My previous article listed the currently available new chainsaw models with the best milling performance. These saws were the best of the best – big and powerful, but not particularly affordable.
What if you’d want to give chainsaw milling a try without commiting $1200+ to a milling saw? This is what we will look at today.
In this article, I list the best milling chainsaws in a more accessible price range of $400 to $500. With this money, you can get a 55…60cc mid-range landowner saw that is excellent for general household use, and can do some small milling too.
Note: The saws presented are under-powered for chainsaw milling in general. But they are OK for milling small logs – and the best you’ll get under $500. Stick to logs below 15″ in diameter and read my tips for low-power milling.
|Stihl MS 291||55.5cc||3.8 hp|
|Echo CS-590 |
|Husqvarna 455 |
|55.5cc||3.5 hp |
|*MSRP or av.|
For the budget-friendly sub-$500 milling saw ranking, I picked one saw model from each of the three big manufacturers: Echo, Stihl and Husqvarna. My picks and main specs are listed in the table and the reasoning presented below.
What’s common: The saws are all 55…60cc and 3½…4 hp, mid-range Farm & Ranch saws from a recognizable quality brand. All of the saws are very good for most felling, pruning and firewood cutting; they’re OK for milling small logs up to about 15″.
Although give Stihl the 1st place, the saws are all pretty good and ranking them is hard.
1 Stihl MS 291
My top pick for a new milling chainsaw under $500 is the Stihl MS 291. It earns the top spot through a combination of good power, price, bar mount and chain pitch.
The MS 291 is a 55.5cc mid-range Farm & Ranch saw and puts out a respectable 3.8 hp (2.8 kW).
A particular advantage of the MS 291 in milling is the shorter .325″ chain pitch. With the standard 7-tooth drive sprocket, the .325″ gives +15% more chain force than the 3/8″ that the CS-590 and the 455 Rancher run.
Ripping chains in .325″ are harder to find, though, but at least Granberg should have you covered (see my overview). DIYing is not too hard either (my instructions here).
Another practical advantage is the Stihl 3003 bar mount, which means that you will have plenty of bars to choose from.
2 Echo CS-590 Timberwolf
The Echo CS-590 Timberwolf offers the best power/price ratio in the $500 group and is my second pick for low-budget chainsaw milling.
The CS-590 has an output power of 3.9 hp (2.9 kW), which a lot for an MSRP of $450. But it’s not actually much for the saw’s 60cc displacement. This indicates a relatively low-speed engine, which is just perfect for milling. Echo sadly doesn’t give torque or RPM specs, so this is my best guess.
The biggest downside of the CS-590 is the rarer bar mount. But a 24″ bar is enough for this power and should be easy to find.
3 Husqvarna 455 Rancher
With a bit less power and a bit higher price, the Husqvarna 455 Rancher comes third in the ranking for a budget milling chainsaw.
Performance-wise the 455 Rancher is actually not much behind the MS 291 and CS-590: 3.5 hp vs. 3.8…3.9 hp. Husqvarna is nice enough to give a peak torque spec for the 455 Rancher: 3.2 Nm. This is OK for the CC and the MS 291 and CS-590 are probably close.
The 455 Rancher comes with Husqvarna Small bar mount and 3/8″ chain pitch. Bar selection is very good up to 28″, which is already longer than the 3.2 Nm can mill with. (See my Husky bar guide for more info.)
Any of these 55cc…60cc saws is a decent entry point to chainsaw milling if you have the patience to start small. They are really not for wide slabbing – many people have damaged their 60cc saw in trying.
But if you stick to small logs and follow my low-power milling tips, you should be able to turn your logs to nice live-edge planks or dimensional lumber with any one of the MS 291, CS-590 or 455 Rancher.
The saws also make sense for all-around household and farm use too – much more so than the massive saws that made the previous list.