How to Choose the Right Chainsaw

Cub Cadet ChainsawWhat features do you need in a chainsaw? How big of a chainsaw do you need? What’s the best type of engine for a chainsaw? If you’re looking for a new saw, there are a lot of choices you need to make. Here’s how you can answer these questions, so you can get exactly what you need.

How Often Will You Use Your Chainsaw?

While most lawn care equipment is divided into residential and commercial models, chainsaws also have a “farm and ranch” or “prosumer” category that fits somewhere in the middle. These categories target the amount of use the saw sees during its lifetime. Homeowners use saws a few times a year, large property owners may use their saws every few weeks, and professionals use them almost daily.

Like other equipment, moving up a category doesn’t just get you more power. Higher end models will have more vibration dampening and larger fuel tanks. That said, you will still get a kickback safety and an automatic bar oiler on any modern residential saw. Many of these models also include a spring-assisted starter, which makes the engine easier to turn over.

Weight, Power and Bar Size: Getting the Right Combination

Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily. Going for a bigger chainsaw gives you more power and lets you use a longer bar. However, you’re going to feel every extra pound after lugging it around all day. An arborist chainsaw can easily weight twice as much as a more residential-friendly model, and that difference is even greater with the bar installed. Using too big of a chainsaw doesn’t just make cutting harder, it also becomes a safety risk as your arms get tired. Kickbacks are more likely the longer the bar is, so it’s best to stick with a smaller chainsaw if you aren’t an experienced user.

Likewise, you should choose a guide bar based on the size of trees and branches you’re cutting. A longer bar can handle larger trees, but a shorter bar is more maneuverable. Your chainsaw’s bar should be at least two inches longer than whatever you are cutting. For the best performance, use a bar that is no more than two inches longer than the stock bar that came with your chainsaw. Anything longer will likely demand too much power from the engine.

Why are Most Chainsaws Two-Strokes?

A two-stroke engine draws in air and fuel and pushes out exhaust at the bottom of the piston stroke, then ignites the fuel/air mixture at the top of the stroke. The engine ignites fuel with every rotation of the crank, while a four-stroke ignites every two rotations. This increasing power. Oil is mixed into the fuel, circulating through the crankcase before entering the cylinder. There’s no need to have a separate lubrication system, so the engine stays lubricated no matter what angle it’s running at.

While emissions are an issue, two-strokes have largely fallen out of favor because they have a very narrow powerband. Slow down the engine, and power drops off significantly. In a chainsaw, this is a benefit. Normally, the engine runs at top speed. If the chain snags, the engine will stall, helping prevent kickback.

This is one problem that makes two strokes inconvenient: fuel sensitivity. Modern fuel goes stale quickly, and two-stroke engines are very sensitive to stale fuel. Manufacturers recommend using gasoline within one month of purchase, even if it was mixed with an off-the-shelf stabilizer. You can avoid problems by buying shelf-stable pre-mixed fuel like Echo’s Red Armor, or two-stroke oil with added stabilizers, like Shindaiwa’s One oil. These formulas keep fuel fresher longer.

What Do I Need to Get With My Chainsaw to Use It?

Good safety equipment is a must. Eye protection keeps sawdust at bay. Non-slip shoes or boots help you keep your footing while hearing protection blocks engine noise. You can protect your hands and reduce fatigue by wearing anti-vibration gloves. Heavy pants are good for protection, but chainsaw pants or chaps are better. Look for a pair that meets the ASTM F1897 standard. These have a Kevlar layer that binds up the chain before it can cut your legs.

The saw should feed itself into the wood. If you find that you have to pull the saw forward and back to get it to cut, the chain is dull. Either pick up a chain sharpening kit or have your chain professionally sharpened when you start having cutting problems.

Get the Right Chainsaw for Your Needs

Shank’s Lawn Equipment carries a wide range of outdoor equipment, including chainsaws from Echo and Shindaiwa. We can help you find a saw and bar that fits your needs, and we have the parts and service you need to keep it running. Our shop is located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA.

Need parts or accessories for your chainsaw? Visit our website, We can ship your order to any address in the U.S. or Canada.

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