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Chainsaws! Dust spewing, noise making, machines of pure destruction. They are kind of awesome. Odds are if you landed here you are looking to buy a chainsaw for one reason or another.
The question is which to buy. There are literally hundreds to choose from, and picking the right one for your needs can be tricky. There are all sorts of different things to keep in mind when choosing, and unless you know exactly why you want it, it can be difficult to navigate this huge market and make a choice that will suite your needs.
That is exactly the goal of this article. To eliminate the confusion and guide you to understand what you need to keep in mind when choosing a chainsaw so that you can determine what you need to meet your needs and can make an informed decision. Enough introduction, let’s get started!!!
Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider when choosing a chainsaw, other than coolness factor.
Homeowner vs. Ranch vs. Professional Chainsaws
Chainsaws come in all sizes, but generally speaking they can be classified as being either a professional, ranch, or homeowner chain saw. All three types of chainsaw have their uses, and their ups & downs. Choosing choosing between these three categories will narrow down your search considerably.
Homeowner chainsaws represent the lightest, smallest, and least expensive chainsaws. They are also generally the least powerful. Homeowner chainsaws are meant mostly for home use, as the name implies. In other words that are designed to be used only a few times a year and are best suited for pruning and garden trimming, not really for cutting down large/mature trees and sawing logs all day long. Homeowner chainsaws are the ones to look at if you can only think of one or two uses that you would have for it in the space of one year.
Battery operated chainsaws are a great option best suited for home & garden use, especially if you are only going to be using it a few times a year.
|Bar Length of Less than 18”
|In other words, a shorter chain “blade” length which will make the saw easier to handle but means that it will take more effort and time to cut through larger logs.
|Smaller CC Engine with less Horsepower / Battery Operated
|This make the saw ideal mostly for light tasks only, since a smaller CC engine is more likely to get over loaded with heavy tasks. Similarly battery operated chainsaws will be best suited for light tasks.
|This means that it should weigh less and be somewhat easier to wield.
|This helps the saw take up very little space when stored.
|Lower Fuel Consumption
|Less refuelling your chainsaw, thus lower cost.
If you are looking for a chainsaw that you can use in your garden a couple times a year for light tasks that should also be easy to maneuver, use very little fuel, and take up a small amount of space in your shed or garage for storage a homeowner chainsaw is a great choice.
Black & Decker 20V 10 Inch Cordless Chainsaw
The Black & Decker 20V 10″ Cordless Chainsaw ticks all the boxes of a homeowner chainsaw. It features a low kick-back design 10″ bar, light weight construction for ease of use, and a tool-less chain tensioner. The saw is also compatible with a variety of different sized batteries in the Black & Decker 20V “Power Connect” system, allowing you do expand your cordless runtime with the addition of a larger battery. This saw promises to be well suited to home & garden tasks from pruning to light-duty limbing, it is also a very highly reviewed model in its class.
Farm & Ranch Chainsaws
Farm & Ranch Chainsaws represent the middle weight class of chainsaw. They are sometimes referred to as “prosumer” chainsaws. They are designed for much more regular use than homeowner chainsaws. Generally Farm & Ranch saws feature heavier and tougher build materials, a longer bar length, larger engines with higher CC & RPM counts and more horsepower.
For most tasks look for engines with at least 30cc – 40cc engines. This should be a solid compromise between size, efficiency, weight, & power, and should support most medium to heavy tasks.
This class of saw is meant to be used weekly or monthly, and designed to handle larger tasks that you might encounter on a farm/ranch or homestead like sawing down mature trees and cutting large logs.
Some common characteristics of Farm & Ranch Chainsaws include:
|Bar Length of up to 24”
|Longer bar lengths allow for cutting through larger logs and mature trees with greater ease.
|Higher RPM engines
|This increases your chains speed smoothing out cutting and reducing resistance.
|More horsepower and higher CC engines
|More cutting power on tap.
|Higher Fuel Consumption
|A trade off of the more powerful engine. However the fuel tanks are also generally much larger.
|Found on almost all chainsaws in this class vibration dampening makes the saw easier to handle for a longer period of time.
If you are looking for a chainsaw that you would like to use on a farm, ranch, or homestead this is the class you want to be looking at. They are designed to take much more of a beating than homeowner chainsaws and feature the power and size required to handle the more intensive tasks that you might encounter on a farm or homestead.
