Types of Chainsaws Explained

Types of Chainsaws Explained

At one time, chainsaws were simple machines.

They included a gas engine, a blade, and a chain.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Now, chainsaws come in all different types, sizes, and colors and include a wealth of advanced features to suit so almost anyone’s tastes.

For example, the general types of chainsaws you can get today include:

  • Gas Powered
  • Electric (Corded)
  • Battery Operated
  • Pole Saw
  • Manual Saw
  • Top Handle Version
  • Rear Handle Version

And within those categories, you can fine-tune the machine down to the optimal blade length, the method it uses to oil the bar and chain, the amount of weight you want in the tool, the mechanism it uses for kickback safety, and more.

Fortunately, once you know what type of chainsaw you like, filtering through those things become easier.

You can narrow your search down to a particular chainsaw category and then find the one that meets your specific needs.

In this guide, I’m going to help you understand how the different types of chainsaws compare as well as the pros and cons of each version. That way, you can understand what’s available and decide which one might be best suited for your needs.

5 Types of Chainsaws Available

Below are the general categories for chainsaws and they apply to both homeowners and professional users.

If you’re looking for a round-up of the top chainsaws to use around the house, take a look at my best home chainsaw page. It reviews the top models available and offers some advice on how to buy the best one for your toolkit.

1. Gas Powered

Gas Chainsaw Type
Husqvarna 455 Rancher

Gas chainsaws are the classic version that has been around longer than any other type. They’re known for their power, portability, and loud noise.

One of the main reasons people choose gas chainsaws is that their cutting performance and speed cannot be matched by electric or battery models.

But that does come at a cost: more maintenance and heavier weights.

Pros:

  • Most powerful
  • Extremely portable
  • Long cutting times
  • Most rugged
  • Long life span if maintained well
  • Simple repairs

Cons:

  • Needs fuel mixed with oil
  • Requires the most maintenance
  • Starting can get harder over the years
  • Produces fuel emissions.
  • Heaviest type
  • Loudest type
  • Bar and chain lengths don’t go below 14 inches for home use and 12 inches for professional use

To find out more about this type, check out my best gas powered chainsaw guide.

2. Electric (Corded)

Electric Chainsaw Type
Remington RM1425

These types of chainsaws don’t have engines but rather operate with electrical motors.

You must plug electric chainsaws into a power outlet for them the run. This limits their portability and use (when the power is out).

Electric chainsaws are very light, however, and offer a large range of bar lengths. They’re also much cheaper than gas chainsaws.

Pros:

  • Easiest to operate
  • Push-button start
  • Unlimited cutting times
  • Lightest weight
  • Not much maintenance
  • Quietest type
  • No fuel emissions
  • Cheapest type
  • Has the widest range of bar and chain lengths (6 to 18 inches)

Cons:

  • Must be plugged into an electrical outlet
  • Limited by the length of the extension cord
  • Can’t be used during a power outage
  • Repairs require professional servicing
  • Not as fast at cutting compared to gas chainsaws

To find out more about this type, check out my best electric chainsaw guide.

3. Battery Operated

Battery Chainsaw Type
Makita XCU02PT1

Battery chainsaws have quickly risen in popularity and many models now compete well with gas chainsaws.

With a battery operated model, you get all of the conveniences of a gas chainsaw but without the burden of using fuel.

The downside is that battery chainsaws are the most expensive type. The lithium-ion batteries they use don’t come cheap. However, the long-term cost of ownership is cheaper since you don’t have to purchase fuel to run them.

Pros:

  • Just as portable as gas chainsaws
  • Push-button start
  • Low maintenance
  • Quiet
  • No fuel emissions
  • Has a wide range of bar and chain lengths (8 to 18 inches)

Cons:

  • Cutting times vary by model. Expect 30 minutes to one hour.
  • Recharging times vary by model. Expect 20 minutes to two hours.
  • Can’t use when batteries are recharging
  • Repairs require professional servicing
  • Can’t cut as fast as gas chainsaws but are equal to electric chainsaws
  • Most expensive type

To find out more about this type, check out my best battery operated chainsaw guide.

4. Pole Saws

Pole Saw Type
Sun Joe SWJ800E

A pole saw is basically a chainsaw on a stick. They allow you to reach high up into the trees to prune limbs and cut off branches.

A pole saw is a good secondary chainsaw to own, since it can’t function as your primary tool.

Pros:

  • Can reach high places
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to manage
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Limited functionality. Only good for one type of task.

5. Manual Chainsaws

Manual Chainsaw Type
Chainmate CM-36SSP

These chainsaws existed way before gasoline chainsaws ever did and they’re basically a chainsaw chain with two handles on either side.

Shorter manual chainsaws can be used by one person while longer ones require two people to operate.

Instead of an engine or motor operating the manual chainsaw, your hands and arms do all of the work by moving the chain back and forth in a fast motion.

This chainsaw type is a portable and versatile tool for cutting firewood or trimming trees. Many survivalists carry this kind in your travel kits too.

Clearly, it’s not as fast or powerful as a gas, electric, or battery chainsaw, but it’s economical, convenient, and faster than most other handheld saws you’ll find today.

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Can use in tough to reach areas
  • Lightweight
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Slow cutting
  • Requires muscle power by the user
  • Best for light-duty tasks

Top Handle vs Rear Handle Chainsaws

Top Handle vs Rear Handle Chainsaw Types

When it comes to the different types of chainsaws, excluding pole saws and manual chains, there are two designs: top handle and rear handle.

In short, top handle chainsaws are for arborists and other professional tree cutters. The top handle design is made for cutting trees at tall heights.

Professionals who use top handle chainsaws often climb trees and are supported by a harness. The top handle allows the user to better maneuver the tool while at extreme heights.

However, some professionals to also use these smaller chainsaws to cut wood from ground level. Top handle chainsaws are found in 12-inch or smaller bars and chains.

Rear handle chainsaws, on the other hand, are for both professional and non-professional use.

The position of the rear handle gives the operator more control over the chainsaw.

Rear handle chainsaws are used for felling trees, cutting up logs, slicing firewood, trimming branches, and other tasks performed while standing on the ground.

Well, There You Have It

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the different types of chainsaws you can buy today.

If any particular type sparks your interest, feel free to check out the links that lead to each of the individual buying guides.

Happy cutting!

Your Pal,
Chainsaw Larry