No home should be without a chainsaw! That might sound like an odd way to start an article on chainsaws, but in our opinion it’s 100% true. In fact if you look at people who live in areas which are regularly ravaged by storms you’ll notice that they have at least one chainsaw in their house, because they never know when they’ll have to cut down yet another fallen tree in their yard, or on the road outside their home.
|Oregon Cordless 40 Volt||GreenWorks 20362 24-Volt||Black and Decker 20V 10-Inch||Makita UC4051A||Husqvarna 450|
|Power Souce||Rechargeable Li-ion battery||Rechargeable Li-ion battery||Rechargeable Li-ion battery||Corded electric||Gas-powered|
|Weight||12 pounds||9 pounds||7.4 pounds||14 pounds||11.3 pounds|
|Warranty||2-year limited||4-year limited||2-year limited||1-year limited||2-year limited|
What you might not realize about the humble chainsaw is that it was actually invented by two Scottish doctors who used it to remove diseased or damaged bone more quickly than was possible before. Up to that point surgeons had to use a handheld bone saw to manually remove a patient’s arm or leg – the removal process killed more patients than the original injuries ever could have.
The problem most people have with choosing a chainsaw is that there are literally hundreds of different models on the market, and they all basically look the same except for their physical size. So to help you get your head around the issue of buying your first chainsaw we decided to put together one of our ever-helpful buyer’s guides, which also includes some brief chainsaw reviews for your reading pleasure too.
Frequency of Use
Answering this question honestly will help you pick the right chainsaw from the outset: How often do you intend using your chainsaw? If, for example, you only use a chainsaw for heavy-duty pruning, or occasional tree limbing then there’s no point in buying a gas-powered, 40-inch monster chainsaw, because a battery-powered model with a 10-inch bar would be far better suited to the that type of work. The flip side of that argument is that if you’re going to be cutting lumber on a daily basis then bigger and more powerful is always better.
Types of Chainsaws
There are 3 basic types of chainsaws on the market right now: battery, electric and gas-powered, so we’re going to take a closer look at the pros and cons of each type here.
This type of chainsaw is light, portable (because there’s no cord) and easy to handle, but has a minimum of safety features. If you only need a chainsaw for occasional pruning, or for a few minutes work, then a battery-powered model is usually ideal. Batteries on chainsaws tend to run flat very quickly, meaning that they’re not ideal for more than maybe 30-minutes of serious use. You can always buy a spare battery for extending your work time though.
An electric chainsaw is perfect for light work such as pruning small limbs from trees, and other occasional/home use. The fact that you’re not carrying around fuel or batteries also means that an electric saw is lighter, so using one for several hours shouldn’t wear you out. The obvious downside here is that you’re limited to where you can use it by the length of the cord attached to it, although this is balanced out by the fact that electric chainsaws require less maintenance and usually run far more quietly too.
At the top of the chainsaw food chain are the gas-powered models which have all the grunt and bite you need to make short work of even the toughest of jobs. This type of chainsaw is also portable so it can be used literally anywhere, and in terms of sheer power neither battery nor electric models can touch it. More power also means more maintenance and more noise too, but if you have heavy-duty work to take care of then only a gas-powered chainsaw will make the grade.
You might not be able to answer this question without checking first, but you do need to know the actual thickness, and toughness, of the wood you intend cutting through – this helps you choose the bar size and chain length of the chainsaw. Basically there’s no point in buying a model with a 10-inch bar when you’re trying to cut through oak – you’ll just be in kickback city otherwise.
This is the “guide” that the chain runs around when it’s in operation, with bars ranging in size from 8-inches on smaller battery-powered chainsaws, right up to 42-inches on the larger gas-powered models. The longer the bar is then the more “bite” your chainsaw has when it comes to cutting stuff up, so size sometimes is everything folks! How much bar length do you need? For home users a chainsaw with a bar of around 8 to 12-inches is enough for most household/garden work. If you regularly have to dispose of fallen trees then aim for a chainsaw with a bar length of between 14 and 20-inches instead. Once the bar length exceeds 20-inches you’re obviously buying a chainsaw for professional use, so you probably don’t need us to tell you what size to buy.
Chain Breaking System
It won’t matter how carefully you use your chainsaw you’ll eventually wind up dealing with kickback – this is where the tip of the saw touches the wood/other surface and then bucks into the air and back towards your body. A chain break system will detect kickback and stop the chain, preventing any injuries. Some important points on chain break systems are that very few electric chainsaws have this safety feature, and the simple fact that some chainsaws are far, far more prone to kickback then others.
A chainsaw that weighs 10 or 12-pounds might seem extremely lightweight to carry around for a few minutes, but you just try being stuck carrying that around with you all day, or being stuck halfway up a tree holding it at awkward angles – you’ll suddenly understand how something very light can magically gain mass as the day goes by. You need to factor in the weight aspect of your chainsaw with how frequently you’re going to use it – fortunately modern motors are smaller but still deliver lots of power.
A combination of weight and excessive vibration can wear your arms out, and leave your hands feeling numb, in a matter of minutes rather than hours. A high-quality chainsaw will include some kind of anti-vibration system, which usually consists of rubber mounts/pads on the motor. All chainsaws vibrate, but some vibrate an awful lot more than others, so do make sure that your prospective purchase has a minimal amount of vibration.
