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Review: Best Chainsaws

Chainsaws may not be the number one item on the wish list of most do-it-yourself individuals, but there are times when these power tools just can’t be beat. Chainsaws may not be number one for those of us who don’t own a private forest we have to clear out. Rather, they’re a specialty tool, designed for cutting down trees and slicing up firewood; so they aren’t real useful for the individual looking to finish their basement. However, for those situations where the cutting power of a chainsaw is needed, there’s really nothing else that will do the job.

The key to any chainsaw is the chain itself. The multiple blades are attached to a bicycle-type chain which goes around a bar. The bar functions as a track for the chain, providing it with backing to give it stiffness and allows guiding the cut fairly accurately, although there’s really nothing precise about them. The best chainsaws in 2021 designed for fast cutting of green wood which cuts much differently than seasoned wood does.

You want to make sure the chainsaw you ultimately select meets your needs. The last thing you want to do is buy one, then later wish you'd gone a step larger; think things through carefully before making your selection. Our chainsaw buyer's guide can definitely help you with that.

Best Chainsaw

Best Poulan Electric Chain Saw

Poulan Electric Chain Saw

I give the Poulon Pro the number two spot on the list for being the biggest electric chain saw on the market. This one comes standard with an 18” chain bar. Everyone else tops out at 16”. They rate their motor at 4 HP, where everyone else is rating it by amperage. So, I think that the Makita has them beat for power. They’ve included an automatic chain oiler, to help protect the chain from excessive wear and breaking. It’s nice and light as well, weighing in at only 8 pounds. That beats the Makita by over 3 lbs. Unfortunately, Poulan doesn’t give a lot of specs on their website, so there’s some questions we still have about this saw.

Best Craftsman Electric Chainsaw

Craftsman Electric Chainsaw

When we’re talking about homeowner’s tools, we’ve got to take a good look at Craftsman. They’re the standard that everyone else compares themselves to. This chain saw comes with a 4 HP motor, drawing 15 amps. That’s an upgrade by 1/2 HP from its predecessor. The chain adjustment is tool-less for easier cutting, and it has an automatic oiler with a see-through tank, as well as an automatic chain tensioner. It also has an automatic chain break system that stops it instantly on kickback. This saw comes in a bit heavy at 17 pounds, which probably means that it has more metal in it. Like all Craftsman tools, it’s backed up by thousands of Sears stores everywhere.

best electric chain saw

Homelite Electric Chain Saw

Homelite is another outdoor product company, best known for their lawnmowers, weed eaters and leaf blowers. However, they also have a rather nice electric chain saw, which is considerably cheaper than the first three we looked at. For someone who doesn’t want to lay out a couple of hundred bucks on a chain saw, this is a good option to be looking at. The motor is 12 amp, making it not quite as powerful as our top three, but still respectable. The tool-less dial chain tightener and automatic chain oiler make it easy to work with. Like the others we’ve looked at, it comes with a 3/8” chain. It’s also only 8.5 pounds, making it the second lightest saw on this list. As a safety feature, there’s a safety tip on the end, to prevent kickback.

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Homelite Gas Chain Saw

I was actually rather surprised to find this chain saw available at this incredibly low price. While Homelite is a consumer brand and really isn’t heavy-duty enough for commercial applications, for the homeowner it’s plenty good enough. This saw comes with a 42cc engine, making it the largest of any on this list. It also has an 18” chain bar, making it the largest on this list in two categories. A three-point vibration dampening system helps reduce operator fatigue. It has an inertia activated chain brake for safety, and a safety tip to prevent kickback. There’s a side access chain tensioner, which makes it easier to make adjustments. They’ve also put in clear oil and fuel tanks, to make it easier to see when fluids need to be added. Speaking of which, the manufacturer recommends using pure gasoline, if possible, as a gasoline with ethanol added will reduce engine performance. A great bargain at this price.

Buyer's Guide

Chain saws are mostly gasoline-driven power tools, although there are some electric ones on the market as well. The reason for the gas engine is mostly to provide sufficient power. When you’re cutting through a tree branch or cutting down a whole tree, you need a lot of power to overcome the friction which is being built up.

