A chainsaw is simply one of the most essential tools for any outdoorsman. They have multiple uses, and are invaluable when it comes to cutting large amounts of wood. The excellent portability and ease of use are wonderful, especially for tree surgeons, or even harvesting firewood. This guide will help you find the best chainsaw for you. We’ve also provided 5 short, chainsaw reviews towards the end to make it easier for you.
via Mark Hunter
- 1 Overview of Chainsaws
- 2 When to use a Chainsaw
- 3 Choosing the Best Chainsaw
- 4 What to Look for
- 5 Electric Chainsaw
- 6 Gas Chainsaw
- 7 Sharpening your Chainsaw
- 8 Pole Chain Saw
- 9 Cordless Chain Saw
- 10 Small Chain Saws
- 11 Chainsaw Case
- 12 Chainsaw Pants
- 13 5 Best Chainsaws of 2016 Reviewed
- 14 Conclusion
Overview of Chainsaws
A chainsaw is an absolutely essential item if you work with large wood often, such as working with tree’s, or harvest a lot of firewood. They are much faster than using a standard saw, due to the chain of teeth that saw the wood. This tool works as it has a set of teeth attached to a chain, the chain runs along a bar. They are usually powered by petrol(gas), however a very select few are electric.
Chainsaws have many uses, for instance chainsaws with specialist bars/chains have been designed, predominantly for chainsaw art. Chainsaws have also been developed to cut concrete, and even used for cutting ice – which also ties in with art.
When to use a Chainsaw
It is usually fairly obvious when to use a chainsaw, as they are predominantly used for felling trees, however they also play a very valid role within many woodwork projects. Obviously, you wouldn’t use a chainsaw for delicate cuts, however they can be used to quickly cut large pieces of wood, such as logs into more workable sizes.
However, as mentioned above – chainsaws are no longer restricted to cutting only wood. You can use chainsaws for cutting ice and concrete as well. A skilled woodsman will use their chainsaw to create art from logs.
Therefore, it is usually down to the user’s personal opinion of when to use a chainsaw, as traditional saws can also be used in place of many chainsaw tasks. Chainsaws simply just accelerate the otherwise tedious task.
Choosing the Best Chainsaw
Now is the time to dispel the myth that more expensive is better, as this is not always the case. In many cases the more premium tools are only expensive, due to the brand which created them, and usually you can get the same performance and features from a lower price banded chainsaw.
What to Look for
Factor 1: Power and Weight
If you aren’t experienced with the use of chainsaws, it is almost always best to purchase a light chainsaw, as they are easier to manoeuvre, and are also safer for new sawyers. However, make sure your new chainsaw will have enough power for what you intend to use it for. For heavy work you will need a lot more power than you would for merely cutting small trees, for heavier work you will also need the right cutting equipment.
Factor 2: Vibrations
If you intend to use the chainsaw often (I.E – everyday) – then the vibrations are of utmost importance. Large, consistent vibrations can cause injuries, mainly to the hands as these are in contact with the tool. Even for a low amount of use, I would recommend a low-vibration tool just for comfort.
Factor 3: Power Type
Gas or battery? Gas chainsaws are the most common, and are recommended if you intend to spend long hours using it, as it saves the end user having to carry around extra batteries. However, for small work, such as in the garden, an electrical chainsaw is a great choice. If you do choose to purchase an electrical chainsaw, I would recommend purchasing an extra battery – this means you can have one on charge while you use the chainsaw. Electrical chainsaws tend to be more comfortable to use, they also tend to vibrate less than the gas counterparts.
Factor 4: Emissions
Many countries have extremely strict regulations regarding emissions, it is extremely important that you consider that when purchasing a new chainsaw, as many older chainsaws will not be legal for use. This is also important for your own personal well being, as breathing in petrol fumes all day isn’t good for you.
Factor 5: Balance
Make sure that the saw has a good balance, meaning the weight is evenly spread throughout the tool, and it isn’t too much heavier towards one end. It should be almost effortless to shift your grip on the chainsaw, during use, without affecting the balance.
