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  1. #1
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    Default How good is the 090 Stihl Really?

    Had an urge to try to obtain a Stihl 090 recently and was horrified at the prices they bring, even for saws only semi complete and well used and abused.
    So, being an inquisitive sort, I thought I would do a little more research to see if they were really worth the money and also to try and decide without actually using one if they were the "GODFATHER OF MILLING SAWS" as many seem to portray them.
    First of all, their horsepower seems to be overated significantly. I have seen figures anywhere from 15hp to 8.5hp, with 13hp being the most common. I don't believe the two higher figures and have settled upon 8.5hp as the most likely, (remember an Ms880 is supposed to be 8.6hp and the 090 is only around 17cc's bigger and much slower revving). Torque could possibly be the saving grace of the 090, (perhaps they are higly regarded because they show the signs of a blunt chain less than modern high revvers, thus giving a perception of power).
    Given the 090's total lack of safety or comfort features I am having a hard time justifying their price, although aftermarket spare parts are dirt cheap and plentiful.
    I really would like to get my hands on one for some real world comparisons but based on pure figures cannot see their advantages.
    What do other people think and has anyone compared one to say a 3120 Husky or an Ms880 Stihl.
    I even watched numerous Youtube movies with 090's cutting and honestly did not see any more performance than a 394 Husky or a '66 Stihl would give based on amount of sawdust produced and time taken to cut. Admittedly the 090 given it's slow revving style did appear to be very lazy while cutting with little fuss.
    The yanks seem to rave about them, but I do not place much faith in this as they also deeply mistrust Anti Vibration systems, Chain Brakes and shun hearing and head protection it would seem.
    To use an automotive example it seems to be comparing a Valiant Charger to a Subaru WRX, ( I like chargers, but know that all I would see of a WRX would be tail lights!)
    Surely I am missing something?

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karl Robbers View Post
    First of all, their horsepower seems to be overated significantly. I have seen figures anywhere from 15hp to 8.5hp, with 13hp being the most common. I don't believe the two higher figures and have settled upon 8.5hp as the most likely, (remember an Ms880 is supposed to be 8.6hp and the 090 is only around 17cc's bigger and much slower revving). Torque could possibly be the saving grace of the 090, (perhaps they are higly regarded because they show the signs of a blunt chain less than modern high revvers, thus giving a perception of power).
    I agree, the prices do not warrant their reputation. The vibration is shocking, they chew thru petrol like there's no tomorrow, and they weigh a ton. My brief experience with them they have a awesome exhaust note and are fun to use for about 10 minutes and then it becomes HARD work. The videos I have seen of 090's on CS mills have also not been all that inspiring, certainly nowhere near inspiring enough for me to hunt one down and make it my standard milling saw.

    Although the 090 has about the same HP as an 880 (see picture), it's not a perception, 090s do have 19% more torque (9.5 Nm at 5000 rpm) than modern 120 cc saws (8.0 Nm at 6000 rpm) so are potentially able to do more work. The HP or power curve calculated from direct measurements of torque but it's torque that determines the ability of an engine to perform work under load. This is why they able to continue cutting when the chain is blunt.

    The reason most 090's look like they are not cutting anywhere near as fast as their reputation suggests (and in a lot of cases no faster or even slower than a 100cc saw) is that operators simply do not always know how to take advantage of all that torque.

    The easiest way to do this is to increase the number of teeth on the drive sprocket. Using an 8 tooth instead of the standard 7 tooth provides a chain speed increase of 14% over a 7 tooth. Although this increases the chain speed by 14% it reduces the torque by 14% so in the end they come out only marginally above a modern saw.

    The alternative way to take advantage of this torque is to substantially drop the rakers. The grandfather of CS milling, Will Malloff, recommends using a new chain raker setting of 0.045" for an 090. This will make the saw as grabby as hell but it will then pull much bigger chips at low RPM and also cut a lot faster but the cut will also be rougher. The 0.045" recommendation is almost certainly for softwoods and I doubt even an 090 would pull chips with this raker setting in Aussie hardwoods but it could probably work fine at a 0.035" setting in these woods.

