Best Chainsaw – Reviews & Detailed Buyers’ Guide
Those who have never used or seen a chainsaw before may only know this tool from the popular horror movie. But for many hobbyists, professionals, and even homeowners, a chainsaw is one handy piece of equipment for removing dead tree limbs, pruning, bucking, and harvesting firewood, among its other numerous uses.
The chainsaw has been around for more than a century. The earliest model, however, appeared as early as 1785. It was in 1926 when Andreas Stihl patented two-person saws which the US troops eventually brought home from Europe before the outbreak of World War II. The ones we see and use now were basically derived from the one-person saws developed after the war.
Best Chainsaw - Our Top Picks
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Top Five Chainsaw Reviews – My Picks
So what is the best chain saw today? Similar to determining the best pole saw, best tile saw, best band saw, best miter saw and best jigsaw, the best option for you would be dependent on several factors like price, features, and ease of use, among others. There’s really no best model per se because what would be great for one homeowner may not be good at all for another. However, we found that the following models are well suited for most people out there.
Black & Decker LCS1020 20V Lithium Ion
If you’re a homeowner who just needs a chainsaw for basic chores like cutting small trees, or you love to camp that a chainsaw for cutting firewood is something you need, this model from Black & Decker should suit your needs.
One thing you may like about this unit is its rather affordable price. Aside from that, this chainsaw is also lightweight at 7 pounds so you won’t have problems handling and carrying it around.
This unit is powered by a 20 volt, Lithium ion battery. On a single charge, you can make up to 150 cuts on branches up to 1 ½ inch diameter with this chainsaw. The battery can also hold up its charge for up to 18 months, so you can store this chainsaw and use it after a few months without having to recharge its battery again.
The 10-inch low-kickback bar is designed to be easy to use while not compromising power and performance. It also has a tool-free chain tensioning system that doesn’t need manual oiling.
The blade is sharp enough to cut through woods, although you should not expect this unit to be able to top large trees. Still, this Black & Decker unit will be able to cut several tough small trees with relative ease.
It is also very easy to start thanks to its simple switch, eliminating the need to pull cords. Moreover, the chainsaw is a lot quieter compared to those with a traditional gas motor.
The only complaint that you may think about after using this chain saw is the thumb switch that can be difficult to access when wearing a glove. But apart from that loophole, this is a very good chainsaw to have in your household.
Husqvarna 450 18-Inch 50.2cc X-Torq 2-Cycle Gas Powered Chain Saw
Similar to Black & Decker’s unit, this chainsaw from Husqvarna is designed for the typical homeowner who cuts less regularly than professionals. It is equipped with a Smart Start alongside a fuel pump for ease in starting and operation.
The chainsaw’s motor outputs 3.2 horsepower, enough power for small to medium-demanding jobs like cutting and pruning. The motor features the brand’s trademark X-Torq technology that can lower fuel consumption too, by about 30 percent and emissions by as high as 60 percent.
Using it for an extended period is possible thanks to its lightweight frame. It is also integrated with ant-vibration dampeners that can absorb vibration, so your hand won’t easily get fatigued. Consequently, you will work longer with this piece of equipment.
This Husqvarna model also boasts the snap-lock cover for its cylinder, designed to help you save time in cleaning the unit or changing spark plugs. You can also easily check the fuel level by looking at the translucent fuel indicator.
This unit also has a chain brake. It reduces chances of a kickback and causing injury. It also packs a unique function called the 'air purge' which helps in taking out air from carburetor for ease in starting. Husqvarna backs it with a two-year warranty.
If you have a fairly large garden that you don’t think an electric chainsaw won’t have enough power for the various cutting and pruning jobs at hand, then you can look for a reasonably priced and lightweight gas chainsaw like this one from Hitachi.
This unit is powered by a 34cc motor and boasts of a 16-inch bar. Starting the chainsaw should be easy with its soft start function, plus a manual purge pump that readies the carburetor even before you turn on and pull the start lever.
The Hitachi CS33EB16 is relatively light at 11.5 pounds. While the chainsaw is made primarily of plastic, it’s a fairly durable product. There’s a soft-grip, D-style rear handle that minimizes vibration so that you can use it for an extended period. It also has a five-point anti-vibration system that furthers enhances user comfort.
Noise level is a little over 100 decibels which is not bad for any gas-powered chainsaw. If you find the noise too much for your liking, you can always wear ear defenders.
The unit also features a trigger lockout that requires you to trigger both components so that the chainsaw would start. It prevents the chain from being driven just in case the trigger is pushed by an obstruction.
Aside from that safety feature, this chain saw also features a side-access chain tensioner for a convenient way of adjusting the chain. There are also a couple of bar-mounting studs designed to improve the cutting efficiency of the saw.
