There are a few ways to customize the color of a Stihl chainsaw (or any chainsaw). Most guys like turning their saws black, but some go for camo, green, or yellow, and I’ve even seen a few pink ones out there.
The regular Stihl paint colors are orange and grey, and it’s nice to restore old chainsaws to their original tones as well. But for those who want a black Stihl Chainsaw, the most common method is using black Rit Dye, and the process doesn’t take very long at all.
Here’s how to use Rit Dye to change the color of your chainsaw, as well as other options for chainsaw color customization.
*The featured image above is of the Stihl Carbon Concept Chainsaw – a naturally black one-off Stihl made in 2014.
How To Customize Your Chainsaw Color
There are multiple ways to change the color of your chainsaw, whether you want to do your MS261c, as above, or the 500i, which is another commonly customized chainsaw, or any of the hundreds of other Stihl chainsaw models.
As with chainsaw porting, keep in mind that you may void the chainsaw warranty by customizing it in this way. If something else were to go wrong with your chainsaw, you may not have any recourse for replacement or repair.
1. Dye Your Chainsaw
Dying your chainsaw is the best at-home method for changing the color of a chainsaw. Liquid Black Rit Dye (here on Amazon) is the most recommended way of dying plastic top covers and other plastic casings that make up a Stihl chainsaw. You can also use the powder version of Rit Dye, just follow the instructions on the packet.
These are the steps to take when dying your chainsaw with the liquid:
- Select a pot large enough to fully submerge the chainsaw parts you plan to dye.
- Clean these parts thoroughly using soap and water to eliminate dirt and grime.
- Fill the pot with water and bring it to a complete boil.
- Add the black Rit Liquid to the boiling water (the amount will depend on the water volume).
- Stir the dye solution using a metal spoon to avoid staining any kitchen utensils.
- Immerse the chainsaw parts in the dye solution, ensuring they soak for at least 15 – 30 minutes.
- Periodically stir the solution and check the parts for color depth.
- If not dark enough, continue soaking, ideally for a total of 30 minutes for complete penetration.
- Once dyed to your satisfaction, use metal kitchen tongs to place the parts on an old towel or rag to cool before handling.
You can also add 1 teaspoon of dish soap to the boiling water and dye before adding the plastics.
Adding a small amount of dish soap to the dye bath can act as a dispersant, helping the dye distribute more evenly across the material and potentially enhancing the penetration of the dye. However, this is typically more useful for fabric dyeing, where the soap helps break the surface tension and allows the dye to better penetrate the fibers.
Keep in mind that different types of plastic may react differently to the dye, and some may not take the dye at all. Always follow safety instructions when handling boiling dye baths, and consider wearing gloves and old clothes to protect your skin and clothing from accidental stains.
However, unlike spray paint, this dyeing method colors the entire plastic part. Hence, any scratches won’t reveal the original color, but the dyed one. The dye completely penetrates the plastic parts and so cannot be scratched off as with vinyl or spray paint.
What about magnesium parts? Rit dye is designed for fabrics and some types of plastic. Magnesium, being a metal, does not absorb or adhere to the dye in the same way. The dye is unlikely to penetrate or color the magnesium surface effectively.
If you want to color magnesium or any other metal, you’ll need to use an appropriate metal paint or other metal-specific coloring technique. Some options include powder coating, anodizing (for suitable metals), or metal-specific dyes or stains.
2. Spray Painting A Chainsaw
Another way to change the color of your chainsaw is with spray paint, as this Stihl MS151T C has been. In the comments, someone asked if he used Rit dye or paint, to which he replied “Just rattle can paint”. And it looks good too!
You can use a product like Rust-Oleum Spray Paint for Plastic for this type of job. The only downside is that spray-painting a chainsaw only covers the surface. The paint doesn’t penetrate the plastics to the same extent that dye does.
When your chainsaw gets scratched, as it invariably will, you will see the orange underneath. You can keep touching it up as need be, but it’s not the best method for this reason. Spray painting is probably the easiest and quickest way to turn your chainsaw black, but it probably won’t look amazing for long.
These are the steps for spray painting a chainsaw:
- Disassemble: Remove the parts of the chainsaw you intend to paint. This might include the top cover, handle, or other parts. Don’t paint any moving parts.
- Clean: Thoroughly clean the parts to be painted with warm soapy water to remove any dirt, grease, or grime. Afterward, rinse them and let them dry completely.
- Sanding: Lightly sand the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper. This will help the paint adhere better. After sanding, wipe off the dust with a clean cloth.
- Primer: Apply a primer that is suitable for plastic or metal surfaces, depending on your chainsaw’s material. This helps the paint to adhere properly and last longer. Let the primer dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Some spray can paints will be self-priming and if so, this step can be skipped).
- Painting: When the primer is completely dry, apply the spray paint in even, sweeping motions. Hold the can about 10-12 inches away from the surface for best results. Apply several thin coats instead of one thick coat to avoid drips and achieve a more even finish.
- Drying: Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next one. Apply at least 3 separate coats. Follow the drying times recommended on the paint can.
- Sealing: Once your final coat of paint is dry, you might want to apply a clear coat of sealant. This will provide added protection to the painted surfaces, helping the paint to last longer.
- Reassemble: After the paint and sealant are completely dry, you can reassemble your chainsaw.
Remember, painting can change the heat dynamics of your chainsaw parts, especially if you’re painting areas near the engine. Choose a paint designed to withstand high temperatures if you’re painting these areas. Always work in a well-ventilated area and avoid breathing in paint fumes.
3. Vinyl Wrap Your Chainsaw
Adhesive vinyl can potentially be used to wrap your chainsaw and change its color, though it isn’t the best idea because of how most chainsaws are used.
Vinyl is used for all sorts of things – even for hard-wearing purposes. It is used for vehicle graphics, outdoor signage, marine graphics, floor branding, industrial labeling, and many other heavy-duty applications. However, chainsaws are a bit different. They can easily be scratched by branches, logs, stones, and other forest debris.
The other problem with using vinyl to fully wrap parts of a chainsaw is the heat from the engine and exhaust. Vinyl is a thin type of plastic that can easily melt, warp, or soften, leaving it more susceptible to damage from the environment.
Lastly, vinyl can be difficult to apply. It takes practice and applying it to items like a chainsaw is incredibly fiddly. Wrapping a car is easier! But if you want to give it a go, Oracal Vinyl is one type that could be used for this application.
It is easier to use vinyl for small applications. You can cut out words (like STIHL) and logos in vinyl for application. Cricut cutting machines are excellent for these jobs and the Cricut fonts will help you to match brand fonts.
Black Stihl Chainsaw
Stihl chainsaws are pretty awesome when black, so it can be worth the effort of getting it done. If you don’t feel up to the task there are businesses that customize chainsaws for customers. If anyone knows who offers this service, let us know in the comments below. Not everyone has the time or ability to do this themself!
There are not many naturally black chainsaws for sale in any chainsaw brand, but there’s probably a good reason for it too. Most chainsaws are orange or other bright colors that stand out in nature. Nobody wants to lose their saw in the forest, and black is much harder to see!