March 1, 2024

The Bottom Line, Up Front

The Stihl MSE250C corded electric chainsaw is a rugged workhorse of a saw that is well suited for professional or for farm and ranch-level work. Although the unit that I own has an 18 inch bar and chain, I agree with Stihl’s recommendation that this saw is best suited for a 16 inch bar and chain. With a manufacturer-suggested retail price of $629.99 it is relatively expensive for a corded electric chainsaw, but it has the high quality and extreme durability that is worthy of its high price. If you are as hard on corded electric chainsaws as I am, then this may be the saw for you.

The Backstory

My wife, “Kari” and I were cleaning out the garage at my in-laws house about 14 years ago. Kari’s parents had recently moved into assisted living. Now we were emptying and cleaning the house so that it could be put on the market.

As we sorted through a variety of trash and treasures, I ran across a no-name-brand corded electric chainsaw. I thought it might come in handy, so I put it into our car to take home.

That was back when we still lived in suburbia, so I did not use the saw right away. A number of months later, a branch came down in the yard during a storm. I pulled out the chainsaw, plugged it into an extension cord, and went to work. About five minutes later, I smelled something burning, and the saw stopped. I had destroyed my first electric chainsaw.

Over the course of the next decade and a half, I also burned up or wore out a McCullouch EM250, a Worx WG305, and a McCullouch MS1630NT. I began to wonder if I was just the kind of guy who should not be trusted with a corded electric chainsaw.

In spite of my problems with corded electric chainsaws, I found that they indeed worked well in two major applications. One was when I was doing light cutting on a Saturday morning, and did not want the distant roar of a gas-powered chainsaw to disturb my neighbors’ rest. The other was when I was working up in a tree. It can be hard to start a gas-powered chainsaw once I am up in a tree. It is also aggravating to start the saw on the ground, climb the tree, pull the saw up with a rope, and then have the saw stall on the way up. I like the fact that an electric chainsaw does not need to be running until I pull the trigger, and then it quickly, easily, and consistently starts right away.

So before throwing in the towel, I decided to give corded electric chainsaws one last chance. I decided to buy the toughest, professional-grade, corded-electric chainsaw that I could find. If that saw could not stand up to the Thomas Christianson treatment, I would give up on corded electric chainsaws and seek other solutions for quieter or up-a-tree wood cutting.

With that in mind, I began to consider options. I own a Stihl MS251 gas-powered chainsaw that I like, so I decided to look at the professional-grade, corded-electric chainsaws that Stihl offered. That search seemed to indicate that the MSE250 was the most powerful corded electric chainsaw made by Stihl. But it had a price tag of more than $600, when purchased new. I was not sure if I was ready for that large of an investment.

As I continued to browse online, I ran across a used MSE250C from www.pawnamerica.com for $299 USD. It looked to be in good shape in the pictures, and they said that they had tested it. I looked at some online reviews of Pawn America from the Better Business Bureau and other sites. Pawn America seemed to be a reputable company, so I decided to take a chance. I placed the order, and four days later the saw arrived via FedEx.

First Impressions

One corner of the shipping box was crushed. It looked the box had been dropped. I took the box out to the picnic table on the deck, and cut it open. (Pro Marriage Tip: opening potentially greasy and oily items outside instead of on the kitchen table is a good way to help preserve domestic tranquility. Potentially greasy and oily items may include sardines, unless your wife happens to like them). The shipping box contained a case, which in turn contained the saw, the bar and chain, a scrench tool, and the manual. The manual was a little oily, but otherwise everything appeared to be in excellent condition. I put the saw in the pole barn, wiped as much oil off of the manual as I could, and took it into the house to read it.

The Manual

I put a gun cleaning mat on the kitchen table to protect it from the oily manual (Pro Marriage Tip: if you do take something oily into the house, it is a good idea to put something under it so that it does not soil the tablecloth, carpet, sofa, bedspread, or whatever else you happen to place it on).

The manual was written in both English and Spanish. It was somewhat hard to read the oil-soaked pages near the beginning of the manual. They were rendered semi-transparent by the oil. I could see the words on both sides of the page simultaneously, so it was sometimes difficult to sort the one from the other.