    Unless either of the above methods are used, in small wood, where chain speed dominates the cutting speed, the 090 will cut slower than a modern saw. Where the 090 should out perform modern saws is on really big hard logs where torque is more critical than chain speed. Just use a 7 tooth sprocket and let the extra torque do it's thing at low RPMs and it will churn it's way through the log. To compete, a modern saw would need to go to a 6 pin drive sprocket but as far as I know these are not available.

    If I had one I wouldn't use it on a mill and would just keep it as a collectors item and bring it out to wake up the neighbors the morning after their all night parties. Somehow I can quite justify the $ for something that just does this.
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    To have one is to love it ,every time you pull the trigger . Lifting it with a 5ft bar and frame is a job for a strong man . Swapped mine on my lucas saw , and miss it every now and then . It had the anti vibe and started on half a pull . just as well or you would need a rest . they are old style but good with every thing flanged and bolted alloy , no plastic , try one and you will soon know the sheer power is amazing , cheers Bob

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    I have all 3 saws the 090 ,088 magnum and the 3120 husky honestly the 090 will out perform the others when set up properly by a mile the new saws are good as they are lighter but if you want raw power you can't beat the 090 used to use them with 1/2 '' chain and a 36'' bar file the rakers down about twice what they recommend and cut like bugery when I use it for slabbing I use stock404 chain with the rakers knocked down quite a bit they definatly work better than the other saws if you can get a good saw to try then do so the only way to find out is to try one

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    Quote Originally Posted by swing mill View Post
    I have all 3 saws the 090 ,088 magnum and the 3120 husky honestly the 090 will out perform the others when set up properly by a mile the new saws are good as they are lighter but if you want raw power you can't beat the 090 used to use them with 1/2 '' chain and a 36'' bar file the rakers down about twice what they recommend and cut like bugery when I use it for slabbing I use stock404 chain with the rakers knocked down quite a bit they definatly work better than the other saws if you can get a good saw to try then do so the only way to find out is to try one
    You raise an interesting point. In my research thus far, I did note that 1/2" pitch chain give a speed advantage of approx 1mps.
    Certainly lowering the rakers would take advantage of the extra low down torque provided by the 090.
    I really would like to try one and will keep my eyes peeled for a specimen. My guess is that the 090 is not a user friendly saw but would certainly give one a buzz using it for brief periods, (particularly a non AV model). They do have a certain charm although I am leaning towards the viewpoint that their hype outweighs their performance based purely upon figures.
    Maybe one day I will unleash the beast!

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    Default they are the shizzle

    I have only had the pleasure of operating 2 090s and yes I can say they are the machine!!!

    One I operated was one of a few that had the big bore option (yes bigger than 131.6cc) think it was almost 150 cc and yes they are completely different to todays saws they are all about torque and nothing about revs/hp (any good engine builder will tell you that hp is not the be all, TORQUE is king,) and the 090 had it in bucket fulls max revs 10000, full load revs about 8500. the 880, peak revs about 12500, max torque revs around 9500 but max torque is much lower. Even recently there was a post I was involved in where the seller was importing the 090 from brazil, the 880 magnum was selling for 2800 roughly and the 090 (new, with chainbrake) was about a buck change out of 4000. They are like a motorbike in your hands with a big chain and bar hanging out the front. If I could get one I would for a milling saw. THEY ARE A BIG MANS SAW, they are not something a jockey could use and were built for the lumberjacks of old!!!

    Oh and the 3120 is a piece of carp and like all husky saws revs its a..hole off then bogs at the slightest amount of load in comparison to the stihl equivalent, which will generally reach its torque zone and just keep on lugging. This is what I like about the stihls over the huskies. you can load them up and they say "ok now I have to work" where the huskies say "NO I can't work that hard"

    if the guys at stihl are listening they need to look at building something with the capacity of the old 090 in the weight range of the 880.
    I am told that sharpening handsaws is a dying art.... this must mean I am an artisan.

    Get your handsaws sharpened properly to the highest possible standard, the only way they should be done, BY HAND, BY ME!!! I only accept perfection in any saw I sharpen.

