When it comes to choosing the right saw from the top-rated chainsaws, there are a few things we’ve learned. As when buying other common farm equipment, making the right choice when buying a chainsaw can save you a lot of time and hassle. The right chainsaw will make cutting wood easier, quicker, safer, and just more satisfying.
Always remember, a chainsaw is a dangerous tool which needs to be respected and handled with care. I once read there are over 30,000 injuries a year that are directly related to chainsaw use, so the right chainsaw for you is an important decision. A top-rated chainsaw is not a one size fits all on the farm tools list.
There are three main questions you need to ask yourself before you can feel confident you’re ready to choose from the top-rated chainsaws. The first question you have to ask yourself is simply, “What is my experience level?” Are you like my husband who’s been using a chainsaw since he was a teenager? Or have you just begun to learn the skill of using your own chainsaw?
A top-rated chainsaw is a must for today’s self-sufficient homesteader. You can cut wood to build anything from a chicken coop to a log cabin, not to mention cutting your own wood for your heating and cooking needs. Yes, you can do the same chores with hand saws, but that’s like a compact tractor comparison to a mule.
Three Main Categories of Chainsaws
- Chainsaws for homeowners.
- Chainsaws for farms and ranches.
- Chainsaws for the professional.
If you’re just starting out, you may want to look at getting started with a small homeowners size chainsaw with a 14- to 16-inch bar. Like a Stihl MS181C or the small Craftsman we had for years which had a 16-inch bar. Each of these has enough power to cut most size trees like the ones we used for the wood stove and fireplace. We use an average16-inch long log split from 20 to 30 inch in diameter rounds.
The homeowners class of top-rated chainsaws are loaded with features like easy to start engines and inertia-activated chain brake for increased safety.
If you’re just learning how to safely use a chainsaw, you need to make sure you start out with one you find easy to use and control.
You can always keep it for smaller jobs if you decide to upgrade to a larger more powerful chainsaw in the future. A smaller chainsaw is always nice to have around to teach others, you don’t want to give a professional chainsaw with a 20 plus inch bar and 52 cc plus engine to someone who does not know how to safely operate one.
If you’re using your chainsaw for more than the occasional yard work or storm cleanup, you may need to step up to the farm and ranch class. This is the most commonly chosen class among the top-rated chainsaws. If you want a more powerful chainsaw that can rip through harder wood and larger trees faster, this would be the class for you.
One of the features top-rated chainsaw companies include in this class are adjustable oil flow. This feature allows for the best control of chain and bar oiling depending on cutting conditions. This will help in keeping your chain from needing to be sharpened or replaced as often.
Farm and ranch chainsaws are used by most homesteaders who cut trees for firewood to heat their home and in clearing land. If you’re going to use your chainsaw for constructing outbuildings and cutting firewood, you may want to consider stepping up to a professional model.
Professional chainsaws are surprisingly light-weight. My husband likes his Stihl MS 361. The balanced and ergonomic design with vibration control makes using it all day not as tiring on the body. It is his saw of choice from the top-rated chainsaws.
These professional saws are used in our logging community. Our town’s mascot is Paul Bunyan! Most of my husband’s friends who work in the logging industry use Stihls as they can take the rigors of being used every day and continue to perform. Professional saws have longer warranties and a much higher price tag. These saws are top-of-the-line, so if you’re an occasional tree surgeon, it’s probably more saw than you’ll ever need.
The second question you need to ask yourself is, “How often am I going to use my chainsaw?” If you’re only going to use your chainsaw for the occasional storm cleanup or limbing up some trees in the yard, you may need to consider an electric or pole saw.
My husband has used a rechargeable chainsaw for small jobs around the farm the last few years and finds it to be light and easy to use. However, it’s pretty slow at cutting anything more than a couple inches around. It also struggles or won’t even cut some of the hardwood varieties like oak, ironwood, ash, hickory or maple.
Maybe, like us, there’s hardly a week that goes by when a chainsaw isn’t cranked and put to work. You would need to look at something in the farm and rancher categories. My husband will only buy a Stihl or Husqvarna. He believes, of all the top-rated chainsaws he’s used over the years, these two brands are the best for reliability and ease of use.
The final question you need to ask is, “How big are the trees I’m going to need to cut?” When answering this, you don’t need to go overboard and get a 42-inch bar. You can cut a tree 2.2 times the length of the bar you have. There’s no need to be sore from handling a huge saw, a sixteen-inch bar will cut a pretty big tree!
Something else that you may need to consider, especially if you’re going to be cutting a lot of wood, is a professional saw is designed so you can buy parts for and rebuild as needed. A homeowner’s saw is, if you use it a lot, designed to be discarded after a few years of continual use.
So you’ve answered the three questions and decided which class of chainsaw to buy, what now?
As with all farm equipment, from tractors and machinery to chainsaws, safety is one thing you must be sure about. There are standard safety features on all classes of top-rated chainsaws like inertia-activated chain brake, side chain tensioning and a chain catcher.
Make sure you find one with a good balance and feel to it. Handle it well before you purchase your saw. A saw which is easy and comfortable to use is a safer saw. Fatigue from using a saw which is too hard on your body can lead to injuries faster than most other factors.
Make sure you can reach all the controls easily when needed. Find a well-balanced machine with a good weight to balance ratio so you can feel confident in controlling your saw in a safe manner. After all, we are talking about a machine with a bunch of rotating steel teeth which doesn’t discriminate between wood or flesh and bone.
Make sure you choose a saw with the right torque and one you feel confident in handling the amount of power the chainsaw will generate. Some people are surprised at the horsepower a saw can have. It’s important for you to be ready for the speed your saw will run at. The more horsepower, the faster the chain will cut, but if it gets in a bind, that’s all the faster you will have to adjust to maintain control.
Do you have a model or type of saw you prefer? Do you have experienced tips to share with us?
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack
A special thanks to J, my husband, for all his patience and for sharing his experience with me.