Find the best chainsaw for tidying your garden with this buyer's guide!
Gardening is a very popular pastime, and one that many people take great pride in. From mowing the lawn to pruning trees and shrubs, it can be an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors. But for those tasks which require more power than a pair of secateurs or shears can provide, a garden chainsaw may be called for.
They're definitely a useful garden power tool, but also a complicated one. There are different power options and sizes to choose from - how do you find the one for you? Luckily, we've got you covered.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the different types of garden chainsaws available on the market today and how they can help you get your gardening jobs done safely and efficiently.
Types of garden chainsaws
Corded chainsaws are powered by mains electricity through a long power cord and are the most popular choice for home use due to their low cost and easy maintenance. They are ideal for tasks such as cutting branches, cutting logs into smaller pieces or trimming hedges.
Corded electric chainsaws typically have medium-power engines and have shorter bars (the length of the chainsaw blade), making them lightweight and easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces. Their shortcoming is the cable, which limits how far into your garden you can take them. That problem can be made easier by connecting a quality outdoor extension lead, but you still have to be aware of where the cord is at all times to prevent accidents.
Petrol chainsaws are powered by a small on-board petrol motor. That motor provides a huge amount of energy for the chainsaw blade. Petrol chainsaws are the most powerful type of chainsaw and are often used by lumberjacks and other professionals.
The power of a petrol chainsaw is usually measured cubic centimetres (cc), although sometimes you'll see power ratings in horsepower, like a car's engine. The ratio of horsepower to cc is roughly 1:15, so a 50cc petrol chainsaw gives you approximately 3.3hp of power.
This is enough for the toughest cutting tasks in your garden, like felling trees or cutting large branches. Their bars tend to be longer than ones found on corded chainsaws (50cm to 30cm) as well to make it easier to cut through thick tree trunks.
They don't need to be plugged into a wall like corded electric chainsaws do but you do need to keep them topped up with fuel, which must be done carefully since petrol is so flammable. Another issue is pollution: Petrol chainsaws produce smoke, which smells foul and can be dangerous if inhaled, and a lot of noise. You should always wear protective gear when handling a chainsaw, but it's particularly important if it's petrol powered. This pollution can annoy your neighbours, too.
Petrol chainsaws also need more maintenance than electric ones. For a detailed explanation of how to maintain your chainsaw, read our blog all about how to take care of your chainsaw.
Cordless chainsaws are powered by rechargeable batteries rather than a power cable, making them ideal for those who need a portable yet powerful solution for light cutting tasks. They tend to have smaller motors (up to 1 kW) and shorter bars (up to 40 cm), making them lighter than both electric and petrol models.
They're also less powerful than both petrol and corded chainsaws. They can still cut through logs and other medium-difficulty jobs, but they won't be as quick to do them as other models. Battery life is often a concern: You can normally run a cordless chainsaw for up to 45 minutes from fully charged, although this will depend on the model.
Some cordless chainsaws are so small they can be safely used one-handed. These count as mini chainsaws. These aren't really for chopping through large branches or logs. Instead, they're perfect for replacing shears and loppers and secateurs and pruners if you have mobility issues or for trimming hard to reach areas of your hedge.
Pole saws are designed specifically for pruning tall trees or shrubs. They let you reach the top of tall plants without having to climb up a ladder. The pole is usually telescopic, which lets you adjust the length to cut wood at different heights.
Most pole saws feature a small electric motor (up to 1 kW) with a short bar (up to 30 cm) which makes them lightweight enough for extended use without becoming too tiring on your arms and shoulders. They're designed for tidying up your trees, rather than extended work.
You want to buy a quality chainsaw, and there's no better way of ensuring that than going with a brand you're already familiar with! Some of the most popular power tool brands make chainsaws, including:
If you want a cordless chainsaw and already own several cordless power tools from one brand, it's a good idea to buy your chainsaw from them as well. That's because many brand's rechargeable batteries are interchangeable, so you'll already have an extra battery.
What to look for when buying a chainsaw
Once you've narrowed down which type of chainsaw you want, as well as the brands you might like, it's a good idea to keep the following in mind:
Safety should always be your number one priority when using any type of garden machinery, but with chainsaws it's absolutely vital! Make sure your chainsaw has automatic chain brakes that stop the chain when you release the trigger or if it kicks back.
You should also make sure your chainsaw has some kind of chain tensioning ability, either a ratchet on the side of the chainsaw itself or a separate tool. This lets you re-tighten the chain when needed - that's important because a loose chain is quite dangerous.
Other safety features include a blade sheath, a centrifugal clutch and a spark screen or arrestor. It's also a good idea to invest in a model with anti-vibration handles to reduce fatigue during prolonged use.
Even the best safety features are just fallbacks - they're no replacement for proper operation. To make sure you know what you're doing, read our blog on how to safely operate a chainsaw!
We've already briefly described what bar length means, but why is it important? The bar length determines the maximum width of objects you can cut through. For instance, if you want to cut through a healthy tree trunk, you need a chainsaw with a bar length of at least 40cm.
The chain speed determines how quickly you can cut through stuff, measured in metres per second (m/s). The higher the number, the faster your chainsaw cuts. Petrol chainsaws tend to be very fast, at around 20m/s, while electric chainsaws only run at around 8m/s.
Last but not least, make sure to consider the weight of the chainsaw model you're looking at before buying. If it's too heavy, you won't be able to use it for long periods of time. This is particularly important if you plan on using it at height.
Chainsaw accessoriesAs well as the machine itself, it's a good idea to pick up a series of accessories to make using your chainsaw that much easier. These can include:
- A funnel for refuelling petrol models.
- Personal protective equipment, including:
- Replacement chains
- A saw horse or stand
- Spare rechargeable batteries for cordless models
We hope this buyer guide has helped to demystify chainsaws for you! Once you know what type of chainsaw you should buy and the features you need, you'll soon be lopping, cutting and trimming your garden into shape. Now you're ready to find your ideal model!