Stihl celebrates 60th anniversary of Contra chain saw

By edited by Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

The saw was considered a breakthrough for forestry work.

Photo: Stihl

The Sthil Group, Waiblingen, Germany, is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Stihl Contra. Debuting in 1959, this gearless one-man chain saw was considered a technological breakthrough as it made forestry work easier, allowing forestry operations to greatly increase their productivity.

Equipped with a chipper-tooth chain and a diaphragm carburetor capable of working in any position, the chain saw offered great flexibility without having to manually change settings.

Thanks to its compact and streamlined design, the Contra weighed in at a little over 26 pounds while also being more efficient than its predecessors, with engine performance of 6 horsepower and a maximum speed of 7,000 rotations per minute.

“To ease people’s work with and in nature” was the vision that the engineer Andreas Stihl had when he founded his company in 1926. The company says the mission of making work easier while providing safety and flexibility continues to drive the chain saw and power tools manufacturer Stihl to this day.

The Contra’s success ushered in a new era at Stihl, helping the company achieve a double-digit increase in revenue. The rapid expansion associated with the saw’s success made it both possible and necessary to increase the company’s capacities. In the years that followed, Stihl would build new production facilities and an additional new plant in Waiblingen. In the following 10 years, the company’s workforce grew from roughly 640 employees in the year 1959 to over 1,500 in 1969. Production volume also saw marked growth. Today, Stihl employs 17,122 people.

Stihl says it has worked constantly to further improve the safety, ergonomics, environmental friendliness and performance of its chain saws. Improvements include the anti-vibration system first installed in the Contra in 1965, the QuickStop chain brake, emission-reduction and battery technologies. The latest is Stihl injection technology, featured in the Stihl MS 500i gasoline-powered chain saw, which Stihl claims is the world’s first mass-produced chain saw with electronic fuel injection.