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Hi, I’m Chainsaw Larry.
And I’m here to help you find the best chainsaws for your needs.
Whether you just need a cheap chainsaw to take down a few trees in your back yard or want a pro chainsaw because you’re getting serious about the tree cutting craft, I’ve got you covered on everything you need to know about these sawing machines.
Buying a chainsaw for the first time can be tricky. Especially with so many different types and features available.
But don’t worry.
I eat, sleep, and breathe chainsaws and know everything there is about them—and who should use each kind.
My knowledge is your gain.
So, take advantage of the resources available on this site. It’s all free.
A Quick Introduction to Chainsaws
What is a chainsaw exactly?
If you’re not sure, here’s a short overview.
Chainsaws are power-driven cutting tools that have sharp teeth wrapped around a chain which moves around the edge of a guide bar.
The most common uses for chainsaws are tree removal, limbing, bucking (cutting a fallen tree into logs), and pruning, as well as cutting up firewood and creating firebreaks in wild landscape for fire suppression.
While some people find chainsaws to be intimidating, these power tools don’t have to be. The truth is, all it takes is a bit of knowledge and practice to operate a chainsaw confidently, effectively, and safely.
What is the Best Chainsaw for Certain Needs?
Here’s the thing about chainsaws…
Some models are built to be all-purpose chainsaws, while others are made for a specific task. Depending on what you need out of a chainsaw will determine the kind you should get.
The links below can help you find a chainsaw that’s right for a particular need.
- Top 10 Best Rated Chainsaws
- Best Gas Chainsaws
- Best Battery Chainsaws
- Best Electric Chainsaws
- Best Cheap Chainsaws
- Best Homeowner Chainsaws
- Best Small Chainsaws
- Best All Around Chainsaws
- Best 16 inch Chainsaws
- Best 18 inch Chainsaws
- Best Chainsaws for Cutting Firewood
- Best Chainsaws Under $300
- Best Chainsaws for Cutting Trees
- Best Chainsaws for Women
- Best Professional Chainsaws
Chainsaw Features to Consider
Chainsaws come with a mix of features. And with so many varieties available, there’s literally a perfect chainsaw for everyone.
The most common features you’ll find in the best chainsaws include:
This is considered to be the heart of the chainsaw. The length of the guide bar determines the activities you can use the saw for and the complexity of those jobs.
The guide bar is what the chain runs along as it spins. It comes in a variety of lengths between 6 to 72 inches.
If you’re the average homeowner looking to trim trees and cut firewood, then you’ll likely want a chainsaw that has a guide bar length between 6 to 20 inches.
If you’re looking to get into the chainsaw profession, then you’ll definitely need a saw with a guide bar length of 20 inches or more.
Obviously, chainsaws with longer guide bars can handle a wider range of jobs, but it’s best to match the bar length to the task at hand; not just use a longer bar for every cutting task.
Cutting small tree limbs should be done with a 6 or 8-inch guide bar, for example, not 36-inches. Longer guide bars are made for cutting thick tree trunks, not trimming up trees.
Chainsaw chains are not universal. There are three measurements you must know to match the right size chainsaw chain to your chainsaw: number of drive links, pitch, and gauge.
- Number of drive links is found by counting the individual links on the chain. This number is crucial for getting the correct replacement chain because general length measurements (i.e. 18 inches) are not interchangeable. Chain length is determined by a combination of pitch (explained next) and the number of drive links.
- Pitch indicates how close together the drive links are on the chain. Chainsaw chain pitch sizes include 1/4″, .325″, 3/8″, 3/8″ low-profile, and .404″.
- Gauge refers to the width of the individual drive links. Chainsaw gauges include .043″, .050″, .058″, and .063″.
Once you know the number of drive links, pitch, and gauge, you can easily find a replacement chain for your chainsaw. You’ll also be able to select between a number of variations within chains that have the same measurements.
Chainsaws can be powered in multiple ways, from gasoline to electricity to batteries. Here’s a short overview of the pros and cons of each type.
