After a bit of a cold snap, the weather’s gone warm again. I’m in the Red Pine forest, and this lucky, very straight, clean Red Pine was felled for a log bridge that I’m building over the creek. It was in a good position because there was a tiny clearing beside it where an older tree’s crown has been knocked off, and I didn’t have to really struggle on ropes to bring it down.
This was a climber. I climbed and topped the top fifteen feet or so. Cath was on the ropes, and it came down quite perfectly without damaging any of the neighbouring trees. It’s pretty easy climb- though at my highest climbing point, the diameter of the tree was only about six inches, which, while perfectly strong enough to support a light climber, nonetheless can be a bit of a challenge to balance on spurs.
I abseiled down, and dropped the thirty five foot spar, of which I’ll use about thirty feet (two fifteen foot lengths) to frame the crossing. Tomorrow, I’ll go at it with the draw knife, while it’s still fresh.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I purchased a Stihl MS 201T in June, replacing the MS 200T as my primary climbing saw.
I’d heard a lot of claims that the MS 201T was ‘junk’ by a saw community that tend to dig in their heals, and resist any change to much cherished equipment. Frankly, it is tough to take a proven and durable piece of equipment, that we as arborists or fallers rely on to buy groceries, make truck payments, and finance exotic trips to Tahiti- and then change it.
So fair enough. I was a bit anxious that Timberland was out of MS 200’s, and my choice was a 201T or a 201T.
I use the 201T for removals. I run the saw two to four days a week, depending on what jobs I’ve got lined up. Before moving East, I used the saw in Edmonton Alberta, where I was dealing primarily with softer hardwoods and conifers, but since moving to Ontario, use the saw in larger, heavier and harder wood.
On First Glance
On first glance, the MS 201T has a few more curves than the MS 200T. One thing that was a pet peeve of mine, about the 200T, was that the Chain Sprocket Cover never seated properly. The 201T, so far, does not have that problem. It has a steel guide rod that allows the Cover to afix tightly. Also, the Chain Sprocket Cover nut is part of the cover, so that there won’t be any losing that nut in the grass (though, frankly, I’ve only ever done that once).
Having said that, what I didn’t like, so much, about the 201T was the Master Control lever. It just didn’t feel as sturdy as what it did on the 200T, and I believe is the same parts mold as the 192. Nonetheless, it hasn’t failed yet, and the durability of this piece is speculative, only. After a few months of use, I forgot about the ‘old lever’, and think maybe the new lever, seated in the trigger handle, may be protected against accidentally being shut off.
The saw starts as it should. Now that I have a winter under my belt, I find the saw starts and runs well in cold weather. I do find the ‘pull’ of the 201T feels a bit ‘rattly’, versus the 200T. I don’t know if that is just my saw, or if it is something that other 201T users also experience. It mostly occurs when starting it in the tree, when an awkward position might make it difficult to pre-tension, then pull, as opposed to just drop-starting the damn thing up there, so you can get to cutting. Still, and once again, I’ve started it a hundred times, or so, and have had no problems with starting, idling, or running, and we’ll see, in a year or two, how the saw holds up.
Using the Saw
This is the important bit. It starts easy, and runs well, and idles on your harness without stalling on you. I find the saw to be very light, but heck, I found the 200T to be light. Strictly speaking, the 201T is lighter than the 200T with a full tank, apparently, though I don’t notice the weight difference. I mean, really, what’s a few ounces when you’re dealing with rope drag, and hauling blocks, biners, and full PPE up a tree. Now, I do really notice the fuel efficiency. It is a bit of a tough comparison, but it seems to me that I can run the saw for a long time before sending it down for a refill. Despite it’s meager fuel use, it has no loss of power. Especially after the initial breaking in period ( as indicated in the owner’s manual) the 201T runs like a top. I run my 201T with a 14″ Bar, and it has plenty of guts. The wood outsizes the bar length well before I experience any bogging down, even on an Elm or a pitchy Colorado Spruce, and by then I’m pulling up a bigger saw, anyway. As for performance, then, I can’t complain. It is a good saw. It gets the job done.
Maintenance on the saw is pretty straightforward. It is easy to get apart, the air filter says quite clean, and one need only knock it lightly against a piece of wood ( NO air compressor- it damages the filter) to knock the saw dust off. As a climbing saw, I find I have to only seldom sharpen it, but it sharpens just like any other saw. I have been using Canola oil for bar oil, and it has worked well. Talked with the owner of Timberland, who sells the Stihl Bio-Plus bar oil, and he says that using Canola is fine. When they have guys bringing in ‘shot bars’, it’s mostly a result of running dull chains or having the chain on backwards.
Am I happy with my saw? Sure. So far, so good. It starts when it’s supposed to, cuts to it’s bar length, is light enough for climbing, is simply designed with little to snag, and despite almost daily use, haven’t had any broken pieces, yet. While I’m a bit suspect of the Control Lever and the feel of the ‘pull’, they haven’t given me problems yet. Definitely run a few tanks of gas through it, before judging the saw. The performance before and after the break-in period is considerable. Like all things, time will tell. If I’m using this saw in a couple of years, and it has shown its mettle over the long haul, than it was a worthy successor to the 200T.
Updated Review November 2015 **
Man, has it been a crazy year for STIHL products. So, I’ve got an 4 Year Old MS 201T, a 4 year old MS 460, and a 10 year old MS 290 sitting in the truck that are still used almost daily. So, you’d think that I’d have such luck since. Well, it seems that STIHL is pulling a bit of a fast one.
First, that MS 261 C lasted a good 10 days in the Bush, last Winter, before it started giving me problems. It hasn’t let up since, and has cost me a total of appx 300.00 in repairs ( not covered under warranty, because I’m a commercial operator) and has been relegated to an unreliable limbing saw.
I purchased an FS 360 Forestry Brushcutter, which gave me a good 5 days of actually productivity before, well, failing to work. Nice.
Finally, in July I purchased a second MS 201T for the truck, to act as my primary climbing saw, and as of last Friday, it, too, needs to go into the shop. So, tomorrow morning is training for the boys, then bringing a bunch of inferior equipment, highly priced, to the shop for what I am anticipating is going to be a highly priced repair bill.
C’mon, STIHL, are you sourcing these things from China, or what. I grew up with STIHL, and until now, have been an avid and enthusiastic fan. Now, looking at the Huskies…