6 Different Types of Chainsaws + Buying Guide

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Back in the day, chainsaws were straightforward tools, just a blade, chain, and a gas-powered engine. Now, you can find them in various sizes, colors, and styles, and some even come with high-tech features.

If you’re feeling swamped by all the choices, let me walk you through the different types of chainsaws and give you a few pointers on picking the perfect one for your needs.

6 Kinds of Chainsaws You Can Find Today

#1: Manual or Pocket Type Chainsaw

manual or pocket type chainsaw

Best used for:

Manual chainsaws are sometimes called “pocket chainsaws,” which isn’t just a name—you can put these in your pocket and take them with you.

A manual chainsaw comprises a chain with teeth on each end and two handles. To use it, wrap it around to what material you want to cut through and pull it backward and forwards repeatedly. 

It is as hard as it sounds and takes a long time, but it doesn’t cause any pollution, is almost silent and is very portable.

A good manual chainsaw can be bought at a store, but it’s easy to make one yourself. Attach some kind of grip to each chainsaw chain’s end, and you’re good to go.

Pros

Cons

#2: Battery-Powered Chainsaw

Kobalt 80v chainsaw and battery

Best used for:

This type of powered saw is the lightest and is usually powered by a lithium-ion battery that you can charge. If you haven’t tried using a battery-powered chainsaw, make sure to charge the battery a few hours before you start cutting.

However, each brand of rechargeable chainsaw has different battery life. Depending on how much you use it at once, you probably won’t be able to stay out in the field for more than a day before you have to go home to charge it. 

Most battery-powered chainsaws don’t have as much power, so they’re best for jobs like clearing and trimming in places where an extension cord won’t reach.

Note: When “cordless” chainsaw units are mentioned, they almost always refer to ones that run on batteries, even though gas and manual chainsaws don’t have cords either.

Pros

Cons

#3: Electric or Corded Chainsaw

Husqvarna 460 Rancher Chainsaw

Best used for:

Electric chainsaws don’t have engines. Instead, they have electric motors that make them work. So basically, an electric chainsaw won’t work unless you plug them into a power outlet. This makes electric saws less portable and useful (when the power is out).

The good side here is that corded electric chainsaws are very light and come with various bar length options. Corded electric chainsaws are a lot cheaper than gas-powered chainsaws. And since a corded electric chainsaw uses power, you can expect more cutting power as long as you have access to a power outlet. 

You can use a corded electric chainsaw around your house. If you have one-acre property, you can probably use an extension cord. Also, you’ll need to bring rechargeable batteries or a generator if you want to work further away. 

Pros

Cons

#4: Gas-Powered Chainsaw

Husqvarna 20-inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw

Best used for:

Gas-powered chainsaws are considered the most powerful, and both professionals and homeowners use them. This kind of chainsaw is the most popular one, particularly for beginners.

Gas chainsaws feature a two-stroke engine that runs on gas and needs to be oiled, just like a car. To start gas chainsaws, you must fill the fuel tank and pull the starter cord.

Actually, most homeowners only use gas chainsaws, which can cut through almost any size of wood. There are some drawbacks to these saws, though. They are big, loud, and smelly. And to use it safely, you must protect your ears and have a strong upper body.

Using a gas-powered chainsaw means there’s no cord required, making it the best choice for portability. It runs as long as there’s a fuel supply. In my line of work, gas chainsaws are less hassle than battery chainsaws, as bringing extra gas feels more convenient than bringing an extra rechargeable battery.

Overall, a gas chainsaw is a classic kind that has been around the longest. They are powerful and portable yet loud and heavy-weight. 

Pros

Cons

#5: Pole Saw

pole saw

Best used for:

Pole saws are like chainsaws on a stick. They cut off tree branches that a regular chainsaw would find hard to reach. 

This saw is great for cutting off dangerous branches that could hurt someone if they fell. However, most pole saws are shorter, with lesser cutting power than regular chainsaws.

Technically speaking, pole saws are not chainsaws, but they work similarly. Some are just handheld saws or saws that move back and forth with handles that are longer. 

But since chainsaws are the most common inspiration for pole saws, I thought they were worth mentioning here.