Factor 6: Safety Features
In my opinion, this is one of the most important elements to consider when in the market for a new chainsaw. Always make sure your new chainsaw has plenty of safety features in place, that are well tested, before purchasing. Always use the correct safety equipment when operating the chainsaw as well.
Factor 7: Maintenance
Nobody wants to buy a chainsaw they constantly have to be replacing parts on, do they? Make sure the air filter and fuel pump are easily accessible, this will save you precious time. Also, it should be almost effortless to tighten the chain, as this is one of the most common maintenance elements, that you will find yourself doing often.
Another extremely important item to consider when purchasing a new chainsaw is, what are your needs? Before you start researching potential purchases, think about what you need as this will save you a lot of time.
Will you be using the chainsaw for extended periods of time? Answering simple questions like this will help you decide what chainsaw is best for you.
Factor 8: Engine/Motor
Typically, chainsaws are either powered by two stroke petrol motors, or an electric motor. This heavily depends on the intended use of the chainsaw, gas chainsaws tend to be more powerful, which comes in handy when felling large trees. However, electric chainsaws tend to be easier to use, quieter, and also release less vibrations, which helps reduce user fatigue. Carefully consider what you will be using the chainsaw for before you decide on petrol or electric.
Factor 9: Size
Considering the size of the chainsaw you will need is also extremely important, as a larger chainsaw equates to a larger weight, which will cause more fatigue. Lighter chainsaws are always preferred, however electric chainsaws which are big enough and fit the criteria of large woodwork are hard to come by. Therefore, if you plan to fell large trees, or use the chainsaw a lot – definitely get a gas chainsaw. You’ll thank me later.
Another extremely important item to consider when purchasing a new chainsaw is, what are your needs? Before you start researching potential purchases, think about what you need as this will save you a lot of time.
Will you be using the chainsaw for extended periods of time? Answering simple questions like this will help you decide what is the best chainsaw for you.
There are many advantages of using an electric chainsaw over a petrol counterpart, such as:
Ease of Use: Studies show that an 18-inch chainsaw will fit close to one hundred percent of all cutting chores around a standard property, therefore it is wise to consider an electric model. This is because they are extremely easy to use, simply connect it to a power source, flick the switch and it’s ready to go.
Whereas, gas chainsaws require priming, and the pull-cord in order to start the engine. This can be difficult when the chainsaw has been out of operation for an extended period of time. Gas chainsaws are also generally heavier compared to electric models. The light design of an electric chain saw makes it suitable for use by anyone. Weight is extremely important to the overall safety of a chainsaw; this is because gas chainsaws can be hard to maneuver due to the extra weight of a full combustion engine.
Kickback: The safety chains included within electric models reduce the amount of kickbacks. These occur when the tip of the saw blade hits an object, which forces the tool to “kickback” at the user, this can cause extreme injuries. Therefore, due to the fact that electric chain saws are much less powerful than gas models, this reduces the severity of kickbacks when operating the tool.
Fuel: This a huge advantage, mainly because you don’t need any. The main issue with petrol powered chainsaws is that when they run out of fuel, they have to cool down before you can refill the chainsaw. This eats into your precious time. Whereas, an electric model merely needs a power connection.
Noise: Electric chainsaws make significantly less noise than gas chainsaws, this is key when working in a residential area, as the electric chainsaw will not disturb neighbors, and passers-by, anywhere near as much as a petrol powered model would.
Starting: Another great advantage of an electric powered chainsaw, simply flick the switch to on, and you’re ready to go! Compared to the starting procedure of a petrol powered unit, this is excellent. Starting a gas chainsaw involves pulling a cord multiple times to get the engine started, along with priming the engine. There is also a fairly high chance of your engine flooding, when too much petrol flows into the carburettor. Electric chainsaws simply cannot flood! Petrol chainsaws often require a specific mix of petrol and oil in order to power the tool, this also takes time to prepare – and can affect the lifespan of your tool if done poorly.