Husqvarna 18 Inch 455 Gas Chainsaw
The Husqvarna 18″ 455 Gas Chainsaw is aimed right at casual & semi-frequent heavy-duty use, perfect for homestead/farm/ranch duty where the chainsaw is pulled out several times a year for heavier tasks. It features a sizeable 55.5cc engine, centrifugal air cleansing system to reduce dust particles from entering the engine, vibration dampening, and promises to delivery superior fuel efficiency and lower emissions while still providing sufficient power for a variety of difficult tasks.
These guys are the real heavy weights of the chainsaw world. Professional chainsaws are meant to be used every single day to cut through multiple trees. They are mostly designed for the logging and forestry industry, and are likely over kill for homeowner and even many farm/ranch uses. I’ll put it this way. If you have a need for a professional chainsaw you will know it. For example if you work for a lumbering company or something along those lines. I wown’t go into too much detail on this class of chainsaw, since I figure that anyone looking to buy a pro chainsaw likely know what they are after.
Chainsaw Features to Look Out For
Choosing between homeowner, ranch, and professional, chainsaws is a great starting point, but there are a few other things to keep and eye out for when choosing a chainsaw that will greatly affect your experience with the saw in your situation.
The bar length of a chainsaw is the length of the chained cutting blade, from the tip of the chain to the housing. The length of this blade will change how the saw deals with various cutting tasks and affect how easy to handle the saw will be.
Typically a chainsaw will be able to cut through a log that is twice the diameter of the bar length. So a 20” chainsaw should be able to cut through a log that has a diameter of 40”. This depends somewhat on the engine size and power output of the chainsaw, more on that later. So to start things off find the largest thing that you think you will need to cut through, your chainsaw should have a bar length that is at least half of this diameter.
Longer bar lengths will also be more difficult to maneuver, especially depending on your physical size. If you are a more petit individual a super long bar length will be dangerously difficult to handle, so only go as long as you need for the task at hand. Long bar length chainsaws will also be more expensive and heavier. Below you will find some common bar lengths and uses for them:
|12” – 18” Bar Length
|Meant for light/garden tasks, like cutting young and small logs and tree and garden pruning. Homeowner chainsaws will have a bar length in that region.
|18” – 24” Bar Length
|These are some of the most versatile bar lengths, and some of the most commonly available. These lengths are best suited to larger/mature trees and heavier farm/ranch tasks.
|24” – 42+” Bar Length
|These are the largest saws meant for the heaviest tasks like cutting large mature trees all day long and will handle just about everything but may be overkill for farm/homeowner tasks.
Probably the best bar length to choose for most tasks, from light to intensive, is between 20” and 22”. This offers tonnes of cutting capacity and should still be fairly easy to handle for most people.
Engine size will be an important consideration since it will determine how heavy of tasks the saw in question can handle. Typically you want to stay away from engine sizes of less than 30cc, since saws with engines smaller than this can be much more easily overloaded by even lighter tasks.
For most tasks look for engines with at least 30cc – 40cc engines. This should be a solid compromise between size, efficiency, weight, and power, and should support most medium to heavy tasks.
For very heavy tasks 45cc – 50+cc engines will be commonly available, and for good reason. Engines this large will offer the most power and highest RPM counts for the heaviest of tasks. Only go for an engine this big if you need a large chainsaw for frequent use for heavy duty tasks.
Electric Chainsaws are increasing in popularity because they require no fuel, are significantly quieter to operate, generally weigh less, and require less maintenance. If you are looking to reap some of the benefits of an electric chainsaw you should be able to find compelling options in both the Homeowner & Farm/Ranch classes of chainsaw. Just note, electric and battery operated chainsaws tend to be able to only handle lighter tasks compared to their gas counterparts.
Batter operated chainsaws are the kings of mobility, after gas power chainsaws of course. They are generally light-weight, and offer runs times of 30-60 minutes of continuous cutting on a single charge. Most batteries for electric chainsaws will also charge in roughly one hour, which isn’t bad at all. Try to look for battery operate chainsaws with at least 8-14.5 amps of power. The higher this number the more cutting power the saw will have.
Battery operated chainsaws are a great option best suited for home & garden use, especially if you are only going to be using it a few times a year. The engine needs no maintenance, and the saws are super easy to start since you don’t have get an actual engine going. Also for lighter around the home tasks the battery life of battery chainsaws shouldn’t be an issue.
