinking of getting a #4 Lie Nielson in bronze, but decided to go used, and now I've got a scrub, #3, #4, #5, #7, all bought used, in the end I've got more planes, but that was a lot of work to find and restore). I want to make sure that the chain saws support my hobby, and don't become the hobby (at least for now!), if that makes sense.

I've been tempted to try one of those holzfforma clones, but I've read of too many horror stories to feel comfortable with relying on one. Looking through the trading post here with a reputable member is definitely something I'd be more willing to do though when I'm ready to purchase.

I'm also hesitant to move up to the 880 mount due to the additional costs, especially if I continue to only mill for myself. The cost of the new bar and .404 ripping chain in addition to the saw (even if used) would be more than I can justify to support my woodworking hobby. It will be a different story if I can start to make significant money doing this and have access to really wide logs and have more support equipment to be safe - right now my slabs average right around 200#. I cut a cookie off the large red oak, and it was over 300#, which was difficult for me to figure out how to move safely.
 

gnef

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The MS881 is almost here.
Haha. I've had my eye on that saw, but I'm afraid of the cost! I think that for as long as this stays small and just to support my personal woodworking, I'll probably stick with my current setup. If I start being able to make money and have larger logs available, then I'll more seriously consider moving up to a larger setup - or more realistically a second setup and keeping the smaller setup for most tasks.

This is actually one reason why I'm thinking the dual 661 setup could be the best option for me. It would be a backup for my current setup, and I could use it for bucking and similar tasks. In the future, if I were to go much bigger, I could simply get a double ended bar and swap the sprockets to .404 (The longest bars I've seen are only .404, some shorter ones are 3/8, but if I am going to go big, I'd rather go really big, especially if it generates income). I think if I ever get to this point, I'll need to be making a good amount of money milling, otherwise it just won't be worth the investment.

I figure a dual 661 setup would be more versatile than a monster 880 setup, and I also think that at the theoretical point that I would need a setup this big, I would need a partner or helper of some sort anyway, so a dual saw setup could still make sense.
 

gnef

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+1 for picking up an older saw... you can tune it a bit fat & run a bit more oil without a "better" carb getting in the way. You seam to be a Stihl man, but if you got a Husky 3120 you'd be upgrading your mill saw & you should be able to get an adapter to run your Stihl bars on it.
The more I'm reading everyone's posts, the more willing I am becoming to getting a used saw here from a known member here with solid history of selling good saws. I think before I was really hesitant with ebay or craigslist/facebook marketplace since I have no idea if the saw will actually be good. I also don't want to meet strangers in person right now due to the pandemic. haha.

I am very much committed to Stihl, really only because of local dealer service. I have one that is really close, and another that isn't too far away. I've been very happy with my Stihl equipment(MM55, FS90R, and HT56 in addition to the chainsaws) but even more so with the service that I receive at the dealer - it means a lot to me.

I've only briefly looked into the Husky offerings, but there isn't a dealer close to me. The 3120 does look nice though!
 

Bmac

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Thanks for the welcome! Just lurking has been a wealth of knowledge for me. I appreciate your insight!

I had this internal debate on whether to go new or used for this first setup. I eventually decided to go new since I'm not a small engine mechanic, and I didn't want to learn so soon (I tend to learn my lessons the hard way!). My tendency is also to keep accumulating used equipment and spending more on the used stuff than I would've on one new (this happened recently with handplanes - I had been thinking of getting a #4 Lie Nielson in bronze, but decided to go used, and now I've got a scrub, #3, #4, #5, #7, all bought used, in the end I've got more planes, but that was a lot of work to find and restore). I want to make sure that the chain saws support my hobby, and don't become the hobby (at least for now!), if that makes sense.

I've been tempted to try one of those holzfforma clones, but I've read of too many horror stories to feel comfortable with relying on one. Looking through the trading post here with a reputable member is definitely something I'd be more willing to do though when I'm ready to purchase.

I'm also hesitant to move up to the 880 mount due to the additional costs, especially if I continue to only mill for myself. The cost of the new bar and .404 ripping chain in addition to the saw (even if used) would be more than I can justify to support my woodworking hobby. It will be a different story if I can start to make significant money doing this and have access to really wide logs and have more support equipment to be safe - right now my slabs average right around 200#. I cut a cookie off the large red oak, and it was over 300#, which was difficult for me to figure out how to move safely.
First, get the #4 Lie Nielson, I had a bunch of used Stanley's, sold most of them off after Santa left me a #4 Lie Nielson. I absolutely love it. Still nice to have a few beat up planes, but the Nielson is what I use mostly.

I completely agree, milling needs to support your hobby, not become your hobby. If I mill a few trees (which usually means 8-12 logs) a winter that keeps me well stocked. My 660s did great for many years too, even when I maxed out my 36" Alaskan. I usually mill 20- 24" logs, only Ys or crotches get to 36" for me, I could have easily stuck with my 660s to do what I'm doing. The 084 is a luxury for me.