If you look at a chainsaw’s chain, it will probably appear to you like there aren't enough blades on it. They’re typically spaced what seems to be quite far apart, with a lot of space being wasted. However, when you consider the amount of material each of those blades is taking out of whatever you’re cutting, the number of blades is actually quite adequate.

Sharp blades are important with a chain saw. The blades dull easily, mostly due to the fact that wood is a fibrous material and you’re cutting across the fiber. Many people take their chain saw blades to be sharpened, although you can get a sharpener and do it at home. You can even do a fairly decent job of sharpening them with a rat-tailed file.

A final word of caution; of all the power tools available, chainsaws are probably the most dangerous. Make sure you use every safety precaution there is, including safety goggles and gloves. Always be sure that the saw comes to a complete stop before setting it down. Finally, watch out for the tip which where the dreaded kickback comes from; in fact, many saws have a protector on the tip to prevent kickback from occurring.

Types of Chain Saws

Chainsaws basically break down into two categories based upon their power source, gas or electric. Here on Bestcovery, we also provide a third category which is budget chainsaws. Many people who buy a chainsaw only need it occasionally. If that’s your case, you may not need to spend a lot for a high end gas chainsaw.

Typically, the budget chain saws are smaller so you need to consider the size of the branches or tree trunks you will be cutting. Obviously, you don't want to buy a saw that's too small for your needs. In fact, you're probably better off buying one that's a bit bigger than needed as invariably something comes along where you have to cut something bigger than planned.

If you are an occasional user of your chainsaw, especially if you decide to buy a budget chainsaw, make sure that you fully drain it of gas before you store it. Gas left in the carburetor will gum it up, rendering the chainsaw inoperable. To drain it, stop the saw and pour the remaining gas in the tank back into your gas can. Then, restart the saw and allow it to run until it stalls due to gas starvation. This fully empties it and prevents gumming of the carburetor.

What about Electric?

Electric motors offer a great alternative for the occasional chainsaw user. Typically, they’re not quite as strong as the high-grade gasoline chainsaws, but some of the upper end models have hefty motors on them, allowing them to tackle larger logs than expected.

The big advantage of electric chainsaws is their low level of maintenance. Gas saws need to be maintained regularly, whereas electric ones merely need oil in the oiler. However, this great advantage is coupled with what can be seen as a fairly large disadvantage which is running electrical power to wherever you're going to use the chainsaw. If you have a large piece of property, an electric chain saw may not be practical.

What to Look for in a Chainsaw

Start your search for a chainsaw with the chain and bar size which is what is listed as the chainsaw's size. You can't cut logs that are thicker than the length of the chainsaw bar, minus a couple of inches. As an example, let's say that you buy a 16-inch chainsaw, the largest diameter log you could safely cut with it is 14-inches and that's a bit iffy. Two inches of extra length for the tip is an absolute minimum.

The chain and bar on a chainsaw are replaceable, allowing users to put longer or shorter bars on them. However, one word of caution about this; longer blades create more friction, requiring more power. So, if you buy a budget chain saw with a short bar, thinking all you have to do is replace the bar and chain with a larger one, you might be very disappointed. That smaller engine won't be able to provide the power you need for that larger cut.

Engine/Motor Size

Power is the key thing to look for in a chainsaw. Plainly put, the bigger the engine on a chainsaw, the better. A chainsaw with a larger engine is capable of cutting through larger logs. And even more important than the size of the log is dealing with hardwoods and burls. These harder woods require more force to cut which is another reason to have a big engine on your chain saw.

Almost all chainsaws come with built-in chain oilers. This is important to lubricate the interface between the chain and the bar. Without proper oiling, the chain will overheat and break. Always check the oil level in the automatic oiler before using a chain saw.

Ease of Use

Working with a chainsaw for a couple of hours can make you feel like your arms are going to shake out of their sockets, so operator comfort is a big issue, especially if you’re going to do a lot of cutting. This catch-all category includes things like padded handles, low vibration, easily adjustable chain tension, and units with centrifugal brakes add an extra layer of safety.

Bestcovery Staff
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