With a reasonable price tag, this is one of the most affordable yet good quality gas chainsaws that you can find today. The main complaint about this chainsaw is that it has the tendency to heat up after 30 minutes when cutting hardwoods. It also has tends to lose torque, or stall during long operations. Other than that issue, the Hitachi CS33EB16 is a pretty good unit by any standard.
Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch 50cc 2 Stroke Gas Powered Chain Saw
If you feel that the Hitachi gas powered chainsaw is a bit short, and you don’t want to pay a lot of money for a chain saw, then look for the Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-inch, 50 cc gas powered chain saw.
Aside from the longer bar, this chainsaw also features a larger engine (50cc) compared to that of the Hitachi unit. Engine life is guaranteed to last longer with the chrome-plated cylinder. Poulan is quick to point out that this is one of the most powerful gas chainsaws in the market for homeowners.
Of course, having a bigger motor and a longer bar means that the unit will be heavier. This is the case in the Poulan Pro which at over 15 pounds is four pounds heavier than the Hitachi gas-powered chainsaw. But like Hitachi’s gas powered unit, this one also has an anti-vibration handle that can make prolonged use a bit more comfortable.
Just like the Hitachi model, it has a trigger lockout that serves as a safety feature. But the wide spacing of the trigger lockout may be difficult to use for people with smaller fingers.
The brand Poulan Pro is actually under Husqvarna, one of the more reputable names in chainsaws and power tool. And that doesn’t mean that this Poulan Pro unit is not as good as those made by Husqvarna.
It’s really a question of whether you want a lightweight unit with less power, or a more powerful chainsaw but a lot bigger and heavier.
Remington RM5118R Rodeo 51cc 2-Cycle 18-Inch Gas Chainsaw
This is another reasonably priced gas chainsaw that you can use for smaller tasks like cutting fire wood and pruning. It is powered by a 51cc, 2-cycle engine coupled with a 18-inch low kickback bar and chain. Starting it should be easy thanks to its Quick Start technology.
Aside from the good build quality, you will be impressed with the front and back anti-vibration handles of this chainsaw. This is designed to reduce fatigue in your hands and arms.
You can use it right after you take it out of the box. It’s fully assembled. There is a starting guide printed clearly on top of the chainsaw. Fill the engine with gas and oil and the chainsaw would start up pretty quickly.
There’s also safety features integrated in this chainsaw, like its inertia chain brake that stops the chain’s movement whenever it senses kickback.
Of course, there are some drawbacks of using this chainsaw. Expect it to get too hot after prolonged use, although that is reasonable given the power of this chainsaw. There are also complaints about oil leak in the chain, although many users have reported that the rate is slow.
Those may be valid concerns but given the affordable price tag of this chainsaw, you can definitely say that this is one of the few chainsaw models that offer you a solid bang for your buck.
This portable, mechanical saw can be classified according to its power type — electric and gas.
Electric chain saws are smaller and lighter compared to gas chain saws. As such, this is the type of tool you would want for low intensity yard chores such as cutting small tress, pruning, and trimming. This type of chain saw is also quieter than gas saws, thus operating this one won’t bother your neighbors.
There are other advantages of electric chain saw over its gas-powered counterparts. One is that it is lighter than the gas chain saw, so it is easier to use. Moreover, it requires less maintenance, and is easier to store. In terms of safety, there’s a smaller risk of kickback, or the guide bar reversing action and causing serious injury to the user.
Electric chainsaws can be categorized into two—corded and cordless. Corded chainsaws are lighter and won’t require the operator to recharge or refuel. But you will have to buy an appropriate extension cord, one that can reach the work area.
The cordless type provides better mobility because there’s no cord that can restrict your work area. However, the disadvantage is that the battery can add weight to the unit that you may find it difficult to handle. Moreover, the operating time with a cordless chainsaw is limited. You’ll have to recharge the battery if you’re working on large projects.
Then there’s the gas chain saw which is a lot more powerful than the electric type. It’s the type of chain saw that you would need if you want to fall a huge oak. It can cut faster than its corded counterpart, and the faster chain speeds necessitate less pressure.
The problems with this type are aplenty. One, it requires more maintenance and care. And the loud, roaring sound of the engine may disturb the entire neighborhood.
There are many features incorporated in chainsaws but there are some features you would want to have such as:
- Chain Brake: This stops the chain immediately when the saw chain kicks back, or the front hand guard is pushed forward.
- Reduced kickback chain/kickback reduction: This keeps the chain from taking a large bite that usually causes a kickback. This includes extra guard links and a reduced cutting profile.
- Chain catcher: It is a metal extension found underneath the guide bar. It is a safety feature that aids in keeping a thrown chain from flying back towards the operator. It’s something that is very useful especially if the chain is too loose due to improper tensioning and other maintenance.