Storage: When storing a gas chainsaw for a period of more than two weeks, it is recommended to remove all petrol and oil, along with the spark plug before it can be safely stored. An electric chainsaw simply needs putting back in its case.
Electric Chainsaw Brands
There is a large variety of electric chainsaw brands, however we’ll be reviewing the following brands:
- Sun Joe
These are just a few of the most common brands within the market for electric chainsaws.
Worx: Worx manufacture the highest rated and most popular electric chainsaw currently, the WG303.1. The reason Worx are so popular, is merely because of the excellent value you get with their tools. The consumer receives an excellent, reliable piece of kit. It is also referred to as one of the easiest electric chainsaws to use.
Worx is a side-company of Positec, a China based company, who predominantly manufacture power tools, garden equipment along with a healthy variety of accessories.
The Worx company was originally formed in 2004, and since then their market share has steadily increased, putting them up against flagship brands, such as Black & Decker.
In regards to the WG303.1, it has an extremely large knob, to secure the chain. This maintains the tension of the chain during use, a great safety feature. This tool also features a built in safety chain brake, as I mentioned above, kickback is a huge issue within chainsaws – the WG303.1 automatically stops the chain immediately if kickback occurs, preventing injury to the user.
A large rubber moulded rear handle, paired with an ergonomic front handle ensure maximum comfort while operating the machine.
Overall, Worx is a great brand, although rather unknown compared to Black & Decker, they invest a large sum of money into research and development, ensuring their tools always feature the latest features.
Makita: Makita is a large well-known, reputable brand. This is partly due to their extensive history, beginning in 1915. They manufacture industry grade tools, while focussing on power, and efficiency.
They create a huge variety of tools, from flashlights to chainsaws, along with a whole lot more. The Makita UC3551A is more a long term tool. It’s a quality tool, and it is extremely well built. In my opinion, it is one of the best electric chainsaws you can buy.
One of the key features of the Makita chainsaw is the fact it utilizes metal gears, which sounds odd. Surely, all chainsaws use metal gears?! Unfortunately, the reality is that many cheaper chainsaws only use plastic gears, which are nowhere near as durable as metal counterparts.
With this tool, you get what you pay for, yes it is expensive, and yes the price tag won’t suit everyone. However, this tool is guaranteed to last for many years, and will effortless attack all chores around the house. It feels like absolute bliss in your hands, and extremely well balanced and light for a chainsaw of this size. It’s almost effortless to adjust the chain, and features a chain brake to minimize injuries regarding kickback. This is especially useful for beginners, as many beginners tend to push the chainsaw too hard, luckily – this chainsaw will stop before you damage it.
Oregon: Oregon are an extremely, unknown brand. However, it’s hard to determine why…
The Oregon PowerNow CS1500 is rated at 15 Amps, which is a huge amount of power. It has the capability to cut through wood 16 inches in diameter, and more if you’re willing to be patient. The bar and chain measures at 18 inches, which is a huge length.
However, the main feature that stood out to me was the mere fact that this chainsaw has a self-sharpening blade. Yes, you did read that right. No more sharpening the chain ever again, and you need to do is pull the sharpening level for around 3 seconds, and your chainsaw will work as good as new again. This helps reduce the time wasted when maintaining your chainsaw.
Rather than a typical switch system, which is featured on many electric saws – this particular saw features an instant start, trigger system. This is a great feature, which can also be deemed as a safety feature.
Remington: Remington excel when it comes to smaller electric chainsaws. Such as the Remington RM1425 – this is recommended for wood 6 inches in diameter and small. While this heavily restricts what you can actually use the tool for, this isn’t really a problem at the extremely low price. It really is excellent for what it is designed for, with a moderately powerful 8-amp motor – which is extremely generous when you consider that this tool was designed for cutting a maximum of 6 inches of wood. It doesn’t have a great amount of features; however, you wouldn’t expect this of a chainsaw within this price band. However, you do get a lot for your money. What you actually receive is a basic 14” chainsaw, which is extremely reliable. If you’re on a tight budget, this is the tool for you.
