Getting the right saw for your needs

How to Buy a Chainsaw

by Debra Karplus

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Every time it's windy, your trees drop more sticks, many too wide to cut with loppers, in your yard. It might be time to buy a chainsaw. A chainsaw is definitely a tool to be treated with utmost respect. Purchasing the correct saw is crucial to getting the job done right. Consider how you will be using your new chainsaw. As you do with many of your purchases, you start with an internet search and then head to your local home improvement center, hardware store, or discount shop. The choices are overwhelming. Do you want your new saw to be gas-powered or electric? What length bar and chain is best for your individual needs?

How to Decide What Size Chainsaw You Need

Chainsaw size is determined by the length of the bar. When the saw is in use, the chain rapidly spins around this bar. Chainsaw bars come in as little as eight inches and can be purchased much larger, up to 24 inches. Professionals at the hardware or home improvement store can help you pick the appropriate size.

And while you're shopping, you actually need to pick up different saws to see if the saw's weight is right for you. Additionally, you want a handle that is the correct size and shape for your hand. Females looking for a good chainsaw might find this especially challenging, as many of the chainsaws on the market are designed for Paul Bunyon-sized hands.

Gas Versus Electric Chainsaws: Which Is Best for You?

Like many other outdoor tools, chainsaws are powered either by gas or electricity. In recent years, cordless electric chainsaws have appeared in stores, selling for about $120 for an eight-inch saw. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of saw.

Electric chainsaws are fairly lightweight, usually under about 15 pounds, making them relatively easy to transport or use. They require oil to keep moving parts well lubricated and prevent burning out the motor; a quart costs a couple dollars and should last for several seasons depending on use. Electric chainsaws are usually adequate for trimming done in your own backyard, and the bigger electric saws can handle wood destined for your fireplace or wood stove. A 16-inch electric saw costs about $100, a 20-inch is approximately $200.

But because you need to operate an electric chainsaw with a sturdy, long (50 to 100 feet) extension cord, there are some limitations on where you can use the saw. If you're planning to be in the woods cutting fallen trees, an electric saw won't be adequate mainly because of its lack of portability.

Gas-powered chainsaws are typically more powerful. That's usually a good thing depending on your needs. They're also more mobile since you don't have to drag around a cord. You can take a gas chain saw virtually anywhere. But compared to electric saws, they're heavier tools. They weigh over 15 pounds and as much as about 20 pounds, which does not include the additional weight of the gas-oil mixture inside the saw. Expect to pay as little as $200 for a 14-inch saw or as much as $500 for a 24-inch gas one. Many of these come with a carrying case, which you may or may not need.

Don't Buy a Chainsaw without Buying Appropriate Safety Gear

When operating a chain saw, even a small electric one, always adhere to safety. Purchase a set of plastic safety glasses, which cost $5 to $10. Also, you should purchase work gloves in your size, which usually cost less than $5. Make sure you own hard, closed-toe shoes. If not, most discount stores sell them. Always make sure your hair is completely pulled back. A small strand of hair caught in the moving chain could be lethal.

How to Maintain Your New Chainsaw

Take the time to read the operating manual. Be sure to clean wood chips and oil off the saw after each use. Periodically, you'll need to sharpen the chain. You can learn to do this yourself with a special sharpening tool that costs about $15 or take the chain to a professional who can do the job for about $10. Most saws come with a two-year warranty.

Some saws come fully assembled. Those that don't usually just need the bar and chain attached, which is a relatively simple task. Buying the correct chainsaw and using it responsibly will provide you many years of good service. A chainsaw could likely be a one-time purchase.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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