When handled properly and rightly, a chainsaw can certainly be an indispensable labour-saver. This all-purpose and powerful tool can clear through the bush that is too thick for an electric lopper, it can fall a tree that seems threatening to your roof or safety, slice off those dangerous broken tree limbs, or even dice stumps into firewood. If you are looking to purchase a chainsaw, finding the right model for you depends on how you plan to use your chainsaw and how often you would be using it. Do you need a buying guide to make your decision a lot easier? Do you need to know the types and sizes of chainsaws that would fit your project? Don’t panic; the rest of this article focuses on answering your questions.
Now chainsaws, just like many tools, come in a different range of sizes, ranging from the small electric models that can be used in households to the large gas-powered models intended for heavy-duty. It is important to know that the prices usually determine the engine size for gas saws and the amount of voltage for electric saws, alongside the length of the cutting bars (the blades of flat metal that surrounds the chain). However, it is also important to know that the bigger size isn’t always better. Moreover, to guide your decision-making process, we have put together some important questions and answers.
What is your use case?
Do you live on a large and heavily wooded property that houses many mature trees? If yes, do you feel comfortable using a chainsaw? In this case, a gas model will probably make more sense. Usually, gas chainsaws have more power than electric models. However, if you have a more modest yard, then a light-duty gas saw, or probably a battery-powered electric model will do your work just fine. For lighter jobs like clearing brush close to your house, a plug-in electric saw is well suited to meet your needs, because they can’t go much farther than 100 feet from the outlet. Therefore, it is important to know the kind of job that you need your chainsaw for and the kind of property that you have. A lot will make sense after this.
How Diligent are you towards Yard Maintenance?
Are you the type that takes enough time to maintain your yard by constant pruning and cutting up of tree limbs just as they fall throughout the year? Then a battery-powered electric chainsaw is a great choice for you. Since you do it often, you will get about 30 to 40 minutes of runtime for every recharge, which would probably be enough to tackle such tasks. Are you the type to leave an entire season or year of yard maintenance to tackle in a single weekend? Then you should go with a gas-powered model. This is because gas-powered chainsaws can run for hours on fuel before it runs dry. Besides, you can refuel and continue where you left off rather than waiting for the battery to recharge.
How Much Maintenance Would you like to Do On Your Chainsaw?
Electric chainsaws are usually easier to start compared to the gas models, and they are a lot easier to maintain. All you need to do is plug them in and charge up the battery, and then you are good to go. However, it is important to know that the lifespan or longevity of the battery is unknown, and if damaged, the batteries can be quite expensive to replace. Usually, they cost more than a hundred dollars.
Having answered these questions, another important factor is to know the type and size of chainsaw that is right for you before you make the purchase.
How experienced are you when using a chainsaw?
If you have never used this type of garden power tool before, consider sticking to the least powerful one possible so as to achieve your job. There is no need to shop for the most powerful one available if you are never going to be in need of all that extra power. Hence buying it could only mean that you will end up shouldering a heavier tool but never benefitting from the extra power, which is not advisable. However, if you are a more seasoned individual, you can choose from all the ranges available.
Chainsaw Size and Weight
Now there is a key spec you have to look out for when considering a chainsaw, and that is its size and weight. As the general rule of thumb, the longer and more powerful the chain bar is, the heavier your chainsaw will be. When you want to consider the diameter of logs or wood that you want to cut, you should also aim to have a guide bar, which is about 1 – 2 inches larger than that. In order to know what size of guide bar you will need, compare all the weight of different chainsaws to see the difference. Then you can decide what you want.
What to Look Out For
If you are going to be using the saw for a task that requires smooth and top-notch outcomes, such as woodcarving, then you should try to find a lightweight model. You don’t want your arms to get tired after only 20 minutes of sawing. Just a few pounds more would make a big difference. Some chainsaws have very bulky bodies, which might be quite annoying especially at certain cutting angles. As an alternative, you can look for a saw that has a more ergonomic design to make those smaller tasks a lot easier.
On the other hand, when it comes to heavy-duty tasks, a heavier chainsaw may mean more solid components and that may not be a bad idea. However, remember to take breaks between jobs to avoid fatigue. Here are the properties to look out for in each type of chainsaw before you purchase them:
1. Starting Mechanism
Before you start, the first thing you need to do when it comes to chainsaws is, talk to someone who is familiar with chainsaws or that has been around them for a long time. A chainsaw that struggles to start can make life miserable. On the other hand, a saw that starts at the first pull is a real pleasure to work with.
For Electric Chainsaws: When it comes to the ease to start and the reliability, electric chainsaws are always the best in this category. As long as you have the saw plugged in at an outlet or the battery is well charged, all you need to do is put your finger on the throttle and your saw starts running. There are no special starting tricks or mechanisms involved with the electric saws.
Gas Chainsaws: A gas chainsaw should be easier to start, but strangely, it isn’t always the case for a lot of people. Chainsaw manufacturers have come to understand this, which is why they have been making certain innovations lately so as to make starting a gas chainsaw a lot easier for their users. There are some important features to look for when you consider buying a gas chainsaw.
