The 4 Main Types of Chainsaws on the Market!

types of chainsaws

Today, manufacturers offer a variety of different chainsaw models to choose from. If you’re looking to buy a chainsaw, the process can definitely be a bit overwhelming at first. Certain chainsaw models can do different things better than others and they each have their own set of capabilities and limitations.

It’s important to know that a chainsaw is more than just a chain and a metal guide bar attached to a motor. The model you choose will ultimately depend on what you plan to use it for. For instance if you plan to cut down trees for wood to heat your house, a gas powered chainsaw is likely best. However if you plan to only do light pruning like limbing trees, a battery or electric powered chainsaw may be your best option.

Popular Types of Chainsaws

Gas-Powered Chainsaws

gasoline powered chainsaw

Gasoline powered chainsaws are the most well-known option. These saws are used by professionals as well homeowners to cut down trees and cut up firewood. They’re loud, emit fumes, and are cumbersome to move around. They can also be a real hassle to get started, especially in the winter months. Once it’s revving though, there really isn’t much a gas powered chainsaw can’t tackle.

These saws are powered by a 2 stroke engine and their displacement will range from 30cc to 120cc. The fuel is a mixture of gasoline and engine oil. Since the crankcase of the 2 stroke engine acts as an intake, the mixture allows the gasoline to combust while the engine oil lubricates the internal parts in order to prevent excessive wear and/or damage.

The main reason people use gas powered saws is because of their sheer cutting ability in comparison to electric or battery powered alternatives. When you start to cut multiple cords of firewood, you can see the difference. However this cutting ability definitely comes at a cost. In most cases you can expect to pay $300+ for a decent gas chainsaw.

There are also a few important things to take into consideration:

  • The stronger 2-stroke motor results in the saw being heavier than all other options.
  • These saws are more prone to kickback due to using efficient full-chisel chains.
  • They can generate up to 109 dB of noise that’s fairly close to the operator’s ear.
  • There are more maintenance requirements because of moving parts.

Corded Electric Chainsaws

If you’re someone who has never used a chainsaw or you’re a homeowner who only needs to use a chainsaw for light limbing, then an electric chainsaw may be the best option for you. Electric chainsaws are light, moderately powerful, don’t emit fumes, and are quieter than gasoline powered saws.

The first thing to consider is the amperage of the motor. This is a good indicator of the power; A higher amp rating allows the saw to draw more current, which spins the saw faster and creates more torque. Electric chainsaws will typically be in the 8-15 amp range, though some models can be over 20+ amps. However, you are limited in this aspect. The National Electrical Code (NEC) notes that you shouldn’t exceed 80% of the load for which it’s rated, unless labeled otherwise. This means a 20-amp circuit shouldn’t exceed 16 amps. This allows for a temporary surge as the saw starts up. The saw also needs to be plugged into an extension cord with the correct gauge. For instance a 15 amp saw would need a 12-gauge (100 ft) extension cord.

Once you’ve determined your ampere requirements with a matching extension cord, you should look at the guide bar length. For most, a 12-14” bar will work well, however if you’re looking to do light pruning then a 8-10” bar will work just fine. Smaller chainsaws made for homeowners will feature smaller guide bars. 

The biggest advantages of electric chainsaws is that they require no refueling or heavy maintenance. However this is also their biggest limiting factor, they must be plugged into an outlet. If you’re working around your house, this usually isn’t a problem. If you’re planning to work in the woods, you’ll need a generator.

Battery Powered Chainsaws

oregon battery powered chainsaw

When it comes to light-duty work and small chores, a battery powered chainsaw is a great option to consider. As the name suggests, this type of chainsaw runs on a rechargeable battery and features no fuel or direct electricity. One of the biggest limiting factors of the corded electric chainsaw is being tethered to an outlet. The battery powered option is more mobile, but you’re limited by work capacity.

What I mean by work-capacity is both, in terms of power of the chainsaw as well as battery-life. Battery powered chainsaws are the least powerful because they aren’t able to generate high enough amperage. The lower power means they are only adequate for light-duty tasks like limbing trees and pruning. You’re also limited by battery-life, although as long as you have enough batteries, you can just keep swapping them out. You then start to get into a discussion of diminished returns as the batteries aren’t cheap and you may end up needing several. Which means you could of just invested the same amount of money into a gas powered saw instead.

If your plans are to only tackle light duty tasks then a battery option is great. However if you foresee yourself needing to fell a tree or operate longer than 100+ cuts at a time then you should consider other options.

Manual Chainsaws

pocket chainsaw

Lastly, we’ll look at manual chainsaws. These are also called pocket chainsaws as they are portable and easy to store.

A manual chainsaw is made up of a chainsaw chain that is double-sided and handles on both ends. The operator moves the handles back and forth like you would an old-fashioned saw. However, this option is mostly for smaller jobs such as cutting limbs or felling a smaller tree.

In terms of energy output required, this tool isn’t worth it. The idea is practical but for a bit more you could buy a decent folding hand saw and have the same cut capacity with far less effort. They are also just as easy to carry and store.

Conclusion

There are all sorts of chainsaws out there to consider. We’ve covered the main ones, however there are likely more that are used for niche specific tasks. For instance pole saws are quite popular for pruning, however they are often just an electric chainsaw mounted to a pole for extended reach.

It’s always important to ask yourself what you need the chainsaw for before purchasing. After you’ve decided you’ll be able to make a more practical decision and get something that meets your usage requirements.

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