- Case: Also called the sheath, it is a full cover for the bar and chain that prevents cuts when you store or carry the cutting machine. It also prevents oil leaks from the chain. You can always buy third party cases and covers for your saw, in case the unit you bought doesn’t have one.
- Anti vibration: This is a feature often found on gas powered chainsaws. It may be rubber bushings or metal springs situated between the handle and the engine to reduce vibration. It’s not only a safety feature but one that makes the tool more comfortable to use.
- Visible bar oil level: This is a feature that lets you determine the oil level quickly so that you will be able to add oil when needed. Remember that saws can consume more oil than you may anticipate and there’s a tendency for oil leakage while the chainsaw is in storage.
- Wraparound front handle: This is a handle that allows the operator to have a more comfortable grip. It’s also useful during horizontal cutting, when felling trees.
- Safety throttle: This is often located on the handle, designed to make pressing down a lot more convenient. The safety throttle won’t depress until the safety is engaged, preventing the trigger from being pushed accidentally by an obstruction.
How to Choose a Chainsaw
Before shopping a chainsaw, you must have at least an idea on the types of jobs that you plan to do using the tool. Do you need a tool for trimming and pruning small trees and shrubs? Or do you envision having a chainsaw for cutting thicker branches and even felling trees? These questions can help you determine the type of engine and bar length you need in a chainsaw.
You should also take into consideration factors like your experience in using a chainsaw as well as the size and type of wood you intend to cut.
The bar length is one good way to determine the saw’s size and the type of chores it can handle. A saw that has a long bar will be able to cut wood with a large diameter in a single pass. For most professionals, the ideal bar length is more than 20 inches. For homeowners, a bar length for electric chainsaws starts at six inches and up to 20 inches on gasoline-powered units.
When it comes to power, you should look at things like engine displacement for gasoline-powered units, amperage for corded chainsaws, and voltage for cordless models. The rule of thumb is that the higher the numbers, the more powerful the saw is. You would want a powerful saw if you are to cut hardwood timber like maple or oak.
But the downside to having a chainsaw with longer bar and bigger motor is that it will be heavy. The weight can be a factor when you use the tool for extended periods. Larger saws can also create more vibration and require more effort on the part of the operator to handle. If you don’t have much experience using a chainsaw, you should settle for a smaller and less powerful unit that is easier to use.
Speaking of experience in using a chainsaw, you should look for a unit that has a good number of safety features to reduce the chances of you or any other person in your household from getting involved in chainsaw-related accidents.
Chainsaw injuries are very common. In 1999, there were more than 25,000 cases of chainsaw accidents reported. Five years later the number was up to around 30,000.
The CDC estimates that around 36,000 people every year are injured due to chainsaws. The number often increases after storms and natural disasters.
Many experts agree that these accidents can be attributed to the operator losing focus. Even some of the best chainsaw operators can get careless for a split second, which can trigger the accident.
Novice chainsaw users thus should look for a unit with a plethora of safety features. These include kickback reduction, chain brake, and safety throttle.
Finally, price is another factor that can determine the type of unit you’ll be getting. Chainsaw prices can vary a lot depending on the power, features and primary use case of a chainsaw.
Best Chain Saw Brands
Chainsaws are usually produced by top makers of outdoor power equipment. If you’ve never owned a chainsaw before, you should check out units from certain reputable brands.
One brand that is known for producing quality chainsaw is Craftsman. It sells both gas and electric chain saws, coming in various bar lengths. Its models can be purchased online, and in Kmart and Sears retail outlets.
When it comes to gas chain saw, Husqvarna may very well be the leader. Its chainsaws come in various bar lengths from 14 to 20 inches. Husqvarna also produces chain saws under the brand name Poulan.
Another brand that you can trust is Echo. Its chain saws are available in various bar lengths and are used by both professionals and consumers. Homelite is also a good and reputable brand, although its products are marketed to consumers only. Its electric chainsaws are smaller than gas counterparts.
Finally, Stihl produces gas and electric chainsaws marketed to both consumers and professionals. Its electric chain saws have smaller bar lengths compared to its gas chainsaws.
Other brands that are known to be quality makers of chainsaws are Black & Decker, Hitachi, Kobalt, and Worx.
Concluding this Guide to Finding the Best Chainsaw
Chainsaws are very useful tools that you should not hesitate to get one for your household. With this piece of equipment, you can make pruning and trimming a lot easier. It also doesn’t hurt that chainsaws are relatively affordable.
Regardless of the chainsaw model that you purchase, remember to be responsible in using and storing this tool. For one, never allow kids to be around you when you’re using the tool. Store the chainsaw in a place that is out of your children’s reach. And whenever appropriate, wear safety gear like boots, pants, glasses, hard hat or helmet, gloves, and hearing protection.
By following these basic safety tips, you can efficiently and safely take care of the various cutting jobs around your yard.