Chainsaws Buying Guide
If you have trees or branches to cut, chainsaws are one of the greatest time and effort saving tools you can find. They are, however, one of the most hazardous tools as well. The key to staying safe is to ensure that you understand how these powerful machines work and how to handle them correctly.
Choosing the right type of chainsaw is important. Your saw's features play a key role in operation and safety. It's also important to operate and maintain your chainsaw properly. This guide will take you through all of these facets of ownership, so you can be confident in selecting the right chainsaw for your needs and handling it safely.
Chainsaws can be powered by gas, electricity or rechargeable battery (cordless). Select a chainsaw that has the power and blade length you need for your task. If necessary, a chainsaw can cut a tree up to twice its blade length in diameter.
Gas – These heavy-duty units are ideal if you have sizable trees to cut, if you have lots of cutting to do or are working in remote areas. They are powerful and highly portable, with no need for an extension cord or electrical outlet. They tend to be heavier and noisier compared to electric and cordless units. They can also be more challenging to start and require maintenance and mixing of oil and gas.
When comparing gas chainsaws for power, look at the listed cc's (cubic centimeters) or hp (horsepower). The most popular bar lengths on a gas chainsaw are 16" to 20" (40 to 50 cm) and the weight can range from 7 to 18 lbs (3 to 8 kg).
Electric – Compared with gas models, electric chainsaws are generally lighter, less noisy and less costly. Some users may dislike the need for an extension cord, but electric chainsaws do not require any complicated refuelling and need very little maintenance. They start with the push of a button, and so long as you have an electrical outlet, you can operate your chainsaw as long as you need without stopping to refuel.
Because electric chainsaws are smaller than gas models, these less powerful units are better suited to light-duty cutting. The lower power also means a reduced chance of kickback. Electric chainsaw power is measured in amps. Bar lengths range from 8"–16" (20-40 cm), and the units weigh roughly 3 to 5 lbs (1.4 to 2.3 kg).
Cordless – Like the electric units, cordless chainsaws are easy to start and do not require a lot of maintenance. While these are typically the least powerful chainsaws, they are also among the lightest, quietest, easiest to operate, and can be used virtually anywhere.
Cordless units are powered in volts. The battery will drain during use and takes time to recharge. By purchasing an additional battery, you can avoid having to wait for your battery to recharge. Typical bar lengths for cordless models is 4" to 10" (10 to 25 cm).
Before you buy a chainsaw you should be aware of these features:
Bar Oil – All chainsaws use bar oil to keep the chain freely moving on the guide bar. The chain and bar need to be lubricated every few minutes. Bar oil is purchased separately.
Oiling System – Chainsaws can have manual or automatic oiling systems. Manual oiling systems require you to pump every few minutes to add oil to the bar. Automatic oiling systems remove the need to periodically oil the chain by steadily adding oil as required. A visible bar oil level will make it easy to see when your bar oil reservoir needs refilling.
Chain Tension – The tension of the chain on your saw will loosen with use. Remember to check the chain tension regularly. Failure to do so can cause the chain to slip off the bar and cause serious injury. Look for Tool-less or Tool-free chain tensioning so you can adjust your saw quickly and easily with no tools.
In addition to standard features, many chainsaws include additional features that can make operation easier and more comfortable. Some of these features are specific to the type of saw:
- Anti-Vibration System – springs between the handle and the motor reduce vibrations during use.
- Visible Fuel Level - makes it easy to see if your gas chainsaw will soon need refilling.
- Primer Bulb – draws fuel into the carburetor so your gas chainsaw will start more easily and efficiently. Pressing the primer bulb too many times may result in flooding the engine.
- Easy Start – technology such as EZ-Pull makes it easier to start gas engines.
- Lithium-ion Power – This revolutionary battery technology used in some cordless chainsaws delivers maximum performance by offering outstanding power and longer full-power run time. Compared to nickel-cadmium batteries, lithium-ion cells offer up to 3 times the number of life-cycle charges, while also offering extended storage times with less self-discharge. You can charge anytime without a negative memory effect.
Warranty - most saws come with a 1- or 2-year limited warranty that covers parts and labour.
Tips for Chainsaw Maintenance and Operation
Operating your Chainsaw
By their nature, chainsaws are dangerous devices. Chainsaws cut through materials by moving a chain blade at high speed. The blade is for the most part unprotected, and sawdust and woodchips may be kicked up.
When the moving chain at the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the chain, kickback can occur – the chain bar is suddenly moved back towards the user at high speed and with great force.
Chainsaws include a chain brake or hand guard designed to stop the saw in case of kickback, but the safest way to protect yourself from kickback is proper handling. Pay full attention when using your chainsaw and do not allow yourself to be distracted. Avoid allowing the tip of the guide bar to touch any material while cutting. Always be sure to wear safety gear: gloves, safety goggles, ear plugs, steel toe boots or shoes, hard hat and chaps or leggings that resist cuts.
Maintaining your Chainsaw
All Chainsaws require some basic maintenance to keep them running in peak performance:
- Prior to use, check the bar and chain. If necessary, adjust chain tension and use a cleaning brush or compressed air to remove any dirt and debris.
- Fill bar oil reservoir prior to use, and check frequently during use.
- After each use, remove dirt and debris from the bar and chain.
- Drain the bar oil reservoir prior to storage.
- Sharpen or replace chain when necessary.
Cordless Chainsaws require some battery maintenance:
- Charge the battery once there is noticeable battery fade while in use.
- Store in a fully charged state.
- Wait approximately 15 minutes before recharging a warm battery. A fully discharged battery will require from 1-5 hours to fully charge.
Gas Chainsaws also require some additional maintenance:
- Gas chainsaws need to be turned off and allowed to cool before filling the fuel tank or storing away. Never fill a hot engine.
- Change the spark plug and the air filter at the start of every season.
- Use fresh gas throughout the season.
- Check and replace Air filter if necessary every 90 days.
- Gas chainsaws need to be drained and stored in an upright position in a well-ventilated area. If storing for the season, also disconnect spark plugs and clean the exterior.