If there is a cardinal rule in yardening, it is never use a chain saw while standing on a ladder. Leave that job to the professionals.
I received an e-mail last week from a woman who wants to buy her husband a chain saw, but has no idea how to go about picking one out. The critical question is how does he plan to use this tool? After some back and forth with the emails, we determined that he needed a saw for cleaning up fallen branches from the many trees in their yard and for pruning the trees that need annual attention. They have planned a number of construction projects outside where a chainsaw will be a big help. Chain saws are real handy for cutting planks and posts.
My new friend had been looking at gasoline driven chain saws, when in fact her husband would probably be in great shape with a high end electric chain saw. It is easy for a beginner to buy more chain saw than is really needed to cover the jobs at hand.
Both the electric and the gas chain saws have been greatly improved in the past ten years in terms of power, safety features, and easy starts. While it can seem confusing sorting through all the bells and whistles available in chain saws, there are really only two considerations in making a purchase decision. You want to pay attention to the length of the cutting guide that holds the chain and then you want to find as much power as you can afford to drive a saw with that desired cutting length.
Length of Chain Saw
Chain saws will have chain guides from 10 inches to over 20 inches in length. Whether you buy an electric model or a gas model, most yardeners are best served with either a 14 inch saw or a 16 inch saw. Anything less is limiting in terms of what you can cut, and any larger is for people with major wood cutting requirements. If you are cutting down a tree, the rule of thumb is that you can cut down a tree with a diameter that is twice the length of the saw. With that said, I would never try to cut down a tree larger than one with a 12 inch diameter. Felling bigger trees can be very dangerous unless you know what you are doing. I leave those to professional arborists. With that caveat, the 14 inch or 16 inch saw will do most yard care jobs with ease.
Question of Power
When a chain is cutting wood, it is actually taking bites or chunks out of that wood at a very high speed. The effectiveness of the cutting process is directly related to the power that is driving that chain. If you overload an electric saw, you can burn out the motor. If you overload a gas saw, it will slow down and even stop cutting.
Electric chain saws are sold with a power rating of from 1.5 horse power to 3.5 horsepower. The price between the low power and the high power models is not all that great, so my bias is to always buy the most powerful model when you are buying an electric saw. Remember that an electric saw should not have a power cord longer than 100 feet; in some cases an important limitation.
The power of gas driven saws are measured in cubic centimeters or cc. The 14 inch and 16 inch saws will have a power rating from as low as 30 cc to as high as 48 cc. The difference from low to high is price. Any saw over 35 cc is going to handle any yardener type jobs, but if you can afford higher, go for it.
Whether the saw is electric or gas, if you buy the high end in power rating you will usually be getting the highest quality features such as automatic oiling of the chain guide, chain brake, inertia brake and low vibration design.
Learning The Rules
Anyone can learn how to use a string trimmer all by themselves. However, no one should use a chain saw without having an experienced cutter demonstrate proper technique and safety habits. If you can’t find a friend with lots of experience with a chain saw, check around to see if any retailer gives classes on chain saw operation. In any case, be sure to buy at least one book about chain saws and read it carefully before firing up that handy but dangerous tool.
For much more detail about choosing a chainsaw go to our website www.yardener.com.