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    One I operated was one of a few that had the big bore option (yes bigger than 131.6cc) think it was almost 150 cc and yes they are completely different to todays saws they are all about torque and nothing about revs/hp (any good engine builder will tell you that hp is not the be all, TORQUE is king,) and the 090 had it in bucket fulls max revs 10000, full load revs about 8500. the 880, peak revs about 12500, max torque revs around 9500 but max torque is much lower.

    The big bore 090 was actually 164cc and as I understand it was created as part of a chainsaw racing program - rare as hens teeth, you certainly were lucky.

    Even recently there was a post I was involved in where the seller was importing the 090 from brazil, the 880 magnum was selling for 2800 roughly and the 090 (new, with chainbrake) was about a buck change out of 4000.


    Seeing as new 090's are being built, why are Stihl not supplying certain parts anymore, (this I found out primarily from american web sites).
    Did it actually have a chainbrake or only a spring loaded hand guard? As I understand it they are not actually fitted with chain brakes.

    if the guys at stihl are listening they need to look at building something with the capacity of the old 090 in the weight range of the 880.[/QUOTE]

    Can't help myself here, but if the guys at Stihl are listening, please put a decent air filtration system on your saws, ie Husky Air Injection, (yes I know that the 3120 doesn't have it).

    I will try and get an 090 to play with some day, hopefully an AV model,still don't see the value in many of the beat up wrecks that are being sold at present though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Karl Robbers View Post
    One I operated was one of a few that had the big bore option (yes bigger than 131.6cc) think it was almost 150 cc and yes they are completely different to todays saws they are all about torque and nothing about revs/hp (any good engine builder will tell you that hp is not the be all, TORQUE is king,) and the 090 had it in bucket fulls max revs 10000, full load revs about 8500. the 880, peak revs about 12500, max torque revs around 9500 but max torque is much lower.

    The big bore 090 was actually 164cc and as I understand it was created as part of a chainsaw racing program - rare as hens teeth, you certainly were lucky.

    Even recently there was a post I was involved in where the seller was importing the 090 from brazil, the 880 magnum was selling for 2800 roughly and the 090 (new, with chainbrake) was about a buck change out of 4000.


    Seeing as new 090's are being built, why are Stihl not supplying certain parts anymore, (this I found out primarily from american web sites).
    Did it actually have a chainbrake or only a spring loaded hand guard? As I understand it they are not actually fitted with chain brakes.

    if the guys at stihl are listening they need to look at building something with the capacity of the old 090 in the weight range of the 880.
    Can't help myself here, but if the guys at Stihl are listening, please put a decent air filtration system on your saws, ie Husky Air Injection, (yes I know that the 3120 doesn't have it).

    I will try and get an 090 to play with some day, hopefully an AV model,still don't see the value in many of the beat up wrecks that are being sold at present though.[/QUOTE]

    Ok I agree that stihl need to create a better system for keeping their air filters clean!!!! this said their filtration if fitted properly does work well at blocking saw dust (nothing gets through), it just blocks quickly. (1 and a half tanks max with a 660)

    The reason the spare parts are not readily available is like the volkswagons, still made in brazil just the same as 60 years ago, they are not imported by Stihl Australia (as the 381 wasn't for a while) and even though they are still made they are not able to be marketed in certain areas for a number of reasons (emissions etc.) and YES the last of the 090s had a proper chain brake mechanism as did the 076, when it was nearing the last of its lifetime.

    And as for the HUSKY air injection system I must ask WHY do you think they bought out jonsered??? maybe because it was the only way they could have something over stihl!!!! the Husky air curtain/injection system is why they bought out j/red, who were the original inventors!!!

    I would still cut more with a stihl even with tapping the sawdust from the filter every second tank than with a husky!!!!! and they aren't as ugly!!!!
    I am told that sharpening handsaws is a dying art.... this must mean I am an artisan.

    Get your handsaws sharpened properly to the highest possible standard, the only way they should be done, BY HAND, BY ME!!! I only accept perfection in any saw I sharpen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Edwards View Post
    . . . and the 090 had it in bucket fulls max revs 10000, full load revs about 8500.
    Nope,
    the 880, peak revs about 12500, max torque revs around 9500.
    and Nope!
    but max torque is much lower.
    If 17% is "much lower" then yes otherwise it's not.

