Smooth operator - Husqvarna Vs Stihl

The Husqvarna 560 XP meets the Stihl MS 362
CM. Neither is perfect, but both come close…
It was almost two years ago that we took delivery of an early production
560 XP from Husqvarna. In the time since, we have adopted the model as
our front-line felling saw. I personally use a 560 XPG and we have just
completed a 3,000 tonne clearfell of mixed hardwood and mature larch
that, with the exception of some really big sycamore, has all been done
with the light, fast 560s.
I took the decision early on to equip these saws with 15” bars and 3/8
chain and they have proved to be excellent felling saws, although they
have not been without problems, especially in the early days.
The first problem was the saw’s reluctance to start after it had been run
out of fuel. This was cured by a modified fuel tank breather. The standard
tank breather vents via a pipe into the housing under the air filter. The
modification blanks off the pipe into the air filter and converts the tank
breather into a more conventional one that vents into the atmosphere.
The second and more serious fault was the saw’s appetite for clutch
springs. These would start to break once the saw got to a few months old,
and replacing the broken springs became a regular thing. The only cure
was a new, more robust clutch which Husqvarna duly provided.
There were other problems too: one of the saws we had blew the exhaust
gasket. This was down to the two top exhaust bolts that were prone to
coming loose. A drop of Loctite on the studs cured the problem, but later
saws don’t seem to suffer the same trouble as the exhaust has been redesigned.
Further minor niggles are AV springs that can break, although this is
something I don’t see as a real issue, and I will explain why. The anti-vibration system on the 560 is exceptionally good. I have used saws that are as
smooth and vibration free, but they are saws that are tuned more softly
that give lower levels of performance.
The 560 is unusual in that it is a truly high performance saw that retains
admirable levels of comfort for the user. The price for this is very carefully
engineered AV springs that aren’t as robust as some, but are very efficient.
This isn’t an issue for a heavy user; saws equipped with rubber AV buffers
needed regular servicing. We would clean the void around the AV buffers
on our Husqvarna 254s weekly when we were felling softwood, and
replace them at regular intervals.
The saws I used back in the 80s would be on their third set of soft AV
rubbers when I replaced them at six months. The original test 560 we are
using is only on its second set of springs, although the rear handle spring
has been changed three times.
There is one huge issue with the 560s we use though, and it is something
that I believe is probably confined to saws fitted with 3/8 chain. The bars
supplied by Husqvarna are just not robust enough. They don’t wear prematurely, and we don’t have issues with them bending, but the sprocket
noses are just not up to the job. I have a box of these bars with the
sprockets either in pieces or with them jammed by bearings that have
come apart. We have implemented a regime of greasing these bars frequently, and we maintain them meticulously, but they still fail without
provocation and without warning at depressingly short intervals.
Now I’ve got the bad bits out of the way, I can talk about the fact that the
Husqvarna 560 XP is a fantastic saw – powerful, fast and, most importantly, smooth. It is also only fair to remind you that the problems we identified on that first 560 must be considered in context; the saw we used was
and is a very early model, not a pre-production machine, but certainly one
that we were expected to use hard in order to find any weak points.
I gave up using a saw every day almost a decade ago – too old, too fat
and with a dodgy knee and numb fingers, I thought the best place for me
was sitting in a cab. I wouldn’t say it was the 560 that got me felling
again; it was necessity and a simple injection. I found that despite wearing
various different types of gloves I couldn’t ride any of my bikes for more
than a few miles before my left hand went completely numb. I had always
accepted that I had white finger, but the thought of not being able to
continue a passion I have had since my teens forced me to visit the local
surgery where I was introduced to my new GP. I visit the doctor so infrequently I don’t often get to see the same one twice.
The new one has proved to be a bit more proactive than the last one. It
was a shock to be told that actually my hands weren’t too bad, considering the abuse they have had, and my problem is actually carpal tunnel
syndrome. I had the Cortisone injection into my left wrist… incredibly
Forestry Journal 9/14
painful and a bit sore. I didn’t get the usual ‘you’ll feel a tiny scratch’
euphemism, I was told it would hurt; but the benefits in my case were
almost instant. I could sleep without being woken up by a hand that was
so painful I would have happily hacked it off some nights. I could ride my
cramped, low-handlebar 1000 Kawasaki for more than a couple of miles
without resorting to slapping my hand on the tank to try and thrash
some feeling back into it, and incidentally, I could use a saw without ill
effects too.
I took the larch clearfell on. With most of the estates shut down for
shooting, it was a choice between a big difficult job that would see us
through the winter, or scratching around for bits-and-pieces jobs until
the shooting season ended.
The problem was that I needed two good fallers who could fell big
larch on steep hillsides with roads and power lines running through the
entire site. I couldn’t find a second chainsaw operator to work with
Ralph, but I could find a forwarder driver whom I have known for many
years, so he got my seat and I felled on a one-in-three through a wet
winter and spring.
It was about halfway through this job that Stihl offered me the chance to
test their latest 60cc saw, the MS 362 CM. I tested the first incarnation of
this saw back in the mid 2000s. The MS 361 was a revelation at the time,
and it quickly became a favoured felling saw not only with me but with a
number of chainsaw users who regularly cut wood for me at the time.
I liked the MS 361’s balance; it was powerful, easy to handle, could
easily run a 15”x3/8 bar and chain combination using Stihl’s extremely
durable cutting equipment, but, most of all, it was smooth as silk, with
effective and long lasting AV springs.
The 361 made it unnecessary to even consider alternatives. I just
bought another 361 when I needed a new saw, although that wasn’t
very often. I considered the MS 361 to be just about the best saw I had
ever used, and even now I think it would run the Husqvarna 560 close.
Testing the first MS 362 was a bit of a disappointment. The new saw had
all the attributes of the older 361, but it lacked the smoothness. It wasn’t
a bad saw – it was a very good saw – but the charm and the feeling of
being just right had been lost somewhere in the update.
I had high hopes for the new MS 362 CM. It is essentially the same
saw, but with a microprocessor that controls the tuning, as with most of
the new generation of professional saws. It is a match for the 560 on
power, it starts and restarts more easily than the Husqvarna and it
undoubtedly has the superior cutting attachments, but it isn’t a match
when it comes to smoothness. I would class it as being fine to use for all
but picky individuals like me. It isn’t a harsh saw by any means, but I
have yet to find anyone who uses both saws in turn who doesn’t find the
Husqvarna the smoother.
In every test these saws are so close it is difficult to split them. The Stihl
starts better and it has the better bar and chain, it has the tool-less filler
caps and the Stihl build quality. The Husqvarna is so fast it is exceptional;
I think it just edges it on all-out performance and it is so easy to throw
around, but it is way behind on the cutting gear – not so much the
chain, but the standard 15”x3/8 bar lets it down.
I am bound to point out that the MS 362 CM on test is a production
model that has been on sale for some time, and we haven’t had it on
long-term test as with the 560 Husqvarna, so I can’t comment on reliability.
Picking a winner for me is easy. The Stihl does feel as though the AV
system could do with some work – it certainly isn’t as smooth as the
Husqvarna – but the 560 is a tough act to follow. I have no doubt there
will be people out there who don’t agree with me, and if smoothness
isn’t top of your list of priorities, I’m sure the MS 362 CM will not disappoint. It is a very good saw.
Husqvarna’s 560 remains my choice and I won’t be changing my mind
unless Stihl can make me a 362 CM that has the same feel as the old
361. That would be some saw!
Simon Bowes
Forestry Journal 9/14