That ultimate weapon in the armoury of the gardener, the chainsaw may be emblematic of blood-and-gore flicks, but, in fact, it is the most essential ‘must-have’ tool for the pruner, the landscaper and the woodsman.
A chainsaw is a somewhat intimidating tool and one that has received some bad press; consequently, many a hobbyist gardener may feel that it is a piece of equipment that is best left to the ‘pros’ to handle.
It is true that a chainsaw can be dangerous but also consider that a task that would take around an hour’s labour with a handsaw takes but five minutes, at most ten, with a chainsaw.
There was a first time in using a chainsaw for even the most experienced landscaping professional and so, for a hobbyist gardener to use a chainsaw he too has to have a ‘first time.’ What is important is to learn how to handle a chainsaw, take due safety precautions, and wear a full complement of safety gear including gardening shoes with reinforced uppers…and watch out for those notorious kickbacks! In addition, you need to be strong and fit to use a chainsaw.
Externally, a chainsaw comprises of a guide bar around which a segmented chain with teeth moves mechanically. With the chain moving at about 1500 metres per minute, the teeth saw through wood in short order.
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Although chainsaws are used to prune large limbs, fell entire trees, and buck a felled tree, the typical gardener would use his chainsaw to prune branches and saw logs. Therefore, we focus our review on the best electric chainsaws which are perfectly suited for these tasks and are a smart compromise between expensive and heavy-duty petrol chainsaws and more recent, lightweight battery-operated (cordless) ones.
Robust and reliable, Worx’s kit does not boast an array of features but exudes and delivers the paramount one: power. It sets the ‘bar.’
Cost: Price not available
Worx’s 2000-watt chainsaw is a monster and eats up big logs and trunks of 30 centimetres diameter and even up to 40 centimetres. The bar is 40 centimetres long and the chain travels at 12 metres per second.
This kit boasts a chain brake that stops the chain within half-a-second and an easy two-step chain tension adjustment system in which you set the tension manually after which it is automatically maintained – and Worx’s automatic system really works.
This kit’s steel bumper spikes distinctly increase stability by hugging the chainsaw to the object being sawn.
Unlike many chainsaws, the opening to the oil tank is at the top rather than the bottom making oiling much more convenient.
The Worx WG303E is very robust and reliable, as defects are few and far between. Unfortunately, now and again this chainsaw throws its chain. To avoid or alleviate this nuisance, adjust the tension correctly and check it regularly.
The standout feature of this chainsaw is that it exudes power, and it is indeed powerful yet it is surprisingly easy to handle. Also, even by electric chainsaw standards, the WG303E is very quiet.
Not a gripe but simply a heads-up: this Worx goes through oil like an old-time gas guzzler so keep a litre or two of oil at hand.
Perhaps the best thing about this kit is the truism, “No news is good news;” that is, there are no other niggles to report.
At only 4.8 kilogrammes this unit is ultra-light. It has a three-year guarantee upon registration.
- Robustness and reliability are paramount considerations and the WG303E has them in spades.
- Worth every watt of its 2000 watts but somehow feels even more powerful.
- Even though it is powerful, it is one of the lightest and most quiet electric chainsaws.
- Gas guzzler alert! This baby drinks bar oil like a ‘barfly’ so keep extra oil handy.
- Every once in a while, the chain gets thrown off the bar.
Very good operation, smooth sawing, useful features, and easy handling – so much chainsaw for so little dough is a downright steal.
Blaupunkt CS3000 generates 2200 watts of power and has a 40-centimetre bar. This sturdily-built kit is very powerful and sports a chain speed of 13 metres per second. It makes short work of tough hardwoods and easily saws logs of 25 centimetres diameter.
The good-sized knurled knob for on-the-fly chain tension adjustment is brilliant: easy to use and does the job perfectly. The steel gripping-claw is a cut above the rest and stabilises the chainsaw against the wood-piece.
The instructions are unhelpful for novices looking to put together the chainsaw and could cause a user to assemble it incorrectly; in turn, this may cause problems such as the main screw getting loose resulting in the chain derailing.
