How to Choose a Chainsaw
In this article, I will tell you how to choose the right chainsaw. There is a lot of information and articles on “how to choose a chainsaw? what chainsaw is the best?” and so on…
All of them are usually scarce and superficial providing only the most general ideas of how to choose a chainsaw. Here, I will try to describe in detail each stage of the selection process, give technical characteristics and facts to prove my point of view.
How to Choose a Chainsaw: Buying Guide
So, you need a chainsaw… What chainsaw to buy as the market today offers a huge variety of chainsaws by various manufacturers, both world famous and totally unknown brands… There are several parameters to consider for choosing a right chainsaw:
- Bar length and chain type
- Innovations (easy start systems, eco-friendly engines with reduced fuel consumption, etc.)
- Fuel consumption
- Cutting quality and speed
Why is it important to know the application of a chainsaw? In order to buy a saw precisely for the work to be performed and what it is intended for. After all, it is unreasonable to buy a professional chainsaw for domestic works. Not only will it be much more expensive, it is often simply inconvenient since it weights more than domestic models, the kit bar length is also inconvenient for small works. And vice versa, a domestic saw can not cope with serious logging due to a lack of power, small motor resource, etc… A kind of golden mean is semi-professional or “farmer” saws. But they can not be considered multi-purpose ones.
Let’s talk in more detail about each chainsaw type.
Domestic chainsaws are intended for:
- logging (the trunk diameter – no more than 12 inches),
- small construction works,
- pruning knots and trees,
- home gardening and as a field saw.
The power of domestic chainsaws is usually less than 2 kW (2.72 hp). But, this is quite enough for the above operations. People often mention the notorious chainsaw engine resource allegedly determining chainsaw classifications. There is such a parameter indeed, but it is very, very conditional. Hypothetically, we can assume the following ranges:
- Domestic chainsaws – 200 to 500 hours
- Semi-professional chainsaws – 800-1200 hours
- Professional chainsaws – not less than 1200 hours.
But, this information is based purely on assumptions as there is no public statistics.
However, there are recommendations for the usage duration per day. For domestic chainsaws, this is not more than an hour a day. In fact, I think that recommendations for usage per day are not entirely appropriate for domestic saws, as it can be unused for a year and then it must be used intensively. In this case, my recommendations are: give your chainsaw a 30-40 minute rest after using a full tank of fuel.
Semi-professional (farm) chainsaws
What is a semi-professional chainsaw? This is a chainsaw, which is no longer a domestic one but is not professional either. The best example of grouping chainsaws into domestic, semi-professional and professional ones is their application area. I mentioned the application area of domestic chainsaws above, now I will briefly describe the application field of farm chainsaws.
Semi-professional chainsaws are designed for wood construction works, firewood logging (trunk diameter up to 15-18 inches) and other works with wood that do not require long chainsaw operation.
The power of semi-professional chainsaws is usually less than 3 kW or 4 hp. The very fact of a semi-professional chainsaw type means the seriousness of its manufacturer and its specialization in gasoline-powered tools. This is confirmed by the fact that semiprofessional saws are made by such top brands as Husqvarna, Stihl, Echo, Solo and not presented among all kinds of Prorabs, Huteres, and other Chinese brands.
Semi-professional chainsaws can be used for several hours a day (3-4), but do not forget about breaks.
A professional chainsaw is a tool manufactured from the best materials with the use of the most reliable and advanced technologies. After all, usage of a professional chainsaw requires a lot of workload on its operator and chainsaw manufacturers try to make his life easier by increasing the efficiency and benefit from purchasing a professional chainsaw.
As professional chainsaws have more power capacity (from 2.5 kW up to 5-6), reliability and long operation in difficult conditions, prices for professional chainsaws quite differ from the prices for domestic models. A professional chainsaw must be selected according to the parameters required for operation and will take a whole another article.
For example, Stihl has a model that, despite its low power, is still rather a professional due to its good motor resource, saturation with innovative technologies and manufacturer’s recommendations for use. Some chainsaws designed for cutting knots (dry knuckles) are also considered professional.