    You obviously haven't read my post earlier on in this thread.

    Here is a picture of one of the few 164cc/10ci 090s I saw in Washington last. The owner is the North American Stihl product development manager (Wayne Stanton).



    Oh and the 3120 is a piece of carp and like all husky saws revs its a..hole off then bogs at the slightest amount of load in comparison to the stihl equivalent, which will generally reach its torque zone and just keep on lugging. This is what I like about the stihls over the huskies. you can load them up and they say "ok now I have to work" where the huskies say "NO I can't work that hard"
    I disagree, the 3120 is an excellent saw. It easily keeps up with the 880 in the cut but it has the disadvantage of small things like inboard clutch, No H screw on the carby and is rev limited quite a bit lower than the 880 but it's what's happening in the cut that counts.

    Ok I agree that stihl need to create a better system for keeping their air filters clean!!!! this said their filtration if fitted properly does work well at blocking saw dust (nothing gets through), it just blocks quickly. (1 and a half tanks max with a 660)
    They have - the 441 has excellent filtration - they just haven't migrated it to other saws just yet. For me filtration is about a 3rd order problem, I'll worry about it when the first and second order problems evaporate.
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    ok Bob you have replied Nope, nope, and,,, yes 17% is a lot and with the bigbore 090s this would be close to 25 or 30 percent. If you reply nope give some figures! explain why what I wrote is wrong. at the end of the day the reason the 090 won so many competitions is because you could load it up and make it work so much harder (TORQUE) as with the mcchullochs of the day.

    I have the stihl service manuals and cd's so I know what they should be tuned to do. And yes there are things that the new saws do better but there are also things they will never do as well as the 090 did. There is also the fact of how reliable they were which also warranted the extra cost. (40 years on and they are stihl going)

    Personally for me there are many reasons why I would not buy a 441 but honestly it should not even be brought into this debate as shouldn't the husky/jred air curtain setup.

    The 090 was a hardcore machine!!!!

    they are not made/marketed now for a number of reasons, including the fact that people are not as hard as they were, and trees are not as big as they were.

    the 090 deserves its place in history as do the other big saws even the 3120!
    I am told that sharpening handsaws is a dying art.... this must mean I am an artisan.

    Get your handsaws sharpened properly to the highest possible standard, the only way they should be done, BY HAND, BY ME!!! I only accept perfection in any saw I sharpen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Edwards View Post
    ok Bob you have replied Nope, nope, and,,, yes 17% is a lot and with the bigbore 090s this would be close to 25 or 30 percent. If you reply nope give some figures! explain why what I wrote is wrong. !
    You must be mistaken because your quoted RPMS at max torque are way out and I do mean WAAAY out. If you can't/won't read my post then I won't rewrite it here. My specs also came from the Stihl manuals and I cross checked them with the US and european chainsaw forum data. If you don't believe me I will post pics of the PDFs from the manuals but only after you post yours.

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    Hi all,

    The 090's origins date back to 1959. Andreas Stihl then designed and built the first one-man lightweight direct drive petrol saw. Practical statistics in all kinds of wood had already pointed out that you need at least 1 hp for every 10 cms of bar length (still a rule of thumb today). Decent felling saws had bars of 50 to 60 cms length, so 6 hp was required. Around that time, German industry had gained much experience with one cylinder petrol engines (eg. Fichtel & Sachs, ILO) and 6 hp could be squeezed out of 100 cc displacement in an efficient engine design. So the Stihl Contra from 1959 had 106 cc displacement and 6 hp, packed in a total weight of 12 kilograms. For export countries the type name "Lightning" was used. The design was spot-on, more than 200,000 machines were sold in the first two years after introduction. The Contra had its best torque/rpm ratio between 4,000 and 5,000 rpm and a max. rpm around 6,000. At that speed with a standard 7-teeth sprocket and 0.404 pitch chain, the chain speed is around 840 meters per minute. With a 58 mm bore and 40 mm stroke, the engine design is on the "wrong side of square" to be a really torquey engine that can stand severe rpm drop and still maintain pulling power. It's more like a racing car engine that has better efficiency at its upper rpm region. Trial bikes and ship's diesels have long strokes, Ferrari V12's have very short strokes and ice hockey puck shaped pistons to reduce friction and minimise mass inertia, needed for quick response and high rpm. A short stroke gives a squat cylinder shape already , but to keep the Contra's overall engine shape yet more compact, the cylinder head was relatively flat and had to be made out of a zinc alloy to provide sufficient cooling. The full length spark plug was screwed-in sideways flat on the left side and there was no decompression valve yet.