It simply excels at pruning, using this chainsaw is almost effortless. Due to the compact size, this heavily reduces the overall weight, making this chainsaw suitable for everyone.
Sun Joe: Sun Joe are one of the most innovative companies within the chainsaw industry. They invest a huge amount of money into research and development, and this definitely shows within their products. They have a huge commitment to manufacturing cutting-edge technology.
The Sun Joe SWJ701E is a ridiculously light chainsaw, which doesn’t skimp on anything. With a generous 14-Amp motor, this 18” chainsaw will simply blast through anything you throw at it.
The ergonomics of this tool are simply perfect, in a nutshell this tool is extremely mobile, and you won’t get fatigued when using during extended periods of time.
It features a rather sublime, self-lubricating bar and chain. This works excellently, however you will still need to get an eye on the oil – otherwise, you may damage your tool.
Don’t let its toy like design fool you, this tool packs some serious power.
So, what is the best electric chainsaw in 2016?
The Sun Joe SWJ701E has to be the best in my opinion, it’s sheer innovative technology is amazing. It has the best power to weight ratio in its class, and is also fairly affordable.
It simply has enough power to cut through 17 inches of wood, all in a tight compact chassis, and powered by electric! Some gas chainsaws struggle to cut through 17 inches of wood. Sun Joe have seriously outdone themselves with the release of this tool, it has a vast collection of safety features, ensuring minimal injuries during the lifespan of the product.
Gas chainsaws are the most popular type of chain saw, due to the versatility they achieve. A full tank of petrol tends to last longer than a full charge of a battery for an electric chain saw, also petrol chain saws are hugely powerful compared to electric chain saws. This is why the industry prefer petrol chain saws. There simply is no replacement for a good old combustion engine currently, for extensive woodwork, such as felling trees – there is no option but to use a petrol chainsaw. Electric chainsaws simply do not possess enough power in order to efficiently cut through large pieces of hardwood.
Gas Chainsaws – Popular Brands
Husqvarna: Husqvarna are one of the leading retailers regarding gas chainsaws. The Husqvarna 240e (One of their flagship models) – only requires a sheer tug or two on the cord in order to bring the machine to life. Husqvarna also think about the smaller details, such as the cord handle is large enough to use even with a gloved hand, something many other manufacturers forget about.
Husqvarna tools are mainly designed for extended use, hence they focus on creating reliable, comfortable tools. All Husqvarna tools feature vibration dampening technology, in order to reduce user fatigue; this is a really nice touch.
Poulan: Poulan are at the lower end of the spectrum in regards to price, however don’t overlook them as a low quality brand. They produce very high quality tools, at very affordable prices. For such a low price, they offer huge cutting speeds, and a tonne of power. They also tend to feature a tool free tensioning mechanism on many of their chainsaws, this is extremely easy to use. However, they don’t feature as many premium features as other brands, such as Husqvarna. The vibration dampening materials don’t work too well, however this isn’t really a problem unless you plan to use the tool for an extensive period of time.
Solo: Solo are in my opinion, one of the most upcoming brands in 2016. Their flagship chainsaw, the Solo 636 features only sheer power, with a 36.3cc engine. It features a compression release button, which is usually only found on much larger two-stroke chainsaws, however not in the Solo’s case. This helps ensure a fast start. This is one of the fastest saws on the market, and its weight to power ratio is sheer excellence. Solo’s range of chainsaws are perfect for limbing and trail maintenance. However, for such a premium company – they do tend to overlook small details, such as the starter handle. The starter handle is a little small, which means you can’t start the tool with gloves on, and the petrol and oil caps are a ridiculous shape, however – don’t let this put you off. Solo are an excellent brand.
