Chainsaw Buying Guide
What is a Chainsaw?
Chainsaws were invented in the 1920s. The first types of chainsaws were huge and heavy, requiring two men to use. They were often so heavy that they needed to be moved around on wheels. It wasn’t until after WW II that the designs improved so they could be used by one person. After the design improvement, demand for the chainsaws increased at a very fast rate.
The invention of the chainsaw made cutting and forestry work much easier. Today, chainsaws have pretty much replaced the outdated, man powered alternatives of using regular saws except in some competition type venues. They are used in professional forestry, landscaping, construction and by homeowners for various tasks.
Before you Start Shopping
If you find that you are in the market for a chainsaw, there are a few things that you need to think about before you start researching models and deciding on which one you want to purchase. Reading this buyer’s guide is one thing. There are also some questions that you need to ask yourself that will help determine the best chainsaw for your needs. You can save money by not over or under buying a chainsaw so that you end up with what you need rather than something that isn’t powerful enough or that is so advanced you end up not using many of the features it offers.
Where will you be using the chainsaw? – Chainsaws should not really be used indoors but sometimes the situation or job calls for it. If you will be using the chainsaw inside frequently, it is best to not get a gas powered model because of the dangers if exhaust-emitting engines inside. If you will be using the chainsaw outdoors all the time, then a gas powered model will be your best choice. It will provide not only the most power, but the most convenience as well.
Why type of cutting will you be doing? – If you’re getting into heavy duty logging opt for a gas powered chainsaw which is more powerful and faster too when it comes to heavy jobs. If you will only be using your chainsaw once in awhile for cutting up some firewood or clearing some branches out of the way you could get a cordless model. Gas powered will work for the lighter jobs too, but if your chainsaw will be stored most of the time, having gas sitting in it is not good for it which is why you may prefer the cordless varieties. You should get a chainsaw with a bar that is 14” to 20” long for mid size to heavy jobs and 14” or less for lightweight jobs. You should make sure that they bar is not so long that the tip hits the ground or another branch while you are cutting.
Types of Chainsaws
There are two basic types of chainsaws: electric/battery operated and gas powered. Each one has types of cutting work that they are best suited for. We have outlined the differences below.
Electric – There are small and large electric chainsaws. Small electric chainsaws are great for branch trimming and very light jobs around the home. The small chainsaws can also be cordless which makes them very easy to move around and use wherever you need to trim a branch. They do not do well with thick branches or tree trunks. They are fairly quiet as far as chainsaws go.
The larger models require a power cord which, unless they are very skilled and experienced in working with electric chainsaws, can be hazardous due to the cord getting in the way and either causing tripping or potentially getting in the way of the blade and causing electrocution. They are capable of cutting through branches and logs and are much quieter than gas powered models.
Gas Powered – Gas powered chainsaws are the power horses of the chainsaw world and can handle heavy cutting jobs on a regular basis. They are also the largest type of chainsaw you can buy. The fuel tanks on these chainsaws make them much heavier and awkward to carry and hold but they are still the preferred type of chainsaw due to the power and speed they have. Most people who frequently use chainsaws don’t feel that the heaviness or awkwardness is a reason to not get them when they have frequent cutting jobs that require the use of one.
There are many features that a chainsaw can come equipped with that will make it even easier to use. When you are researching different models, be sure to get a model with as many of these features as you can and you will be very pleased with the performance of the model you get.
- Anti-vibration handles – When a chainsaw vibrates a lot it can cause your hands, arms and shoulders to become very tired and even have pain and numbness. Having anti-vibration features lessens this vibration and helps reduce user fatigue and these other problems.
- Side mounted tensioning or tool-free chain tensioning – When you need to adjust the chain (NOT with the chainsaw running) this feature makes it much easier to see what you are doing and makes adjusting the chainsaw much easier.
- Built in Circuit breaker for Electric Models – Sometimes people can inadvertently push an electric chainsaw farther than it should be and it can burn up the motor. A built in circuit breaker prevents this from happening because when it is pushed too hard it will shut itself off to avoid getting damaged.
- Sharp Chain – A top grade chain will improve performance even in a budget chainsaw. Keeping the chain sharp will ensure great performance also and will make the chainsaw much more efficient since it will cut much better.
- Anti-Kickback Chain – These types of chains are much safer for novice or brand new chainsaw users. This feature prevents the chainsaw from kicking back towards the user in the event it hits a knothole or has another problem cutting through the branch or log.
- California Air Resource Board Certified – Why would you want your chainsaw to be certified in CA? This has a lot to do with the air pollution that gas powered chain saws can cause. If the chainsaw you are interested in can be sold in CA the emissions are much better than those that are prohibited which means less pollution.
- Easy to Maintain – You want to look for features like see through gas tanks and oil tanks so you can easily see when they need refilling, self oiling chains and a tool free adjustment. A gas powered chainsaw will require more maintenance and “fussing” than an electric or cordless one will such as having to mix the gas and oil, refueling and cleaning spark plugs. You will also have to make sure that you’re storing the extra gas properly too.
- A Good Warranty – Federal law prohibits mailing tools that have contained fuel, even if the fuel has been drained. The best way to make sure you get a good warranty is to choose a model where there is a service center or dealer close by so you can get it worked on or replaced should something go wrong with it during the warranty period which is typically 2-5 years.
Guidebar Length Recommendations
If you are going to be doing certain tasks often, there can be a recommended guide bar length that is best for those jobs. The guide bar is the long part of the chainsaw that the chain is wrapped around. It can vary in length from less than 12” to 20” inches or larger. Below is a good chart that you can use to determine the guide bar length that will be best for your tasks.
- Basic trimming – 16” or smaller
- Pruning – 12” or smaller
- Limbing – 12” to 14”
- Cutting down small trees – 12” to 14”
- Cutting down medium trees – 16” to 18”
- Cutting up firewood – 14” to 16”
- Cutting medium firewood – 16” to 18”
- Bucking –- 18” or larger (bucking is removing limbs and branches of the main trunk of the tree or cutting a log into smaller portions)
Safety gear when using a chainsaw should never be an optional thing. Always make sure that you are using the proper safety gear when operating a chainsaw no matter how experienced you are. Below we’ve listed the best safety gear to wear and have when using chainsaws.
- Cut resistant safety boots
- Safety pants or chaps if you use a chainsaw for work
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Head protection (a hard hat is good and can be purchased at a home improvement store)
- Hearing protection
Chainsaws can make logging or even just tree trimming much easier so it is no surprise that these tools are so popular. There are many things to consider when purchasing the right one. In the buyer’s guide we have given you information that you can take and use when searching for the right chainsaw for your needs. They are not to be used carelessly and anyone using one on a regular basis or even once in awhile should always do so with extreme caution and respect for the damage they can do.
Having a good quality chainsaw can definitely make your job easier and you will not be as tired either. Follow the safety gear section and make sure that you never allow children to be around when you are using a chainsaw. In addition, never use them in wet conditions and if you are trimming branching always, always watch fir power lines or other electrical lines; the results of hitting one accidentally can be fatal.
Also always make sure that you do the proper safety measures when using one up off the ground, such as in a tree. Falling with a chainsaw is never a good thing. Once you find the model you like, read the instruction manual thoroughly before you use it so you understand the specifics of your particular model. Be safe and enjoy the efficiency and ease in which you take care of the cutting jobs around your home.
- Husqvarna- http://www.husqvarna.com/
- Poulon – http://www.poulanpro.com/
- Remington – http://www.chainsawsdirect.com/