Nothing gets the yardwork done – or makes yardwork fun – quite like a good chainsaw. While it’s not necessarily a household essential, for those with plenty of foliage around their house (or just enjoy a good DIY job) a chainsaw can make quick work of that long list of weekend chores you’ve been meaning to get around to.
While walking into your local hardware store may seem like a treat, you’ll likely be met with plenty of brands, types and models of chainsaws to choose from, making the decision less cut and dry than you had originally thought. So, before you put on your best flannel shirt and think of which trees you could do without, read on to find out all you need to know about chainsaws and what to consider before buying one, in this Canstar Blue guide.
Types of chainsaws
While they might all appear to do the same job, there are a number of chainsaw types that you should be aware of before heading to the checkout, as one type of chainsaw may be better-suited to the job at hand. Types of chainsaws include:
- Gas-powered chainsaw: The most common chainsaw variant, gas-powered – otherwise known as petrol-powered chainsaws – traditionally use two-stroke fuel to power the engine, and come in a variety of sizes and weights.
- Battery-power chainsaw: Another common type of chainsaw, battery-powered chainsaws, as you would imagine, are powered by detachable batteries, and are generally quieter to run than gas-powered chainsaws.
- Corded chainsaw: An electrical model, corded chainsaws will need to be plugged into the wall socket to work, meaning they’ll be suitable for smaller backyards (or those who have plenty of extension cords).
- Pole chainsaw: Used to trim places you normally wouldn’t be able to reach, a pole chainsaw, otherwise simply known as a pole saw, is generally a small chainsaw attached to an extension pole to help you get the job done while staying safely on the ground.
- Pneumatic chainsaw: Predominantly only used for industrial jobs, pneumatic chainsaws are powered by highly pressurised air pockets, and can cut through concrete and metal.
- Manual chainsaw: Otherwise known as a pocket saw, a manual chainsaw is essentially the blade of a chainsaw detached from the rest of the tool, allowing you to manually saw something by pushing and pulling the chain. However, it’s not recommended for when you’ve got a big job ahead of you, and generally used by hikers or campers to collect firewood.
Things to consider when buying a chainsaw
It’s understandable that you might be unsure of which brand, model or type of chainsaw to go with. To help with this decision, here are a number of things to consider to help you rip into your chores rather than your bank account.
- Type: For backyard heroes, the choices are likely to be narrowed down to either a gas or electric model chainsaw. Gas chainsaws are traditionally more powerful, making them more suitable for larger jobs, while electric chainsaws are generally cheaper and quieter to operate, making them a bit more neighbour-friendly.
- Weight & Size: As you’ll likely be getting hands on with your chainsaw for a good amount of time, the weight and size of the unit itself can play a big part in which model is the best fit for your needs. After all, you don’t want to quit halfway through the job because your chainsaw is getting too heavy and awkward to safely operate.
- Engine capacity: Like a lawn mower or car, the engine capacity of your chainsaw can influence how much it can get done, with larger engine models best suited for commercial use or heavy use, while a smaller engine capacity may be more suitable for your around-the-house jobs.
- Use: What you plan on using your chainsaw is potentially the biggest deciding factor, as you’ll want to be using the right model and type to help get the job done. If you’re looking to chop down trees, a professional-grade model is your best bet, while if you’re looking to try your hand at wood sculpting, a lighter chainsaw may be the most suitable option. As a result, mapping out what you’ll be using your chainsaw for can help you find the best fit for the job.
- Price: As with any purchase, the price tag attached can often be the deciding factor in which chainsaw you take home with you. While you may be tempted by the flashiest model, expensive doesn’t always mean good value, so it pays to do your research.
How to properly maintain a chainsaw
If you’ve got a big job ahead of you, it’s worth giving your chainsaw some TLC to ensure it’s putting in as much effort as you are. Chainsaw maintenance tips include:
- Sharpening the teeth: The teeth are what does the cutting, so having blunt or dull teeth can mean the job takes longer and your chainsaw works harder, which may cause engine issues down the line. While you can always take it to get professionally sharpened, you can also buy a sharpening kit and do it yourself at home.