Professional chainsaws are used for mass logging, tree felling, and large wood processing.
When choosing a domestic chainsaw, power is not as important as when choosing a professional chainsaw, but it still must be considered. The more powerful the chainsaw, the easier it copes with different types of wood and the faster its cutting speed (along with the number of turns of course). However, with a power increase, the saw weight increases as well.
So, when choosing between several options, consider the weight/power ratio.
The domestic chainsaws usually have bars of 14-16 inches long. On some models, longer bars can be installed, but before installing a bar longer than a standard one, check the manufacturer’s recommendations first. A 14 inches long bar is enough for most domestic operations, as well as cutting small trees.
Is it reasonable to buy a chainsaw with a bar longer than 14 inches? Only if you know for sure that you need it for.
I do not recommend buying a long bar only because “you might need it someday” because sometimes a long bar will even be in your way. The 14 inches bar length is usually enough.
In our case, the chain pitch is very important. The chain pitch is the distance between three rivets of the saw chain.
The chain pitch of domestic chainsaws is either 3/8 inches or 0,325 inches. It is interesting that the 3/8 mark is used because the difference between 0.325 and 0.375 is very small in writing and therefore the 3/8 mark was introduced.
Remember: the bigger the chain pitch, the higher the productivity and the lower the cut quality. The domestic chainsaws with the pitch of 0.325 are rare today and the pitch of 3/8 is more common.
Technological progress does not stand still and chainsaws are no exception. Most large manufacturers introduce a variety of modern technologies aimed at making the operation easier, increasing the eco-friendliness, reducing fuel consumption into their saws. All this also affects what chainsaw to buy!
What can be interesting for you as a future chainsaw user?
- Ease of starting
When choosing a saw, check if it has a primer (pre-fuel pump). Besides it, many modern saws have simple launch systems reducing the starting cord effort. These are such systems as Ergo Start by Stihl (such model have “C-BE” in their name), Smart Start by Husqvarna, etc. A primer and easy start system make starting a chainsaw much easier, that is useful for aged people and women.
- Eco-friendliness and fuel consumption
These concepts are interconnected because at a lower consumption and emissions are less as well. Today the world really cares about the environment. In this regard, manufacturers are introducing technologies that significantly reduce harmful emissions. For example, Stihl says that an engine with 2-Mix technology reduces fuel consumption by 20%, which means that it is environmentally friendly.
- Anti-vibration systems
Long operation of even the lightest domestic chainsaw makes you tired because of the chainsaw weight and its vibrations. In this regard, chainsaw manufacturers introduce new damping elements and new concepts of weight distribution between chainsaw blocks. The more advanced the system of vibration damping, the less tired your hands will be.
The fuel consumption depends on the engine capacity, its power, and presence of the modern systems mentioned above. If the consumption is indicated in the technical specifications, it is usually very approximate. The fuel consumption can differ both to more and less extent depending on the gasoline quality, intensity, and type of performed works. Therefore, simply remember that the larger the volume, the bigger the fuel consumption. The more modern the engine, the lower the consumption compared to the one with the same volume but manufactured a few years ago.
In fact, the fuel consumption of domestic chainsaws is not a crucial value when choosing a chainsaw.
Cutting quality and speed
The quality and speed of cutting depend on the saw fitting. The quality and speed have an inverse relationship unlike parameters described above. The thinner the groove, the higher the cutting quality. The smaller the pitch, the higher the cutting quality. And the other way round, if the pitch is large, the speed increases at the loss of quality.
Therefore, if you need a chainsaw for preparing firewood, home gardening, its accuracy, and quality are not so important. The most common characteristics such as groove thickness of 1.3-1.5 mm and the chain pitch of 3/8 inch will be fine.
Summing up, I can say that when choosing what chainsaw to buy, always first determine its application! Everything else is of secondary importance and is selected according to your needs.