How To Choose A Chainsaw For Your Everyday Adventures

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In this extended article, we’re going to be going through a question that a lot of folks always ask “how to choose a chainsaw?”

Let’s dive right in …

Be it for trimming hedges, felling trees, or doing some cleanup after a storm, a chainsaw has become an indispensable gear.

Many people now decide to purchase their own chainsaw instead of hiring one from a local supplier.

Before you take the plunge into buying one, here is a brief but helpful presentation of four types of chainsaws, safety level, maintenance tips, and an overview of the basic guidelines regarding the choice of the right bar size for your task.

If you have trees or branches to cut, a chainsaw saves you time and effort. Make sure you find the one that’s right for you.

There are four types of chainsaws cordless, electric, gas, and pole saws.

Battery-operating cordless chainsaws

Cordless chainsaws are battery operating and ideal for light work such as trimming branches and cutting up small logs around your yard.

They are lightweight, portable, and easy to operate and are the quietest and the lightest ones on the market.

They do not require much maintenance and offer great mobility, which ensures a smooth and uninterrupted workflow.

If you are willing to buy one, you will have to consider buying models with battery systems that are compatible with other tools in the same product family for convenience.

Electric Chainsaws

Electric chainsaws are also easy to start and operate and require very little maintenance. They do however need an outdoor outlet and an extension cord and the correct amperage, but they will give you constant power great for upkeep around the yard. These units are also lighter and less noisy than gas chainsaws.

Gas chainsaws

Gas chainsaws are heavy duty portable units that are good if you have sizable trees to cut.

If you need to handle larger diameter trees on a homestead, a gas-powered chainsaw will suit your need just fine.

Keep in mind however that they can be challenging to start. Unlike cordless or electric chainsaws, these models require regular maintenance for proper performance and are both noisier and heavier than cordless or electric models.

Pole Saws

Pole saws are lightweight chain saws on the end of a long pole. They are powerful and comfortable to use.

Their most important feature is that they offer an extended reach of branches and leaves that are inaccessible and allow you to work from different positions.

There are three types of pole saws: cordless, electric, and gas. They also come in a range of bar lengths. The bar length ranges between 4 inches to 12 inches. The choice of the right bar length depends on the kind of task you are willing to do.

Choosing the right bar size

Now that you have chosen the proper type of chainsaw, you might be wondering what size bar you need?

A frequently raised question has to do with the bar length. Most people wrongly believe that the longer they go with the bar size, the better or even quicker they will get the job done.

In fact, you should not always go for that choice as it might prove dangerous in certain cases.

Here is a glimpse of different bar saw sizes and what you can use them for:

Pruning limbs – 6 to 10”

Pruning small branches or trees with relatively thin branches

Removing branches – 8” to 12”

Removing branches from larger trees at home

Splitting firewood – 14’’ to 16”

Splitting logs into firewood

Felling small trees – 12” to 14”

Cutting down small trees in a yard or garden

Felling medium trees – 16” to 18”

Cutting down medium-size trees

Felling large trees – 20 and larger

Much more suitable for professionals, but if you’re experienced enough can handle a larger chainsaw safely, shoot for a guide bar that’s at least 20’’ long. 

A few more questions to consider

What type of timber do you need your chainsaw for?

As you know, there is a large variety of timber. The first question to ask is what you need a chainsaw for.

Will you be cutting hardwoods such as oak and walnut trees or softwoods such as evergreen conifers?

That’s a good question to ask to help you determine which one to buy.

Related: How Much is a Cord of Wood? Everything You Need to Know

What type of chain pitch is suitable for cutting that timber?

There are three measurements that will help you to identify the right chain for your chainsaw, namely: the pitch, the gauge, and the drive links.

The pitch is the measurement that defines the linkage on the chain. To get the pitch you need to divide the distance of the three rivets into 2.

You don’t have to utilize this formula to get the pitch of the blade as the machine comes in the following sizes: 1/4, 3/8, and 325 only to name a few.

The pitch measurement of a saw tells a pro user about the overall size of the saw chain. Usually, a larger pitch indicates a heavier and bigger chain.

Overview of chainsaw related-technical words

The pitch

The most common pitch used by professional saw users in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska is the 3/8.

It offers great flexibility, low weight adequate speed and good running speed when run on today’s RPM high pro saws.

Keep in mind that the pitch of the chain, the pitch of the drive, sprocket and the pitch of the bar tip must all match.

Drive links

The number of drive links should be known if you want to get the right kind of chainsaw blade.

The act of counting drive links is done manually. They are the soul of a chainsaw due to their direct influence during cutting.

These links ensure the smooth and effective rotation and movement of the chainsaw teeth. Every chainsaw bears these drive links on it.

It is found on the guide bar of a chainsaw chain and it is also mentioned in every user manual.

This does not mean it’s a difficult task to count the drive links of your saw chain, this is easily done by taking off the chain from the guide bar of the chainsaw.

The gauge

This element is characterized by the drive links’ thickness. It is determined by measuring the portion of the drive link that fits into the groove of the guide bar.

It is usually expressed in thousands of an inch: 050 or 063. The gauge measurement of a saw chain tells a pro user about the strength of a chain’s drive links.

