It doesn’t matter if you are woodworker, lumberjack, chainsaw carver or just a homeowner with just a few trees in your backyard, you will most definitely need a chainsaw at least few times a year. Chainsaw is a versatile tool which is primarily used for cutting trees down and maintaining tree crowns, but nowadays it is used for many different purposes like clearing dead wood, clearing fallen branches, sawing fire wood, chainsaw carving, ice sculpturing etc. Chainsaws can even be used for making slabs with proper accessories like we described in our article Granberg chainsaw mill G777. There are even specialized saws with diamond teeth that can be used to cut through concrete, brick and natural stone.
When you decide that you need a chainsaw and start to look through the models offered on the market you quickly realize that there are literally hundreds of models and sizes of chainsaws and that picking the chainsaw that suits your needs isn’t that easy at all. In this chainsaw buying guide we will teach you everything that you need to know about chainsaws before you actually buy a chainsaw that will serve your needs.
First thing that you need to ask yourself is how you will use your chainsaw? The answer to that question will be the guideline to the chainsaw that perfectly suits your needs. For instance, if you’re a typical homeowner with an occasional need for a chainsaw, only doing light cutting a few times a year, then an electric chainsaw should suit you just fine. On the other hand, if you’re cutting medium sized trees then you’ll definitely need a gas chainsaw with at least a 45cc engine or larger. If you’re a beginner and you are buying your first chainsaw and you’ve never used one before, then you want the smallest chainsaw that will accomplish your project goals. For absolute beginners we would recommend a guide bar of 18″ or less, but a 12″ bar will suit most of homeowners needs. If you’re cutting hard woods such as dogwood, hard maple, hickory, birch, beech, oak or ash then you’ll need a powerful gas chainsaw.
If you’re a homeowner that primarily pruning pesky branches and removing low-hanging tree limbs, then you may want to consider getting yourself a pole saw. It’s basically a miniature chain saw on an extendable shaft. A pole saw provides you the safest way of trimming hard to reach tree branches. The pole can be extended up to 15 feet so you don’t have to cut from a rickety ladder. These saws are small and are not meant to take on large jobs, their main and only purpose is removing branches.
Gas or electric
Gas powered chainsaws tend to cut more quickly and smoothly than electrics, and their faster chain speeds require less pressure. On the other hand, they are heavier and noisier, require fueling and regular service for the engine’s air filter and spark plug, and they also emit exhaust fumes. And starting the engine usually requires several hard yanks on a starter cord. Chain-bar lengths on gas powered chainsaws are typically 16 to 18 inches for homeowner saws and up to 36 inches for pro models.
Electric chainsaw usually have a plug-in power cord and cost less than gas-powered model. Their slower sawing limits them to lighter-duty chores, while their power cord keeps you tethered to the nearest electric outlet. Not to mention that you’ll also need a 14-gauge or even heavier 12-gauge extension cord to get the amperage needed for optimal performance. The other option is cordless electric chainsaw that runs on battery power and free you from the power cord. Cordless electric chainsaws can cost more than many gas saws and their short run time per charge and even slower speeds are strictly for light-duty sawing. Bar lengths are typically 14 to 16 inches for corded-electric saws and 12 inches for cordless battery models.
With all that being said, we will always recommend gas powered chainsaw rather than electric one.
For gas powered chainsaws a measure of engine size is in cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic inches (cu. in.). Higher number means more powerful the engine, but with great power comes more weight. Most homeowner chainsaws are typically between 24cc to 46cc and if you aren’t a professional woodworker, you don’t need a chainsaw with more power.
For corded electric chainsaws power is referred to as Amperage or Amps (A), for short. The higher the Amps the more powerful the chainsaw. Most corded chainsaws power vary between 8 amps and 15 amps, but if you are buying electric chainsaw then buy the one with 15 amps.
For the battery operated chainsaws the Power is referred to as Voltage or Volts (V), for short. The higher the Volts, the more powerful the chainsaw. Voltage of battery operated vary between 20V and 40V and we advised you to buy the one with 40V, if you decided to buy battery operated chainsaw. Also, look for higher aH (ampere hours) in a battery because that means that the battery can work longer without charging. Most batteries on battery operated chainsaws have 2 aH or 4 aH and we advise you to buy the one with 4 aH, it’s a little more money but it’s worth it.
