Throughout this past spring NordicWoodJournal.com has been testing the new cutting system from Stihl, consisting of the Light 04 saw bar and the new saw chains PRO from Stihl. This article includes the test results and a video from the test.
1.3 mm .325”, a new favorite?
With the new system, Stihl takes the leap into a segment that is highly popular in Sweden. We’re talking about the narrow kerf width of 1.3 mm and .325” cutting of the saw teeth. This segment is commonly known as the narrow kerf segment.
Previously, Stihl has only offered the ⅜ split (Picco) on their cutting system, but Light 04 with the new PRO chains is the start of a new era. It’s an interesting first step, and the new system will compete against products like Husqvarna SP33 G X-cut and Oregon 95TX SpeedCut.
What they all have in common, and probably also a reason why they have become so popular, is that they weigh less and cut more effectively (and often faster), because of the narrow impact. The new system is available in stores now.
We have tried the new system over around 40 tanks and swapped between thinning projects, windthrow and edge felling. The new system seems to maintain a high quality and showed no signs of wear and tear. Durability is top class!
If this was a coincidence or not will be left unsaid, but we really tried to push the system to its limits and ran it parallel to both the X-cut/X-force and Rollomatic/Picco. We broke the tip of both of those bars during testing.
During this test, one professional also got to try the new system. Henrik Andersson, who has previously tested clearing saws on our behalf, got to run through a few tanks, and he is highly impressed by the capacity of the new system.
Comparison Stihl – Husqvarna
To compare, we tested the new system on a Stihl MS261 against a Husqvarna 550XP MkII. Stihl and Husqvarna go in different directions regarding bar lengths, with Stihl opting for 14” and 16” as the most common lengths, while Husqvarna offers 13″ and 15″. In previous tests we have tested Stihl vs Husqvarna with 16” saw bars on Stihl and 15” bars on Husqvarna. In this new test we did the opposite: 14” on Stihl and 15” on Husqvarna.
What about the saw bar lengths?
At the beginning of the test we chose to test the effective cutting lengths of the bars. It turns out (as you can see the full test in the video below) that neither Stihl nor Husqvarna cut as far as the bar length suggests.
The Stihl 14” saw bar cuts at 13.4”, or 34 cm.
The Husqvarna 15” saw bar cuts at 13.8”, or 35 cm.
There’s an inch difference in length on paper, but only 1 cm in practical conditions. Both underperform in actual cutting length. If you remove the originally mounted bark supports you can cut a little more, but when we tested this it turned out that the 15” actual length of Husqvarna is behind the first bar nut…
We ran two different types of cutting tests. One was a test in fresh birch where we tested the RM-Pro and RS-Pro against the SP33 G X-cut. We also tested the RS Pro against the “old” RS chain with 1.5 mm gauge in fresh maple. You will find both tests in the video.
In summary, we can conclude that the RM-Pro and SP33 G are relative equals. Both are also Semi-Chisel or half chisel chains, as they are called. We believe that the fact that RM-Pro slipped after a bit in the video has to do with the trunk moving during the initial cut.
The RS-Pro, however, cuts significantly more efficiently. The biggest reason is probably that it’s a Full-Chisel (whole chisel) chain, and as you can see in test #2 when we pit it against the 1.5 mm RS .325”, it is much faster in fresh maple.
We also made a subjective attempt to measure effective kerf. As you can see in the picture below, RS-Pro seems to be the chain that cuts with the least visible results. The figures in the picture have no real value but they can be compared among each other. Stihl also says the cut is 6.8 mm on the PRO chains while RS/RM .325” 1.5 mm has a 7.7 mm cut. Thus, generally speaking, the PRO chains need to cut 12% less. Quite obvious then, that the process will be quicker.
Is .325” milder than the ⅜”?
We have not done any direct comparisons between the new .325 chain and the Picco chain, which is ⅜” in size. One feeling, however, we got is that the .325” split makes cutting less aggressive. When we subjectively evaluate the difference between the Full-Chisel .325” and Full-Chisel Picco ⅜”, .325” does not feel as aggressive. It doesn’t bounce as much when inserting and it leans better against the trunk when delimbing. Could it be that the split size plays a role here?
As mentioned, the new system is out in stores now and we believe it will be a bestseller. It maintains a very high quality, is easy to use despite the very effective cutting capabilities, and the sharpness of the teeth lasts for a long time. The price of Light 04 saw bar also seems to be in the same segment as the comparable competitors and it certainly guarantees that more people will choose to try it out. Most likely, Light 04 is only suitable for Stihl’s own chainsaws. The system is adapted primarily for MS261 and MS271 and this is probably where most of the new systems will end up.
According to Stihl, the PRO chains will be sold in many different lengths and maybe someone will test only the PRO chain on a saw other than a Stihl. We believe that customers who have previously run Picco may move to Light 04 with PRO chains when it’s time to replace the old system. And following our tests we can say with confidence that you likely won’t be disappointed if you make the change. Just remember to change the drive wheels and that the PRO chains are sharpened with a 4.8 mm file.
Speaking of sharpening, we have used most types of files during testing. The one we keep returning to when it comes to filing Stihl chains is their COMFORT file. It’s not as aggressive as others and is well adapted to filing these chains specifically.
Here is a film about the testing: