Chainsaws: A Beginner’s Guide

When it comes to describing the different types of chainsaws that you can use and buy, or alternatively hire if this is what you want to do – there are really three (3) different types of chainsaws.

1, Electric Chainsaws – these operate off your standard electricity mains supply

2, Petrol Chainsaws – these run on unleaded petrol

3, Cordless Chainsaws – these run off a rechargeable battery pack

Which Is The Best Chainsaw?

These 3 different types of chain saws all have their own advantages, disadvantages, and characteristic differences between them.

For users with small gardens that are not too far from an electric supply point an electric chainsaw might be the best choice. By trailing an electric mains cable down the garden you can easily and speedily get to work with any make or model of electric chainsaw.

Electric models tend to be more aimed at the DIY / home user, who only need to use a tool of this type every so often. For that reason they also usually cost far less to buy than an equivalent petrol engined model.

If your garden is a fair distance away from your property, or if you need a saw to use elsewhere, maybe on a farm, an allotment, in a forest, or for business use on a customers premises or an estate, maybe as a tree surgeon or professional gardener or landscaper, you will need to consider the purchase of a suitable petrol chainsaw (or high power output cordless saw).

A petrol engined saw gives you the freedom of working without a trailing electric supply cable, hence making them more suitable for jobs anywhere as they are totally portable. Petrol chainsaws though tend to be heavier in weight than an electric one, and also need occasional maintenance to their engines, something which is totally irrelevant as regards an electric powered model.

The new range of cordless models (running off a rechargeable battery pack) are another consideration, being aimed at users who may of chosen to buy a petrol model but who want to keep the characteristics of an electric model too.

They currently offer the freedom of a petrol chainsaw (no mains cable needed) but with a reduced power output, with cutting performance similar to some of the smaller electric chainsaws that are available to buy.

As time goes on we’re sure that cordless models though will gain more in popularity, especially if their running time is considerable extended, and if the sale price starts to move a little downwards from what it is at the moment. At the time of publication of this article a cordless chain saw is more costly to buy than a pure electric one, but as you can expect they all have their individual benefits in certain areas.

Currently the cordless chainsaws from Stihl are starting to make good progress as far as ongoing development and their cordless models running times are concerned, and seem to be leading a fair amount of the marketplace with regards to this type of chain saws.

Their MSA 140C model for example is boasting a running time on a full charge for between 25 to 45 minutes dependent on the application, condition of the tools blade, and which battery pack is being used.

Stihl Cordless Chainsaw. MSA140 Model
Stihl Cordless Chainsaw


What is a chainsaw?

A chainsaw is a powered item of garden machinery (a saw) that cuts through timber (wood) by way of using a chain blade that rotates at a very high speed. The blade rotates around a part that is called a chain bar and is driven by usually an electric motor, a petrol engine, or a battery powered motor. It is used for tree felling, pruning, logging, and landscaping tasks.

Are chainsaws easy to use?

Chainsaws are easy use, but must be used correctly and in a safe way. Understandably many people are apprehensive about using a chain saw for the first time, and if used incorrectly or without correct preparation they can be a very dangerous tool. Operating instructions and issued guidelines allow owners and operators to use them in the easiest way.

Are chainsaws safe?

As long as all instructions and guidance is adhered to, you can become a competent and safe chainsaw user. It is also important to wear the correct safety wear and protective equipment. Maintenance of a chainsaw is also important, especially the condition of the saws cutting blade. The danger of using a chainsaw can be eliminated as long as all instructions are followed correctly.

Are petrol chainsaws heavier than electric ones?

Petrol engined models are usually heavier than electric models. This is because of the overall weight of the machines engine as well as the onboard weight of the fuel tank when full of petrol. Larger blade size models are also slightly heavier than smaller ones, due to the extra weight of the bigger metal chain bar and length of cutting chain fitted.

Are chainsaws hard to use?

A chainsaw is not hard to use as long as the operator learns how to use the saw correctly and in a safe way. New owners can research and learn how to use a chainsaw by reading recommended books such as the “homeowners complete guide to the chainsaw” by Brian J Ruth and Jen W Ruth, details on this book can be viewed here.

How to use a chainsaw book. The Homeowners Complete Guide To The Chainsaw
How to use a chainsaw book, Homeowners Complete Guide

Are chainsaws dangerous?

As with all power tools, there are lots of high risk and hazards associated with using a chainsaw. With care these can be prevented, common hazards are noise, vibration, injuries to hands, feet and eyes, danger from trees falling after being cut and felled.

Are chainsaw gloves necessary?