Most pole saws have triggers that allow you to use them from the other handle’s end. Some also allow you to lubricate the blade this way. What’s interesting about a pole saw is that it’s flexible. 

It can be gas-powered, battery-powered, or corded-electric-powered, like other kinds of chainsaws. But aside from that, there are also manual pole saws

Pros

Cons

#6: Pneumatic Chainsaw

air-powered pneumatic chainsaw

Best used for:

Surprisingly, this sixth kind of chainsaw can be even stronger than a gas chainsaw and doesn’t have as many moving parts.

This type of chainsaw is not common for home use but only for industrial purposes. Certainly, it works excellently (or even better) like any other type of chainsaw. 

Pneumatic chainsaws aren’t likely to be used in landscaping, so some homeowners buy these saws directly from the manufacturer. That said, you won’t find many of them on retail stores and online platforms like Amazon. 

Air pockets with high-pressure power pneumatic chainsaws. They can build up enough force to cut straight lines in metal and concrete, which makes them useful for construction work. 

They don’t make any pollution like a gas chainsaw. Some have systems that send water or oil to the blade to keep it from getting too hot.

Pros

Cons

Top Handle or Rear Handle Chainsaws?

Except for pole and manual chainsaws, there are two different types of chainsaws: the top handle and rear-handle saws. 

Top-handle chainsaws are used by arborists and other professionals who cut trees for a living. This chainsaw type is designed for cutting down trees at heights.

People who work with top-handle chainsaws often climb trees while wearing a harness. So, the top handle saw is for you if your work requires cutting at high heights. It will be easier for you to move the tool to high places. 

chainsaw on a rack

However, some professionals use smaller chainsaws for cutting firewood, logs, and any wooden materials from the ground. Bars and chains on top-handle chainsaws are 12 inches or less. (More of the ideal chainsaw bars here!)

In contrast, rear-handle chainsaws are mostly used by professionals and homeowners because the rear handle gives the user more control over the saw.

So, if you’re dealing with tasks like cutting up wood logs, trimming tree branches, felling trees, or chopping firewood—essentially any cutting job performed on the ground—then I recommend rear handle saws for you.

Uses of Chainsaws

A chainsaw can be used for the following tasks: 

Trimming Branches and Felling Trees

A chainsaw is the ideal tool for cutting down trees and branches effectively. Its portability allows for easy positioning on a ladder or stand, making it convenient to trim away branches that may obstruct your path.

tree felling

But it’s important to use this tool in the safest way possible. You can cut down trees of different sizes with the help of the right chainsaw. 

Lumber

After you have cut down a tree, consider turning it into something useful. For instance, a small chainsaw can cut the logs into lumber that can be used for various projects, such as building a deck or creating a bench. 

You can also use wood for framing a home or building a shed.

Furniture Making

Since most furniture is made from wood, you can definitely craft some for your own home. By using a chainsaw, whether it’s a gas chainsaw or a corded electric one, you can cut wood and construct a cabinet, rack, or any other piece you envision!

Wood Carving

You can transform a simple log into a beautiful statement piece with the help of a chainsaw. If you’re a creative individual, having a tool that you can use to your advantage can help you create your own unique pieces. 

chainsaw used for wood carving

Many online guides will teach you how to create a beautiful piece.

Chopping Firewood

If you have a fireplace in your house, you probably buy pre-cut wood or cut it up yourself. With a chainsaw, you can easily get the firewood you need in the easiest manner possible. Also, this power tool eliminates the need for you to move a tool around to get the firewood.

Chainsaw Buying Guide

Use

Manufacturers of chainsaws have designed them to be used by people with different needs. There are various types of models that are ideal for professional and occasional users. 

For instance, you sometimes need to cut down limbs or trees, and investing in a gas engine saw is unnecessary. You can settle for electric chainsaws or battery-powered ones. 

Size and Build

Before choosing your new chainsaw, you must decide on the size and build you want. Generally, you want a bar length that’s 2 inches longer than the length of the wood you’re going to cut.

DeWalt 20v chainsaws

This is ideal for one-pass cutting. However, it is not ideal for cutting large pieces of wood. You can still use a smaller bar length to make safer cuts. 

