What Size of Chainsaw Do I Need? — Best Bar Length For You

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Chainsaws may be a useful tool, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all, unlike the common notion. If you’re planning to invest in one, the question of how big is a must, and now you’ll wonder what all the different sizes are for. 

Here, we’ll guide and answer your questions on the size of chainsaw you need, plus a few buying tips.

How Do I Know the Right Chainsaw Size I Need?

Most people assume that measuring the chainsaw means the whole machine when it only means the cutting bar. The cutting bar is a piece that allows cutting through various materials, and it has a variety of sizes made for different cutting requirements. 

The larger the chainsaw, the more arduous the tasks it’s made for. Thus, to know a good chainsaw size, you must first identify the cutting task and the material you’re using it with. 

KIMO ‎9511B chainsaw

The length you need for your chainsaw depends on whether you’ll use it for bucking or felling medium trees or for smaller-scale projects like limbing and maintenance grooming. A chainsaw cutting bar varies from 6-20 inches, and the higher the number, the larger the chainsaw. 

Almost all six-inch chainsaws are electric, while other larger versions are typically gasoline-powered models. These larger models with 20-inch bars are commonly for personal home use too. 

If you’re still unsure of what size you will need, here’s a way to measure your chainsaw bar. 

  1. With a tape measure, measure from the bar’s tip to the chain at the furthest end of the bar. The furthest area is the base where the guide bar enters the housing. 
  2. For odd length measurements, round off the number to the nearest even number.
Husqvarna chainsaw

Correct Chainsaw Sizing

In choosing the appropriate chainsaw size, it’s vital to determine the type of usage. Thus here’s a guide to help you figure out this common dilemma.

Occasional Light Use

Light-use typically means general maintenance and pruning trees and shrubs in the chainsaw vocabulary. If you’re into occasional light cutting and pruning limbs, a cutting bar under 14 inches long is enough to cater to the task. 

Since there are no thick branches, you can work around the task even with novice-friendly models. Apart from this, these models are also electric and among the safest chainsaws on the market. 

Some also prefer pole saws, which have shorter cutting bars for occasional usage. This is commonly used when cutting thin long tree branches. 

Milwaukee M12 chainsaw

Moderate Use

We recommend considering a 16″ or 18″ inch long cutting bar for more moderate use. Most homeowners also prefer these medium-sized tools and consider them general-purpose cutting chainsaw bars, especially if they use them more than occasional light cuts. 

It can cut through logs and thick branches or when removing shrubs. Electric saws of the 16-18 inch cutting bars are also readily available, but gas-powered models are more common.

Heavy- Duty use

Consider a 20-inch long cutting bar if you’re planning to use your chainsaw for larger jobs and more arduous tasks. Bigger chainsaws are created for cutting thick tree trunks and large-diameter woods. 

Longer chainsaws are most commonly reserved for professional and commercial use since it requires a stronger handle and more mastery.

Remington chainsaw bar chain

Homeowners do not see heavy-duty chainsaws as necessary simply because they will consume bigger space and require more professional property maintenance. However, a larger chainsaw may be preferred if you’re living in rural areas and your task requires heavy-duty sawing. 

Top Considerations

Identify Your Daily Tasks

The most important question when determining the chainsaw size you need is to ask what work you will do with your chainsaw. To identify the size of your new chainsaw, figure out what chores you will do with it. 

Lighter chores require a smaller model, usually those smaller than 16 inches. If you’re cutting tree logs and thick branches, choose a 16 to 18-inch chainsaw. 

Black Max 16 Chainsaw

Rural properties require heavier-duty saws, and a 20-inch saw is best suited for cleaning bigger bushes and trees. Always remember that the larger the chainsaw is, the more difficult it is to use for a smaller and more detailed cutting requirement. 

There are other chainsaws larger than the 20-inch mark, and this may look more powerful, but never compromise chainsaw safety. A bigger chainsaw is tempting if you’re into big cutting jobs, but it’s heavier and more difficult to manage. 

Your Experience and Strength

A woodworker’s chainsaw command is a heavy factor in a chainsaw’s efficiency. Your chainsaw’s bar size dictates the amount and extent of wood you can cut, but so controls. 

Longer bars are heavier to control and require mastery due to exceptional kickback, which should always be anticipated, especially in heavy-duty cutting. To ensure enough power, apply more pressure to ensure that the chainsaw blade and teeth bite perfectly into the wood seams. 

Also, longer bars are more tiring to use since they are heavier. To guarantee safer use, choose a chainsaw with a lower kickback so you can have more control over your tool. 

cutting lumber with Echo chainsaw

We also recommend tailoring the chainsaw of choice to your cutting power since your physical strength is what fuels the chainsaw. When wielding a chainsaw, your physical power is very much required. 

One common reason why homeowners prefer electric chainsaws is that it’s lighter and less challenging to handle. Electric chainsaws have lightweight parts, but the only drawback with such is lesser cutting power than a gas chainsaw. 

Chainsaw Components (Bar Length, Engine, Guide Bar Length)

Another important factor to consider in knowing which chainsaw you will need is the chainsaw components. The guide bar and chain length dictate the chainsaw engine size. 

Hence, when choosing a saw, follow the rule of thumb, which says that the length of the chain bar should be 23 inches longer than the tree or limb’s diameter. This rule allows you to cut the tree in less than one pass. 

chainsaw bar

A longer bar requires more power and bigger engine displacement, which also means that it can trigger more fatigue for the user or operator if used for a long period of tie. Longer job timeframes also increase the chances of an accident, which is why we recommend scheduling breaks for every use, especially for larger chainsaws. 

