Chainsaws
Repairing the Stihl 026 and 066

Overview

My three Stihl chainsaws (026 petrol, 066 petrol and E-220 electric) are must have tools in my studio and they all see brutally heavy usage. Recently, I replaced several parts on my two petrol saws and I found out a couple of nice little gotchas, that you might want to know.


My newly repaired Stihl 026

The first saw I purchased when I opened my studio was a Stihl 026, which is a great mid-range saw for smaller logs with its 18” bar. It has a good power to weight ratio and has served me well for fourteen years. (Stihl has a newer version of this saw called the MS 260 PRO) The 026 is my main saw for bucking smaller logs and de-limbing trees that are on the ground. It’s light and powerful enough to use all day in Houston’s sweltering heat and humidity, without making you feel like your arms are going to fall off at the end of the day.

Where chainsaws of this size fall short is when you have to buck larger logs, or a really large tree. While you can make two cuts (one from each side of the log) to effectively process larger logs up to 76.2cm (30”), if you have a lot of logs to process it’s going to take some time to complete your task. The slower chain speed means that larger jobs take longer, but you can still get them done.

My 026 has been good to me through the years, requiring only regular maintenance like air filters, spark plugs and new chains. Last years’ hurricane Ike was hard on the 026 though… I loaned it out to help remove some downed trees and got it returned with a broken handle, bent bar, dull chain and with the sprocket assembly impacted with mud from it being used to remove a stump from the ground! As I added up the damage, I found it needed a new handle, bar, chain, chain drive sprocket, air-filter and a spark plug, along with the handle. So much for loaning your tools out!

My damaged 026 chainsaw bar and air filter


How Much to Repair?

Luckily, there is a Stihl dealer not far from my home, so I took a trip one day to order the parts I needed. All of the parts cost about what I expected (bar, chains, drive sprocket, spark plug), but the handle was high as a cat’s back at £39.52 ($65.00) and the air filter was really expensive as well. The handle is constructed of a metal tube, with a plastic overlay and was the same design as the original model.

The broken handle bar (right),
and the replacement handle bar (left)

The handle has a weak spot (all plastic, no metal) where the handle mounts to the lower body of the saw that the dealer said is prone to breakage. That’s just where my handle broke, as well as a couple of my friends 026 handles. When I added up the repairs, the cost was more than 1/3 the cost of the saw when I purchased it fourteen years ago. Moral of this story, never loan your tools out!

The 026's air filter must be checked
regularly for dust and debris to keep
the saw running at optimal levels


Stihl 066

My newly repaired Stihl 066 chainsaw

Time is money in a woodturning studio, which is why I purchased the 066 chainsaw twelve years ago. It’s substantially more powerful than the 026 and currently sports a 76.2cm (30”) bar, 71.12cm (28”) from the bucking spikes, with enough power to run a 121.92cm (48”) bar without bogging down in green wood. It’s a heavy brute though and it will test your idea of how strong you think your forearms are after using it for a full day, especially when it’s 40.5 degrees C (105 degrees F) outside with 98% humidity and you’ve been bucking logs for eight hours. (Stihl’s newer version of this saw is called the MS 660.)

The main benefit of buying a big and heavy saw like the 066 is speed, power and length of cut. If you’ve got a lot of work to do, this saw will deliver time and time again. It’s big, heavy and loud as a pair of straight pipes on a hot rod, but it sure does a full day's work and then some. With the 76.2cm (30”) bar, I can make a single cut through most crotches, saving the maximum amount of precious feather figure. It’s also faster to cut through a 76.2cm (30”) log once, than it is to make two cuts with a shorter bar like the one on the 026, which speeds up processing large logs.

My 066 has also been good to me through the years, only requiring routine maintenance like filters, chains and spark plugs. During hurricane Ike, I also loaned out my 066 and it was damaged as well, but to a lesser extent. It came back with a bent bar and damaged chain. Whilst I was at the chainsaw dealer getting parts for my 026, I also picked up everything I needed to repair my 066 and I found out a nice little gotcha about Stihl’s replacement chain bar for the 066.

The original 066 bar (top) was designed
for 97 chain links. The new replacement bar
(lower) is sized for 98 chain links

Gotcha!

My original 066’s chain bar was made for chains that are 97-links in length. Like most woodturners who have chainsaws, I have numerous chains for each of my chainsaws. When the dealer placed the new bar down on the counter, I checked the engraved information on the end of the bar to make sure it was the correct one for my saw. Everything was fine except for one thing, the new bar was made for chains that were 98-links in length, not the 97 of my original bar.

Close-up of the bar plate on the original
066 bar, showing 97 link size (lower right)

When I asked the dealer to double-check the bar, he said that the catalog said it’s the correct bar. A little more checking and he found out that Stihl had changed the replacement bars to 98-links and no longer made the original 97-link bar configuration. Why they made the change was not noted, but the end result was that all of my current chains for the 066 were now too short to work with the new bar, including a few brand new ones that I had purchased a year earlier at a sale and never used. The change in the bar size effectively rendered eight new/used chains obsolete. At £ 21.28 ($35.00) each, that’s about £ 167.20 ($275.00) worth of chainsaw chains that I could no longer use.

Close-up of the new 066 bar
plate, showing 98 link size (lower center)

To add insult to injury, I now had to buy eight new chains to fit the new 066’s 98-link bar, which was not fun but I had no choice. So, if you have an older model Stihl 066 and you need to replace the bar, get your pocketbook ready! Not only will you have to buy the bar, but you will have to replace all of your older chains as well. If you have several chains, the cost can add up quickly. Ka-Ching!

The replacement bar for the 026 was the same as the original bar, but not so with the 066. I don’t know if Stihl changed the bar sizes on any of their other bars, but you might want to check first if you need to replace your bar. It smarts a bit when you have to pitch brand new chains in unopened boxes into the rubbish bin! I thought about buying a chain breaker and the other tools necessary to make my own chains from bulk stock to make the old chains fit onto the new bar, but decided against it due to the cost.dri

Close-up of the drive sprocket,
retaining washer and roller bearing that were
replaced during the rebuild

I also tried to find a local turner with an older 066 that might want the chains, but I struck out. Most of the turners I know of around my area are using the medium frame chainsaws or smaller units, not the large frame models. Hopefully if you find yourself in the same situation in the future, you can find another turner that you can sell/give your slightly used chains to, so the repair/replacement cost of your new bar will be easier to swallow at the checkout register.


Safety Note: Always follow all manufacturers safety instructions before working with your lathe, or any of the tools or products you may use. If you are unsure about any operation, obtain competent professional instruction before proceeding. Use and wear all necessary safety devices during turning and observe safe woodturning practices to prevent accident or injury.


Steven D. Russell is a professional studio woodturner, teacher and writer. He has written numerous articles for international woodturning magazines, which have been published in more than 78 countries around the world. Steve has demonstrated in numerous cities across the United States. His studio, Eurowood Werks, specializes in bowls, platters and hollow forms with unique visual and tactile treatments.

Steve is also the current and founding President of the Lone Star Woodturners Association, Inc., an AAW member chapter. The LSWA is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating the art and craft of woodturning.

Steve is also a featured writer for the Guild of Master Craftsman's "Woodturning" magazine, published in London England. Woodturning magazine is the world's leading magazine for woodturners. Look for his articles covering technical topics, or project based articles in an upcoming issue.