Written on: 22/10/2011
I've used a Farm Boss 029 for 15 years, and it can do some amazing things - but no saw is perfect. Todays alcohol adulterated fuels are wreaking havoc on quality saws, as it sours in just a few weeks and can disable ANY 2stroke motor. Fuel additives like Seafoam or Stabil are now mandatory, all because we allow our politicians to underwrite the subsidies of agribusiness and mandate gasahol.
Since the fuel line on the 029 - made in 1995 - swelled and required repair, I accepted the situation and admitted it was an opportunity to purchase a smaller saw. They are certainly capable of doing most of the work, without having to carry excess fuel powering a saw five pounds heavier. My back would be better off. I visited the local store with some preconceptions, talked to the front salesman and the retired owner of the shop that sold me the first Stihl. They steered me to the MS170 specifically because it uses the bigger saw control layout, making that easy and familiar. NO priming bulb that would eventually fail and leak, causing the carburetor to require a rebuild. That has been a bane with import weedcutters of late, and seeing them stick out of trash cans in a variety of cheap big box colors was something I was already trying to avoid. No junk import saw with no local service, please.
The saw was equipped at my request with the new carbide Duro chain. It's amazing: there's a lot of controversy over carbide chain, when in reality it's no different than getting a carbide saw blade for a table or circular saw. The take abuse and last, far longer than carbon, and pay their way.
I worked 6 hours today cutting out broken trees and limb tangles in a intermittent stream bed. The wood has been down since 2003, when a local tornado dropped 12 major trees in my yard, and the two ice storms subsequent to that have added more. When it rains, the whole mess would flood the lower back yard, and the damming was getting worse.
The O29 Farm Boss started the job last week before acting up(alcohol based fuels, and as an auto parts salesman, I'm very aware of the problem.)The MS170 picked up from there, a 14" Duro equipped bar easily turning the 6 to 9 year old mud covered wood into nice fireplace sized lengths. More than once I hit rocks - bad enough I know by experience a regular chain would have needed resharpening. The Duro chain not only kept cutting, I saw no change in chip size, or needing to add pressure to help.
That's a bad habit I picked up using the 029, this saw will bog down if you lean on it. Just Say No. Lighten up and let it do the cutting, it can and will do the job. It handled 14" cuts the full length of the bar, plunge cuts, undercuts, whatever. It wasn't what I expected - the saw works better when you stop trying to make it work harder. Don't.
Mine ran fine, the chain stayed sharp all day, and still cuts. I might take it in next spring for a resharp. I'll be too busy using it until then, as cutting wood has now become less than a workout, and the stacking much more. I work faster, get more wood cut, and find it's getting late with more to load than time (or inclination) to do it.
For an experienced using familiar with Stihl and the need for a smaller saw, this does the job. It doesn't have the homeowner toggle gas and oil caps that I've heard break all the time, and has a simple, positive double nut clamp and screw adjustment for the bar. Check tension before each start up, adjust if needed, and go. The start up routine is choke, pull until it "burps," or tries, then half choke. It usually starts in a few pulls. My lawnmowers and weedtrimmers should be this easy, especially after sitting six months. But then again, that was before I started adding fuel treatments on that crappy alcohol gas.