Chainsaws for Beginners: Tips & Buying Guide

Previously, chainsaws were mostly used by farmers and woodworkers, but as they have become lighter and less expensive, it is becoming more common for homeowners to own one. This means they can be used to quickly cut down smaller trees, cut wood for the fire, and so on without the need for professional assistance. Another reason for the increased popularity of chainsaws among homeowners is that they can now be powered by electricity rather than gasoline.

There is a significant difference between what is considered a good chainsaw and what is the best chainsaw for you and the job at hand, particularly if you are a beginner. It is easy for regular users to become enamored with advanced and expensive chainsaws that are completely unnecessary for the average user. Having made that mistake myself, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when looking for the best chainsaw for you.

What will you use the Chainsaw for?

There is a significant difference between chainsaws in terms of size, power, and fuel. As a result, you must consider how you intend to employ it. If you have a large amount of forest to clear, of course you’ll need a large and powerful model.

The saw must have a powerful motor capable of sawing through thick trunks, and its sword must be long enough to cut through the trunk. If using the chainsaw to fell large tress, a small chainsaw will quickly wear out both the engine and the bar.

Stiga and Husqvarna chainsaws

For easier gardening

If you only intend to use the chainsaw for light gardening, one of the smaller and less expensive models is appropriate. This is due to the fact that it does not require much power to cut down smaller trees and thin branches. It is better to consider how adaptable and practical the chainsaw is for this type of work. In a residential area, for example, it may be preferable to use an electric chainsaw that produces little noise and emits few exhaust fumes.

Chainsaw for precision work

Precision saws necessitate careful consideration of the chainsaw’s weight and vibrations. Precision is required when sawing planks or sculpting, for example. If the chainsaw vibrates excessively and is too heavy, you will quickly tire and your cuts will most likely be crooked.

Which chainsaw type suits you best?

As I mentioned earlier, today’s chainsaws can either be powered by electricity or petrol. Electric models are available both with and without cord.

Gas Chainsaws with Two- or four-stroke Engine

Petrol-powered chainsaws are suitable for heavy and long days out in the woods and for extensive cutting. You can choose between two-stroke engine or four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine is fully sufficient for most landowners, while a four-stroke engine is necessary to use for the more demanding forestry work.

What is the fuel consumption of the chainsaw?

Looking at fuel consumption mainly applies to you who need a petrol-powered chainsaw. Although these models are not the most environmentally friendly alternatives on the market, there are still those who have really well-implemented technology that ensures that the petrol is used as efficiently as possible.

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Electric Chainsaws

As a regular homeowner, an electric chainsaw is usually enough. They are easy to use because they weigh less, which makes them easier to handle as you get less tired in the arms and shoulders. Electric models are usually better to use in residential areas as well just because they do not cause as much noise as the gas powered ones.

Cord or Battery?

Chainsaws with a cord have the advantage, in addition to avoiding noise and exhaust fumes, that you can work with them for several hours without interruption as you do not need to refuel or recharge your batteries.

Usually you need to supplement the saw with a really long extension cord because the included cord is often quite short. It is also important to be careful not to accidentally saw the cables during work.

Just like chainsaws with a cord, the battery-powered saws are good for the environment. With these you get a quiet and light chainsaw that has no cord that you need to watch out for.

The disadvantage of these models are of course that the battery can run out before work is completed as a normal battery lasts for about 2 hours. Therefore, they are mainly suitable for smaller and shorter jobs, the alternative is that you buy an extra battery that you can change to if what is in the saw should run out.

Electric Chainsaw Bosch
Corded Electric Chainsaw

How heavy is a chainsaw?

The more the chainsaw weighs, the heavier it becomes to work with. It may sound obvious, but when you stand and feel a chainsaw in the store, you may not think that you will work with it for a long period.

If you just stand and hold the saw for a couple of minutes, you will probably not experience it as heavy. But I can promise that after about 20 minutes of work, you will experience the weight completely differently, especially if you work at or above shoulder height.

Recommended weight on chainsaw

For work on and around the site, I usually recommend that the chainsaw weigh a maximum of 5 kilos. Then it is still stable while it does not become heavy to work with when you want to shape hedges and shrubs.

If, on the other hand, it is a matter of felling trees, you can choose a slightly heavier model. In this type of work, the weight of the saw plays a minor role because it is usually performed at a low height.

A slightly heavier chainsaw can even be helpful because it becomes more stable to work with and its weight means that you do not have to push as hard to get through the tree trunk.

How loud is a chainsaw?

It is noisy to work with chainsaws, it is difficult to get away from. As a beginner, however, this is usually not a huge problem because you rarely need to use particularly powerful models. The most quiet chainsaws are the battery-powered and electric chainsaws, but feel free to read in its user manual as the sound volume also varies between these models.

If the work requires a petrol-powered chainsaw, it can be really difficult to find a model with a reasonably okay sound level, especially if you need to use a four-stroke engine. Therefore, if you have neighbors nearby, you need to show consideration.

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You should think about when in the day you saw so that you do not start early on a Saturday morning or go on late into the night. It is also not wrong to tell your neighbors in advance when and for how long you plan to use the chainsaw.

How long guide bar do I need?