I think making money milling might be tough, I've never really been tempted to go down that rabbit hole. I keep my logs on the shorter side (7' or so) and don't have the heavy equipment to move things around. For me it's a one man job for milling, stacking, drying and processing in the shop, boards need to be manageable. I also cut my boards thick, 9/4 to 10/4 mostly. I do a lot of chair building and like these thicknesses, can also further process and resaw on my bandsaw in the shop for other projects.

Hopefully you got some good advice from all the responses and I'd love to see your your setup and some of your woodworking. We have a post "What are you building with your milled wood".
 

gnef

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First, get the #4 Lie Nielson, I had a bunch of used Stanley's, sold most of them off after Santa left me a #4 Lie Nielson. I absolutely love it. Still nice to have a few beat up planes, but the Nielson is what I use mostly.

I completely agree, milling needs to support your hobby, not become your hobby. If I mill a few trees (which usually means 8-12 logs) a winter that keeps me well stocked. My 660s did great for many years too, even when I maxed out my 36" Alaskan. I usually mill 20- 24" logs, only Ys or crotches get to 36" for me, I could have easily stuck with my 660s to do what I'm doing. The 084 is a luxury for me.

I think making money milling might be tough, I've never really been tempted to go down that rabbit hole. I keep my logs on the shorter side (7' or so) and don't have the heavy equipment to move things around. For me it's a one man job for milling, stacking, drying and processing in the shop, boards need to be manageable. I also cut my boards thick, 9/4 to 10/4 mostly. I do a lot of chair building and like these thicknesses, can also further process and resaw on my bandsaw in the shop for other projects.

Hopefully you got some good advice from all the responses and I'd love to see your your setup and some of your woodworking. We have a post "What are you building with your milled wood".
That is great insight, thanks for taking the time to respond! It looks like we are on similar paths, you are just far ahead of me!

Lie Nielson and Veritas seem to be having some inventory issues right now due to the pandemic. Early on, they had good stock of just about everything, but as the pandemic wore on, they seem to have less and less available, which is probably good for my wallet. Haha. I definitely want to get the bronze #4 some time in the future though.

I know to temper my expectations on being able to sell slabs, it would just be amazing to actually offset the cost of my woodworking along with support my other hobbies! I was recently contacted by the owner of a tree service company who saw me milling, so that could potentially turn into something more significant, but I'll have to wait and see on that. Once the pandemic is over, I was also thinking that I could post on craigslist/facebook marketplace to mill on site for an hourly rate to see if there is any local interest.

Here is a picture of my mill after I built the auxiliary oiler and before its first cut:
50545325662_933ab40c23_b.jpg


I'll look for that thread to post some pictures!
 
Down Home Dave

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I run a Ms660 and picked up a used 064 for a song, and a second 066 that needed a top end. The 066/ms660 has been my mill set up with 36-42" bars mostly hardwood for several years now. cant go wrong with a second 661/660/066. I sold an 026pro and bought an 036pro. I dont cut firewood, or do limbing or tree service work. only bigger logs and slabs. so bigger saws are just fine over here. I did take my 064 to the Christmas tree lot with a 36" bar on it, mainly so i didnt have to bend over tooo far to cut one hahahaha.
good luck.
 

gnef

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I run a Ms660 and picked up a used 064 for a song, and a second 066 that needed a top end. The 066/ms660 has been my mill set up with 36-42" bars mostly hardwood for several years now. cant go wrong with a second 661/660/066. I sold an 026pro and bought an 036pro. I dont cut firewood, or do limbing or tree service work. only bigger logs and slabs. so bigger saws are just fine over here. I did take my 064 to the Christmas tree lot with a 36" bar on it, mainly so i didnt have to bend over tooo far to cut one hahahaha.
good luck.
Thanks for speaking of your experience, I appreciate it! I always like the idea of having a backup, it is actually why I first bought a second 32" bar - just in case I got the first one stuck!

I also don't do any firewood, these saws would primarily be for milling or staging and preparing logs to mill. I also do some trimming and pruning of our trees at home, but I don't need a big saw for that - though it is fun with the 661!
 

BobL

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If the 660 works for you I'd just get another one. Then everything you have now will work with each sawand there will be minimum mucking about.:)
 

gnef

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If the 660 works for you I'd just get another one. Then everything you have now will work with each sawand there will be minimum mucking about.:)
That is definitely more the way I'm leaning. Considering that the slabs were so heavy at 3 ft wide and only 2 inches thick that I couldn't move them by myself, if I ever do go to a full 4 ft wide, I'll definitely need to have help. When I was first getting into milling I don't think I quite realized how heavy these slabs could get!

