The right chainsaw can be a wonderful tool and save you hours of harder physical labor. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good folding hand saw and they are great for cutting through small branches on your local trail or in your yard, but sometimes, like after the storms we’ve had in California this past fall and winter, the damage and mess you have to clean up is more than a hand tool can handle. (See what we did there?) But where to start in choosing the best chainsaw for your particular job?
If you’ve never bought a chainsaw before, you might be thinking you’ll just get the biggest one you can buy, so it can do all the jobs. But that’s not how chainsaws work. You’ll want to measure the diameter of limbs you need to cut, think about your current physical condition and purchase a chainsaw that meets both of those criteria.
Chainsaws are powerful – and potentially dangerous – tools. If you have never used one before, hire someone or find a very skilled friend to teach you how to use a chainsaw properly.
If you have big jobs like taking off large limbs, felling whole trees or working high up in the tree canopy, and you’re not an expert or a professional, hire a professional. Knowledge and skill in gauging the angle of the cut and felling large, high or whole limbs is imperative to keeping yourself and your property safe. Do not try any big jobs as your first chainsaw job. Start small, learn how the machine works and seek guidance from someone who has years of experience.
Always read and follow your chainsaw’s manufacturer’s instructions for use, safety, maintenance and proper safe storage.
How to buy the right chainsaw for your job
So what about size? There are two ways to think about the size of a chainsaw – the length of the blade, which is measured from the tip to where it inserts into the engine casing, and the engine size itself. Most home-use chainsaws will have a blade ranging from 10″-20″. Blades longer than 20″ are generally found on professional, heavy-duty saws. Chainsaw engines will range anywhere from around 30cc to 120cc plus.
Electrical vs Gas Chainsaws
Whether you choose electric or gas chainsaws depends on the job, your experience and your preferences.
Electric saws will tend to be lighter and smaller and therefore less challenging to handle as they weigh less and vibrate less. They have zero emissions and are the eco-friendly chainsaw option. Electrical chainsaws – either battery powered or plug in – and small gas engine chainsaws are great for smaller jobs around your yard, like taking out saplings, doing trimming and maintenance of smaller branches or light storm cleanup. These saws will have those shorter blades we mentioned earlier – anywhere from 10 inches up to 20 inches. The longer the blade, the heavier and more unwieldy the saw.
If you foresee using your saw for extended periods, the length and weight and vibration (larger saws vibrate more) of the machine is an important factor, as fatigue can set in, increasing the risk of accident. We recommend smaller saws if you are less experienced.
Measure the limbs you want to cut and allow two more inches of blade – limbs and branches that are about 10 inches in diameter, will want a 12-inch blade. Most chainsaws can take three different saw blade sizes, so if you have multiple limbs and multiple sizes, you can opt to purchase more than one blade.
If you have more experience and need to cut firewood, hardwoods or larger trunks and limbs, the 20+ inch saw blades and larger engines of gas powered chainsaws are better suited for those jobs. Gas chainsaws tend to have larger and more powerful engines, but they also require more maintenance than their electric counterparts. Gas saws tend to be more powerful, but you can still get plenty of power in an electric chainsaw – with speeds up to 6600 RPM, which is equivalent to a 50cc gas engine – big enough for most home use.
Corded vs Battery Chainsaws
You’ve decided to go electric, but aren’t sure whether you want a corded or battery operated saw. Here’s the breakdown.
- You’ll never run out of battery power in the middle of a job.
- They tend to be the least expensive chainsaws on the market.
- The engines tend to be more power than their battery counterparts.
- You have to plug them in and deal with dragging a cord around the yard with you and it often gets caught on bushes, rocks, furniture, anything in its way.
- That cord is more dangerous than a cordless chainsaw.
Even if you’ve decided on your chainsaw, you’re not done yet. This is not a stand-alone purchase. You must – no wiggle room here – buy yourself protective gear. People lose limbs, eyes, fingers, feet, you name it, in chainsaw accidents every year. Don’t be one of those people and don’t go googling chainsaw-accident videos either.
Safety Gear for Your Chainsaw
- Face shield
- Hearing protection
- Protective pants/chaps
- You can also buy a kit that includes everything you need.
Questions to ask yourself in choosing the right chainsaw for you and your particular jobs
- What is your skill level?
- How big are the limbs you need to cut?
- What is your strength and stamina level – a small corded chainsaw will weigh less than it’s gas or battery operated counterparts?
- Do you have the patience to manage the cord of a plug-in chainsaw?
- Which is a priority for you – weight, convenience, longevity (batteries can run out of power during the middle of your job)?
- What is your budget?
If you’re still not sure which chainsaw is right for you, we are happy to help you decide. Come on in and ask. We carry a good selection of chainsaws with knowledgeable staff at all of our stores. If you’re on the Coastside, check out our Powered by Hassett store for chainsaws and other outdoor power equipment.
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