John Deere: John Deere are well known for their manufacture of premium farming tools and machinery; however, they make an excellent chain saw. It sports a “fun” yet industrial, durable design and features excellent balancing. John Deere didn’t overlook any details during the development of this saw, it features easy-turn caps for the petrol and oil, along with easy to adjust screws for the carburettor and idle-speed. It’s not the fastest chainsaw on the market, however, it is one of the most reliable and consistent, durable chainsaws in its price bracket. Another nice feature is a shielded on/off switch to protect the tool from dirt and grime.
Sharpening your Chainsaw
It is imperative that you keep your chainsaw blade sharp, as a dull blade will not just cause accidents, but will cut extremely slowly and dangerously. There are two main ways of sharpening a chainsaw.
Buy a Chainsaw Sharpener
You can buy chainsaw sharpeners fairly cheap from your local hardware shop, or online. However, if it is just a one-time sharpen you need, many hardware shops will be willing to sharpen your chainsaw for a small one-time cost.
Do it Yourself
Now, we all know that dull chainsaw blades will buckle when cutting wood, so it’s about time we all got sharpening.
To start with, you’ll need a pair of gloves, and a filing kit for chainsaws.
Firstly, engage the chain saw brake and clamp the guide bar within the vice. Place the guide between two rivets on the chain, with the guide arrows pointing towards the nose.
For the best sharpening experience, toy need to follow the angle of the cutter. The guide should help you from cutting too deep.
A few steady strokes with the file should suffice, until the cutter is shiny. After sharpening a few cutters, release the chain brake and rotate the chain forward and repeat until all cutters are sharpened.
You should sharpen your chainsaw blade each time you fill the chainsaw with fuel.
Pole Chain Saw
Pole chain saws are mainly designed for pruning small branches. This is mainly due to the power restrictions of pole chain saws. They also tend to feature smaller chains, and a smaller engine in order to reduce weight. However, don’t let this put you off – pole chain saws are an excellent innovation for pruning trees, and more often than not, it saves the operator from having to use a ladder or climb a tree.
Cordless Chain Saw
Many electric chainsaws aren’t cordless, however a select few are battery powered, which gets rid of the pesky cord which can cause many problems, and safety issues while cutting. However, all gas chain saws are cordless, due to the power source being within the chainsaw. Cordless chain saws are the best option to go for in my opinion, as you aren’t restricted by having to always be connected to a power outlet. However, this isn’t to say that corded chain saws don’t have their place, corded chains saws are excellent for home use, such as in the garden, due to the fact there’s no need to have to buy fuel, or charge the battery.
Small Chain Saws
There is currently a huge market for small chain saws. Small chain saws are perfect for pruning trees, or even cutting down smaller trees that you may encounter within your garden.
Small chainsaws are also excellent for beginners, due to the smaller size, this means a large decrease in weight – which means small chain saws can simply be used for hours, with little to no fatigue.
However, there are limitations to what a small chain saw can be used for. While yes, you can technically use a small chainsaw for everything you would use a large chainsaw for, it will severely decrease the life of your tool, along with meaning you have to sharpen the blade often, as the blades aren’t designed for large pieces of hardwood. The only significant different if you really needed to use a small chainsaw would be the fact that it would take a lot longer, and also multiple angles in order to cut larger pieces of wood. However, be warned it is advised to take short breaks in between cutting, this is to reduce the chance of the motor overheating within the chainsaw.
Now that you should be kitted out with the latest, high tech chainsaw – it’s time to start talking accessories. A chainsaw case is a good place to start, this will protect your tool, and protect you. Leaving an exposed chainsaw around is always a bad idea due to the sharp blades.
Luckily for you, there is a huge market out there for chainsaw cases. Many produced by the same brands as your chainsaw if you want to go for a matching pair. While there isn’t much difference between an unbranded case, and a premium case – you will get a lot more features within the premium case, such as the Husqvarna PowerBox Carry Case. The PowerBox features a tough, sturdy, stylish design which will safely store a chainsaw, oil, lubricants and other accessories.
