7 Questions to Ask For How to Pick a Chainsaw

What kind of chainsaw should I buy? The first questions you should ask yourself. 

Ever thought of buying a chainsaw and didn’t know where to start? Hopefully, this starter guide will help. From someone who is only going to use a saw a couple of times a year to someone looking to have a workhorse, hopefully, this guide will help you narrow what kind of saw makes the most sense.

The key questions to ask yourself when buying a chainsaw

Clearing Trail on Conservation Corps

With so many different products out there, it’s hard to know where to start. Here, you can ask yourself several questions to dial in the kind of saw you want. The saws I am talking about here are primarily the Sthil Gas Powered saws. Husqvarna makes great saws too, but Sthil is what I know, and it’s all I buy so that I will speak within my knowledge base. 

#1 How much power do I really need?

  • How long do you plan to cut in one go? A couple hours or a whole day?
  • How often are you going to use the saw? Daily, weekly, monthly, annually?
  • How big is the lumber you need to cut? What is the diameter of the wood?

#2 How much of the maintenance, cleaning, sharpening do you plan to do yourself?

  • I plan mostly bring it into the shop to have anything done
  • A bit of my own and sometimes bring it in. 
  • I will probably do most of this on my own.

What features do I think are most important – How I picked my first chainsaw?

Stihl Chainsaw

I was a National Service Volunteer for the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa for two years and learned a lot from those years about saws. The first year I had the good fortune to use several kinds of Sthil chainsaws. The following year as a Field Specialist, I learned how to build a saw from the piston heads up. After that time, my folks were looking to get numerous trees removed from their property. It would have cost thousands and thousands of dollars, but instead, we made an agreement that I would take down and process all the trees in their backyard in exchange for the saw, tools, and all necessary PPE.

When It came down to my choice of what saw I wanted I used the questions above in order to make my determination. 

#3 Chainsaw Usage

  • I was going to use it daily. It was likely that I would cut for a whole day for most months of the year 
  • I was going to cut larger trees. The biggest cut tree that I was likely to need to cut was roughly 2’ so that would help gauge the size bar I would need for my saw, which I ended up picking a 20” bar.  

#4 Chainsaw Maintenance

  • I was willing to learn about maintenance. I figured since I knew how to do most of the work on the particular saw I wouldn’t have to take it in too often. Unfortunately, if I ever needed to do some overhaul work I don’t have some of the key tools needed to do that. However, my goal is never to treat my saw in such a way that would warrant an overhaul. 
  • I knew that I wanted the 362 because it is the saw I  am the most familiar with. It has the best air filter system, which helps lower the amount of maintenance overall. It is the saw I needed for the job and has the power, bar, and reliability I needed for big jobs.

#5 A Question of Size and Power of Chainsaws

Chainsaw Winter Minnesota - Picking a Chainsaw

How much power do I really need? When you are answering this, really, you are determining what size powerhead you need, which usually corresponds with the size of bar that you will want to run on your chain saw.

  • Most saws have a few different size bars that are acceptable on their saws. The power output does generally correspond with how saws are sold. Homeowner -> Farm and Ranch -> Professional. Lower to higher in that order. I wouldn’t recommend spending a bunch on the biggest baddest saw you find, and it’s a pain to deal with fallen limbs in the backyard with a huge powerhead running a 24” bar; it’s just too much saw for the job. So when looking for the right saw, think about what you will be using it for. 

#6 How much of the maintenance, cleaning, sharpening do you plan to do yourself?

SHT Trail Build - Picking a Chainsaw
  • Do I want a homeowner, farm and ranch, or pro saw? Homeowner saws are great for small jobs or infrequent use, a few times a year. Farm and ranch saws are awesome for those bigger jobs with the expectation that you are probably bringing them into the shop here and there for maintenance and tune-ups.
Bad Piston Head on a Chainsaw
Worn out piston head
  • Professional saws are meant for constant use with an expectation that the user is probably doing regular maintenance on them. Pro saws also don’t generally have features that prevent powerhead burnout so if you’re getting one of these make sure you’re confident in your use.  I’ve seen a new user burn out a piston head in a couple of days. 
  • What features do I think are most important? Features are often saw specific that it’s hard to nail this down without a spreadsheet. To distill it down there are usually two versions of each size saw. One that has more easy-to-use features and the other without. 

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