Chainsaws may not be the number one item on the wish list of most do-it-yourself individuals, but there are times when these power tools just can’t be beat. Chainsaws may not be number one for those of us who don’t own a private forest we have to clear out. Rather, they’re a specialty tool, designed for cutting down trees and slicing up firewood; so they aren’t real useful for the individual looking to finish their basement. However, for those situations where the cutting power of a chainsaw is needed, there’s really nothing else that will do the job.
The key to any chainsaw is the chain itself. The multiple blades are attached to a bicycle-type chain which goes around a bar. The bar functions as a track for the chain, providing it with backing to give it stiffness and allows guiding the cut fairly accurately, although there’s really nothing precise about them. They’re tools designed for fast cutting of green wood which cuts much differently than seasoned wood does.
You want to make sure the chainsaw you ultimately select meets your needs. The last thing you want to do is buy one, then later wish you'd gone a step larger; think things through carefully before making your selection. Our chainsaw buyer's guide listed below can definitely help you with that.
Best Electric Chainsaw:
While an electric chain saw almost sounds like a contradiction of terms, I assure you that it isnt. There arent a lot of these out there, but they do exist and for some, theyre a better option.
Gasoline motors are designed for regular use; so they dont take well to sitting stored for long periods of time, without use. Seals dry out, the gasoline goes bad, fuel lines clog up, and the carburetor gets gunk in it. Left sitting long enough, a gas powered chain saw becomes totally inoperative.
For those that only need a chain saw occasionally, such as for cutting off a dead limb in the back yard, or turning an occasional fallen tree into firewood, an electric chain saw is a great option. It provides the power needed for these heavy cutting operations, without the maintenance that a gas powered chainsaw needs.
Having said that, there are a couple of disadvantages that these saws have over gas powered ones. First of all, they arent as portable, unless you call dragging a generator along with you portable. So, theyre not the tool to take into the woods in order to cut your familys Christmas Tree. Secondly, theyre not as powerful as most gas engine powered chain saws, although Id have to say that theyll hold their own when compared to the lower-end ones.
The number one thing to look for in any chain saw is power. Cutting through a tree trunk, or even a limb, creates an incredible amount of friction. That friction can easily bog down a blade, or in this case, a chain, bringing the saw to a total stop. Its even worse when you hit a knot or burl in the wood, as the wood density tends to increase in those places.
Because of this friction, the chains on these saws can become quite hot. Be sure to allow it sufficient time to cool between cuts, to help prevent dulling or breaking the chain. Sharpening the chain regularly is an important part of keeping the overall chain temperature down. Oiling the chain is also part of keeping the temperature down. Some higher end units have built-in chain oilers, but not all corded ones do.
The second thing is the blade length. The longer the blade, the bigger a limb or trunk it can cut through. You always want a blade that is long enough that you are cutting with the flat part of the blade, not the curve. Ideally, you want a few extra inches, so that you can rock the saw back and forth, without the risk of getting into the curved part of the blade.
When using these saws, extreme care must be taken. Of all the handheld power tools, these are the most dangerous, easily taking off a finger or cutting through a leg bone. With proper attention to safety, there really isnt any problem, but theres no room for carelessness with any chain saw.
You also need to be careful with cord placement. Gasoline chain saws dont have this problem, but its easy to accidentally cut through your power cord when using an electric one. Attaching the cord to your belt is a good way to help keep it out of the reach of the blade.
Although it was close, I had to give the number one spot to Makita. This saw is the most powerful electric chain saw on the market. When it all comes down to it, that's important in a chain saw. On top of that, you've got Makita's reputation for quality. Read Full Review
The Poulan Pro series offers saws that are larger and more capable than their standard models. The full 18-inch bar is well-suited for cutting large items and the 4 horsepower rating makes it one of the most powerful electric saws available. Read Full Review
We can't look at homeowner's tools, without taking a look at Craftsman. Although not a professional tool, like the others we've looked at, this electric would be a handy one to have around. With a 4 HP motor, it's got plenty of power; unfortunately, it's a bit on the heavy side at 17 lbs. Read Full Review
This saw comes with a 12 amp motor and a 16 inch chain bar. It also has a safety tip on the end, intended to prevent kickback. At 8.5 pounds, it's the second lightest saw on our list. Read Full Review
Best Gas Chainsaw:
While many people can get away with buying an inexpensive chainsaw, there are those who need a heavy duty one. Some jobs just cant be done with a lighter-duty saw. Not only that, but some people actually have enough trees on their property that they need something that will cut and keep on cutting. That requires a saw with power– something that can handle heavy use. While consumers, those people clearly need a professional grade chainsaw.
