For many folks living in rural areas surrounded by acres of timber, a trusty chainsaw is an indispensable tool for handling all kinds of woodsy tasks. From felling towering pines to slicing logs into firewood, a quality chainsaw can make the job quicker, easier and safer. But with so many models and brands on the market, how do you know which power saw is right for your needs? We’ll walk through the key factors to consider when picking the best chainsaw for cutting down trees and chopping firewood.
Gas vs Electric Saws: Weighing the Pros and Cons
One of the first decisions is whether to go with a gas powered or electric chainsaw. Gas models are ideal for heavy duty use since they deliver more torque and can run continuously without having to recharge. However, they require fuel and oil mixes, produce fumes, and need more maintenance like spark plug and air filter changes. Electric chainsaws offer the perk of just plugging into an outlet or battery to run; no smelly gas cans to haul around.
They also vibrate less for more comfortable operation. Just know that cordless electric saws have limited runtime per charge, and corded models restrict your range of motion. For felling large timber, sturdy gas chainsaws still reign supreme. But electric models work fine for lighter tasks like cutting smaller trees or trimming branches.
Chain Types: Skip vs Full Chisel vs Semi-Chisel
You’ll also need to decide on the type of cutting chain for your power saw. This determines how aggressively the tool can bite into wood. Full chisel chains have sharp, pointed teeth that quickly rip through timber. However, they also dull faster unless the rakers are lowered. Skip tooth chains alternate between wide and narrow cutters to clear more sawdust and resist dulling.
But they can be grabby in dirty or frozen wood. Semi-chisel chains strike a balance between fast cutting and longevity, with beveled teeth. They hold an edge well without the aggressive tendencies of full chisel variants. Match your chain to the thickness and hardness of the wood you’ll be cutting most.
Bar Lengths: Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Chainsaw bars come in different lengths from 10″ up to 40″ or more. The rule of thumb is to size your bar according to the tree diameters you’ll encounter. Longer bars allow deeper cuts into thick trunks. But they’re heavier and require more power from the engine. Shorter bars weigh less and are easier to wield in tight spaces.
Long bars also tend to flex more unless you get a solid professional-grade saw. For routine firewood preparation and felling smaller trees, an 18 to 24″ bar should suffice for most users. Go bigger if tackling large timber on a regular basis.
Brand Breakdown: How the Major Players Stack Up
Now let’s dive into some of the leading chainsaw brands and models:
The German company Stihl stands at the top of the chainsaw food chain, with a reputation for exceptional performance, durability and reliability. The Stihl MS 462 remains a favorite of loggers and arborists for its raw power from a 79cc engine and tool-less chain adjustment. It’ll muscle through dense hardwoods while barely breaking a sweat.
Those seeking a lighter saw can opt for the MS 261 which still packs impressive cut speed and smooth handling into a sub-15lb package. Stihl chainsaws command premium prices but deliver outstanding results in the hands of both pros and avid homeowners.
Right on Stihl’s heels, Swedish brand Husqvarna churns out robust, full featured saws for both semi-pro and consumer use. The Husqvarna 460 Rancher gets high marks for its excellent power-to-weight ratio with a 60cc X-Torq engine and slimmed down chassis with no oil leaking issues. It starts easily even in frigid weather thanks to the Smart Start technology and air purge pump. The ergonomic rear handle promotes less fatigue over long work sessions. In terms of bang for buck, Husqvarna chainsaws are tough to beat.
For those who prefer battery-powered operation, Makita rules the roost. Their 40V 16″ Chainsaw delivers respectable cutting capacity in a slim, easy to handle package weighing just over 8 lbs. It runs quietly with minimal vibration. The instant start trigger switch lets you power up immediately without yanking a cord.
Plus it automatically applies chain brake when you release the trigger for safety. Cordless runtime is the main limitation, though a pair of 5Ah batteries yields decent endurance. For daylong firewood processing, the Makita UC4051A with Rapid Optimum Charger is a stellar electric choice.
Logging crews and ranchers seeking unflappable reliability often turn to Echo chainsaws. While they may lack some of the shiny new features of pricier brands, you can always count on an Echo power saw to start right up and keep running year after year.
The CS-590 Timber Wolf packs plenty of muscle with its 59.8cc power plant, yet weighs just 12.6lbs for greater control. It’s a workhorse saw able to withstand dust, dirt and even being dropped without skipping a beat. For folks wanting a quality saw at working class prices, Echo hits a sweet spot.
Safety First – Gear Up and Operate Safely
While we’ve covered some of the top chainsaw models, no power tool is safe on its own. You should always suit up in full protective garb before firing up a chainsaw. Sturdy boots, chainsaw chaps, gloves, helmet and eyewear are indispensable, along with hearing protection. Take time to review the owner’s manual and proper operating techniques.
Maintain a balanced stance, grip the saw firmly with both hands, and beware of kickback. Also keep your chain sharpened and correctly tensioned, and leave the chain brake on whenever the saw is idling. Exercise extreme caution when cutting, and your reward will be cord after cord of neatly chopped firewood!
Key Takeaways When Selecting the Best Chainsaw:
- Gas chainsaws offer more power but need maintenance, electric models provide convenience
- Match chain type to expected wood hardness and cutting speed needs
- Bar length should suit typical tree diameters you’ll be cutting
- Stihl saws are powerful and robust albeit pricey, Husqvarna provides excellent value
- Makita shines for battery-powered limbing/pruning tasks, Echo is a workhorse budget pick
- Use protective gear and smart operating technique for safety
Frequently Asked Questions About Chainsaws:
What’s the best brand of chainsaw overall?
For a combination of power, reliability and leading features, Stihl and Husqvarna are hard to top. Professional loggers and arborists often favor Stihl models.
How long should my chainsaw bar be?
Choose a bar length that matches the thickness of trees/logs you’ll be cutting, generally 18-24″ bars for average firewood use. Go longer for routine felling of large trees.
Do I need special safety equipment for chainsaw use?
Yes, you absolutely should wear protective items like chaps, helmet, visor, ear protection and boots when running a chainsaw to prevent severe injuries.
What maintenance does a chainsaw need?
Gas chainsaws require spark plug changes, air filter cleaning, chain sharpening and tensioning, and lubricating the bar. Follow the manual’s guidelines.
Why are some chainsaws much more expensive?
Higher priced chainsaws from brands like Stihl and Husqvarna use premium grade materials and engineering for increased durability, power and features. More casual users can often get by with budget models just fine.