    Requests for more power to drive longer bars resulted in the Contra Super in 1964 (abbreviated to Contra S or Lightning S). 1964 was also the year when Stihl developed the anti-vibration suspension, after health complaints of many users (wrist and hand joint injuries, numbness and "white fingers"). By enlarging the displacement to 137 cc, 8 hp could be drawn from the same engine design. This was done by enlarging the bore from 58 to 66 mm; crankcase, crank and stroke remained unchanged. To fit the enlarged cylinder, the crankcase collar opening was enlarged from 64 to 74 mm diameter. The more powerful piston knocks on the unchanged crank bearing array and the generation of more heat made the S-type prone to quicker wear and tear. Despite the powerboost to 8 hp, the bore/stroke-ratio became even worse, leading to an increase of breakdowns during heavy duty hardwood harvesting. As a result the G-models were introduced. These had an additional gearbox with 2:1 ratio, reducing chain speed by half and doubling torque, for better felling and logging results in very large hardwood trunks with very long bars (up to 100 cm!). The 106cc geared version was called Contra G, the 137 cc geared version Contra SG. These were very heavy machines to drag around all day.

    The Contra range was made up to 1968 and then changed into the 070 and 090. Anti-vibration versions were called 070 AV and 090 AV. Power outputs were improved somewhat to 6.5 and 8.5 hp, due to a better piston and air filter design. The cylinder heads were also redesigned, the spark plug was now short threaded and vertically mounted on top and there was a decompression valve in the left hand corner (as seen from the operator's view). The less severely stressed 106cc engine in combination with the gear drive fared best in continuous heavy duty, so the 137cc G-version was abandoned. The remaining 106 cc gear model was called 090G instead of 070G to better express its far more torquey behaviour than that of the standard 090. For chain saw sports events, a very limited amount of gearless 090's has been souped up to 166 cc displacement. This is the one and only 12 hp version. Stihl is vague about its involvement and shows no official records nor an official type name. The 166 cc model is a very rare and sought-after collector's item. The only way to visually distinguish a 166 cc 090 from a 137 cc one is the location of the deco-valve; it is left next to the spark plug instead of in the left forward corner . Apart from the type plate lettering, there is little optical difference between the 070 and 090 anyway. The best giveaway is the starter cord section. The 090 has a larger cord pulley diameter, so the array of air inlet louvre slits around the pulley shows a bulbous positive curved shape. The slit array around the 070's smaller pulley is sleeker and shows a negative curve.

    I was allowed to saw with a 090 a few years ago and it left me in awe. This machine advertises its power and sensation of inherent danger like few modern chain saws can. The ignition cut-out switch is one of the rare safety measures present on this thing. When it kicks back, you fling along with it. Just thinking about the havoc this thing can cause, sends a tingling to the hairs in your neck. The vibration and noise make you realise that this is still 1959-technology. It is the original Landrover or Jeep compared to Freelanders and Cherokees. Little creature comfort and technically superseded in many ways, but basically sound, rough and dependable. It was fun for 15 minutes or so, after that i pitied the guys who have to wield this thing for daily bread for decades until their joints give out. I've heard a few professionals prefer the 084 over the 090. The torque seems roughly compatible, partly maybe because the 084 has a 43 mm stroke instead of 40.

    But the 090 is awesome to look at. No part on it needs to be ashamed for looking the way it does. The oil and fuel tank are real tanks with decent filler caps. The engine still looks the part. The oldfashioned centifugal fan housing and starter cord array hint to a sturdy old skool petrol engine. The overall design of an 090 is like an old Norton or BSA or Harley bike, whereas modern Stihl's have the same tidy boring look as BMW bikes have. You can picture those tidy German engineers wearing white laboratory coats and Rodenstock design glasses, looking for sleek integral shapes. You could even picture the users being office people with their neckties still on while at it in the garden. I can even imagine that Stihl could make a merchandise safety design trinket in housestyle orange to fold and hold the necktie out of harm's way.

