How to pick perfect chainsaw

Before deciding on which type of chainsaw to purchase it is worth considering the type of uses you have for it. The bar size will always be linked to the power of the motor and this will often determine the power source as well. The larger the bar, the longer the chain and the more powerful the motor required to drive it and cut through wood.

Category Bar Size Description
Occasional domestic 7 inches – 12 inches Perfect for yard work, light weight efficient and inexpensive these chainsaws are chosen by many users looking for a chainsaw to use in a variety of circumstances
Semi-regular 12 inches – 18 inches Slightly bulkier and needing more effort to control, these chainsaws can be used for tougher duties around the garden or the farmyard.
Professional >18 inches The tool of choice for professional landscapers and forestry workers these chainsaws have longer bars and need more skill to operate safely.

Already decided on the type of chainsaw you need? Check our buyers guides from experts:

How to pick perfect electric corded chainsaw

How to pick perfect cordless chainsaw

How to pick perfect gas chainsaw


Occasional Domestic Use

Lightweight chainsaws are suitable for domestic use. There is a choice between electric, corded and cordless as well as gas powered models available. Gas chainsaws of this category are most useful when there is a larger volume of work such as preparing a supply of winter fire wood to be undertaken. This type of saw will have a smaller bar size, typically between 7 inches and 12 inches which makes them easier to handle for less experienced users and means they can also be used to cut branches in more hard-to-reach locations.

Semi-regular Use

With a bar size of between 12 inches and 18 inches these chainsaws are most likely to be powered by gas motors or corded electrical motors although a few cordless models are becoming increasingly available in the marketplace. Suitable for most tasks in a large garden or on a small farm they are more powerful machines and do require more careful handling if they are to be used safely.

Professional Use

Almost exclusively powered by gas motors, professional use chainsaws come equipped with a bar size in excess of 18 inches. With excellent power/weight ratios these chainsaws are powerful and capable of tackling the most exacting workload. Due to their capacity they should be used by experienced operators who understand how to make best use of the power they provide without compromising safety.

Other Factors to Consider

Less powerful engines, either electric or gas are easier to handle and more suited to occasional use however if an engine is too small it may be undersized for the task in hand. Careful consideration should always be given before upgrading to larger, heavier models as they present more risk to novice users.

Ergonomic Design

A motor that is turning a large chain can create a high degree of vibration. This is especially the case with gas powered chainsaws. Vibration at the handle can be minimized with careful design. Good ergonomics, including the fitting of dampers can significantly reduce vibration making even larger chainsaws easier to use. A chainsaw should always be designed with careful attention to the center of gravity which affects the balance and ease of use. Look for a saw that has its motor fitted as closely behind the hand guarding mechanisms as possible in order to ensure the best balance and safest use.

Safety Features

The larger the chainsaw the more important the safety features become. Consider the following to ensure you are buying the best tool for the job;

  • Bar length – choose the shortest bar length that allows you to perform most cuts in one single operation
  • Bar tips – special guards fitted to the tip of the bar that reduce the chance of kickback where the blade jams and forces the operator to lose their grip of the saw
  • Chain brakes – designed to stop the chain spinning should the operator lose control of the saw, they are usually controlled by a “dead man’s thumb” mechanism. They often work in conjunction with motor clutch mechanisms on gas models and cutout mechanisms on other electric chainsaws.
  • Safety throttles – fitted to either electric or gas models these mechanisms will stop the motor immediately should the user lose hold of the saw
  • Reduced kickback chains – chains that are designed to take more modest bites at the wood will reduce the force of kickback should it occur
  • Reduced kickback bars – bars that are shaped to present a narrower chain profile to the wood in those areas that can generate the greatest kickback. Look to saws with a narrowed tip or nose on the bar

Non-Safety features

Most good chainsaws will come with a range of features designed to make them easier to use and to help increase your productivity. Frequently seen features include;

  • Automatic chain oiler – because the chain constantly in contact with the metal of the bar it is subject to wear and even breakage if it is not oiled correctly. Look for a model with an automatic oiling mechanism to make the best of your time using your saw
  • Oil reservoir display – a visible display that shows you how full the reservoir for oiliong the chain is.
  • Tool less chain adjustment – the chain requires frequent adjustment to keep it at the correct tension. Look for a model with a dial close to the bar that you can use to tighten the chain
  • Bucking spikes – sharp spikes positioned at the base of the bar allow you to gain purchase on the log you are cutting. Look for metal spikes rather than plastic ones as they are more robust

How to pick perfect chainsaw

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