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Tools

Best Chainsaw

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 can definitely help you with that.

Makita UC4030A Commercial Grade 16 Inch 15 Amp Electric Chain Saw

It was a real toss-up between this Makita and the Poulan Pro for number one. The issue comes down to power. If you’ve ever used a chain saw much, you can never have too much power. Even the best and most powerful can easily get pinched and bound up. Unfortunately, Poulan doesn’t give us an amperage rating and Makita doesn’t give us a HP rating. This saw has a 14.5 amp motor, which I’m pretty sure makes it the most powerful electric chain saw I can find. The 16” guide bar holds a 0.050” gauge chain with a 3/5” tooth pitch. The chain moves at 2600 FPM (that’s feet per minute). It’s 11 pounds, which is a bit heavy, but with the power it offers, that’s not surprising. There’s one touch tool-less chain adjustment and an automatic chain oiler with a large oil reservoir. A built in current limiter keeps the motor from burning out and an electric chain brake stops the chain quickly when you stop cutting. All in all, a great design, just like we’ve come to expect from Makita.

Poulan Pro 18" Electric Chain Saw 400ES

Poulan Pro 18" Electric Chain Saw 400ES

I give the Poulon Pro the number two spot on the list for being the biggest electric chain saw on the market. This one comes standard with an 18” chain bar. Everyone else tops out at 16”. They rate their motor at 4 HP, where everyone else is rating it by amperage. So, I think that the Makita has them beat for power. They’ve included an automatic chain oiler, to help protect the chain from excessive wear and breaking. It’s nice and light as well, weighing in at only 8 pounds. That beats the Makita by over 3 lbs. Unfortunately, Poulan doesn’t give a lot of specs on their website, so there’s some questions we still have about this saw.

Craftsman  4.0hp Electric Chainsaw 18''

Craftsman 4.0hp Electric Chainsaw 18''

When we’re talking about homeowner’s tools, we’ve got to take a good look at Craftsman. They’re the standard that everyone else compares themselves to. This chain saw comes with a 4 HP motor, drawing 15 amps. That’s an upgrade by 1/2 HP from its predecessor. The chain adjustment is tool-less for easier cutting, and it has an automatic oiler with a see-through tank, as well as an automatic chain tensioner. It also has an automatic chain break system that stops it instantly on kickback. This saw comes in a bit heavy at 17 pounds, which probably means that it has more metal in it. Like all Craftsman tools, it’s backed up by thousands of Sears stores everywhere.

Husqvarna 316E Electric Chain Saw

Homelite is another outdoor product company, best known for their lawnmowers, weed eaters and leaf blowers. However, they also have a rather nice electric chain saw, which is considerably cheaper than the first three we looked at. For someone who doesn’t want to lay out a couple of hundred bucks on a chain saw, this is a good option to be looking at. The motor is 12 amp, making it not quite as powerful as our top three, but still respectable. The tool-less dial chain tightener and automatic chain oiler make it easy to work with. Like the others we’ve looked at, it comes with a 3/8” chain. It’s also only 8.5 pounds, making it the second lightest saw on this list. As a safety feature, there’s a safety tip on the end, to prevent kickback.

Homelite 16” Electric Chain Saw UT43122

Homelite 16” Electric Chain Saw UT43122

Homelite is another outdoor product company, best known for their lawnmowers, weed eaters and leaf blowers. However, they also have a rather nice electric chain saw, which is considerably cheaper than the first three we looked at. For someone who doesn’t want to lay out a couple of hundred bucks on a chain saw, this is a good option to be looking at. The motor is 12 amp, making it not quite as powerful as our top three, but still respectable. The tool-less dial chain tightener and automatic chain oiler make it easy to work with. Like the others we’ve looked at, it comes with a 3/8” chain. It’s also only 8.5 pounds, making it the second lightest saw on this list. As a safety feature, there’s a safety tip on the end, to prevent kickback.

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Homelite Gas 18 In. Bar 42 CC Chain Saw UT10680

I was actually rather surprised to find this chain saw available at this incredibly low price. While Homelite is a consumer brand and really isn’t heavy-duty enough for commercial applications, for the homeowner it’s plenty good enough. This saw comes with a 42cc engine, making it the largest of any on this list. It also has an 18” chain bar, making it the largest on this list in two categories. A three-point vibration dampening system helps reduce operator fatigue. It has an inertia activated chain brake for safety, and a safety tip to prevent kickback. There’s a side access chain tensioner, which makes it easier to make adjustments. They’ve also put in clear oil and fuel tanks, to make it easier to see when fluids need to be added. Speaking of which, the manufacturer recommends using pure gasoline, if possible, as a gasoline with ethanol added will reduce engine performance. A great bargain at this price.