DeWALT 20V Max XR Compact 12 Inch Chainsaw
The DeWALT 20V Max XR Compact 12″ Chainsaw is directed at home & garden use, and promises to be very well suited to such uses. The 12″ bar length and 9lbs weight rating with battery should be very manageable for most people. The saw features a high-efficiency brushless motor, tool-less chain tensioner, and compatibility with DeWALT 20V Max batteries, a huge bonus if you already have tools from the DeWALT 20V system. DeWALT rates the battery for 90 consecutive cuts through 4×4 pressure treated lumber on a single charge, which should do very well for most home & garden tasks like pruning and light limbing.
Corded Electric chainsaws are also a fantastic option for a variety of tasks around the home and farm/ranch. They offer more power than battery electric chainsaws combined with the same benefits of being easy to start (again, no engine), quieter in operation, no engine maintenance, and lighter & easier to operate.
If you are considering getting a corded electric chainsaw there are many options to suit a large variety of needs, very similar to gas. Try to look for ones with more than 24 volts of power to avoid over loading it; higher voltage means more cutting power. Also, the major drawback to keep in mind with corded electric chainsaws is the cord itself. Generally you are limited to needing to be within 100 feet of a power outlet.
Corded Electric Chainsaws are great for occasional intensive use around the farm and ranch or in a suburban setting (the quiet operation is certainly appreciated by neighbours) so long as you can always be near a power outlet.
Makita 16″ 14.5 A Corded Electric Chainsaw
This Makita 16″ 14.5A Electric Chainsaw is very well out fitted with a number of convenience and safety features. It boasts a tool-less chain tensioner, soft start electric motor, electric chain brake, automatic bar oiler, and a current limiter to prevent motor overload promising a longer lifespan. This well reviewed corded electric chainsaw should make for an excellent light-medium duty homeowner & farm/ranch chainsaw.
If you need a chainsaw for any task where you can’t incorporate the short operation life of a battery chainsaw or the limited mobility of a corded electric chainsaw into your work then a gas chainsaw will be your best bet. Gas chainsaws do require fuel, some maintenance here and there, and starting them does take some effort, but you can’t beat them for their wide variety applications, raw cutting power, and mobility.
Finally, all chainsaws with gas motors are two-stroke, and sparing any technical break down, this means that the fuel will require a mixture of gasoline and oil. The mixture of gas & oil provides the two-stroke with fuel while lubricating it at the same time, negating the need for oil changes; which is convenient, it’s just something you should know.
This is a safety feature that you should always look for in any chain saw. When you are using a chainsaw you will run into some sort of irregularity in whatever you are cutting. Be that a knot in wood, or just a tough bit to cut through. Sudden increases in hardness in whatever you are cutting can cause the chainsaw to kick back, and on many cases through the saw down to the operator’s legs.
A chain break uses inertia to detect when the chain saw is suddenly flung around by something like a kick-back and will stop the chain very quickly. This is a massive safety feature that can save you a lot pain and suffering and definitely something to look for.
The fatigue that comes from using a chainsaw comes more from the constant vibration than the actual weight of the saw. Vibration dampening serves to smooth out the vibration to some degree at least which makes the saw easier to handle for a long period of time. It will also make the saw less fatiguing to use for longer periods of time.
To find this you are likely going to need to look for a farm/ranch chainsaw since it is on the rare side to find it in a homeowner chainsaw; although, I have seem it featured on a few models.
Automatic Bar Oiler
An automatic bar oiler will save you a ton of time. A chainsaw needs to be oiled
frequently constantly to keep moving smoothly. If a saw has an automatic oiler, with a set or variable flow, the saw will oil the chain on its own so you won’t have to stop constantly to oil the chain. This is a huge time saver and something to look for. It is increasingly common on all types of chainsaw.
When living in the country you are bound to encounter all sorts of different challenges. Having a well stocked tool kit is an invaluable aid to anyone living in the countryside. I created a Toolkit Essentials Buyers Guide that you can download for free to help you build a well rounded homesteading toolkit; which of course includes axes and hatchets.
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Each of the chainsaws featured in this article made the list because of their feature sets and high customer reviews. As these are affiliate links I will earn a small commission should you choose to buy one.