Hot Topics: Chainsaw Recommendations

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Electric or gas? Used or brand new? Which brand? As always, the seasoned DIYers and pros in the Forum have some opinions, as well as some tips for making the most of this popular cutting implement.

Original Post: Chainsaw Recommendations

Arlo SC Member

After 20 or so years, we're ready to start cleaning up the backyard. The biggest trees I need to take down are maybe 24" around; most are much smaller. What brand and size chainsaw do folks recommend? I've used 18" and 20" saws at my father-in-law's farm over the years, but those strike me as being too big for my current and future needs.

alan73 Member

Top four brands in no particular order: Husqvarna, STIHL, ECHO, and Dolmar. I would probably look for a 50-60 cc range. It should be capable of using a 20-inch bar, but you can always put a smaller bar on it.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

For a cheap, small, lightweight saw I like my 14" Poulan, but I have a Husqvarna rancher for the bigger stuff.

geogrubb Member

Whatever you get, also get a saw file kit so you can sharpen it. It only takes 3-4 swipes per tooth and it will cut like new. Over the years I have been on the working end of everything from a Mercury Disston 2-man to an electric pole saw and have determined that unless you have a large property to maintain, a $59 electric 14-inch chainsaw and $69 extending pole saw from Harbor Freight is all you'll ever need. After the initial job is done, the gas saw will set a very long time between uses and when needed it won't start, you'll have to get fresh gas and 2-cycle oil, etc. The electric is always ready and you will be amazed at the power. I cut down with no problems a dead maple tree in my front yard that had a diameter more than the bar length. My gas Homelite hasn't started for about 10 years and was left with fuel in it; getting that started will be a project some day. The most important thing is to keep the bar oiled and the chain sharp.

Arlo SC Member

Thanks for the info, Geo. Anyone else have experience with electric saws? Or battery-powered ones?

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I have an electric chainsaw I inherited from my father. I rarely use it because gas is handier for me, but I will say that it does cut extremely well! No shortage of power.

Furd Member

I am in complete agreement that an electric chain saw is the preferred type when usage is few and far between. I have a Remington "Limb N Trim" dating back to the early 1970s that I've used to cut up trees that fell during a windstorm and remove overgrown trees. I think my saw has a 16-inch bar. I've cut trees with a much larger diameter by rolling the tree.

Even using a 100-foot extension cord had no detrimental effect, albeit it IS a #12 gauge cord. Do not use anything smaller than a #12 cord and all should be fine.

cheese Forum Topic Moderator

I can't imagine having to deal with a 24" tree with an electric saw or anything smaller than 50 cc. It can be done with a hatchet I guess, but somewhere there is a line where it's just not worth it. My recommendation is to get a Husqvarna, ECHO, or STIHL in 50cc or larger and a 18" bar. Like alan73 said, you can put a smaller bar on later. Learn to use it safely before running it—there are a lot of ways to get hurt faster than you'd think and a lot of ways to damage the saw, too. Using a smaller, weaker saw will result in frustration and fatigue, which both result in bad decision making and lack of concentration (not to mention taking twice as long or more). I suppose if you are smaller build and not able to handle a medium saw, the choices narrow. Just keep in mind that a chainsaw is not the tool with which you want to learn a lesson about quality and the right tool for the job. A good used one from Craigslist would be preferred to a new cheap one, IMO.

BFHFixit Forum Topic Moderator

I've never used a corded electric so have no comment, but I did have a battery Black and Decker with an 8" bar and, honestly, nippers or a bow saw was less work. I used my Husqvarna 36 w/18" bar for over 20 years, the last six of those years putting up 4-5 cords/year of maple, fir, alder, and cherry. Much of it > 24."

If you're doing it yearly, being able to run a longer bar is much easier on the back, but a smaller saw can and will do it, and is much easier for the limbing and regular trimming you might want for a yard.

Husqvarna or an older STIHL would be my first choice. The newer consumer STIHLS I see, however, I don't care for at all. I spent 22 years in the PNW and two brands were used by loggers: STIHL and Husqvarna. ECHO makes a good product and I don't see many saws in the shop, but I have never used one.

Furd Member

The key to using an electric chain saw is to have a sharp chain. Electric saws have enough power, but they do not have the power to bull a dull chain the way a gasoline-powered saw does. The ability to do no engine maintenance and store the saw for years, yet still have it ready to cut at a moment's notice, is what's best about an electric saw.

I would not recommend a battery-powered saw unless the battery fits other tools that will get significant usage. My experience is that seldom used battery-powered tools fail when you need them the most.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Any type of saw works better with a sharp chain.

I seldom use my electric chainsaw, but I was really impressed by how much power it has. My two gas saws are more convenient and I often cut where electricity isn't available. While I wouldn't want to use it when cutting something big, I really like my little Poulan as it's lighter than my Husqvarna (easier on my back) and for a small cheap saw I think it cuts real well. I've considered buying a battery-operated saw that uses the same battery as my cordless drill, but I'm not convinced I'd get enough use out of it to justify the price.

Wirepuller38 Member

I recommend a Husqvarna 36. I have that and a Husqvarna 266. Both are highly recommended for their intended purpose. The lighter 36 would be more suitable for a lot of clean-up.

I prefer chisel chains to chipper chains.

Get a properly sized file to match the size chain you have.

Clamping the bar in a vise makes sharpening much easier. This allows two hands on the file: one on the handle and the other on the tip.

aka Pedro Member

Cheese, I agree with not wanting to use an electric on a 24" tree. Arlo said "24 around," so maybe he can clarify, but I'm thinking 7-8" diameter, and that seems reasonable. Arlo, I have an electric that my father-in-law picked up for me at an auction quite a few years back and I really like it, except that most of where I want to use a chainsaw is farther from the house or shop than I care to run cords, so that's something to consider. And you have to be comfortable with the fact that it has been taken care of, but I definitely agree with checking Craigslist for something like this, whether you decide on gas or electric. Depending on how much you have to do and, again, how comfortable you are with the individual, you might find someone who would be interested in taking them down for the wood. We've had a couple of times that I felled trees and I sold the wood as-is; they cut it up and hauled it away.

Arlo SC Member

Thanks for the info and insight, everyone!

My biggest tree is about 24" around and 7-8" across. Since I plan to take down a handful of small trees and prune some dead limbs and it'll just be yearly yard maintenance in the future, an electric saw is sounding like the right tool.

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