So, if you’re planning on cutting small branches, young trees, or soft foliage, a 12 to 14-inch model is ideal. Most electric models fall into this range due to their low cutting power.

But if you plan to take down larger branches or trunks, you’ll need to upgrade to a 16-inch bar length. This will likely cost you more than a high-end cordless model, but it should still be versatile and portable.

But if you’re getting ready to cut trees over 20 inches tall, I suggest you consider getting commercial chisel cutters that can handle the job at 36 inches. It’s likely going to cost you a few hundred dollars, but it should still get the job done.

Level of Experience

If you’re new to chainsaws, I’d recommend starting with a smaller model. They’re safer for beginners because they’re less powerful. I suggest battery-powered or corded electric model as good starter options.

Kobalt 80v cordless chainsaw

Safety Features

Different types of chainsaws offer various safety features. Check if the chainsaw you’re considering has the following features for safety: 

Price and Warranty

If you have a fixed budget, you might consider getting electric models instead of a more expensive one, like gas-powered ones. However, this depends on the kind of tool that you need.

An electric chainsaw is the best choice for most tasks, such as tree trimming, pruning, and cutting small trees for firewood. On the other hand, if you ought to perform more complex tasks, such as cutting large trees, you really need to opt for a gas saw model.

cutting tree trunk with Kobalt 80v Chainsaw

But aside from the price, make sure to consider the product warranty as a guarantee that the tool you’re investing in is worth it. 

Most chainsaw brands offer a 1-year to 2-year warranty. However, I highly recommend confirming the terms and conditions with the store or the manufacturer, just to be on the safe side.

Chainsaw Maintenance

Proper Storage

If you’re keeping your chainsaw outside in the shed or just lying around, you’re exposing it to harsh elements.

If you don’t keep your equipment properly sheathed, it can get damaged. In addition to keeping it sharp, you should also make sure that the chain is kept in good condition. And remember, the mortal enemy of metal is moisture –causing rust – so we highly recommend storing your chainsaw in the proper storage or sheathe it. 

Keeping the Chain Sharp

One of the most important factors you should consider when using a chainsaw is having sharp teeth. This will allow you to easily cut through various materials and make the tool safer to use. You can also invest in a filing kit to keep your chain sharper.

Redneck Convent Chainsaw Sharpener

Maintaining Proper Chain Tension

When you tug on the chain, it should always stay in its original position. If it’s too tight or too loose, it can cause the blade to stall and prevent the chainsaw from working properly. This is why knowing how to fix chain tension [1] properly is important.

To fix and maintain the chainsaw chain tension, refer to the steps below: 

  1. On the side guide bar panel, loosen the nuts.
  2. Check the tensioning screw and adjust it accordingly.
  3. After that, tighten the guide bar panel nuts. That’s it!

Changing the Oil Regularly

If your chain is not lubricated enough, it will not be able to move properly, and it will eventually break down. You must give it a good dose of chain and engine oil.

Cleaning the Air Filters (Gas-Powered Units)

Mainly, a gas-powered chainsaw relies on air to power its motor, and this filter helps keep dirt and dust out of the fuel supply. Therefore, cleaning air filters is crucial to maintaining your saw’s good running condition. 

husqvarna air filter

If you notice that your filter is getting dirty, replace it immediately. Doing so will allow you to keep your engine running for as long as possible.

Cleaning the Gas Tank (Gas-Powered Units)

Your chainsaw’s gas can start to break down if it isn’t used properly. This can cause sludge to form inside the carburetor, preventing it from working properly.

So when it’s time to clean your chainsaw, use fresh fuel. Doing so will help prevent issues with its performance.

Essential Chainsaw Safety Tips

While most chainsaws are made with safety features to minimize the risk of injury, using this machine is still a risky activity. So, it’s important to remember to use it responsibly to avoid hurting yourself.

If you’re an amateur user, I advise getting an anti-kickback chainsaw model. This will reduce the chances of the saw getting stuck and bouncing back in your direction.

chainsaw and protective gear

Before starting any task, wear safety gear as your protection in case something goes wrong during the process. 

