Most of the major chainsaw manufacturers now offer an EasyStart system, designed to make using the recoil starter much easier to use when starting the saw. Stihl have their ErgoStart™ system and Makita have their Featherlight-Start™ system. These are often found on saws dedicated for home-users and 'light-use' saws, with the professional models making do with decompression switches instead. Find out more about these systems after the jump...
When teaching chainsaw maintenance and crosscutting I've found that many women have difficulty in starting chainsaws; for that reason we purchased a Stihl MS250C which is fitted with an ErgoStart recoil starter.
This uses a some trickery with
smoke and mirrors springs to assist the user when starting the saw; and I have to say that it really works. The saw is so simple to start that a child could start it - although I'm not too sure why you'd want a kid to start a chainsaw, but you get the point. In fact, before we broke it when out on a felling course, this was a firm favourite amongst all the students (and I often used it for demonstrations).
As well as Stihl, Makita also offer their Feather-Light Start system that is very similar to Stihl's ErgoStart and is equally effective in making the chainsaw that much easier to get going.
So, are there any disadvantages? With the Stihl saws, there is a noticeable increase in the size of the recoil starter housing, which is just not apparent on the Makita system. The maintenance of the recoil starter is a little bit more awkward with these easy-start systems, but it's not too taxing.
The only real issue is that these systems do not seem to have found their way on to the professional saws - these tend to utilise decompression valves instead. However, for non-professional users or those using a saw only intermittently, choosing a saw with an easy start does improve the ease of ownership and they're well worth checking out.