Thicker drive links are usually stronger, but they are heavier. Weight affects performance, so in order to maximize cutting speed, weight should be kept to the minimum.

Several years ago, the 063was the most popular, today the trend is shifting toward the 050.

Bar size measuring

One more thing to consider is the guide bar measurement. A guide bar is measured from the front of the saw to the tip of the bar.

This measurement should be done only when the guide bar in on the saw.

In the coming section, we’re going to be showing you some of the basics for operating a chain saw correctly but more importantly safely.

Personal Protective Equipment

Before you even think about starting a chainsaw, you have to be wearing the right personal protective equipment.

You should always wear safety boots with a steel cap to protect your feet and increase stability.

Related: Chainsaw PPE Safety Features – Personal Protective Equipment Explained

Chainsaw chaps or trousers

They are a must. If the chainsaw accidentally comes into contact with the chaps, the tiny fibers clog the chainsaw to bring it to a complete stop.

They can’t guarantee you 100% protection, but they may prevent a serious injury. I would never use a chainsaw without them.

Gloves

They are needed for hand protection when cutting wood and also for comfort. Some gloves even have chainsaw protective material in the rear of the hand for extra safety.

Safety Glasses

When using the chainsaw, wood chips and dust will be thrown around. You’ve only got one pair of eyes, so make sure you protect them.

Safety Helmets

These can protect you in three ways. The ear muffs protect your hearing, the helmet protects your head from falling objects, and the visor protects your face from flying debris.

Featured Chainsaw

When selecting a chainsaw, it’s important to get the right chainsaw for your needs and ability.

If it’s your first chainsaw, I would recommend a compact chainsaw like the MS 171. It’s light, it has plenty of power for cutting firewood, and the 14-inch bar will allow you to cut a log twice that size.

The latest range of cordless chainsaws from Stihl are proving to be extremely popular with both professionals and homeowners.

With 36 volts of power, they can do everything a gas saw can do and they’re quieter, too.

Before you start your chainsaw, there are three safety checks you should always make.

Safety Checks

Is the chain sharp?

Because a sharp chain cuts faster, the chainsaw is easier to control and takes less effort to use making it safer.

A quick way to sharpen the chain is with the Stihl two-in-one sharpener.

First, check for the tooth with the most damage then mark it so you know where you started.

Line up the guides with the saw chain and apply even pressure on both sides of the file and push from one side to the other.

Check the tooth is straight and sharp and then repeat until all are the same size.

The two-in-one file sharps the tooth and files back the depth gauge, too. This is an excellent tool that saves you time.

Is the chain tensioned correctly?

Having the chain tensioned correctly makes cutting faster and safer. The correct tension should allow for the chain to be lifted slightly but then snap back in place.

Depending on your chainsaw, you will either have a manual tensioner or the quick chain tensioner that can be adjusted quickly.

Is the chain brake in operational condition?

A large percentage of chainsaw injuries are caused by people tripping over branches and logs.

Before you start cutting, make sure you clear the area of any trip hazards or debris.

For cutting firewood, a sawhorse with a chainsaw holder also saves bending down and reduces the risk of running the chain into the dirt, which will make it blunt.

When to engage the chain break?

Think of the chain brake as the brakes on your car. By engaging the chain brake, the chain cannot spin.

Make sure you always check it before you start your chainsaw.  In the forward position, the chain brake is on.

Pull it back towards you and the chain brake is off and chainsaw is ready to cut.

Always engage the chain brake when you’re not cutting and especially when you’re moving around with your chainsaw.

The biggest safety feature of the chain brake is its ability to activate automatically during kickback to stop the chain.

Safety fact

Here is a chainsaw safety fact. If you keep two hands on the chainsaw and well leg protection, you are 75% less likely to have an accident.

Grip

For a firm grip on the chainsaw, the thumbs should always be on the opposite side of the handle to the rest of the fingers. Never on top and definitely never on the same side as the rest of the fingers.

Stability

For the best stability, make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and your body always off-set from the line of the bar.

This is going to make you ready for any kinds of pulling or push back forces.

Never stand directly behind the chainsaw

When you’re looking at the bar cutting, you should be looking from the side, never from directly above.

So, in a kickback situation, the chainsaw should always be straight out of the shoulder, never towards the head and the rest of the body.

Do not use ladders

Never use a chainsaw on a ladder or above shoulder height. That’s what arborists are for.

How to start your chainsaw safely?

There are only two ways to start the chainsaw safely.

The first method is to place the saw on the ground, put your right foot on the rear handle to secure it, and then check the chain brake is engaged. Then, you’re ready to pull the start cord.

The second method is for advanced operators. Grip with the left hand to ensure security, check that the chain brake is engaged.

Place the rear handle between your legs and pull the start cord and away you go.

The tip

The most dangerous part of the bar is the tip. If the tip of the bar comes into contact with the wood, then it may cause sudden upward and backward movement towards your body.

Again, this is called kickback.

Safety tip

The safest part of the bar for cutting is the area closest to the engine. Let the chainsaw pull you towards the wood and apply a slight downward pressure.

The chainsaw will do the rest of the work. Remember to ease off on the pressure as you near the end of the cut.

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