Although a trigger allows you to immediately stop the chain, this chainsaw has an additional safety feature: if a kickback is detected by the handguard, the motor and chain are automatically cut in less than 0.12 seconds.
Useful but under-the-radar features include a left-hand handle designed to allow it to be gripped at multiple positions, a transparent window on the side to let you monitor oil level, and top-filling oil tank.
At six kilogrammes this Blaupunkt is on the heavy side. Even so, handling it is a piece of cake, as much as handling a chainsaw can be.
The three-metre cable is ridiculously short; make sure to buy an extension cable. No starter bottle of bar oil is included so you will need to buy oil separately.
It has a three-year warranty upon registration.
- A low-fuss and low-maintenance chainsaw that is unusually easy to handle.
- This chainsaw’s special feature is several cleverly-designed useful features.
- Such a fine chainsaw at so low a price makes it by far the best value for money.
- The sub-par user-guide and instructions could use some improvement.
- Ridiculously short power cable of only three metres.
- Six-kilo weight means this bulky baby is no lightweight.
This feature-packed chainsaw is ideal for pruning smaller trees but – at some risk to the chain – can also handle heavier tasks.
This Makita’s 1800 watts of power drives the chain at up to 14.5 metres per second around the 40-centimetre bar. It easily cuts through limbs 30 centimetres in diameter but the 1800-Watt motor is not meant for thicker hardwoods.
The chain’s tension is adjusted with a lever; no tools are necessary. Unfortunately, it has a now-and-then bad habit of getting loose and also slipping off the bar. If this happens too often you may not be able to mount the chain at all.
Chances are you will not suffer any chain mishaps but be aware that the supplied chain gets blunted quicker than one might expect. Check and adjust the chain tension regularly and frequently to avoid major problems with the chain. The chain tensioner is flimsy and on occasion it itself breaks; avoid breakage by not tightening the chain to the max.
Makita’s UC4041A/2 has an automatically-triggered kickback brake. The transparent window on the oil tank allows you to monitor oil levels. The metal spike bumper to stabilise the chainsaw against the object being sawn is just adequate but the ergonomic soft grips are exactly that and are a real ‘plus.’
No starter bottle of bar oil is included so be sure to buy oil separately. At ten metres, the cable’s length is generous and makes you wish all chainsaw manufacturers supplied one equally long.
This kit is ultralight at 4.7 kilogrammes. It is on the pricy side compared to similar chainsaws.
It has a three-year warranty upon registration.
- Saws through thick logs more easily and quickly than you may expect from an 1800-watt electric chainsaw.
- An array of well-thought-out features to enhance user-friendliness.
- For many, the brand itself reflects a ‘pro’ – Makita.
- The chain gets thrown off the bar every now and again.
- The flimsy tensioner is prone to breaking and is the weak link in this chainsaw.
- Rather pricy among electric chainsaws in its class.
First-timers who trust the Bosch brand can try out this easily-handled saw but it is not suitable for heavy-duty sawing.
Cost: Price not available
Bosch’s AKE 40, not to be confused with models with marginally different identifiers, is powered by 1800 watts.
A handy kit for pruning branches and sawing logs of 20 centimetres in diameter, it can handle up to 30 centimetres too but sawing hardwoods of such thickness blunts the chain.
The instructions are poor and during assembly, it is all too easy to mount the chain in the wrong direction because of hard-to-spot tiny markings imprinted on the moulding. The directional triangles on the chain are also easy to miss.
This chain slips off a little too often. An aggravating factor is that the groove in which the chain fits is unforgiving. You can minimise the chain-throwing by ensuring that tension is optimal; the chain should have just a touch of play. Also check the tension regularly and frequently.
This Bosch is unduly sensitive to twigs and gunk getting inside the cover which causes the chain to slow down or cutting ability to degrade.
For a plastic kit, this chainsaw feels robust. It stands out for its excellent balance which makes control and handling that much easier, especially for greenhorns. Another virtue greenhorns may appreciate is that it is well-behaved and does not kick back as much as others. And releasing the trigger stops the chain almost instantaneously. It also runs very quietly.
Not even a vial of bar oil is included so remember to order some.