The English portion of the manual is 46 pages long, not counting the inside and outside covers. The manual contained a number of interesting tips:
∙ It warned against using the saw in the woods, since the power cord may impede freedom of movement. It suggested only stationary use in yards and buildings.
∙ It warned against using the saw while fatigued. This is excellent advice that I always try to follow. I try to avoid long cutting sessions, or cutting sessions when I am already tired from other work.
∙ It warned that prolonged vibration may cause Raynaud’s syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome. To help prevent this, it suggests wearing gloves, keeping the saw well-maintained, and keeping the chain sharp.
∙ It recommends using safety chaps, steel-toed boots, heavy-duty gloves, safety glasses, a hard hat, and hearing protection while using the saw.
∙ It recommends using a 12 gauge extension cord no longer than 50 feet in length.
∙ It contains an outstanding section explaining the basics of limbing, bucking, and felling.
∙ It recommended not using the saw while in a tree. This is excellent advice, unless you absolutely need to cut something while you are up in a tree.
∙ The saw has an overload cutout that interrupts power to the saw when it is in danger of overloading or overheating. They obviously designed this saw with people like me in mind.
∙ The manual also includes good directions for changing the sprocket. That process appears to be easier with this saw than with most other saws.

For additional safety advice, please see my article, “Wood Cutting Made Slightly Less Dangerous” Part 1 and Part 2  that were published in SurvivalBlog on September 24 and 25, 2019.

My Testing

I began by using the saw to buck some smaller logs. It did a great job at that task.

Then I used the saw to slab-cut some tree trunk Ys. These places where the tree divides into multiple sections are often extremely hard to split. As a result, I often cut them into slabs about 5 inches thick. These slabs are easier to split into chunks that are small enough to handle with one hand. This task demands so much from a saw that I never even attempted it with my previous corded electric chainsaws. The MSE250C handled the task well.

Next, I used the saw to clear some brush near the pole barn. It did a great job at that job as well.

Then came the acid test. We had 3 maples and a beech between our house and the wood boiler that needed to come down. They ranged in size at the base from 20 to 29 inches in diameter. Because of their proximity to valuable objects, I had a professional come in with a crane to drop the trees in sections. The crane lowered the various sections into a giant pile. I was left with a towering tangle of logs and brush. I needed to cut and clear away the brush, and buck the logs.

That task took a total of approximately 15 hours of hard labor spread over the course of the next 8 days. The MSE250C participated in the majority of that labor. It did a great job of limbing and bucking for up to 4 hours at a time. I noticed that the corded electric MSE250C bogged down less in the kerf while bucking 18 inch beech logs than my 42cc, gas powered MS251. But 10 to 20 minutes of bucking larger logs like this were enough to trigger the overload cutout on the MSE250C. On the other hand, it could limb or buck smaller logs for hours on end without cutting out.

Stihl recommends a 16 inch bar and chain for the MSE250C. My saw came equipped with an 18 inch bar and chain. In light of the limited duration for cutting larger logs without triggering the overload cutout, I would echo the recommendation about using the saw with a 16 inch or shorter bar and chain.

When it came time to sharpen the saw, I found out that the Stihl chain with which it came equipped requires a 13/64th inch file to sharpen. It was less expensive for me to switch to an Oregon E66 chain (for which I already owned a 7/32nd inch file and guide) than it would have been to purchase a 13/64th inch file and guide for the OEM chain.

By the way, I disregarded the manual, and was wearing a baseball cap rather than a hard hat while working with the saw. As I leaned forward to cut a branch, I struck my forehead on another branch, and gave myself a pretty good knock and abrasion. My wife promptly commented, “That was stupid. You should have been wearing a hard hat.” (Pro marriage tip: When your spouse injures himself, do not immediately comment upon how stupid it was to injure himself in that way). (Pro marriage tip: When your spouse needs a pro marriage tip, don’t share it with them in an internationally read Internet blog which is also read by her best friend). (Super pro marriage tip: You may be able to successfully ignore the previous two pro marriage tips if you have been happily married for 40 years or more. But I do not recommend that type of risk-taking for beginners).

Conclusions

The Stihl MSE250C passed the Thomas Christianson Torture Trial with flying colors. I have finally found a corded electric chainsaw that is rugged enough for the way that I cut wood. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer

I did not receive any financial or other inducement to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.