Make sure to also prepare the following in advance:

Before you start working on your chainsaw, ensure that you have all the necessary equipment. This includes the oil tank, chain, and power source. Having these components checked will allow you to operate the saw safely and efficiently.

cutting a large tree with Kobalt 80v Chainsaw

One of the first rules of safe handling is to keep your hand off the trigger while preparing to cut. Also, keep your bar away from yourself and other people while keeping a safe distance from your target.

Besides, ensure that your environment is clear of debris and dirt that can interfere with your cutting process. You should also have a hand guard installed to keep your chainsaw from falling.

Lastly, when cutting wood, make sure that it is on a sturdy surface so it won’t slide.

Chainsaw Alternatives That are Safer

The term compact chainsaw refers to a type of tool designed with a protective outer structure that prevents the chain and bar from getting caught in your clothes or accidentally touching them. These chainsaws are usually designed to cut branches that are 4 inches thick.

One of the most popular chainsaw alternatives that are safer is the WORX JawSaw. It is an electric tool with a 6-inch bar and a pivot mechanism that allows it to move around the drive sprocket. This model also has a steel structure that looks like the jaws of a predatory animal.

cutting tree log with Milwaukee M18 Chainsaw

The handle and pump action lever at the rear of the JawSaw are designed to allow you to move the bar up and down in its jaws while keeping the user away from the debris and flying debris. 

This sweeping movement helps the saw cut through small branches and shrubs while keeping the user away from all the mess.

This saw also features a protective enclosure around the saw, which will keep the chain link from flying off your face if it gets damaged or snapped. It only weighs 8.1 pounds and has a self-tensioning chain, making it easy for younger teens and senior citizens to use.

This tool can be used to remove branches that are low and hanging, cut down fallen limbs, and trim hedges. It also supports an extension handle for easy use. Another alternative is the 20v cordless version of the JawSaw, the WG320. 

Greenworks Corded Chainsaw

I also recommend the Black + Decker LP1000 Alligator Lopper as a safe alternative to traditional loppers. Its long handles and a pair of pivot jaws enclosed in a 6×6-inch bar make it quite efficient.

FAQ

When and why were chainsaws invented?

In 1780, two doctors created the first chainsaw powered by a hand crank. The goal of the chainsaw before is to ease the removal of pelvic bone during childbirth. The first saw was made with a chain that had small teeth attached to it, similar to a kitchen knife. 

What size of chainsaw file will I need?

The file size you need depends on the chain pitch. The bigger the pitch, the higher the teeth cutting will be. The most common sizes of files are 5/32,” 3/16,” and 7/32.”

Where should I get my chainsaw sharpened?

You can sharpen your own chainsaw using a special file or by taking it to a specialist. Some hardware and home improvement stores will give you a free sharpening service. If your model has an ongoing warranty, the manufacturer might also be able to provide you with a service.

Can I use my chainsaw to remove tree stumps?

Yes, you can easily remove a tree’s stumps using a chainsaw. Just dig around the tree’s base and cut it as low as possible.

What are concrete and utility chainsaws?

For concrete and utility use, especially in industrial settings, the chainsaw for the job are pneumatic models. Among the different kinds of chainsaws, this is the only one that can cut through wood, metal, and concrete.  

Will I be able to use motor oil for my chainsaw?

Although motor oil is not ideal for powering up a chainsaw, it can temporarily be used as a lubricant. Ensure that the oil meets the correct weight rating and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards.

Will I be able to use mixed gas on my chainsaw?

Yes, you should use a mixture of oil and gasoline for your chainsaw. But you should use the right mix and ratio with the right temperature to keep it running smoothly.

Are all chainsaw chains universal?

Chains for chainsaws are not universal. You need a certain chain depending on the model and size of the bar you use. If the chain is too narrow or long, it won’t fit your equipment.

Can I use my chainsaw in the rain?

You can only use a chainsaw in the rain if it’s gas-powered. If you have an electric-powered saw, it’s not advisable as you can be prone to electrocution. 

Conclusion

The different types of chainsaw units available today have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, finding the right one is not a search for the best but a process that involves matching the tool to your needs. 

Nonetheless, these are all excellent choices for the size and amperage of your work. Determining the best among the rest all depends on your preference and what you’ll need the saw for. 

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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