Large diameter filler caps make them easier to remove when you’re wearing gloves, or working in cold weather. There’s nothing worse than trying to pour oil or gas through a pinhole sized refill opening too, so check how big the openings are in advance.
You’d be insane to attempt using a chainsaw without wearing proper protective gear, starting with ear protection but going as far as Kevlar chaps to stop you cutting holes into your own legs. The reality here is that no matter how careful you are handling your saw it will eventually kickback on you, or fire a wood chip at your eye at speeds that seem to approach the speed of light. So although the stereotypical image of somebody using a chainsaw rarely shows any protective gear being worn, we would strongly recommend that you use ear protection, goggles, Kevlar-lined gloves and chaps, and ideally a hard hat too. That might seem like overkill but the $100-ish you spend on this safety gear will help prevent serious injuries.
Chainsaw Features To Look Out For
So now we come to the various check boxes you need to put on your chainsaw shopping list – the key features you need to look for in any chainsaw.
You probably won’t find a chain break on an electric or battery-powered chainsaw but it should still feature a brake you can simply push forward with your wrist to stop the chain from turning. On more powerful gas-powered chainsaws you will absolutely need a chain brake system of some kind to be fitted.
Lighter saws are easier to handle, but may lack the power of their heavier counterparts. What you’re looking for is the balance of a model that won’t physically exhaust you after using it for just 30-minutes, but is still capable of handling most types of lumber.
Push starting a chainsaw is always going to be far easier than pull starting one, but in an ideal world your chainsaw would have both. At least this way if one starter fails you can always fall back to using the other one.
The bar length on a chainsaw is the distance between the tip of the saw to where the chain goes into the housing itself. If you’re totally confused about what to do with bar length then simply measure the surface/material/stump you’re going to cut and then halve that for your bar length e.g. you’ll need a 15-inch bar to cut through a 30-inch log.
You already know the different types of motors you can get on a chainsaw, but it’s important to understand their respective power ratings too. For battery-powered models the rating is in volts, and more volts means more power. For an electric chainsaw the power is rated in amps, and the more amps it puts out the more powerful your chainsaw is. For gas-powered chainsaws it works on the standard engine displacement figure of cc’s (cubic centimeters), and more cc’s is always better – any petrol head will tell you that.
The bigger, gas-powered chainsaws will always vibrate more, so check whether or not your chainsaw has an anti-vibration system fitted.
Bigger chainsaws will need the chain tension adjusted roughly every 15-minutes, so if you can find a model with side-mounted tension adjustment this will make your life a whole lot easier. A tool-less tensioning system is also a great feature to have.
Our Top 5 Chainsaw Reviews
Now we come to our review roundup of some of the best chainsaws you can buy online today.
1. Oregon Cordless 40 Volt Battery-Powered Chainsaw Review
What we have here is a powerful battery-powered chainsaw from the team at Oregon. This cordless chainsaw starts instantly, and the Lithium-Ion battery keeps this chainsaw cutting for up to 60-minutes based on the standard 1.25Ah battery pack, but you can upgrade this to a 2.4Ah battery pack instead – doubling your work time. If Buck Rogers owned a chainsaw it would probably look like the Oregon PowerNow 14-inch, plus he’d find it very affordable at just under $350.
2. Greenworks 10-Inch 24V Cordless Chainsaw Review
This is another battery-powered chainsaw in our roundup, but this time from the innovative team at GreenWorks instead. Some of the features you can look forward to on this chainsaw are the auto-oiler, and the fact that you can change the tension without using any tools, and the fact that this chainsaw runs so quietly too. With a 2.0Ah Li-Ion battery you can expect to get at least 60-90 minutes of cutting time with this saw – as long as you’re not trying to cut through oak. Retailing at just under $99 the GreenWorks 20362 24-Volt offers very affordable, instant-on, chainsaw capability.
3. BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Chainsaw Review
If you only need a chainsaw for occasional garden pruning/tree limbing use then this 10-inch model from Black and Decker will be ideal for that. This battery-powered chainsaw can easily cut through branches which are up to 8-inches in diameter, and can make up to 150 cuts on a single charge. Weighing in at just over 7.2-pounds in weight this portable Black and Decker saw retails for just over $100.
4. Makita UC4051A Electric Chain Saw Review
This electric chainsaw is more suitable for professional or heavy-duty use based solely on the fact that it has a 16-inch bar, so is capable of cutting through logs/branches up to 32-inches in diameter. Being an electric chainsaw means you just pull the trigger for instant cutting power, and the rubberized grips help to cut down on the potential for vibration pains in your hands and wrists. If you need a chainsaw for more frequent use around your home or garden then the Makita UC4051A is a great choice, plus with a price tag of less than $250 it’s also great value for money.
5. Husqvarna 450 Rancher Gas-Powered Chainsaw Review
And now we come to the big daddy in our chainsaw roundup – a gas-powered Husqie with an 18-inch bar, all driven along by a 50cc engine. The Husqvarna 450 comes with an anti-vibration system to help make using it that bit easier on your hands. Obviously a powerful chainsaw like this should have a chain brake and it does, giving you peace of mind for when those inevitable kickbacks happen. This CARB compliant chainsaw (yay California!) is available online now for around $350, so if you need a chainsaw with more grunt and cutting power this Husqvarna is just what you’re looking for.
All you need to decide now is exactly what you need your chainsaw to cut, and how much you can afford to spend on one. Enjoy shopping and chopping folks!