I chose to address the bar length of chainsaws as a point because longer guide bars are more difficult to work with. The long sword makes precision work more difficult, and the saw can be difficult to balance and control.

I believe that a bar length of 16 inches is sufficient for regular garden work and felling smaller trees. Longer bars may be required when felling and sawing large trunks. A longer sword can be useful when trimming high hedges, but I believe that as a beginner, you should invest in a shorter sword so that you have complete control over the sawing.

Does a chainsaw vibrate a lot?

Sawing with a chainsaw that vibrates a lot will become difficult very quickly. Given the weight of the saw work, attempting to counteract the saw’s vibrations adds to the load. The vibrations not only make the job more difficult, but they can also cause permanent vibration damage in the person who frequently saws with a strongly vibrating chainsaw. When it comes to finding a chainsaw that does not vibrate as much, you should expect to pay a little more. If the saw will be used frequently, it is well worth the extra money to get a saw with as little vibration as possible. This is also true if you intend to do any precision sawing. You can settle for a less expensive model that does not prioritize vibration damping as much for more spontaneous, short, and simple work.

Safety Guidelines around chainsaws

Thousands of chainsaw accidents occur every year (36,000 according to the CDC), so it is important to have respect for this powerful tool. It is easy to believe that these accidents are simply the result of slipping and sawing yourself in the foot or leg. However, at least as many accidents are caused by wood chips flying from the trees or materials you are sawing in. As a result, it is critical that the chainsaw you select has adequate safety features.

Important protection functions

For example, a chainsaw must have good throw protection or a chain brake that strikes if the chain comes off. The way this protection works varies by model. The most common scenario is that the saw breaks the chain when it comes off, but there are other options. Another important safety feature is the chainsaw’s easily accessible stop button. Another good safety precaution is that the chainsaw can only be started by simultaneously pressing two buttons. This reduces the likelihood of children accidentally starting the saw.

Protective clothing

There is no law that requires you to wear protective clothing when working with a chainsaw today. However, given how many people are injured and even killed as a result of chainsaw work, I believe that everyone should work with the following equipment:

  • Protection boots or steel-capped boots that protect your feet from both the saw blade and heavy pieces of wood.
  • Protective pants or trousers that shield your legs if the chainsaw slips.
  • Protective helmet against falling branches.
  • Chainsaws are noisy tools, so use hearing protection.
  • A visor to shield the face and eyes from splinters.
  • Work gloves that shield the hands from splinters and provide a secure grip.
  • Saw jacket that shields the body and arms from the chain and branches.
  • As an added precaution, keep a first-aid kit nearby, especially if you work away from home.
  • For a full list of protective gear to consider, check out: All types of protective and safety equipment for chainsaw use
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It is important to note that no safety equipment is so good that it can replace a safe way of working! It may seem obvious, but you should never work with a chainsaw if you have alcohol in your system. This is a powerful tool that you cannot use while drinking a beer to quench your thirst.

For some tips on the best safety equipment you can use, please read: Best Protective Gear for Chainsaw use (Most Important clothes & Tips)

Safe Cutting Firewood
Chainsaw use with proper safety equipment

Chainsaw safety course

There are really good chainsaw handling courses available for those of you who really want to learn how to handle a chainsaw correctly. In addition to learning how to use a chainsaw safely, you will also learn how to plan the direction of the trees’ fall, how to avoid accidents, and much more. Both beginners and advanced users will find it extremely useful.

Is it better to buy a used or brand new Chainsaw?

Personally, I believe that as a beginner, you should purchase a new chainsaw. This is due to the difficulty in determining the condition of a used chainsaw. You have no idea how the saw was treated and maintained, which is critical for its service life. Also, older gasoline-powered models are frequently less fuel efficient. So, even if you save a few hundred dollars by purchasing a used model, the savings will be quickly depleted due to the vehicle’s high fuel consumption. Older electric models can also have efficiency issues because batteries can run out or chainsaws with cords can come loose or draw too much electricity.

If you still want to buy a used chainsaw, you should follow the steps below. If the previous owner did not replace the chain prior to the sale, you should purchase a new chain for the saw to ensure that it works properly. Check that the chainsaw’s throw protection, also known as the chain brake, works in case the chain comes off. Of course, you can always take the chainsaw in for service to ensure that it works properly.

Chainsaw maintenance

Your new chainsaw will last longer if you properly maintain it, just like everything else. As a result, you should always review the chain before starting and sawing. It should be reasonably tight, with a sufficient amount of chain oil, and it may need to be sharpened before sawing. After finishing the job, the chainsaw should be cleaned and wiped down. Also, ensure that the air filter has not become clogged; if this has occurred, it must be cleaned. For a detail guide on chainsaw maintenance, see: How to Service & Maintain your Chainsaw – Complete Beginner’s Guide.

What accessories do I need for the chainsaw?

To be able to maintain and take care of your chainsaw in the best way, you should always make sure to have chain oil, an extra chain, film template and rider template at home. The last two templates will help you sharpen the chain faster. For a more in depth list on all types of accessories that are available for chainsaws.

About the author

All my life, I enjoyed doing things with my hands and interacting with nature. I'm a self-taught carpenter, an angler, a hunter, an outdoorsman, an engineer, and an avid hiker. Not as agile as I was in my former years, I've decided to spend more time putting my experiences on paper.

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