- Spring-assisted pull-start, some chainsaw brands like Stihl, Echo, and Remington have added an extra spring between the starter cord and the crankshaft. This means less force is required to kick the engine over than you would otherwise need. It also means you can actually pull the cord slower making starting a whole lot easier!
- Choke control, some newer models from brands like Husqvarna, have simple choke control functions that prevent the engine from flooding when trying to get it started. Flooding can be caused if you decide to pull the start cord too much, without other setup procedures being in place to start the engine. Thus flooding it with fuel can make it difficult to start.
- Some brands may have a form of this type of start assist but not specify what the mechanism is, but look out for the models that state they have some kind of improved starting mechanism because it does make a big difference!
2. Engine Power
The strength and power of the engine in your chainsaw will directly affect the cutting power of your chainsaw. This is because the engine power is what determines the speed at which the saw will run and how much resistance it will be able to withstand. At the same time, the power of the engine needs to match the task that you plan to tackle and the size of the guide bar that you are using. Therefore, for bigger tasks or cuts, you will need more power, and for smaller tasks, you will need less. For instance, if you are trying to cut through a massive tree, small engines like 32cc would not be very helpful with a 20-inch guide bar. Instead, you would need something a lot more powerful, more like a 62cc engine.
For Gas Chainsaws: Gas chainsaws, unlike the electric types, come in a wide range of engine sizes and power just to suit any task. Usually, engine power is measured in cc (cubic centimeters) and this indicates the amount of air that the engine can displace with each cycle of the cylinder. So the more extensive the cc, the more powerful the engine is.
- For light-duty tasks, it is ideal to use engine sizes as small as 24cc and up to 34cc. Chainsaws with this engine power will generally have a blade length of about 10 inches to 14 inches, and they will be perfect for light jobs just around the yard. Such tasks like cutting the limbs of trees, feeling of small trees that have diameters less than 14 inches, and garden pruning are the best tasks for this engine size.
- For medium-duty tasks, engine sizes ranging between 34cc and 46cc with blade or bar sizes between 14 inches and 18 inches are ideal. Chainsaws with this engine size are very common for a lot of homeowners because they provide enough power that will tackle any domestic type of task. You will be able to achieve tasks like felling trees with diameters up to 20 inches, cutting tough firewood and several cords, and cutting the most hardwood logs with this engine size.
- For heavy-duty tasks, engine sizes from 46cc and above can be well suited for the most challenging jobs. Their blade or guide bar length can be anywhere between 18 inches to 24 inches. Those chainsaws with this engine size are usually used by professionals, for heavy tasks like cutting through hardwood middle knots and cutting down massive trees or huge logs used for milling.
Electric Chainsaws: Since electric chainsaws are still relatively new on the market or production outlets, manufacturers sometimes tend not to specify the engine power in the same way that the power output is. However, some electric chainsaw brands do an excellent job of making this known. The most common measurements for electric chainsaws that you will see are Watts (W), Volts (V) and Amps (A). While all these can be used to describe an electric motor or the engine, they do mean different things. Therefore, you need to understand each unit to know what you are dealing with. Other measurements that you can compare when the manufacturers don’t provide the engine power in Watts is to check out the maximum chain speed or rpm (revolutions per minute) the saw can do, this will give a good indication of the cutting power of the saws when compared to the others. However, just like gas chainsaws, the same basic rules can be applied. They include:
- The smaller the chain bar or blade length, the lesser the power.
- You should only compare the engine power of saws that have the same length of guide bar or blade.
- It is also important to know that the engine power isn’t the only property that allows you to cut through timber, the chain sharpness, as well as the teeth type, are also other significant factors which we will further explain below.
3. Chain Bar or Guide Bar
The chain bar, which can also be referred to as the guide bar on a chainsaw, is that metal component that stretches throughout the chainsaw body and helps the chain to move quickly in rotation. When the engine pulls the chain over the sprocket, the chain bar guides the metal teeth on the chain and provides rigid support, which applies pressure to the resistance that occurs while cutting wood. Here are some factors to look out for in the chain bar:
- The right size: The length of the chain bar will greatly determine the size of trees or logs that you can cut.
- The quality: When cutting wood or logs, the guide bar holds a lot of pressure and force, which can actually cause it to wear out quickly. It is not common for the chain bar itself to snap during normal use. It can, however, end up bending or the rails can be worn out heavily. Most manufacturers and brands offer high-quality guide bars that come with their saws, but certain brands are better than others. You can check with someone who has been around saws for a while or better still weigh your options online.
4. The Tensioning System of your Chain
It is important to know that regardless of the type or model of the chainsaw you purchase, the chain would not maintain tension on the chain bar forever. All chainsaws have a way to help you with adjusting the tension of the chain. Now in older chainsaws, the most common way to do this is by adjusting the screws in order to loosen the chain bar followed by tightening a screw, which will actually help you get the chain tension right. This whole process isn’t particularly difficult and will only take about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the kind of saw. However, if you think you can’t waste that much time or you want to avoid the hassle, then there are few amazing new features that can make tensioning the chain a lot easier. Here are some factors to look for in the tension.