Gas or Electric Type

A gas-powered chainsaw is more common, and most users end up winding with gas-powered models since it’s readily available in hardware shops. 

Meanwhile, electric chainsaws are quieter since they draw power from the circuit and not from the gas engine, making it easier to start. The downside of an electric chainsaw is that it gives lesser power than gas-powered chainsaws. 

An electric chainsaw is measured in amps, while a battery-powered one is measured in volts. 

WORX WG305 Electric Chainsaw

Measure the Chainsaw Up-Close

Measure your chainsaw closely to see whether it has different fittings, given that there are different models, especially for cutting large trees. 

Smaller chainsaws may look all the same at a glance, but you’ll notice that even a 16-inch chainsaw has huge differences compared to an 18-inch one. 

The Suggested Chainsaw Sizes For Every Task

Limb Pruning

In pruning jobs, a 6″ -10″ chainsaw is the handiest tool. Smaller bar lengths chainsaws can also accommodate thinner branches. 

Removing Branches

Removing branches will require more chainsaw length. Your regular small chainsaw may not work efficiently in cutting or removing branches, so we recommend using at least an 8″ to 12″ long chainsaw to make the task more painless. 

cutting branches with chainsaw

Small Trees

Take into account the tree’s trunk thickness when choosing a chainsaw size. Opt for a chainsaw with a 12″ to 14″ blade when felling small trees. 

Adjust the blade length depending on how chunky the trees are. 

Cutting Firewood

In splitting logs, using the correct size of chainsaw is vital, given that logs are very large. The size of chainsaw you will need to cut firewood should be around 14″ to 16″ to ensure the job gets done seamlessly.  

Cutting Medium Trees

When cutting down medium-sized trees, a larger chainsaw is required. A tree trunk sized around 14″ to 16″ needs a chainsaw of about 16″ to 18″ to cut the tree in one pass. 

For larger trees, we recommend leaving the task to professionals instead. However, if you’re more experienced with your saw, you might want to use a chainsaw 20″ long.

motor of Makita XCU04Z Cordless Chainsaw

What Happens When The Chainsaw is Too Long?

You’ll be more than tempted to buy a longer chainsaw because it has maximum cutting power, but always consider that chainsaws too long are dangerous too. 

Larger saws are heavier and have increased vibrations that will be difficult for starters to manage and master. To maximize your chainsaw use, choose one that’s manageable depending on your skills, mastery, and physical strength. 

Longer chainsaws also have heavier kickbacks, so do not purchase a chainsaw that’s too long for your desired use. Just opt for the version appropriate for your needs. 

What Happens If the Chainsaw Length Isn't Enough?

If you’re worried that your chainsaw that’s a little inch shorter than the wood will not cut, then you can shove your worries because it’s still possible to cut with a shorter chainsaw. The only drawback is that you’ll need to make a few more passes to cut thoroughly. 

Poulan Pro Chainsaw

However, using a smaller chainsaw is more difficult and will require more work since you have to cut in the opposite direction. Also, if the diameter of the log is too big, then a small chainsaw cannot draw the task. 

When to Use a Professional Grade Chainsaw

Using a professional grade chainsaw, or those chainsaws with bars above 20 inches and engines of 50cc, requires mastery and craftsmanship. 

This is why we don’t recommend amateurs to play with these great tools since it’s not safe and will be very dangerous for new woodworkers. If logging big trees is an occasional task, we suggest hiring professional ranchers instead.

Can a Chainsaw Be Customized?

Most name-brand chainsaws are easy to customize since they have slots for different bar types and blade types. You don’t need to bring these to the shop for tailoring or customization [1]

Echo CS-271T 12 In. Chainsaw blade

However, you need to confirm with the owner’s manual or the store from where you bought your saw whether the model you have allows substitution. This prevents you from damaging your saw, should it not be made for substitution. 

However, you can still customize the color if you’re keener on the aesthetic of your tools. 

Is it Recommended to Equip My Chainsaw With a Shorter Bar?

Yes, it is possible to equip your chainsaw with a shorter bar. Most units in the market can accommodate three sizes. But still, it all comes down to the manufacturer. 

Thus, check the chainsaw manual or learn more about the unit from the manufacturer before installing a new bar. Also, bear these in mind before replacing the bar with a shorter one:

McCulloch chainsaw

Oiler Nipple

A chain bar should be oiled regularly, and the part that ensures this is done regularly is the oiler nipple. It’s a vital component, especially with automatic oilers. 

The oiler nipple is also a factor when replacing your chainsaw bar. Locate the measurement by checking the pitch size and guard slots to know whether the new bar fits your housing. 

Chain

Changing the chainsaw bar when replacing the chains is compulsory, or else it will not fit right. Thus, ensuring that the guide links fit is also important to avoid the chain from falling off. 

If the chains are too large, there will be too much pressure, which may result in your chains snapping during rotation. To avoid hazards, ensure that the pitch measurement is similar to your new bar. 

Ryobi chainsaw

Sprocket

When changing the bars, consider the sprocket or the area where your chain’s drive links pass. The sprocket is designed to power the chain through the engine, and with fully functional chainsaws, the chain helps the sprocket efficiently. 

Do not simply replace parts, as it can be dangerous without thorough planning and checking. 

Conclusion

It’s crucial to consider the above essential factors to determine the size of chainsaw you need. The chainsaw size depends mostly on the job at hand. Use the two-inch rule to gauge the right chainsaw sizes for your working task. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

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