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The jobs you need to do and features you want can help you decide which type of chainsaw is best for you. Learn how to choose a chainsaw for your work.
The size and location of the work area and what you need to cut help determine whether you need a gas or electric chainsaw.
Gasoline-powered chainsaws combine power and mobility. They range from light-duty models to professional-grade saws that can fell large trees. A gasoline-powered chainsaw cranks with a pull-start and has a two-cycle engine that operates on a mixture of oil and gasoline. You mix the fuel yourself or purchase premixed fuel.
Electric chainsaws are good for small jobs — trimming, pruning and light cutting — requiring less power. They're quieter than gasoline-powered saws, easier to start and require less maintenance. You'll find both cordless and corded varieties.
Some cordless chainsaws come with batteries that can also power equipment such as string trimmers, hedge trimmers, mowers and blowers. If you have several compatible devices, you can use one battery while others are charging.
The standard chainsaw design features front and rear handles on an engine / motor housing and a cutting bar that extends from the housing, but there are variations. Traditional chainsaws are best for heavier work, like cutting down entire trees and thick limbs, but they can also be used for many lighter jobs. Although these types of saws are typically the most powerful, they have the shortest reach and require the use of a ladder to trim high tree branches.
A pole saw is a small saw mounted on an extension pole. It increases your reach for pruning and removing small tree limbs. It's available in gasoline-powered, cordless and corded models. The handle of some models can be lengthened by attaching a solid extender piece while others models have telescopic poles, allowing the operator to choose the desired length for maximum versatility. Also, some pole saws can convert to standard chainsaws, and pole saw attachments are available for some string trimmers.
Some chainsaw designs feature an enclosure or set of jaws surrounding the cutting bar. The enclosure offers additional protection from the chain. Teeth on the enclosure help grip the material you're cutting. Some models use a scissors-like action to clamp the material as you cut. These electric saws are good for pruning and light cutting.
Before you shop for a chainsaw, consider the work you plan to do. The size and type of the wood you need to cut and your experience using a chainsaw are all factors in selecting the right saw.
Bar length is one way to judge a saw's size and the work it can handle. A saw with a longer bar can cut larger-diameter wood in a single pass. Bar lengths for most homeowner saws range from 6 inches on smaller electric saws to 20 inches on larger, gasoline-powered models. Professional-grade saws have bar lengths greater than 20 inches.
Engine displacement (gasoline-powered models), voltage (cordless models), amperage (corded models) and horsepower also relate to power and capability. The higher the numbers, the more power the saw has. Power matters most if you're working with large trees and branches or cutting hardwood timber such as oak or maple.
A longer bar and bigger motor or engine mean increased weight — something to consider if you need to use the saw for extended periods. Larger saws also create more vibration, take more effort to handle and increase safety concerns. A smaller, less powerful saw will be more manageable, particularly if you don't have much experience.
Read and follow the chainsaw manufacturer's instructions for use, maintenance and safety.
While size and power help you determine the best chainsaw for your work, a saw's features can improve comfort, safety and efficiency as you cut:
You may notice chain pitch and gauge specifications. Pitch is the spacing of the rivets on the chain. It must correspond with the spacing of the teeth on the sprocket at the end of the bar. Gauge is the thickness of the chain. It must fit the groove in the bar. Make note of these measurements if you want to purchase a spare chain.
Personal safety equipment is necessary for using any power equipment. In addition to standard gear, there is specialized safety equipment for use with a chainsaw:
For more information on using a chainsaw safely, see Chainsaw Safety. Making sure a chainsaw is in good working order is also a part of chainsaw safety. How to Use and Maintain a Chainsaw provides information on sharpening the chain and other practices to keep a saw running properly.
Shop for Chainsaw Safety Equipment
One type of hard hat includes built-in hearing protection and a face shield.