    Last summer i saw an 070 AV in auction on Ebay Germany. Brand new and imported from Brazil. The 070 and 090 have failed most standing emission rules in the world and the trading of new machines is forbidden in many countries, like the US and Europe. I couldn't resist and bought it for my collection, for 525 Euros, which isn't bad at all. Not only a beautiful machine to save and look at, but also one of the choice rainforest killers kept away from endangered wild teakwood. The seller knew a lot about Stihl. Apart from Waiblingen Germany, Stihl also has works in Brazil and China. Like with the VW beetle and its outdated technology, the production of the 070 and 090 was moved to regions where demand was highest and where emission rules were more relaxed. Although many parts in this new 070 AV were marked "Made in Germany", they may have been made in Brazil and stamped otherwise to boost buyer's confidence. On the other hand, visitors to the Waiblingen Factory as recenlty as 2007 and 2009, claim to have seen 070 and 090 parts, to be boxed for shipping and assembly abroad; even complete machines. I was pleased to see familiar parts inside like the original Tillotson carburettor and AET ignition components from Slovenia. The seller thought the crank castings to be Italian. There may have been Chinese parts involved, but i couldn't recognise those. Original Stihl parts carry a mark containing a square shaped S with a square outline running around it. Parts without it may be suspect, but i've seen factory new untinkered machines containing parts not carrying such mark. One thing is certain: the Chinese have seized the opportunity to cater for the demand for replacement parts for the Contra's/Lightnings and 070's/090's. Most spare parts on the internet are of such counterfit Chinese origin and not even from Stihl's Chinese works. The most dependable telltale sign of a real Germany made Stihl saw seems to be a white sticker on the crankcase, clearly stating "Made in Germany" together with production year, serial number and barcode.

    You must consider yourself lucky if you run into an original 090 which has seen little use and contains more than 75% original Stihl components. The reasons for Americans being keen on this model are clear. They love all things big and powerful, especially when attitude and reputation are involved. These machines are like Harley Davidsons, with the 090 being much more sought after than the 070. They are noisy fuel guzzlers, their next generation 660 and 880 are much more efficient and economic for even a slightly better output.
    Recently i took apart an electric E 220 and was disappointed by the plastics content of this machine. That thing is promoted as being pro-league, but has a plastic crown wheel driving the sprocket, like the budget MSE 140C, 160C and 180C have. The modern petrol Stihls aren't what they used to be, either. But still, they work and keep working, in spite of ever more sparing use of expensive metals.

    The 090 is impressive to use and own, but is not the easiest and most comfortable saw to hande. Life can be easier, healthier and safer with modern alternatives, that needn't be less powerful or productive.

    greetings

    gerhard

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerhard View Post
    At that speed with a standard 7-teeth sprocket and 0.404 pitch chain, the chain speed is around 840 meters per second.
    Sounds like someone else is mistaken in this thread.

    840 m/s = 3024 km/hr - now I'd like to see that. Even racing chainsaws don't drive chain much beyond 150 km/hr

    7 teeth and 404 chain at 6000 rpm = about 80 km/hr = 22 m/s

    I'm not naturally this observant but I get plenty of practice picking up student mistakes in mechanical calculations so this one was quite easy to spot.

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    Hi Bob,

    you're quite right and many thanks for the correction! It should have been 840 meters per minute instead of per second. I have edited it in the post above.

    thanks and greetings

    gerhard

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    For further illustration:

    this is a link to an exquisite forum thread concerning the Contra range. It is a must-see, a splendid overview of used and restored machines, with lots of enlightening close-ups and nice pics of the geared types in the lower page part. Who am i to borrow pics from these members, it's better to see them in the full thread context and leave the credit where it is due:

    Chainsaw Collectors.se • View topic - Stihl Contra/Lightning/G/GS

    The two pics that i did add show a commemorative ceramic plate. It shows Andreas Stihl and a Contra saw, with a fragment of the success story printed on the back.
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