The chain saw. Love it or fear it, this workhorse has made its way into my DIY life after years of avoiding it. And? I’m totally mad I waited this long! A chain saw is a great tool for even the most entry level of projects, and, if you use good technique and follow the right precautions, totally safe to use. With autumn officially here, we’re taking a look at this essential piece of gear.
What makes a great chain saw.
There are a few things to look for when you purchase a chain saw: intended use, size, ergonomic design, and motor power source. All of these qualifications will also depend on how you plan on using your saw on a regular basis. Let’s break those down:
How you plan to use a chain saw will greatly determine what kind you need. If you plan on doing home landscaping, small trees and shrubs and small lumber chopping, an electric saw will be your best bet. It’s cheaper and more economical and requires less maintenance, but not nearly as powerful. Don’t expect to chop up some firewood in a few minutes with an electric saw.
Note: if you buy an electric saw, be sure to also buy a heavy gauge power cord to carry the power it requires.
The other option is a gas saw. These are my favorite solely on their power and lasting quality. Expect to chop up what you need within a few seconds, not minutes. For whatever reason, I’ve also found that gas saws are even built with better quality than any electric saw I’ve seen on the market. They’re a little more to deal with, but what we ultimately recommend if you’re investing in the tool.
For me, I use my saw to chop up small trees, sizing down large cuts of lumber and even some random artistic carving. For that reason, I chose an 18″ bar saw for about $150-200. This size keeps storage space to a minimum and the weight and cost down. You really only need something larger if you plan on felling large trees on a daily basis. And if you are, then you’re probably not reading this article.
Though a lot of the design of a saw will also flex the cost all over the place picking a saw with the right features can really make a difference in the saw. Look for features like automatic chain oiling, vibration reduction handles, metal bucking spikes (some are plastic) and a hard storage case.
Chain saw Upkeep
It’s important to take care with your investment of a chain saw by staying up on chain saw maintenance. Here’s a few things to do before and after each use of your saw.
- If your saw requires blended fuel, make sure you’re using the correct ratio. It will likely be something like 40:1 or 50:1 fuel to oil.
- Make sure your chain oil reservoir is filled. It’s bad news if your bar and chain burn up if it’s not properly, constantly being oiled.
- Check your chain tension. Some models come with tool-less adjustments and others require a few wrenches.
- Check for sawdust clogged areas. My saw has exhaust openings that face the sawdust blowout. So, I have to check and make sure the pipes aren’t clogged.
- Wipe down everything. Chain saws fling a lot of debris all over you and your saw. When you’re finished using it, a stiff brush or pneumatic air blower to clean it off.
Which One Should You Get?
If you live in a home with a yard, or own a fireplace or backyard fire pit (or, for that matter, a smoker), a chainsaw is the fastest and easiest way to make clean, fence-free cuts to break down logs, both those still connected in the ground and sized in your firewood pile.
If you’re ready to step it up, first, let’s discuss safety. Chainsaws are prone to kickback, so be sure you understand how to use yours properly. Read the manual and follow the instructions for feed rate to keep things smooth and clean. And, of course, be sure to wear proper safety equipment. This includes heavy duty boots and thick fabrics to protect your body, and ear protection, shatter-proof safety googles, and a dust mask or respirator. Don’t mess with this stuff, friends.
Alright, so what to buy. Most homeowners and DIYers want a two-stroke motor and an 16-20″ bar and chain assembly. We recommend the following for first timers.
- Remington RM5118R Rodeo 51cc 2-Cycle 18-Inch Gas Chainsaw – $199
Pictured here. A great balance of size, power, and price. Our #1 recommendation.
- Poulan P3314 14-Inch 33cc 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Chain Saw – $115
- Husqvarna 440E 16-Inch 40.9cc 2-Stroke X-Torq Gas Powered Chain Saw – $299
- Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch 50cc 2 Stroke Gas Powered Chain Saw – $199