If you have already begun your research, you may have realised that purchasing a chainsaw can be a daunting task for any homeowner. With so much information out there on types, style, sizes, features and more, it’s hard to know where to begin.
- 1 Only got 5 minutes
- 2 Important features
- 3 What is a chainsaw and how does it work?
- 4 Before you begin
- 5 Types of chainsaw
- 6 Specifications and features
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
Well, we have created this buyers guide to condense all that information into what you need to know, all in one place. Whether you need a chainsaw to simply cutback in your garden, slice wood for a log burner or are just starting out as a professional, this guide will point you in the right direction to buying the best chainsaw for you.
Please remember that a chainsaw is not a toy or simply another gadget to add to a collection, they are a powerful machines, which can be extremely dangerous if not used and understood correctly. So ensure you read this buyers guide thoroughly to ensure you know exactly what you are buying.
Only got 5 minutes
Before you look any further into purchasing a chainsaw, you need to ask yourself three questions. What will your chainsaw be used for? How far away is the power source? And How much experience do you have?
Your answers to these questions will determine what type of chainsaw suits your needs.
There are three main types of chainsaw.
- Petrol chainsaws offer the most power out of the three types
- They are better suited to the more difficult cutting jobs and the more experienced user.
- They are portable and so are good for use on larger gardens.
- The petrol chainsaw is heavy and noisy and requires regular maintenance.
- Has additional costs of buying petrol.
- There is no cord to limit your movements making it an ideal choice for a larger garden.
- Is lighter, quieter and requires less maintenance than the petrol.
- They are less powerful than the petrol and therefore, most suited to smaller gardens and smaller tasks.
- It is lightweight, quiet and does not require much maintenance.
- Can be more powerful than those operated by a battery but still cannot match the power of the petrol chainsaw.
- Can only offer limited movement as it must be plugged into a mains socket.
The size of the bar length determines the size of the log that can be cut in just one pass. You are still able to cut larger pieces of wood with a smaller bar length but it will just take more passes. For the safest cutting you should purchase a bar length that is 2” longer than what you want to cut.
The chain speed ultimately determines how quickly you can cut through the wood.
It is worth comparing weights as this can significantly affect the movement.
Kickback is the term used to describe the movement in which the chainsaw is thrust towards the user when it connect with the wood. Manufacturers have now designed a number of models that attempt to minimise the risk of this.
Maintaining good chain tension is important to ensure the chainsaw is safe.
Many models offer various grip features such as anti-vibration, ergonomic soft grip and wrap around handles.
The price you should pay widely varies according to the type of chainsaw you are looking to purchase. You can expect to pay anywhere from around £90 to upwards of £400. You should also factor in the price of safety clothing, which is an essential purchase when using what is considered one of the most dangerous handheld power tools.
What is a chainsaw and how does it work?
A chainsaw is a power tool used to effectively cut down branches and trees. It is powered by a ‘power head’, which is the engine, which activates a metal chain driven by a clutch. The chain moves around a guide bar at high speeds and when the teeth make contact with the wood they drag across the wood, cutting at it.
Chainsaws are used in a number of professions such as landscapers, gardeners, carpenters and even firefighters. Essentially anyone with the need to cut trees, which includes homeowners.
Before you begin
Before you begin your comparisons it is important that you know that buying a chainsaw should not be based on opinion or recommendation and should definitely not be based on a guess of what you think seems best.
Buying a chainsaw should be based on three main facts; your specific requirements, your physical build and strength and your budget. As you read on you will begin to gain more understanding than this, but first there are a few more questions you must ask yourself.
What will your chainsaw be used for?
You must first know what material you will be cutting and its strength. Deciphering this will affect how much power your chainsaw is going to need. For example, a chainsaw to cut softer wood for a log fire will need much less power than cutting down hardwood trees. Choosing the incorrect power will hinder the efficiency and effectiveness of completing the job.
How far away is the power source?
If you have a smaller garden or are simply chopping wood for a log fire, you should be able to select a chainsaw that need access to a mains plug socket, giving you much more options of chainsaws. Those of you with a large space will be more limited to options.
How much experience do you have?
If you are a complete newbie to using a chainsaw then we recommend that you begin with a chainsaw with a smaller amount of power. Do not be in the mind-set that the more power the better for you, you will not benefit from the power if you do not have the strength and knowledge to use it. Those of you with a little more experience will have a wider range available to you.
Answering these questions can help you to define which types and features that are available are best for you.
Types of chainsaw
There are three main types of chainsaw available.
Petrol chainsaws offer the most power out of the three types. It has a two-stroke engine for better performance and is therefore, better suited to the more difficult cutting jobs and the more experienced user.
As they do not need to work from an electrical power source, they are portable and so are good for use on larger gardens.
However, they do have their down sides. The petrol chainsaw is heavy and noisy and requires regular maintenance. You will also have to factor in additional costs, which include the petrol itself and the engine oil.
If you decide the petrol chainsaw is for you, you need to know that the power is determined by the engine size. The size of the engine is referred to as the cubic capacity measured in cubic centimetres (cc).