More than anything, what makes a chain saw heavy-duty is the size of the engine. These beasts are all about power. The more power the engine has, the larger a chain and bar it can handle and the larger the tree or log it can cut. The issue really isn't the size of the chain and bar, but the amount of power it takes to pull that many teeth through a log. The longer bars have more teeth in contact and cutting at any moment, increasing the amount of force needed from the saw.
All chainsaws have a limitation to the size of the chain bar that they can use. Typically, they can use a bar thats slightly larger than the one which is sold on the chainsaw, but not much larger. If you try and ignore the limitations that the manufacturers put in the saws specifications, you end up with a chainsaw that bogs down and gets stuck in the log you are cutting. If you really need a longer chain bar, than look at a larger chain saw.
Almost all chainsaws have built-in oilers to keep the chain oiled. This isn't so much to lubricate the chain to wood interface, but to lubricate the chain to bar interface, cutting down on unnecessary friction. This increases the cutting power of the saw and also increases the chains life.
A major issue with these tools is vibration. Any chain saw is going to vibrate quite a bit, especially the larger ones. However, manufacturers work hard to reduce vibration, which in turn reduces operator fatigue. Padded handles and shock mounted engines are two common ways of reducing vibration. In addition, building a saw with a well balanced engine, cuts down on vibration.
Another thing to look for in a chainsaw is convenience. How are the controls located? How easy is it to start? Are oil and gas levels easy to check? Is the chain tension adjustment easily accessible? All of these factors affect how easy the saw is to work with.
Although Husqvarna has much bigger and more powerful chainsaws than this one, I had to limit myself to something that a homeowner would buy. Even so, this is one big chainsaw, with a lot of excellent features. If you need to do a lot of cutting, this one's for you. Read Full Review
For a chainsaw that's under $1,000, this Makita has a lot of power. The 64 cc engine produces 4.7 HP of power, allowing it to be used with chain bars up to 32 inches long. Read Full Review
This saw tops the list of what would be considered Hisqvarna's consumer chainsaws. While not quite as powerful as the one I selected for first place, it can still take a 20 inch chain bar. Read Full Review
Poulanhas two lines of chainsaws, their standard line and their "Pro" line. This is the heaviest of their pro line, with a 50 cc engine. Read Full Review
What makes this saw a "best" pick is the operator comfort. At only 11.2 pounds and with a six point anti-vibration system, this one will do more to alleviate operator fatigue than any of the others. On top of that, they offer a seven year consumer warranty. Read Full Review
Best Budget Chainsaw:
While chainsaws arent the number one tool on most homeowners shopping lists, there are some times when having one on hand can be very helpful. If you have trees on your property, then sometime youre going to have to cut up a fallen limb, remove a dead one, or even chop down a tree that has been killed. Without a chain saw, those jobs are hard to do.
Nevertheless, not everyone wants to invest $300 in a quality chainsaw. For those who only use one from time to time, it would be nice to find a chainsaw at a budget price, which will still do an adequate job. Let me tell you – thats hard to do. The words budget and chainsaw normally dont go together. Nevertheless, Ive managed to find five quality units that are street priced at under $200.00. Thats a bit of an accomplishment.
The problem is that these really arent budget tools. If you want a true budget chain saw, you might want to take a look at the electric ones, which usually come in considerably cheaper. Even so, these are the lowest price chain saws I could find, while still keeping quality in mind. At the same time, people who buy them expect them to work like their $300 cousins. So, when you look around online, the ratings on these chainsaws arent up there with the more expensive units; but then again, the prices arent either.
So, what makes one chainsaw better than another? These tools are really pretty similar. The major things that make them different are engine size, and chain bar size. The selections weve got here vary quite a bit. Generally speaking, the more powerful an engine, the better – especially if youve got some heavy cutting to do. Likewise, a longer chain bar means that the saw can be used to cut through bigger trees. You need the chain bar to be at least a couple of inches longer than the diameter of the limb or trunk that youre cutting, so that you can avoid kickback.
Other than those basics, the difference between one unit and another is mostly in operator comfort. A lot of work has been done by a lot of companies to cut down on vibration, the biggest fatigue factor in using a chain saw. Padded handles, shock mounted handles and anti-vibration mechanisms abound, even at these lower prices.
Almost all chainsaws have built-in chain oilers. Thats important. If you buy a saw that doesnt have a chain oiler, you must be sure to oil it regularly. Dry chains break, which is both dangerous and expensive to replace.
Keep in mind that these tools are some of the most dangerous power tools you can buy. Always wear goggles, hearing protection and work gloves when using them. Keep away from the chain, as it can cut you much faster than any other power tool you have. Avoid using the tip of the saw, as that is what causes kickback. Make sure that it comes to a complete stop, before you set the tool down.