Operating a chainsaw requires you to take the necessary safety precautions. One of the most essential items of PPE are protective gloves. Always wear safety gloves when handling and using a chainsaw. The best chainsaw gloves need to be robust and strong, but allowing you to work as needed too.

Are chainsaw sharpeners any good?

Sharpeners for chainsaw blades are good at being a cost effective accessory to sharpen the blade on any chainsaw before it is totally worn out. Kits are available to buy that include everything to easily and correctly sharpen an entire cutting blade.

A recommended chainsaw sharpening kit set
A recommended chainsaw sharpening kit set

Are chainsaws 2 or 4 cycle?

Most petrol chainsaws are 2 cycle (2 stroke) but there are several that are now 4 cycle, notably the new Stihl 4-Mix models. These have a hybrid engine that are four stroke but which still use a petrol-oil mix as per traditional 2 stroke engines.

These particular models are more expensive to buy than 2 stroke models due to the technical nature of their engines, they are also heavy duty models at present only that are aimed at trade customers such as tree surgeons, professional gardeners, landscapers, and farmers.

Beginners that are looking to buy they first petrol chain saw or for a machine to just use at home would be better off purchasing a traditional 2 stroke model such as those from the likes of McCulloch, Cobra, Einhell, Hyundai, and Ryobi.

Does a chainsaw need engine oil?

All chainsaws need engine oil, with 2 stroke engines (2 cycle) requiring the oil to mixed with unleaded petrol (gasoline). This is needed to lubricate the machines engine. It’s also important not to use engine oil for the chain lubrication, it needs to be a specific chain oil such as the Oregon chain oil that we feature details on.

With regards to the engine oil that is needed to lubricate the internal parts that make up one of these gardening tools engine, for two stroke models you could consider purchasing oil such as the Draper 21032 1 Litre bottle of 2-stroke oil, the popular Stihl 0781 319 8410 bottle of 1 Litre oil, or the Oregon Fuxtec 5 Litres sized bottle of engine oil.

Does a chainsaw need chain oil?

Don’t make the mistake of using regular motor oil to lubricate your saws bar and cutting chain. Although you could be tempted to use some of the engine oil that you have in your garage or garden shed for your cars engine, it won’t have the necessary properties and specification to be used as a chain oil.

All chainsaw manufacturers operator manuals specify that you need to use a correct bar and chain oil. As well needing the correct lubrication properties bar and chain oil has a high adhesive quality to it that prevents it flinging off as it travels around the machines drive sprocket and guide bar. It is formulated for this specifically where as other types of oil are not.

Recommended Chainsaw Oil - Oregon 1L Bottle of Chain Oil
Recommended Chainsaw Oil – Oregon 1L Bottle of Chain Oil

When does a chainsaw need sharpening?

There are several indications for beginners to look out for to tell them when a chainsaw needs sharpening. Some of the main ones are the saw slowing down in it’s cutting performance and starting to burn the wood as it struggles to cut. Another one is the saws bar to start jumping and bucking. You may also experience smoke coming from the wood or log due to excessive heat being produced because it need re-sharpening.

Another sign is that your saw might start pulling to the left or right side as you try cutting through a log or section of wood. Generally, most loop blades on chainsaws can be sharpened around 5 to 10 times until they need a replacement blade being fitted, it all though depends on how worn they are or if they have simply had the odd tooth on the blade catch some soil and need resharpening to correct the damage that has been done.

How to start a chainsaw

Starting a chainsaw depends on the exact make and model of chainsaw, it’s engine type, and also whether the engine needs to be started from cold or when hot. Most 2 stroke (2 cycle) engines have a manual choke control that needs using to allow the fuel to air ratio to be right for the machine to start up and run. The same applies for the new Stihl 4-mix models.

It is industry standard for all chainsaws to have a pull-cord starter mechanism to get the tools engine started manually, some have an “easy start” system though where the “pulling action” on the “pull-cord” is eased as far as possible to the user, by way of an inertia spring recoil mechanism that is within the saws tool housing.

We recommend that users (and in particular beginners) follow the individual manufacturers user guides for instructions on how to start their particular chainsaw.

What is the easiest chainsaw to start?

The chainsaws that are the easiest ones to start are those that are fitted with “easy start” mechanisms on their pull-cord starters. These models reduce the starting effort needed to a very large degree compared to models that don’t have this as part of their manufacturers specification.

In addition it is worth noting that as long as the individual machine has been maintained as required and has fresh fuel mixed with the correct ratio of two stroke oil, the saw if not suffering from excessive wear and tear should start up easily.

Stihl have several models that features this system, it is those models that are advertised as having an ErgoStart.