Husqvarna Model 240 Chainsaw (38cc) with 16" Bar and Chain

Husqvarna has a great reputation for quality. The only reason I didn’t rate this unit higher is that the price was just a bit higher than the ones which beat it out. However, its specifications are comparable to the Homelite in the number two slot. Husqvarna has put a lot of work into this unit, providing lower fuel consumption and an air cleaning system which removes debris and particles from the air, even before they hit the air filter. Like the previously mentioned units, this one has an inertia activated chain brake. It also has a side mounted chain tensioner, making it quick and easy to adjust the chain. At 10.3 pounds, it’s between the Ryobi and the Homelite for weight. Finally, the choke and stop control are combined, to make starts easier and reduce the risk of engine flooding.

Poulan P3314 14-Inch 33cc 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Chain Saw

While this chain saw is a bit smaller than the others we’ve looked at, it’s still got plenty of umph to get the job done. The 33 cc engine powers a 14 inch chain; so, it won’t cut as big a limbs as the 16” or 20” saws will. However, it is a Poulan, and has their reputation behind it. For the price, this is an excellent saw, one of the least expensive name brands on the market.

Hitachi CS33EB16 16" Commercial Grade Rear Handle Chain Saw, 1.6 hp, (32.2cc)

At only 8.3 pounds, this is the lightest chain saw on our list. Couple that with the five point anti-vibration mounts, and it’s also the most comfortable one to use. It also has an inertia activated chain break and comes with an “oregon bar” to reduce kickback. The side-mounted chain tensioner makes it easy to adjust the chain and a 25% larger fuel tank keeps it running with less time spent stopping to refill.

Makita DCS34 Chain Saw

This Makita will probably outlast many of the other saws on the list. Like all Makita’s products, it is well made. However, due to its small size for the money, I didn’t rate it any higher. The 33 cc engine produces 1.9 HP, which is actually more than the Hitachi does with a slightly larger engine. It has a double air filtration system to increase engine and carburetor life, and is designed for easy maintenance. The cylinder is cast to make it rugged. This saw is designed for efficient operation in cold weather and provides a high power-to-weight ratio.

Husqvarna 562 XP Chainsaw

I had to give the top slot on this list to Husqvarna, mostly because they have such a broad line of quality chainsaws. They are the world’s largest chainsaw manufacturer, with the most extensive line. This is far from their largest saw, but rather a good professional saw, which a homeowner with a patch of woods might be interested in buying. The 50 cc engine on this saw produces 4.7 HP, just like the Makita in the number two slot. The engine automatically tunes to match the cutting needs of the moment. No time is wasted on carburetor adjustments, as it automatically adjusts for differences in fuels, altitude, humidity and temperature. Husqvarna’s RevBoost gives rapid acceleration and higher chain speeds. The engine is air injected, with a centrifugal air cleaning system for removing debris before even reaching the filter. Finally, like its’ big brother it has an adjustable oil pump and quick release air filters. A winner all around.

Makita DCS642120 20" Low Emission Engine 3/8" Chain Saw, 64cc.

While Makita is best known for their cordless tools, especially drills, they don’t stop there. This 64 cc chainsaw produces 4.7 HP of power at a maximum speed of 13,500 RPM. Although not as big as the Husqvarna, this is a sizable saw, providing the ability to use chain bars up to 32 inches long. It’s designed for efficient cold weather operation, with double air filtration and a rugged cat cylinder. At 13.9 lbs. That’s a lot of power packed in a relatively small package.

Husqvarna 460 Rancher Chain Saw

This is the top saw in what would be considered Husqvarna’s consumer line. Considerably less expensive than the number one pick, it’s still an excellent saw. The 60.3 cc engine runs at 9,000 RPM and produces 3.62 HP, making it a full horsepower less powerful than the other Hesqvarna or the Makita. Nevertheless, it's still an excellent saw. It will take up to a 20 inch chain bar, so you can cut some pretty big trees with it. Like all Husqvarna’s saws, this one is well built, with a quick release air filter, a centrifugal air cleaning system and a three-piece crankshaft. The chain tensioner is side mounted for easier access and the whole system is designed for lower vibration.

Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch 50cc 2 Stroke Gas Powered Chain Saw

This is Poulan’s heaviest chainsaw, with a 50 cc, 2-cycle engine. It comes standard with a 20” chain bar, although it can accept longer ones. Poulan has given it an effortless pull starting system and a long-life engine with a chromium plated cylinder. Like the Husqvarna, the air filtering system uses centrifugal force to remove debris, before the air gets to the air filter. Anti-vibration handles finish out the design, reducing operator fatigue.

Tanaka ECV-5601 50 cc Chainsaw

At only 11.2 pounds, this is the lightest chainsaw we’ve seen in this category. The 50 cc, 2-stroke engine produces 3.6 HP, a little less than the other 50 cc engines we’ve looked at. However, the strong point of this saw is that it’s very comfortable to work with. The six-point anti-vibration system, coupled with the lower weight really help reduce operator fatigue. Like the Poulan, the cylinder is chrome plated for long-life and low maintenance. For consumers, they provide a seven year warranty – that’s confidence in their tools!

Buyer's Guide

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.

Engine/Motor Size

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.

Bestcovery Staff
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
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