In my opinion, you definitely shouldn’t skimp on a pair of chainsaw pants. These are the last layer of defence between a high RPM blade, and your precious legs. Many popular brands include Yukon, Rocwood and Stihl. A pair of chainsaw pants won’t cost much, and are worth every cent. They are one of the most important safety accessories, and will definitely come into play at some point during your chainsaws life.
5 Best Chainsaws of 2016 Reviewed
The Remington RM5118R is an excellent chainsaw, consisting of a sturdy design, along with unstoppable cutting power. It features a 51cc engine to ensure suitable cutting power for even the bulkiest of tasks. One of the main reasons why this chainsaw is excellent, is due to the company who manufacture this product, the innovation on this chainsaw is revolutionary; such as the trigger power delivery system, functional and safe. This chainsaw is simply sublime, and I recommend it to anyone in the market for a lightweight, yet functional chainsaw.
Big D: “Awesome saw for the money. I have over 20 acres of woods. We burn a lot in the fire pit at the cabin. Just got this saw this fall after my poulan finally died..”
Husqvarna have always been within the most well-known manufacturers of chainsaws and other power tools, however with the 240e they really excelled themselves. The 240e features a huge amount of power, while keeping efficiency at the centre of the design, the patented x-torq technology within this chainsaw is wonderful, and all this is achieved while keeping emissions to an absolute minimum. In my opinion, this chainsaw is perfect for pruning, and hobby work. However, it will still easily cope with the heavier jobs such as trailing, or even light felling.
B. Lewis: “We had a very bad ice storm last winter and had many down trees to saw up to be moved. He loves the power and how easy it starts. He said to rate this 5 stars at least!”
The Sun Joe SWJ701E is an electric chainsaw, mainly designed for limbs, firewood and logs. It’s hugely powerful 14 Amp motor makes it one of the most powerful in its class, and also enables it to cope with even the most demanding of tasks. But the main advantage of this chainsaw, is its full size lightweight construction. This enables the user to simply keep going and going, without getting fatigued, or tired. Although it is made by a rather, less known company, don’t less this fool you. The Sun Joe SWJ701E is a serious piece of kit, the ergonomics on this electric chain saw are some of the best ever seen.
Amazon Customer: “This little powerhouse does a great job. So easy to start. No pulling on cords! I am very happy with my purchase.”
The Oregon PowerNow CS1500 is another electric chainsaw, however, it has a rather special feature. This feature is called “PowerSharp” and it’s an in-built sharpening system, in order to sharpen the chainsaw’s blade, all you need to do is pull on the sharpening lever a few times. In my opinion, this is one of the best innovations made to the chainsaw in a long time, no more breaking out the vice and guides in order to sharpen your chainsaw. Overall, this chainsaw is simply wonderful, despite also been manufactured by a less-known brand, it fits in a tonne of premium features and has unmatched cutting capabilities.
Harold: “I have owned other electric chain saws in the past and gas saws as well. I have used this saw once and so far it has performed well. I like the fact that it has a self sharpener and it is very easy to adjust the chain tension and remove and reinstall the chain.”
This is, yet another electric chainsaw. The reason there are so many electric chain saws featured, is because they have simply gotten a lot better since their debut release, some electric chainsaws are comparable to petrol chainsaws. One of these chainsaws, is the Worx WG303.1. The WG303.1 is a premium level chainsaw, that packs in a healthy amount of power, and a perfect blade size. It features a 16 inch blade, which in my opinion is perfect for “all-in-one” use, as 18 inches can sometimes be too large, and too bulky to use. Overall, the Worx WG303.1 is an excellent chainsaw, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, the sheer amount of safety features packed into this mid-sized chainsaw is wonderful.
Supporting Role: “This Worx 303.1 is a dream! Plug it in turn it on. Now! Next month. Next year. Awesome”
So, have you found the best chainsaw for you? Follow the pointers mentioned in this article, and you’ll find the right one.We also recommend reading chainsaw reviews featured in our site.