Choose the Best Chainsaw for You

From clearing brush to bucking firewood, choose the best chainsaw to meet your needs.

| November/December 2010

Chainsaw Doubling as Sawmill

When properly equipped, the versatile chainsaw can be used as a very portable and effective sawmill.


Beginning life as a bone saw in 1830, this device has been powered with compressed air, hydraulic fluid, electricity, 2-stroke engines and even some 4-stroke engines over the years. Today the machine is one of the most-owned outdoor power tools, second only to the lawn mower.  

Once considered a widow maker because of its propensity to maim its operator, in the 1960s, the chainsaw came into its own as a farm and ranch tool – still considered dangerous, but safe enough for the general public. Improved safety features and accessories have made the chainsaw ever more popular today. If you fell trees for any reason a few times each year or have serious tree trimming to do, it might just be time to take this power-tool plunge and choose the best chainsaw for your needs. But with all the models, brands, power sources and cutting capacities out there, how do you choose? 

Bigger may not be better

If you are at all like me, you might be drawn to the high horsepower, heavy-duty rating and long cutter-bar length when considering a new saw. While those cream-of-the-crop cutters might make sense for professional loggers charged with felling trees all day, every day of the year, they don’t make sense for a professional tree trimmer, much less the average homeowner – even if you have 10 acres of woodlot to maintain. Sometimes the smaller, lighter saw is more than adequate for clearing brush or trimming trees around your place. Sometimes you don’t really need a chainsaw at all.  

Feel the power 

The chainsaws that most folks consider for home or farm use will fall into three general power head categories: corded electric, battery electric and internal combustion engine. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  

In general, electric chainsaws tend to be less expensive and lighter than their gas-engine-powered counterparts. Corded electric saws cut a little slower in most cases and tend to max out with an 18-inch-long cutter bar. Electric saws are quieter, simple to start (assuming you have a long enough extension cord or a well-charged battery), and they don’t require that you fuss with gasoline, oil and other maintenance issues associated with internal combustion engines. Battery-powered chainsaws tend to have short cutting bars (less than 10 inches), but that can be useful for light pruning. With ever-changing battery technology, the outlook for increased capacity in battery-powered saws is good. 

In spite of their added expense, weight and more involved starting sequence, gasoline-fueled saws are vastly more popular than electric versions. Part of that popularity might be related to tradition, but it also relates to complete flexibility in operation location, a wide range of power capabilities, quicker cutting, and a better-developed set of built-in safety devices such as a manual chain brake, which stops the chain from moving within an instant of the back of the operator’s hand impacting the hand guard/brake lever for any reason. Gas-powered saws also have automatic chain oiling systems and other ergonomic, performance, safety and convenience features lacking in many electric saws – an advantage to choosing products from a mature and well-developed genre of tools.  

4/10/2016 7:43:16 AM

Amazing review about chainsaw for beginner like me. I want to buy a chainsaw to cut off some large trees in my backyard. But I was totally confused which types of chainsaw are perfect for me. I'm searching google for that, and I find your article. I found another on from google I think it will also a helpful review for beginner.

10/14/2013 8:29:23 AM

Whatever you don't buy a Poulan. I have three in my garage that either refuse to start or only run for 5 minutes before shutting down.

bobananda das
6/14/2013 11:32:43 AM

I don't understand what extra information a woman would need to know beyond what a man would need to know. I completely don't understand what you are asking for.

hans quistorff
4/13/2013 7:17:25 AM

Did you look at the electric chainsaw that is inside a jaw? You cut limbs by putting the jaw over the limb and pushing the handle in. My wife loves it for cutting limbs for firewood. I found it the safest thing for pruning large limbs from a ladder.

pat pat
11/5/2012 9:45:05 PM

I am disappointed in the article. It has the headline of "learn all you need to know". There is nothing in the article that a woman would get any good from. Women do use chainsaws. I've spent 2 hours online reading the different brand information and thought I was going to find out, here, something about the pros and cons for women users, as well as men.

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