Chain saws are the ultimate in landscaping power tools. The larger ones use gasoline powered engines to drive a sharp chain, a very efficient and very powerful tool for cutting down even large trees. Whether you need to keep clear your property, have a tradition of cutting down your own Christmas tree, want to get firewood before winter hits, or just plan to prune some of your trees yourself, a chainsaw is the fastest way to cut large branches and trunks. Chain saws can be powered by either gasoline or electricity; each has different advantages, as described below. Whichever you decide to use, you might want to read up on expert tips for maintaining tree health, especially if you are just doing maintenance and not removing the entire tree.
Whatever it is that you need a chain saw for, keep the following points in mind when shopping.
'''Gas or Electric?'''
One of the most important things to look at when shopping is the size and weight of a chain saw because that is what affects the power and maneuverability of the machine -- the two most important factors to consider.
* '''Size and Weight'''
** You MUST be able to control the saw in order to use it properly. Something too heavy will tire you out quickly and something too light may not be sufficient for completing the job.
** You may want to browse in stores a bit before ordering one online, since the feel in your hands is an important factor.
** When shopping, try to lift the chain saw and see how it feels in your hands. You'll quickly discover if it is a suitable weight.
** The larger and more powerful the chain saw, the heavier it will be.
** Before shopping, look at the types of jobs that you'll be doing and note the size branches or trunks you'll need to cut. This should help you determine what size machine you really need to get the job done.
** In brief:
*** While less powerful, a lighter weight electric chain saw might be the best for completing small jobs around the garden, such as pruning and trimming back small shrubs or bushes. For softer wood, such as pines or firs, a lighter duty machine will do the trick.
*** A larger gas powered chain saw is what you'll need to tackle serious tree-felling jobs, cutting up thick limbs and branches and for doing light construction jobs. Oak, maple and other hardwoods will require a bigger, more powerful machine.
*** The largest of chain saws (and tree-cutting jobs) are best left to the professionals.
* '''Bar Length '''
** Bar length is measured in inches and tells you how long the cutting portion of the saw is.
** The longer the bar, the bigger jobs the chain saw can handle.
*** For small and/or occasional jobs, choose a saw from 8" to 14" long. These small saws are usually of the electric variety and may be called mini-saws.
*** For frequent cutting and/or heavy-duty jobs, choose a saw from 14" to 20" long. These are usually of the gas variety.
** To figure out the size you need, do the math.
*** Take the maximum log size that you need to cut and divide it in half. That's the minimum size saw you'll need.
*** For example, 14" saw can cut through a 14" log with one pass. At best, it can cut through a 28" log.
** Saws larger than 20" are not for general consumer use.
* '''Cylinder Displacement & Horsepower'''
** This is measured in cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic inches (cu. in.), which tells you the engine size.
** Horsepower (hp) is also listed for power specifications. In short, 1 hp = 15 to 17 cc.
** What's the relation between cc and cu. in.? One cubic inch (cu. in.) is equal to 16.4 cubic centimeters (cc).
** Most chain saws are between 1.5 to 2.8 cu. in. or 24.5 to 46 cc.
Other Important Issues
* '''How easy is it to start?''' Look for models that feature quick start buttons and electric ignition.
* '''How easy is it to maintain?''' Look for an automatic chain oiler and air cleaning systems.
* '''How easy is it to use?''' Look for an anti-vibration feature to help reduce fatigue and chain tension adjusters.
The Stihl brand makes some great chain saws; however, they are not usually sold online. To find a dealer near you, click here. Other top picks, from ConsumerSearch.com, are discussed below.