PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
August 30, 2016

If you have even a handful of trees on your farm, then chances are you’re going to need a chainsaw at some point. Even if you have no intention of cutting down trees, windy weather and old age can cause trees to fall whether you like it or not, and because trees seem particularly fond of falling across driveways and others roads and paths, you’ll want a chainsaw on hand to cut them up and move them out of the way.

In addition, if you have a wood-burning stove and harvest trees from your farm to use as firewood, a chainsaw is a must-have tool. But as you may have discovered, chainsaws come in many different sizes and have many features to consider, making it tricky to pick the perfect model. To help you find the ideal chainsaw for you, here are some tips on what to look for.

How Long Is The Guide Bar?

The guide bar is what guides the chain that does the cutting, and its length is one of the most important features to consider. With a longer guide bar, you can cut larger trees, but with the tradeoff that the chainsaw will be heavier and harder to handle. Weight is a very important consideration with a chainsaw because you don’t want to get tired while using it and potentially cause an accident. Unless you’re a logging professional felling giant trees on a routine basis, you’ll probably find that a guide bar between 1 and 1½ feet in length is the ideal size for you.

Gas Or Electric?

Like many machines of this size, you can choose between chainsaws powered by gasoline engines or ones that run on electricity. Electric chainsaws, either battery-powered or corded, have obvious advantages. Like most electric machines, they’re lighter than their gasoline-powered counterparts and they don’t burn fuel, give off exhaust or need as much maintenance. The tradeoff is that they aren’t nearly as powerful, and most battery-powered chainsaws won’t be strong enough to saw through anything but the smallest tree trunks.

Safety Features

It goes without saying that chainsaws can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Handling the machine with care and caution will help you avoid problems, but choosing a model with extra safety features is still a good idea. These safety features include:

  • More than one throttle trigger: Some chainsaws require you to press two throttle triggers to engage the engine and start cutting; this safety feature can help prevent you from inadvertently putting the chainsaw in action at a bad time.
  • Vibration-reducing design: A heavy, rattling chainsaw can be cumbersome and tiring to handle; models that are designed to reduce vibrations on the handle are much easier and safer to use for long periods of time.
  • A narrow end to the guide bar: Sawing with the tip of the guide bar can cause your chainsaw to suddenly spring back at you; this is referred to as “kickback” and is dangerous. A guide bar that is as narrow as possible will reduce the problem area and help keep you safe.
  • A safe chain: Some chains are better designed to prevent kickback, and these “low-kickback” chains are a wise investment.
  • A chain brake: This is a lever positioned near the right hand grip that immediately stops the chain when pushed, and can be triggered automatically if the chainsaw kicks back.

Of course, there are other chainsaw features to consider, depending on the projects you intend to be working on, but this should help get you started on your way to buying the perfect one for your needs.


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