Skip to Content

Chainsaw vs. Hedge Trimmer. Tips From a Professional

A chainsaw and a hedge trimmer are cutting tools that most gardeners use at home or on their farms. While the two can sometimes be used interchangeably, these tools have unique features that make each more suitable for different cutting functions. The main distinctive feature that differentiates the two is the way they cut. The hedge trimmer has blades oscillating back and forth in a straight line, cutting small leafy branches evenly. On the other hand, the chainsaw has a chain with teeth that rotate around the blade, enabling one to tear through tough surfaces.

Chainsaw vs. Hedge Trimmer:

Generally, a chainsaw is best suited for cutting through thicker wood. It has a long blade with a rotating chain that eats through the material. It does not need to cut material in one go. A hedge trimmer is best suited to trim leafy hedges with thin branches. It always cuts in one go, similar to scissors, and it is not suited to cut thicker material.

This blog will shed light on when to use a chainsaw or a hedge trimmer. I will also explain how these tools can be used interchangeably and still get the job done.

Should I get a hedge trimmer or chainsaw?

The decision on whether to get a hedge trimmer or a chainsaw will depend mainly on the nature of work you want to do. To make a choice easier, we will compare the different features of both tools. And what makes them suitable for various cutting jobs.

Below are some of the features that could help you figure out which of the two to use.

● Hedge trimmer vs. chainsaw: Functionality

The chainsaw and the hedge trimmer have different ways of cutting surfaces they encounter. A chainsaw has teeth on a chain that move along the bar, tearing through surfaces it comes into contact with. Similar to a hand saw. On the other hand, the blades on the bar of the hedge trimmer oscillate back and forth, cutting small branches and leaves between two blades. This is more similar to using scissors.

A chainsaw is better suited for cutting thick surfaces like tree trunks and thick branches, or even whole trees. A thicker tree branch will take longer as it eats through the material. A hedge trimmer is best suited to chop and prune small thin branches and trim leafy hedges. Like scissors, you can not cut thick material, as it needs to be cut in one go.

● Hedge trimmer vs. chainsaw: Precision

The finesse needed in cutting branches or a hedge could help determine what tool to use. While a chainsaw is powerful and can help you trim your hedge in no time, it lacks a smooth finish. A chainsaw is so powerful that it pushes small branches behind instead of cutting them. These small branches will break unevenly, therefore not giving your hedge a uniform cut. Consequently, one would need to go back with sheers to even out the hedge.

On the other hand, a hedge trimmer is less powerful, using a different cutting method. Thus, it can cut small branches uniformly and neatly. It is light and has significantly fewer vibrations, enabling the operator to have complete control over the tool. It is possible to cut in a straight line and any other shapes the operator might need since the hedge trimmer is light and easy to operate. A hedge trimmer is reliable for all your landscaping needs that involve shaping your hedges in different neat shapes and patterns.

● Hedge trimmer vs. chainsaw: Power

These two tools differ in cutting power. A gas or electric chainsaw is built to cut through most wooden surfaces and for long periods. On the contrary, a hedge trimmer does not focus on power. It has long cutting blades that make it easy to achieve an even cut over larger areas. It uses a less powerful motor, as the goal is not thick cuts.

Can I Use a Chainsaw as a Hedge Trimmer?

Generally, a chainsaw is not well suited for trimming hedges, but it can be used as a hedge trimmer. Cutting a hedge with a chainsaw will result in rough cuts. Expect that you need to smoothen your hedge after finishing with the chainsaw to make it look evenly. Using a chainsaw can be a good idea when hedges are too overgrown and need a lot of cutting.

To use a chainsaw to trim hedges, you must ensure that your chain is as sharp as possible. This helps to cut leaves and small branches instead of only pushing them away. I recommend using only light pressure on the chainsaw and moving slowly over the area. Unlike trees that need a few rounds of intense cutting, hedges have thin, weak branches which only need a single cut using a sharp chainsaw. After trimming your hedge using a chainsaw, you probably need to go back with shears to finesse the work.

Follow the following steps to use a chainsaw as a hedge trimmer effectively:

● Step 1: Choose a short bar length

Most chainsaws can be used with different bar lengths. I recommend using a short bar length. A long bar makes it difficult to control the cutting. Hedge trimmers are designed such that the grip has a 90-degree angle with the cutting blade. In the case of a chainsaw, the grip is in line with the bar and chain.

This means that holding a chainsaw when cutting a hedge is more challenging. Always wear gloves as your hands will be very close to the hedge itself. When you cut a hedge with a chainsaw, you will notice that you will mainly use the top of the bar for cutting.

● Step 2: Sharpen the chain

For a chainsaw to trim a hedge, the cutters on the chain need to be as sharp as possible. If they have become dull, the chainsaw will push back the branches and leaves instead of cutting them. This will mean the work will take longer or need more work after finishing the chainsaw job.

There are different ways of sharpening the chain, such as using a file or an electric chainsaw sharpener. When using a round file, ensure that the diameter of the file matches that of the cutters and the filing angle you use is the one prescribed by the chainsaw manufacturer. Also, it is essential to mark the first cutter you sharpen to ensure that you do not sharpen some cutters more than others.

Alternatively, you can replace the chain with a new sharp one. If you expect to use your chainsaw to cut your hedge more often, I recommend using a chain, especially for this. When cutting a hedge, it will experience a lot less wear and tear compared with thick branches or trees.

To replace your chain is not hard. The first step is to remove the chainsaw side plate. Now you can use a wrench to remove the nuts that hold the side plate. If your chainsaw’s brake is attached to the side plate, make sure you unlock the brake before you remove the side plate. By removing the side plate, you expose the bar and the chain. Release the chain’s tension by gently pulling the nose of the bar away from the chainsaw. This will loosen the old chain, and you can easily remove it.

The next step is to put the replacement chain on the bar and sprocket. Apply tension on the bar by aligning it with the adjustment pin. Return the side plate but do not tighten the screws just yet. Use the tensioning screw to adjust the tension of the chain. Finally, finish tightening the nuts on the side plate, and your chainsaw will be ready for use.

● Step 3: Trim the hedges

When cutting the hedge, move the chainsaw slowly up and down while applying very little pressure. This allows the cutters to prune the branches and leafy hedges without pushing them behind. Try as much as possible to control the chainsaw to get the neatest possible result.

When the chainsaw chain is sharp, the cutting process should take very little time, leaving you with enough time to reshape the hedge.

● Step 4: Give the hedge an even look

The chainsaw is not designed to leave a nice and even result and most likely will need a final finish after trimming. You can use hedge shears or another suitable tool to even out the non-uniform parts and end up with a neatly cut hedge.

Can You Use a Hedge Trimmer to Cut Branches?

Generally, a hedge trimmer is not suited for cutting branches. A hedge trimmer is perfect for hedges but can only cut really thin branches. Even when the power of the hedge trimmer would be sufficient, the blades only have a limited gap between them of around an inch or so. This makes it impossible to cut thicker branches.

I never recommend using a hedge trimmer to cut branches as it puts a really big strain on the engine. When the branch is too tough to cut, it will get stuck in the blade. The blade will stop oscillating immediately, putting a lot of strain on the various parts. This means a high level of wear and tear.

The only situation where a hedge trimmer potentially can be used for cutting and pruning is with very thin tree branches. These are often very young branches. If these are higher up, you may need to use a ladder or an extension on your hedge trimmer (pole trimmer).