This is the largest and most powerful chainsaw on this list. While some of the others are commercial units and this one is a consumer product, for the price, you cant beat it. Read Full Review
Husqvarna has a great reputation for quality, even if their name is hard to pronounce. The only thing that kept this tool from getting the number one spot on the list is its price. While it's a quality tool, the others give you a little more for your money. Read Full Review
Poulan has an extensive line of chain saws. This is one of their smaller models, with only a 14 inch bar. However, the price is excellent, one of the least expensive name brand chainsaws on the market. Read Full Review
If you're looking for light and comfortable, this is the saw for you. At only 8.3 pounds, it's the lightest chain saw we reviewed. In addition the handle has a total of five vibration mounts, making this a very comfortable saw to work with. Read Full Review
Chainsaw Buyer's Guide
Chain saws are mostly gasoline-driven power tools, although there are some electric ones on the market as well. The reason for the gas engine is mostly to provide sufficient power. When you’re cutting through a tree branch or cutting down a whole tree, you need a lot of power to overcome the friction which is being built up.
If you look at a chainsaw’s chain, it will probably appear to you like there aren't enough blades on it. They’re typically spaced what seems to be quite far apart, with a lot of space being wasted. However, when you consider the amount of material each of those blades is taking out of whatever you’re cutting, the number of blades is actually quite adequate.
Sharp blades are important with a chain saw. The blades dull easily, mostly due to the fact that wood is a fibrous material and you’re cutting across the fiber. Many people take their chain saw blades to be sharpened, although you can get a sharpener and do it at home. You can even do a fairly decent job of sharpening them with a rat-tailed file.
A final word of caution; of all the power tools available, chainsaws are probably the most dangerous. Make sure you use every safety precaution there is, including safety goggles and gloves. Always be sure that the saw comes to a complete stop before setting it down. Finally, watch out for the tip which where the dreaded kickback comes from; in fact, many saws have a protector on the tip to prevent kickback from occurring.
Types of Chain Saws
Chainsaws basically break down into two categories based upon their power source, gas or electric. Here on Bestcovery, we also provide a third category which is budget chainsaws. Many people who buy a chainsaw only need it occasionally. If that’s your case, you may not need to spend a lot for a high end gas chainsaw.
Typically, the budget chain saws are smaller so you need to consider the size of the branches or tree trunks you will be cutting. Obviously, you don't want to buy a saw that's too small for your needs. In fact, you're probably better off buying one that's a bit bigger than needed as invariably something comes along where you have to cut something bigger than planned.
If you are an occasional user of your chainsaw, especially if you decide to buy a budget chainsaw, make sure that you fully drain it of gas before you store it. Gas left in the carburetor will gum it up, rendering the chainsaw inoperable. To drain it, stop the saw and pour the remaining gas in the tank back into your gas can. Then, restart the saw and allow it to run until it stalls due to gas starvation. This fully empties it and prevents gumming of the carburetor.
What about Electric?
Electric motors offer a great alternative for the occasional chainsaw user. Typically, they’re not quite as strong as the high-grade gasoline chainsaws, but some of the upper end models have hefty motors on them, allowing them to tackle larger logs than expected.
The big advantage of electric chainsaws is their low level of maintenance. Gas saws need to be maintained regularly, whereas electric ones merely need oil in the oiler. However, this great advantage is coupled with what can be seen as a fairly large disadvantage which is running electrical power to wherever you're going to use the chainsaw. If you have a large piece of property, an electric chain saw may not be practical.
What to Look for in a Chainsaw
Start your search for a chainsaw with the chain and bar size which is what is listed as the chainsaw's size. You can't cut logs that are thicker than the length of the chainsaw bar, minus a couple of inches. As an example, let's say that you buy a 16-inch chainsaw, the largest diameter log you could safely cut with it is 14-inches and that's a bit iffy. Two inches of extra length for the tip is an absolute minimum.
The chain and bar on a chainsaw are replaceable, allowing users to put longer or shorter bars on them. However, one word of caution about this; longer blades create more friction, requiring more power. So, if you buy a budget chain saw with a short bar, thinking all you have to do is replace the bar and chain with a larger one, you might be very disappointed. That smaller engine won't be able to provide the power you need for that larger cut.
Power is the key thing to look for in a chainsaw. Plainly put, the bigger the engine on a chainsaw, the better. A chainsaw with a larger engine is capable of cutting through larger logs. And even more important than the size of the log is dealing with hardwoods and burls. These harder woods require more force to cut which is another reason to have a big engine on your chain saw.
Almost all chainsaws come with built-in chain oilers. This is important to lubricate the interface between the chain and the bar. Without proper oiling, the chain will overheat and break. Always check the oil level in the automatic oiler before using a chain saw.
Ease of Use
Working with a chainsaw for a couple of hours can make you feel like your arms are going to shake out of their sockets, so operator comfort is a big issue, especially if you’re going to do a lot of cutting. This catch-all category includes things like padded handles, low vibration, easily adjustable chain tension, and units with centrifugal brakes add an extra layer of safety.