A Simple, Yet Purposeful Tool: The Ultimate Guide to Chainsaws

Whether you’re cutting down branches or whole trees, turning logs into usable lumber, or just trimming overgrowth in the backyard, you’ll need a decent chainsaw that’s up to the job. Of course, there’s no shortage of uses for this practical and fast cutting tool. Farmers have been using chainsaws for cutting up beef, carpenters and construction workers for detailed or rough woodwork, and with the right chain, metal workers use it to brush up metal. If you’re considering getting a chainsaw, but are overwhelmed by the variety currently on the market, read on to make an informed decision on your next purchase.

Like a lot of garden and landscaping tools, chainsaws can be broadly divided between petrol and electric variants. The latter can also be corded or cordless. Each type will have different power ratings that can be overbearing for first-time users. What is important is getting the right tool for your application.


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Petrol Chainsaws

For sheer power, the traditional choice has been a chainsaw that runs on petrol. You’ll see these used daily for professional work by farmers, loggers and woodworkers. Even smaller variants are good for occasional work around the house. If you’re planning on cutting large quantities of wood at a time, then a petrol chainsaw will have the puff needed for the job. Generally, the divide for petrol chainsaws goes along the lines of performance and overall size. Those with smaller 32cc engines are light and affordable and intended for home use. Being inexpensive doesn’t mean they lack the features of their bigger siblings. You’ll often see automatic pumps for optimal lubrication, and a host of safety features. Their compact design will be good in tight spots and for general trimming and landscaping tasks, with shorter bars the norm.

Further up the range, there are farmer chainsaws, with a bit more grunt and updated tech, like better and more efficient engines as well as things like vibration dampening for more comfort and auto chain brake for better safety. Engines are quicker to start, reach higher RPMs, and get more work done.

If you’re using a chainsaw on a regular basis in your line of work, then consider getting a professional petrol chainsaw. These will have the largest engines churning out the most horsepower and lasting forever with parts sourced in better quality and materials. Since they’ll be running for longer periods, pro chainsaws have a balanced and ergonomic design that won’t feel tiring even after hours of use. They’ll have standard features like those mentioned above, as well as easier access to filters and chain tensioners for simple maintenance and adjustment on the fly. Manufacturer-specific features like auto engine calibration according to the settings are nice to have, but up the price.

Electric Chainsaws

Electric chainsaws do way with carbs, spark plugs, filters, petrol and the recoil starting rope. As such they’re generally smaller than petrol variants, lighter, require less maintenance, much quieter and have no exhaust smoke. Corded chainsaws are cheap to buy and extremely lightweight, though the limiting factor, the cord means less mobility, and the inability to use the tool without a nearby mains connection. For more versatility and better safety, cordless chainsaws are ideal for both tasks around the yard, or with newer tech, pro-heavy-duty use at work. Here you’ll find variants that come close to the max power output even of the biggest petrol chainsaws.

Choosing the Right Cordless Chainsaw

choose the right chainsaw

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Most manufacturers are going down the cordless route, and electric cordless chainsaws are by far the ones that are most available. There’ll be several types of saws sold by the same maker, and the key differences and prices are aligned with the type of work they get done. Smaller cordless variants have smaller bars, limiting their use for frequent and demanding tasks, but the trade-off in more compactness and lightweight is what you’ll want. Bigger models have better motors, usually able to accommodate beefier (and more) batteries, and longer bars suited for more heavy-duty use. You might not be throwing out your trusted big petrol chainsaw as of yet, but might be tempted as to what’s on offer.

Buying Considerations for Cordless Chainsaws

Batteries and Motors

Battery tech has come a long way in the cordless tool industry, with batteries getting more efficient and offering longer run times. Out are older and heavier batteries like Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) and Nickel-Metal Hybride (Ni-MH). Instead, Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) are the ones used today. Chainsaws can be sold bare, or more often with one or more batteries and an included charger, basically almost everything (short of PPE gear) to get you cutting.
As for batteries, there are differences in Voltage ratings, which roughly equals the power coming out of the chainsaw. Standard are 18V batteries that are also found in other cordless tools, but more demanding tasks require 36 or even 54 Volts to cut through thicker pieces of wood. Next look for higher Ampere-hour numbers as this allows you to use the chainsaw that much longer, A good starting point here is 5Ah or more. Batteries provide power to motors, and most cordless tools today use efficient brushless motors and offer higher output and longer battery life.

Chainsaw Cutting Bars

Bars in cordless saws are smaller than petrol chainsaws, but lengths can reach 450mm and long enough for serious work. Look for cordless saws with tool-free bar and chain adjustment to speed things up, Also nice to have are metal bumper spikes on each side of the bar for more efficient cutting.

Safety, Ergonomics and Other Features

cordless chainsaw

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All chainsaws have inbuilt safety inclusions, like easy-to-access trigger switches, mechanical lockout and a controlled braking device to stop the chain. Look for a chainsaw that’s comfortable in the hand with grippy rubber handles and something that’s light, balanced and easy to use. Additional features like variable-speed triggers, oil level windows and included carry cases and chargers are all good to have.