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of having another 661 (or used saw in the same class). That way I have a backup for my current setup, and if I ever do go super wide, I can go with a double bar with both 661 saws, which will be quite a bit more power than a single 880. I think the only way I would go this wide is if I were making money on milling in some capacity though, as I don't have any practical way of working with slabs this wide for personal projects at home.
 
csmillingnoob

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I’m a Husky guy so I may be out of my element. The fact that 660 bars are not comparable with 880 mounts would be a bummer to me. I added a 3120 and all the bars and chains from my 390 work on both. An 880 will require investment in new bars and chains. Ugh.

given that cost and flexibility consideration, if I were you I would look at adding another 660 but make it a BIG BORE. As I understand it, the big bore takes a 660 up about 8 ccs to a 100ccs class saw. (Again I’m a husky guy so do some Stihl specific research on your own)the big bore should make it Equivalent or more powerful than a 395xp which is an excellent saw for milling.This means you can buy an older, scored 660 for cheap and get the benefit of new pistons and rings.

another option is to buy a Holtzfforma 660 big bore from lchainsawguy (Dave) who sells cheaper through this board than he does on eBay. Quality builder and person.He works out the minor flaws that plague Hilzfforma and does the big bore replacementi with quality rings and piston. You get a good big bore saw with lots of power fork cutting on its own AND you can use it in a dual power head mill along with your existing saw.

good luck in your decision making process!! Update us. Your decision will be interesting to us.
 
Down Home Dave

Down Home Dave

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I’m a Husky guy so I may be out of my element. The fact that 660 bars are not comparable with 880 mounts would be a bummer to me. I added a 3120 and all the bars and chains from my 390 work on both. An 880 will require investment in new bars and chains. Ugh.

given that cost and flexibility consideration, if I were you I would look at adding another 660 but make it a BIG BORE. As I understand it, the big bore takes a 660 up about 8 ccs to a 100ccs class saw. (Again I’m a husky guy so do some Stihl specific research on your own)the big bore should make it Equivalent or more powerful than a 395xp which is an excellent saw for milling.This means you can buy an older, scored 660 for cheap and get the benefit of new pistons and rings.

another option is to buy a Holtzfforma 660 big bore from lchainsawguy (Dave) who sells cheaper through this board than he does on eBay. Quality builder and person.He works out the minor flaws that plague Hilzfforma and does the big bore replacementi with quality rings and piston. You get a good big bore saw with lots of power fork cutting on its own AND you can use it in a dual power head mill along with your existing saw.

good luck in your decision making process!! Update us. Your decision will be interesting to us.
One of my 660 is a big bore with pop up piston. its a bear to start, it mills fine, but truthfully I feel like the stock cylinder was more powerful. my saw leaked a seal, over revved and scored the jug.
Ido agree- ibuy lots of saws that needtop end work for much less $$. not to mention- milling is torture on a saw, top end rebuilds are kinda withthe territory.
 

gnef

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One of my 660 is a big bore with pop up piston. its a bear to start, it mills fine, but truthfully I feel like the stock cylinder was more powerful. my saw leaked a seal, over revved and scored the jug.
Ido agree- ibuy lots of saws that needtop end work for much less $$. not to mention- milling is torture on a saw, top end rebuilds are kinda withthe territory.
Hm, how difficult is a top end rebuild?

What I'm actually considering right now is just waiting for the next stimulus check! Haha.

I just met with a tree service owner about a possible collaboration. He has a bunch of logs that he's kept, and needs someone to mill them. He already has a nice milling setup, just no time due to his tree service business doing well. He has an 880 with a long cannon bar, maybe 6 ft, with matching granberg mill, and a second double headed milling bar still in the sleeve. He even said that he would just get another 880 if we needed to use the double headed bar. He's also got some connections that he is going to check into for selling slabs and the like, so this may have the potential to turn into income, but we've got a long ways to figure all that stuff out. Needless to say, I may not need to worry so much about my personal setup at this time since he already has a much bigger setup and the saws needed, he also buys chain by the spool, so he just spins a loop when he needs to, and he still has part of a spool of ripping chain.

I've got a lot of research to do now on whether this can actually be a feasible business to cut slabs for a profit!
 

BobL

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There are a couple of ways to make larger Stihl bars compatible with a 660/
A simple spacer ring made of hard steel is one method,
One way to get this hard steel spacer is to cut a single coil out of a engine valve spring
I just made new oversize bar bolts to fit the larger bar .
BarBolts.jpg
Near all of my bars are larger Stihl type and the couple of 660 bars I had I relegated for use on my 441.
 
Down Home Dave

Down Home Dave

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There are a couple of ways to make larger Stihl bars compatible with a 660/
A simple spacer ring made of hard steel is one method, but I remade the bar bolts to fit the larger bar .
View attachment 882768
Near all of my bars are larger Stihl type and the couple of 660 bars I had I relegated for use on my 441.
that is pretty awesome!
 
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