At five kilogrammes it’s not heavy but it’s not the lightest kit on the block either.
It has a three-year warranty upon registration.
- Excellent balance makes control and handling somewhat easier than the competition.
- Notwithstanding the chain-throwing problem, this is a very well-behaved kit.
- Very good trigger release to cut the chain near-instantaneously.
- This chainsaw is clearly more prone to throwing its chain than others which is a major drawback, so watch out for this problem.
- Gunk, chips, twigs and such get inside the cover resulting in this sensitive saw to shut up shop
- If you’re over-enthusiastic about sawing hardwood or thick logs you can blunt the chain.
If you want to take a chance on a well-designed product with hit-or-miss reliability, the price may be the tie-breaker.
The 2000 watts of the CS2040-GB operates its chain at 12.5 metres per second around a 40-centimetre bar. It is meant for sawing small-to-medium-sized branches.
Although the big tension-adjustment knob looks impressive, this B&D experiences chain derailments now and again.
Some units are defective, pointing to dodgy quality control. A few units may spark or burn; others simply give up the ghost after ten to twenty minutes of operation.
If your luck holds you may get a trouble-free unit. If you assemble it correctly, properly adjust the chain tension, and keep adjusting it as you saw, then you get a decent kit that saws smoothly and efficiently, taking care of logs and even trunks with a thickness of up to 30 centimetres. It has a good spiked bumper.
The chain is inadequate for the power and speed generated so if you force the saw, it will go blunt. It would be wise to buy a high-quality replacement chain.
A transparent window lets you inspect the oil level not that you’ll be worrying about it because this baby is unusual in consuming relatively little oil, hence repeated replenishment is not a concern.
The braking mechanism is excellent. On releasing the trigger the chain stops virtually instantaneously, actually within 0.15 seconds. Likewise, if the saw kicks back, power is cut. Also, the chain positioning ensures any kickback is a low one.
Bar oil is not included so do order a bottle.
On the heavy side at six kilogrammes, this kit is really easy on the pocket.
- Available at a bargain basement price.
- Excellent braking and equally excellent power cut-out in case of kickback.
- Instead of guzzling bar oil, this well-mannered unit merely sips it.
- Some units have one or another defect to the extent that the chainsaw may simply pack it in.
- Every now and again the chain gets thrown because of a dicey tension-adjustment system.
- The saw is prone to blunting a little too easily and quickly.
Are Electric Chainsaws As Good As Petrol?
Yes and no, for the answer depends on what you intend to use a chainsaw for. Petrol chainsaws are those heavyweight and heavy-duty chainsaws that one visualises in the hands of professional landscapers and brawny woodsmen. These chainsaws cannot be matched for felling and bucking trees, and for such tasks, they are better than electric chainsaws.
On the other hand, petrol chainsaws and electric chainsaws are equally good for less heavy tasks, such as pruning branches.
When one considers the facts that electric chainsaws are less expensive, start more easily, require less maintenance, and are lighter in weight, then one must conclude that for pruning branches and similar tasks, electric chainsaws are actually better than petrol ones.
How To Oil An Electric Chainsaw
Until the recent past chainsaws needed to be oiled manually using a thumb plunger. Nowadays chainsaws, including the ones reviewed above, incorporate built-in oiling systems.
These are of two kinds, fixed flow and adjustable flow. All you need to do is to make sure that the oil tank contains enough chain-and-bar oil, usually called chain oil or bar oil. Oil is pumped from the tank into two oil holes near the powerhead through which oil is moved to the gauge.
Though some manufacturers cover the oil tank with a transparent window through which you can see the oil level, you still need to top it up regularly.
Check your oil level using this tried-and-tested method. Before you start any task, turn on your chainsaw to close to full power as you hold its tip about two centimetres from an appropriate surface (such as a piece of old board or a stump). If the chainsaw does not throw drops and flecks of oil on the surface, it needs oil.
Kersie learnt the basics of gardening as a toddler, courtesy of his grandfather. In his youth he was an active gardener with a preference for flowering plants. He is a professional and vocational writer and his freelance projects have spanned various kinds of writing.