- A Tool-less chain tensioning: Fortunately, a lot of the major chainsaw brands are now making things much easier for their customers by providing ‘tool-less’ chain tensioning systems. These tensioning systems are created in such a way that you wouldn’t need to take any tools with you, and that saves a bit of your time because they are designed to be adjusted by hand. Each chainsaw brand does it in a slightly different way from the other; some have dials that you can twist, while some come with levers that you can pull out. A lot of times, these systems work very well, however some of the cheaper brands put in low quality or weak systems that may fail after just a few times of use. Hence, it is advisable to go with the quality brands, as they usually use stronger materials.
5. Power Source
Now when it comes down to the power source of your chainsaw, three options are available for you to choose from. There’s the gas, the corded electric and the cordless/ battery electric chainsaws. The power source is a very important factor to look out for when purchasing a chainsaw. You can refer to the top section of this article for more info on the types of chainsaws.
6. Safety Features of a Chainsaw
There are several safety features to look out for when buying a chain saw. They include:
- Chain Brake: A very important safety feature to look out for when purchasing a chainsaw is to ensure that it comes with a chain brake. The chain brake looks typically like a plastic handguard, which is located at the front of the chainsaw body. The brake can be activated manually by using the hand to pull the component back or automatically when the saw is rapidly jerked up; this is also known as an inertia activation. The inertia activation will prevent the chain from moving instantly in order to help reduce any risk of damage to the operator.
- Chainsaw Guide Bar: Chainsaw usually comes with a guide bar while some just don’t. For your safety, try to buy a chainsaw that comes with this feature. You probably want the inertia activated; however, smaller, low powered electric chainsaws do not always have this feature. Instead, the chain stops moving immediately the finger is released from the throttle; this allows a slower chain speed and lowers the risk of a kickback than in gas chainsaws. However, if you can get an electric-powered model that has this feature, then it’s a good thing.
- Chain Stoppers or Catchers: Chainsaws are typically very dangerous tools or machines because of their great cutting power. Due to this reason, all chainsaw manufacturers are required to include several components that can help reduce the risk of an accident. One of these components that usually come in handy is the chainsaw catcher or stopper. The chainsaw stopper is a metal or a plastic guard, which has been created to interrupt a derailed or broken chain. The broken chain would simply hit the chain stopper and is trapped instead of striking the hand of the operator. Although this chain stopper cannot totally prevent the chain from hitting the operator at all, however, it can prevent the chain from rotating over the hand of the operator. It is important to know that this and other safety features are only relatively recent. For example, chain brakes only became a requirement in 1995. So if you plan to purchase your chainsaw from an online outlet, be careful of some older chainsaw models that may not include some of these safety features.
- The Kickback: A kickback is an extremely dangerous feature that can occur when using a chainsaw. In this case, the chain rapidly stops, and all the forces that have been going into the wood get reversed and return into the chain bar. This force jerks the blade away from the wood, and it ends up flying towards the operator. This usually happens when the top side of the saw is stuck in the wood or if the chain is hooked in a log, causing it to jerk up. This motion is very fast, which makes it impossible to react to or move out the way, leading to chainsaw injuries. There are certain models of chainsaws that have features or add-ons that may help reduce this; however, the safest way to avoid this scenario is to employ a proper cutting technique or method.
- Reduce the Vibration: Most chainsaws tend to vibrate a lot even in situations where they are used appropriately and are well lubricated. Excessive vibration in chainsaws can cause various harm and injuries to the operator, such as the hand-arm vibration syndrome and white finger. In order to reduce the effect that these vibrations can cause on the operator’s hands, there are certain modern chainsaws that separate the cutting portion of the saw from the handle and controls with the use of a mounting system. There are some brands of chainsaws that incorporate metal springs to prevent the vibration that would be reaching the operator, while other brands use rubber brushes instead. In addition, the are some modern chainsaws that are made to have electrically heated handles. Although they do not really reduce the vibrations, they still prevent the operator from sustaining vibration-related injuries by encouraging the flow of blood to the user’s fingers.
Tip: Chainsaws with heated handles are particularly great for users that work in the cold.
Things to look out for
- An anti-vibration handle: Most of these chainsaws often utilize springs or rubber to reduce the effects of the vibrations.
- Heated handles: As mentioned above, heated handles help to protect the user from vibration-related injuries like a white finger.
- Consider electric saws: Because of the nature of their motors and the mode of operation, electric chainsaws often have less vibration when compared to gas-powered chainsaws. The reason for this is that they have less moving parts than a combustion engine.
7. Chainsaw Brand
Another factor that can determine or affect your choices is the brand of the chainsaw. The kind of brand you want to purchase will depend largely on the amount of money you are willing to pay for that particular quality. You need to note that the higher the quality, the higher the cost. Now, if you are a professional logger that works frequently or you intend to use your chainsaw for a long time, you may need to buy from the leading brands. Those leading brands guarantee more quality and durability, but all at a cost. Therefore, you have to choose wisely.
Having considered some or all of these features, you should be ready to embark on your journey. Good luck with buying the right kind of chainsaw for your needs! Always remember, your safety comes first.