Buying Guide

Best Chainsaws for Your Project

Types of Chainsaws: Gas vs. Electric vs. Cordless

The three types of chainsaws are electric, gas and cordless. Gas chainsaws are the most powerful and ideally suited for large tasks, but they require gas and oil and are the loudest and heaviest chainsaws. Electric chainsaws are lightweight and don’t require fuel, but they typically require an extension cord and are best used for light tasks. Cordless chainsaws are powered by a rechargeable battery and can reach various levels of power, depending on the model. 

Comparison of Chainsaw Types
gas chainsaws
electric chainsaws
cordless chainsaws
Description Cordless and easy to maneuver. Larger and heavier. Most powerful chainsaw type. Louder noise. Offer a range of bar lengths. Possess better bar oiling systems. Best suited for heavy-duty jobs such as cutting down a tree. Require gas and oil mix. Easy to start. Lightweight. Lower upfront cost. Quieter. Low-maintenance. Don't require fuel. Most need an extension cord. Ideal for light and general purpose tasks such as pruning. Unlimited mobility. Lightweight. Low-maintenance. Powered by rechargeable batteries. No gas, oil or extension cords required. Most models are comparable with electric chainsaws in terms of power. Some models can reach the power offered by gas chainsaws. Need to be recharged between projects.
Pole Saws
pole saw

Pole saws, or pruner chainsaws, feature the bar and chain of a typical chainsaw mounted on the end of an extension pole. The length of the pole depends on the model.

Just like standard chainsaws, pole saws are available in gas, electric or cordless models. They are ideal for cutting limbs and branches without a ladder.

Chainsaw Features and Usage Tips

The basic elements of every chainsaw are the chain, the engine and the cutting bar. The bar is the "blade" of the chainsaw around which the chain rotates. 

Bar lengths and engine size determine what kinds of cutting jobs your chainsaw can do.

  • The size of the bar can range from eight inches up to 42 inches. Bars that are in the 14- to 16-inch range are ideal for occasional and light-duty use, while 18- to 20-inch bars work well for large diameter-cutting.
  • Proper tension must be kept on the chain to ensure efficient operation, along with chain sharpness and lubrication.
  • Some models allow for tool-free tension adjustments, which makes it easier to keep the machine in working order.
  • Engine size is measured in cubic inches or centimeters and power is measured in horsepower. The higher the power-to-weight ratio is, the more power a saw will generate.
  • Larger engines provide more power, but weigh more and can cause fatigue over long periods of use.
  • Higher RPMs (rotations per minute) mean faster cutting if the saw has enough power to cut through the material you’re working with.
Safety Considerations

Kickback is the primary danger you’ll face when using a chainsaw. This happens when the nose of the cutting bar connects with something solid, such as a knot or nail, causing the bar to jump back toward you. Take the necessary precautions to avoid injury: always wear protective eye, hand and foot gear, and always operate while standing behind the engine, or as far away from the blade as possible.

  • Only operate a chainsaw when you are fully alert and awake.
  • Monitor the chain tension throughout operation, as chains become looser as they heat up
  • Wear safety apparel, including protection for your eyes and ears, heavy-duty gloves, chaps and steel-toe boots.
  • To minimize danger, look for units that feature a low-kickback chain.
  • Some chainsaw models feature safety tips, which help protect your hands by preventing accidental slips onto the chain when it is running.
  • Avoid cutting things positioned higher than your chest.
  • Don’t start the chainsaw in the same spot where you fueled it as sparks could ignite spilled gasoline.
  • Keep a drop zone directly under the location where you are cutting.
  • Keep the extension cord away from electric models at all times.
  • Always start the chainsaw on the ground with your foot on the rear handle.
  • A chain brake allows you to manually stop the chain as soon as kickback occurs.
  • A chain catcher prevents a broken chain from shooting off the saw.
  • Do not wear loose clothing when operating a chain saw.
Additional Features

Today's chainsaws offer a variety of features such as an electronic ignition or heated handle for more efficient, comfortable chainsaw use.  

  • Catalytic converters: These devices control emissions, helping saws comply with environmental regulations.
  • Sprocket-tip cutting bar: A sprocket-tip cutting bar maximizes cutting speed by reducing friction around the bar tip. It also prevents the chain from dragging around the bar nose to minimize bar wear and stretch.
  • Anti-vibration handle: A vibration isolator or dampening system reduces fatigue and helps extend the life of the saw.
  • Side-mounted tension adjustment: With this feature, you'll be able to make tension adjustments to the chain quickly and easily.
  • Handle locations: Handles located on the top of the chainsaw are ideal for professionals as they handle heavy-duty jobs easier. Rear handles are most common for homeowner use.
  • Ignition: Units with electronic ignitions or variable ignition timing start up easier and operate more efficiently.
  • Heated handle: If you frequently find yourself outside in the middle of winter cutting up firewood, a heated handle can make your saw a lot more comfortable.
  • Automatic oiler: An automatic oiler takes care of properly lubricating the chain so you don't have to. Some units stop oiling the bar when the unit is idling to prevent wasting oil.
  • Throttle interlock: This feature provides additional safety by requiring you to depress two triggers to activate the saw, minimizing the chances of accidents.
  • Rust resistant chains protect your chains from rust, reduces the frequency they need replacing.
Basic Chainsaw Maintenance

In order to keep your chainsaw running smoothly, take time to clean and perform basic maintenance before and after each use. Beyond basic care, the easiest way to keep your chainsaw in tip-top condition is to ensure you follow manufacturer's instructions regarding its power source. Always charge and store the battery on your cordless chainsaw exactly as recommended, and fuel your gas chainsaw with the type and amount of fuel recommended. (Typically mixed, two-stroke fuel.)

Safety: Before performing any cleaning or maintenance on your chainsaw, make sure it is completely disconnected from power or turned off. Remove the battery on cordless models, unplug electric models, and make sure gas models are drained and cool to the touch.

  • Check that the bar and chain are properly lubricated according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Clean the chain break (if applicable), and wipe excess debris off the bar and engine.
  • Clear air intake slots.
  • If you notice the bar is starting to show signs of wear, check manufacturer's instructions for directions on rotating the bar.
  • For electric chainsaws, double-check that the cord is not damaged.
  • If your chainsaw becomes dull, it is much easier and less dangerous to simply replace the chain rather than try to sharpen it at home.
  • Check for any loose screws or nuts on the equipment. These are especially important to look for if your chainsaw feels like it has been vibrating more than usual.
  • On gas chainsaws, check the fuel filter and change if necessary.
  • Before storing gas chainsaws for extended periods of time, drain the gas and oil completely.