Similar to the petrol model, there is no cord to limit your movements making it an ideal choice for a larger garden. Sometimes referred to as a battery-powered chainsaw, the cordless model is lighter, quitter and require less maintenance than the petrol.
However, the cordless are less powerful than the petrol and are therefore most suited to smaller tasks. You may also want to purchase an extra battery as the charge will only last so long, which will again add to the cost.
The power of a cordless chainsaw model is determined by the power delivered by the battery. The power is measured in volts (v). The battery most commonly found in these models is a 36V lithium-ion battery. It is recommended that you also look at the amp rating/ ampere-hour (Ah) as this is the measure of electric charge, which determines the battery capacity. The higher the capacity, the longer the battery will last.
Corded chainsaws are also referred to as either plug-in chainsaws or electric chainsaws. The corded is very similar to the cordless chainsaw in the facts that it is lightweight, quiet and does not require much maintenance. However, the corded can be more powerful than those operated by a battery but still cannot match the power of the petrol chainsaw; therefore, they are still better suited to those with less experience and smaller tasks.
Unlike the cordless and petrol models, the corded can only offer limited movement as it must be plugged into a mains socket. There are also added safety concerns due to the cord.
The corded chainsaw’s power is measure in watts (W).
Specifications and features
The many specifications and features offered with chainsaw models can be mindboggling. Therefore, we have noted some of the key ones that we feel you should take notice of and consider when purchasing.
Bar length is measure in centimetres (cm) and refers to the length of the cutting bar on the chainsaw. The size of the bar length determines the size of the log that can be cut in just one pass. You are still able to cut larger pieces of wood with a smaller bar length but it will just take more passes. For the safest cutting you should purchase a bar length that is 2” longer than what you want to cut.
If you are looking to purchase a chainsaw simply for light cutting around the home, a 14” bar should suffice. Medium cuts will require around 18” and heavy duty cutting or those beginning a profession should look to purchase a bar around 30”.
Manufacturers should also provide you with guidelines as to what the recommended lengths are for each model they supply so ensure you check these.
It is also worth noting that the larger the bar, the heavier and more difficult it is to balance and manoeuvre, so please take this into consideration.
Measured in metres per second (m/s), the chain speed ultimately determines how quickly you can cut through the wood. The corded and cordless are usually somewhere around 9m/s and the petrol around 20m/s.
The weight of the chainsaw is measured in kilograms (kg). It is worth comparing weights as this can significantly affect the movement. Petrol models tend to be heavier than the corded and cordless.
Kickback is the term used to describe the movement in which the chainsaw is thrust towards the user when it connect with the wood. Manufacturers have now designed a number of models that attempt to minimise the risk of this by offering an anti-kickback brake or an intertia chain break. This safety brake is automatically stops the chainsaw if kickback takes place.
Chain tensioning refers to how tight the chain is on the chainsaw. Maintaining good chain tension is important to ensure the chainsaw is safe. Models that have a tensioning tool with which you can tighten the chain as and when required, is recommended where possible.
Handle type does not simply refer to a comfortable material to grip, models offer various grip features such as anti-vibration, ergonomic soft grip and wrap around handles. All of which, increase the accuracy of cutting.
The price you should pay widely varies according to the type of chainsaw you are looking to purchase and how often you are looking to use it.
As a general guideline, you can expect to pay under £100 for a basic version of any of the models but prices can rise up to over £400 for top of the range models.
One of the most important things to be aware of when purchasing a chainsaw is the dangers of use. The chain on a chainsaw cannot be guarded; therefore, the chainsaw is one of the most dangerous hand-held power tools.
Your safety is important therefore, you should also purchase safety clothing to wear when using your chainsaw. Yes, this does add to your cost but is it worth the risk of not wearing?!
We recommend buying the following protective gear.
- Safety helmet. Much like a hard hat worn in construction, it is designed to protect your head from kickback. They cost around £15.
- Ear defenders. All models of chainsaw should be used wearing ear defenders. Many helmets come with ear defenders built in but you are able to buy them separately for around £10.
- Safety trousers. These are designed with materials that snag to slow the movement made by the chain to create less injury. These cost between £50 and £200 dependent on the fabric.
- Gloves. Chainsaw gloves are padded and made from a similar material to the pants to protect your hands. They cost between £10 and £35.
- Boots. The safety boots have a steel toecap and a strong grip. Prices start from around £50.
It is worth noting, that some manufacturers offer a whole protection clothing kit which could save you money.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are chainsaws suited to users that are left-handed?
Unfortunately, chainsaws are made for right-handed use, making it difficult for those who are left-handed. If you are left handed, you may find it difficult to find a comfortable grip, therefore, it is recommended that you practice holding and moving the chainsaw with the power off before tackling the job it is needed for.
How do I take care of my chainsaw?
Like most power tools, the better care you take of them, the longer they will last and the more efficiently they will work. To help prevent rust use chain lubrication oil, to prevent the chain from becoming blunt, use a chain sharpener and ensure you replace any worn chains.