In those early days, most prospective dealers who were considering carrying STIHL were extremely concerned about parts availability. If they couldn’t get parts for their Poulan saws from the factory in Shreveport, just a few hours away, how could they possibly expect to get parts for STIHL saws all the way from Waiblingen, Germany?
If the Crown Royal bag was our first “sales program,” this may have been our first guarantee to our dealers. My standing promise was that they would receive at least one of every part that they ordered on their initial order. If they didn’t, I would take them with me to Germany and we would pick it up off the assembly line. I never had to take a dealer to Germany, but I sure had to tear down a few saws in the warehouse to get the parts they ordered!
Back then, the saws came to us equipped with Oregon chain, and we also acted as a distributor for Oregon in the early days. As a distributor, we paid $1.50/foot for the same chain that STIHL American was buying for $.50/foot, as an original equipment manufacturer. We were also having our own engine oil and bar lube made to our specifications and were essentially selling the chain and lubricants at cost as a “door opener” to help us develop a business relationship with a dealer that we wanted to sell STIHL products for us. Once in a while, Gordon Williams at STIHL American would let us buy some of that OEM chain for 50 cents a foot, and you can believe that that made us fierce competitors in the marketplace while it lasted.
Today, lots of people don’t even know what a bow bar is, but that is what they used instead of a regular bar on a high percentage of the saws that were used to cut pulpwood, especially on the gear-drive saws. They ran .404 or ½” pitch chain on those bows and the chain speed was so slow that you could almost count the teeth as they turned. The chain spent half its time in the dirt and would get so dull it would hardly cut melted butter. The operators probably sharpened the chain once every week or so, whether it needed it or not.
Our biggest dealer in east Texas at the time handled McCulloch, Poulan and Homelite, as well as STIHL saws. We had gotten him to put out a few of our direct drive saws equipped with bow bars, but he started complaining about chain breakage on the STIHL saws. We assured him that there was nothing about the design of a STIHL saw that would cause Oregon chain to break, but he told us he was running competitive saws side-by-side with the STIHL saws and the STIHL saws were the only ones that were breaking the chains. My partner, Robert, and I drove down there to see what the problem was. As you may have guessed, the trouble was caused by operators running very dull chain. The chain speed on the direct-drive STIHL saws was probably four or five times faster than it was on the competitive gear drive saws, so when the operator would bear down on one of our saws, like he had to with the competitors, it would break the chain. It took a good bit of training to break the bad habits that chainsaw operators had developed on competitive saws.