Stihl FS 50 CE Brush Cutter Review

Stihl is the master of the two-stroke engine, but is a great engine enough to make a great strimmer?

Verdict

Powerful, reliable and not too heavy; it's only a shame that's it's super-noisy and suffers vibration issues.

Pros

  • Minimal cutting head guard for easy cutting
  • Nicely designed EasyStart engine
  • Stihl reliability

Cons

  • Noisy
  • Noticeable vibration
  • Not well balanced

Key Features

  • Delivers up to 10,000rpm for cutting
  • Bump-feed double line
  • 420mm cutting width
  • Weight without petrol and cutting head 4.5kg
  • Straight shaft and D-loop handle
  • Auto-Cut 5-2 mowing head
  • 93dB
  • Stihl EasyStart engine

What is the Stihl FS 50 CE Brush Cutter?

Part of the Stihl grass-trimmer range, the Stihl FS 50 CE is a petrol-driven two-stroke, ideal for tackling grassy areas around the garden or allotment.

It has a bent shaft, a loop handle, an Auto-Cut mowing head, and a very simple starting procedure. The loop handle is easily adjusted without tools.

The Stihl EasyStart System means that the cord can be pulled at just one-third of normal force, and the spring between the starter cord and crankshaft smooths out force peaks, making them virtually undetectable. The two-stroke engine is reduced-emission, too.

Related: EGO ST 1300E Cordless Line Trimmer review

Stihl FS 50 CE Brush Cutter – Design and features

The Stihl FS 50 CE comes with the second handle, cutting head and cutting head guard needing to be attached.

The second handle simply clips over the shaft, and is secured with a large black knurled hand-nut. The cutting head guard is slid over a clamp, and is secured using a Torx-head screw (the Torx key is supplied). The cutting head slides over the drive-shaft and is secured with a large black plastic nut. The securing nut on the cutting head is spring-loaded, which made it awkward to attach. The trick was to push the nut down firmly and then rotate the cutting head against the nut anti-clockwise until the nut engaged.

It has a bent-tube frame with a fully adjustable D-type second handle. To adjust this you unscrew the hand-nut, then rotate the handle and/or slide it up and down the shaft. There’s a ring to take a shoulder strap. I’d recommend you use this strap, as without it you’ll be carrying virtually the whole weight of the machine in whichever hand you use to operate the throttle.

The head is fixed, so tackling edges will require to turn the machine upside down. This can be awkward because of the machine’s weight – and also, once upside down, it will be difficult to use the shoulder strap.

The two-stroke engine features Stihl’s EasyStart system and is low emission. The engine has two feet attached underneath it, which ensures that the machine sits on the ground without tipping over. It also makes starting the unit easier; the feet serve to stabilise the machine whilst you pull the starter cord.

There’s no off switch, only an engine-stop switch, so the first thing you do is push in the choke lever and turn it to full choke. Prime the carburettor by pushing the little rubber priming button half a dozen times, then rest one hand on top of the engine to hold it steady as you gently pull the starter cord.

Pulling the starter cord winds up a spring, which, once it overcomes the compression of the engine, will flick the engine over through two to three compressions. Once the engine is running, you turn the choke lever back to half choke for a few seconds. Now, pressing the trigger releases the choke to the run position, and away you go. There’s an orange throttle trigger, so the machine is variable speed. To stop the engine you simply press the engine-stop button.

Changing the strimmer cord is fiddly. You start by unscrewing a large plastic nut. You then remove the entire cutting head, and take the spool out of it. Cut two 3-metre lengths of line, and insert the ends of each line in the holes in the spool. Then bend the lines back against themselves to form a hook and wind them on.

Next you insert the two free ends through the holes in the eyelets on the cutting head, before re-inserting the spool into the head. You reattach the cutting head on to the drive shaft, and then the real challenge begins: there are arrows on the spool and the cutting head that have to be lined up before the securing nut can be inserted.

Putting this nut in is awkward because you have to push it against a spring while screwing it in place. I’m used to working with machines, but even I found this manoeuvre annoyingly tricky. A pre-wound spool is available as an extra accessory, but you’d still have the problem of fitting it into position.

Stihl FS 50 CE Brush Cutter – Handling and performance

The Stihl FS 50 CE is a very powerful cutter. It scythed through everything: short grass, long grass, nettles, docks. It took 24 seconds to cut a square metre of rough grass, nettles and thistles – which isn’t especially fast, but the work was done well and easily. It cut a square metre of 3-inch long lawn grass in less than five seconds.

The Stihl FS 50 CE is fairly heavy to hold, even for a large man of 6ft 5. This was acceptable for short periods, but if you’re using it for a decent length of time then you will need to use the shoulder strap. Most of the weight of the Stihl FSE 50 CE is taken by whichever hand is holding the throttle end – which for a right-hander is, of course, the right.

The Stihl FS 50 CE also suffers a fair amount of vibration. I have a slight sensitivity to vibration in my right hand, due to a lifetime of handling heavy machinery, and I found the machine uncomfortable to use after a while. That’s a personal issue, but note that if you have arthritis in your hands or any white finger vibration issues then a different strimmer would be a better choice.

My 5ft 4 girlfriend found the Stihl FS 50 CE uncomfortably heavy to use for long periods, because it wasn’t especially well-balanced. So it looks like this is also a machine for the taller user. (Stihl does have a longer-shafted model of the FS 50 CE, which might be easier for shorter users. (The short shafted model I tested is 1450mm long; the longer-shafted model is 1650mm.)

Some two-stroke engines are difficult to start from hot, but this wasn’t the case here. The engine is well-designed. It’s also well-guarded, so there’s no risk of burning yourself on a hot exhaust. There’s a large fuel-tank filler that makes refuelling easy.

The Stihl FS 50CE’s cutting guard felt a little flimsy to me, but since it was minimal, it was easy to swing left and right. It has a bent-tube design, and despite its size was easy to manoeuvre around obstacles. I used it to cut inside a high-sided metal garden ornament without difficulty. I could also strim virtually all the way round a tree from one side only.

There’s plenty of adjustment in the loop handle using a black knurled nut, and just a hand-turn does it; no tools are needed.

Why buy the Stihl FS 50 CE Brush Cutter?

It’s a powerful and fast grass cutter, with many good design features. It would be best in open areas such as large gardens, paddocks and orchards. Note that those on the short side might find it difficult to handle.

Verdict

Powerful strimmer slightly let down by vibration and poor balance.

Score