- Cleaning your chainsaw: Like other power tools, cleaning is a key part of proper maintenance, particularly as your chainsaw will likely be covered in wood and dust by the end of a hard day’s work. By wiping down the blade, chain and intake, you’ll ensure that the engine consistently works smoothly and is ready to roll for next time.
- Chain tension & lubrication: The chain is the main moving part of the unit, meaning how well your chainsaw works is dependent on how smoothly the chain moves. Occasionally lubricating ensures that the chains operates seamlessly, while checking the chain’s tension ensures that the unit continues to operate safely. Thankfully most chainsaws now include features to help you keep on top of it, but it may be worthwhile looking into a bit more for yourself to ensure you’re getting the most out of your chainsaw.
- Storage: Properly storing your chainsaw after use will help ensure its longevity, while investing in a sheath to protect the exposed blade will prevent it collecting dust if it’s a long time between uses.
Where to buy chainsaws
As one of the most common yard tools, you can find chainsaws at most power tool and outdoor retailers such as Mitre 10 or Bunnings, along with through third-party wholesalers or directly through the brands themselves.
Here are some of the more common brands available for you to consider.
Well-known within the power tool scene, Stihl offers a number of chainsaws for you to get your hands on, including petrol and electric models, as well as pole saws and industrial models for professional services.
Stihl’s petrol range kicks off with the MS 170 Mini Boss, which weighs 4kg and has a 14inch blade, ideal for smaller jobs such as pruning or cutting firewood. It also comes equipped with Stihl’s anti-vibration system for additional comfort, along with a single-lever master control for easy start up. Other petrol models include the 171, 180, 181 and 211, with the 211 coming with a 16inch blade, 270mL tank and side-mounted chain tensioner for additional safety and maintenance.
If you’re after an electric model, Stihl offers both cordless and battery-operated models, although you may not have much to choose from if you’re after a cordless chainsaw, with just two models available from Stihl. However, Stihl’s battery chainsaw range is more substantial, with its entry level model – the MSA 120 C-B – equipped with a 36V input and 12inch blade length, and features Stihl’s Ematic lubrication system for proper maintenance.
Another big-hitter of the home maintenance scene, Husqvarna offers a range of lawn trimmers, lawn mowers and, of course, chainsaws to help get your home looking its best. Husqvarna’s range is split into use categories, including a Casual range for homeowners, Professional range for those after something that can handle a hard day’s yakka, as well as subcategories to help you find exactly what you’re after.
Husqvarna’s Casual range starts with the 120 Mark II, available as either a petrol or battery model, and comes equipped with a 14inch blade, a 1.4kW engine output and air injection to help improve efficiency and keep the engine free from debris. If you’re after something with a bit more grunt to it but aren’t looking for anything too serious, the 440 e-series II may be more your speed, featuring an 18inch blade and 2.1kW engine output, and weighs over 5kg.
One of the most popular models within Husqvarna’s Professional range is the 550 XP Mark II chainsaw, which includes a 16inch blade length and 3.0kW engine output, along with an upgraded cooling system to handle longer working hours. It also includes AutoTune engine settings to save you from constantly calibrating the engine settings along with preventative vibration comforts to help increase user comfort while on the job.
Ryobi offers a number of electric and petrol-powered chainsaws, including a number of pole saws for you to consider if you have a few high spots to reach. Reasonably priced in comparison to other brands available, Ryobi’s range may be more affordable for those on a budget, but may not offer the same range of models either.
Ryobi’s petrol range includes a 38cc and 50cc model, each with an 18inch and 20inch blade length respectively. Both are fueled by 2-stroke fuel, with the 38cc model equipped with a 310mL fuel tank capacity, while the 50cc model bumps up the capacity to 570mL, with both additionally coming with protective covers and oil to help with maintenance.