Guide bar is part on which a chainsaw’s cutting chain wraps around and is typically made from a wear-resistant steel alloy. Guide bars range from about 16 to 36 inches in length and have rounded ends, giving chainsaws their distinctive shape. When we talk about the size of guide bars then we can divide the lengths of guide bars to the purpose of the chainsaw. A 14-inch guide bars are ideal for occasional and light-duty use, a 16-inch guide bars are ideal for general purpose home use, 18-inch guide bars are perfect for larger jobs and farm or rural use and 20-inch and above guide bars are for frequent, heavy-duty, large-diameter wood cutting tasks.
There are numerous features that can be found on chainsaws and most of them makes working with chainsaw easier and improves safety. Chainsaw is not a fancy tool and there is no fancy features on then that are useless, you just have to know which features do you need depending on how you will use your chainsaw. This list below describes all the main features on modern chainsaws.
CARB-compliant chainsaws have engines that meet more stringent air quality standards. They are more efficient and run cleaner than non-compliant models, but still emit some pollutants. Almost every newer model has this feature and that is primarily for environmental protection, it doesn’t affect the performances of the chainsaw.
Air injection can be found on chainsaws with new small engine technology that allows superior performance from your chainsaw. Engines with air injection have s centrifugal air cleaning system that removes larger dust and debris particles before reaching the air filter and this results in reduced air filter cleanings and improved engine life.
Anti-vibration feature dampens the vibrations when cutting and allowing you to work longer while minimizing any potential discomfort. Without this feature, like on older chainsaws, your hands will likely become numb, or worse, long-term ramifications could cause Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
Spring assist starting feature or electronic starting system requires far less effort to start and we strongly advise you to look for one of the two when buying a chainsaw because starting a chainsaw can sometimes be a frustrating task.
Heated carburetor feature will make a huge difference and it is essential if you plan on using your chainsaw in freezing temperatures as a heated carburetors will prevent your chainsaw from freezing up.
Throttle lock feature is a must have feature especially for beginners. It prevents accidental throttle operation by forcing you to operate the throttle lock before allowing you to push the throttle.
Reduced-kickback chain feature is now on almost every new chainsaw but we will still explain it. Extra guard links and a less-aggressive cutting profile help keep the chain from taking too large a bite, which could cause kickback and potential injuries.
Chain brake feature stops the chain almost instantly when the front hand guard is pushed forward or if the saw kicks back. Every newer gas powered chainsaw and many electrics now have this feature.
Bar-tip guard is a steel attachment that covers the nose of the bar. While the guard prevents kickback at its source, it also shortens the usable length of the bar and can get in the way when working, inducing many owners to remove it.
Tool-less air filter and spark plug cover plate allows quick and easy access to the air filter and spark plug. This is an excellent feature that allows access to the air filter and spark plug without disassembling the housing of the chainsaw.
Automatic oiler feature takes care of oiling the chain so you don’t have to. Some chainsaws stop oiling the bar when the unit is idling to prevent wasting oil.
Side-mounted tension adjustment feature makes tension adjustments to the chain quick and easy.
Visible bar-oil level feature is a translucent tank or viewing strip that lets you check the oil level for the bar and chain at a glance so you can add more when needed. Most saws tend to use more oil than you may expect, and all tend to leak oil during storage.
You always have to keep in mind that your personal needs will determine the right chainsaw for you, as well as your physical strength, fitness and budget. You have to make sure that the chainsaw you choose has enough power to cut the size of wood you need to cut. Also make sure it’s the right type of chainsaw (electric, battery or gas) and make sure it has all the features mentioned above. Don’t buy biggest chainsaw that you can find because it will probably be too heavy for you personally and make sure that you’ve learned about chainsaw safety before you actually start using one.
There are numerous quality brands with which you can’t go wrong like Husqvarna, Stihl, Oregon, Remington, Makita, Worx, Crafsman, Black&Decker, Poulan etc. By our opinion, best medium size gas powered chainsaw that will suit all the needs of average woodworker or homeowner is the Husqvarna 450 18-Inch 50.2cc chainsaw. You will not make a mistake if you buy a chainsaw with same features from one of formentioned brands also. At the end, we must once again emphasize the importance of safety when using a chainsaw because chainsaw is a powerful tool and must be used with caution!