- Gas Powered chainsaws are the most common. They have a fuel tank and run on gasoline. Run times vary depending on the amount of load and power output, but you can expect about 15-20 minutes of actual cutting time on a single tank of fuel.
- Electric chainsaws are powered by electricity and require an extension cord to be plugged into an electrical outlet. While the cord length does limit the distance you can use these chainsaws from your house, the upside is that they run forever. The downside is that they’re less powerful than gas powered chainsaws.
- Battery Operated chainsaws (or cordless chainsaws) are an attractive option for many homeowners because they don’t require a power cord. They run on rechargeable batteries and can be used anywhere, at any time, just like gas powered chainsaws. However, these models only run for about 30 minutes on a single charge. If you ever need to do a long session of cutting, you’ll need to invest in multiple batteries to keep you going. They’re also the least powerful type of chainsaw and best for tree maintenance and small logging jobs.
There are two handle positions for chainsaws: rear handle and top handle.
- Rear handle chainsaws are the most common type and ideal for home and professional use. They’re used for any cutting you do while standing on the ground.
- Top handle chainsaws are a specialized version for professional use. They should only be used for cutting in elevated positions such as when you’re in a lift bucket or secured by a harness.
If a chainsaw comes with a pole attachment then you can use it to cut high branches while standing on the ground. Also known as “pole saws”, these tools have an adjustable reach between 6 to 20 feet and a guide bar length between 8 to 12 inches.
All chainsaws must have a properly oiled chain in order to work effectively and prolong the life of the equipment.
There’s a fair amount of friction that occurs between the chain and guide bar that produces a of heat. Without adequate lubrication, you could damage the engine or motor, reduce the life of the guide bar and chain, and increase the risk of kickback.
Chainsaw oilers come in three types: manual, automatic (fixed flow), and automatic (adjustable flow).
- Manual oilers require you to release oil onto the chain by pressing a pump button. The benefit of this type is that you can control the amount of lubricant released. This is good for when you need to adjust the amount of oil for special cutting conditions. The drawback to manual oilers is that you need to remember to release the oil to keep your chainsaw well maintained.
- Automatic (fixed flow) oilers release lubricant at a constant rate onto the bar and chain while the chainsaw is being operated. The benefit here is that you don’t have to remember to push a button to release the oil and your chainsaw will be properly lubricated at all times. The downside is that you can’t control the amount of oil released. This may be necessary for certain type of cutting conditions where extreme heat or longer than average cutting time occurs.
- Automatic (adjustable flow) oilers also release lubricant at a steady rate onto the bar and chain during operation, however, you get the added benefit of controlling the rate of flow. This type of oiler is the best all around because the lubricant is released automatically when you’re cutting but can also be adjusted to match specific conditions.
A chain brake is an important safety feature that stops the chainsaw chain from spinning. It’s also referred to as a front handguard because it’s located on the top handle of the chainsaw and sits between the bar and the chain.
Chain brakes can be engaged in one of two ways: manually by pushing the handle forward or automatically by force of inertia that occurs when the saw unexpectedly kicks back.
Some newer chainsaws may come equipped with only a manual chain brake while others have an inertia-activated chain brake in addition to the manual safety stop.
The throttle lock (or interlock) is another valuable safety feature. It prevents accidental throttle acceleration by forcing you to push a separate button down before you can activate the throttle.
Chainsaws vary a lot in their weight. A small electric chainsaw can weigh as little as 6 lbs., for example, while some larger gas powered models can weigh up to 20 lbs. or more.
Choosing a chainsaw that’s light enough for you to handle is another important thing to consider. It’s good to know your limits when operating one of these sawing machines.
Top Chainsaw Brands
When you’re shopping for the best chainsaws there are certain brands you can trust, including:
- Green Works
- Poulan Pro
Common Questions About Chainsaws
Does a chainsaw need engine oil?