Electric models make up the bulk of Ryobi’s range, including 18V and 36V models, with individual chainsaws and chainsaw kits available for purchase. Ryobi’s entry-level electric chainsaw is the 18V One+ model, and features a 10inch blade length, push-button oiling function and weighs in at under 3kg, allowing for easy use around the garden. Those after something a bit more serious might find the 36V 4.0Ah chainsaw more suitable, which includes a 14inch blade length and inertia-activated chain brake for user protection, with the model also coming with easy chain tension adjustments for optimal performance.
Black & Decker
Offering an electric-only lineup, power tool brand Black & Decker may not have the range as other brands, but offers enough variety to help you find something that fits the bill. Its flagship model – the 18V Cordless Chainsaw – weighs just over 3kg, includes a chain tension tightening feature for easy maintenance, as well as a front and top handle for improved comfort and control.
If you’re looking to trim something closer to the house, the corded 2200W model may be more your speed, and also includes an auto oil system for chain lubrication and Chain Brake System for user safety. Black & Decker additionally offer a pole saw model, the cordless Pole Pruner, for those hard to reach spaces, which has an additional reach of up to three metres alongside a 18V Lithium battery.
Offering plenty of home maintenance tools, including lawn mowers, blowers and trimmers, Makita’s range of chainsaws include both petrol and electric variants, along with individual chainsaws and kits, giving you plenty to choose from.
Makita’s electric chainsaw range includes models such as the 18Vx2 Brushless Chainsaw, which features a variable speed trigger, 16inch blade, adjustable chain oiling function and kickback brake for additional safety. If you’re after something smaller, the 18V Brushless Chainsaw may be more suitable, featuring a 10inch blade and weighs in at just over 3kg, making it easier to use and maneuver.
Makita’s petrol range includes a number of larger models, with a 16inch blade the smallest size available. If you’re after the largest model, the 79cc Chainsaw may be your best bet, featuring a 24inch blade and 4.3kW engine output to help you tackle the tough jobs. The 79cc model also includes a 750mL fuel tank capacity, 25mL oil tank capacity, although weighs over 6kg, meaning it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Another big-name brand of the power tool industry, Ozito offers a number of budget petrol and electric chainsaws, with kits and promotional bundles additionally available for those really looking to get stuck into the garden over the weekend. Ozito’s range also includes chain sharpening kits to help you keep on top of your maintenance schedule.
Ozito’s electric range includes models like the PXC 2x18V Brushless Chainsaw, featuring an automatic chain oiling system for easier maintenance, oil level window as well as a 14inch blade, making it suitable for DIY jobs and wood chopping. Other electric models include the ECS-1835, OCS-018, ECS-406A and PXCCSS-018, all of which cover different blade lengths and battery sizes to help you find the best fit for you budget and gardening needs.
Ozito’s petrol range isn’t as extensive as its electrical range, but includes 41cc and 25cc models, allowing you some choice in the decision. The 25cc PCD-254 model includes a 10inch blade, anti-vibration handle and safety chain brake for additional comfort and safety, while the 41cc PCS-406B chainsaw features a 16inch blade, 260mL fuel tank capacity and engine output of 1.5kW, making it more suitable for the bigger jobs you have on your list.
Is buying a chainsaw worth it?
Chainsaws can make quick work of your outside chores, provided you’re using the right tool for the job! While you may have survived so far on your trusty handsaw, a chainsaw can help you cut a path through an overgrown backyard, or tidy up trees to maintain that manicured look, and can prove to be a worthwhile investment if you have plenty to do. But while you may be tempted to wield the largest or most powerful chainsaw, looking into all of your options to find the best fit for your needs can save you some hassle down the road, allowing you to get plenty done in the backyard.
Picture credits: Parilov/shutterstock.com, dwphotos/shutterstock.com, Veres Production/shutterstock.com, VGstockstudio/shutterstock.com