If it’s a 2-cycle chainsaw, then yes, it will need oil mixed with gasoline at 40:1 or 50:1—depending on the manufacturer—and poured into one tank. The reason being is that 2-cycle chainsaws don’t have a built-in lubrication system.
If it’s a 4-cycle chainsaw, the engine oil will be stored in a separate tank from the gasoline. 4-cycle chainsaws have a built-in lubrication system where oil is held inside the engine and pumped through it while under pressure.
If it’s an electric or battery operated chainsaw, then it doesn’t need engine oil since these saws are powered by an electrical motor.
How do you break in a new chainsaw?
It’s always a good idea to break in a new chainsaw before you perform any cutting projects. That way, all of the parts can warm up and smooth out any imperfections that may have come off of the assembly line.
Follow these general steps to break in your new chainsaw:
- If the chainsaw has a manual oiler, pump the button a few times. If it has an automatic (adjustable flow) oiler, increase the oil flow by turning the appropriate screw.
- Start the chainsaw and allow the engine to idle for five minutes.
- Turn off the engine.
- Disconnect the spark plug lead.
- Put on a pair of gloves.
- Check the chain’s tension by holding the chainsaw in one hand and using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand to pinch the top center of the chain. Lift the chain up from the guide bar and then release it. A properly tensioned chain snaps back into place and has no sign of sagging along the bottom of the guide bar. If the chain falls into a loose position on the top of the guide bar or sags along the bottom, then the tension needs to be adjusted.
- If the chain’s tension needs to be adjusted, loosen the nuts that hold the guide bar in place. Then, pull up on the nose of the guide bar up slightly and turn the chain tension screw clockwise until the slack is gone from the chain. Finally, tighten the guide bar nuts.
- For gas powered chainsaws, the engine should not run at full throttle for extended periods of time during the first 6-10 tanks of fuel. To properly break in the engine, use one-half to three-quarter throttle during your initial cutting jobs.
What is chainsaw kickback and what causes it?
Chainsaw kickback is when the saw’s guide bar suddenly moves upward and back toward the operator. In some instances, kickback can be lighting-fast and it’s the most common cause of chainsaw accidents by every skill level.
Kickback is caused by two things:
- The tip (or nose) of the chain strikes an object.
- The wood closes in during the cut and pinches the chain.
The top of the tip of the chainsaw guide bar is referred to as the “kickback danger zone”. This area has high kickback risk. Therefore, you should never use this part of the chainsaw for cutting or you could suffer from a serious injury.
How long of a chainsaw guide bar do I need?
When selecting a guide bar length for your chainsaw, it’s best to take into consideration the nature of the work you want to perform. For most simple jobs, such as backyard pruning, a chainsaw guide bar length of 14 inches should work well for most of your needs.
The rule of thumb for the safest cutting is to choose a guide bar length that’s 2 inches longer than the thickness of the wood you’re working on. So, an 18-inch or bigger guide bar would be best for a 16-inch thick tree.
If you find the need to cut a tree that’s thicker than the length of your chainsaw guide bar, you can do it in two passes. For example, a 14-inch guide bar can cut a 28-inch tree if you cut completely through one side of it and then attack it again from the other side.
However, if you find that you’re cutting trees that are much larger than your guide bar length on a regular basis, then you should upgrade your bar to a longer size to cut them in one pass.
Find Out More About Chainsaws
The questions above are just a small sample of the types of things people want to know about chainsaws.
In order to help you fully understand how chainsaws work and learn what they can and can’t do for you, I’ve put together a dedicated Learning Center for you to use.
In the Learning Center, you’ll find even more answers to the top questions and concerns people have about chainsaws, including:
- How to Start a Chainsaw
- How to Cut Down (or Fell) a Tree with a Chainsaw
- How to Use a Chainsaw Safely
- Electric vs Gas Chainsaw
- Types of Chainsaws Explained
- How to Clean a Chainsaw
- and more
So, check it out to learn everything there is about chainsaws. I’ve done my best to cover all of the popular topics people have questions about.