Petrol-powered chainsaw buying guide
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff117 guides
- Guide length
- Engine capacity
How does a chainsaw work?
A petrol engine drives a chain equipped with teeth around a structure called the "guide". The longer the guide, the more powerful the chainsaw. The sharper the teeth, the greater the risks - blade recoil, jumping...
What are the different types of chainsaw?
Each type of chainsaw corresponds to a specific use and working context; don't mix them up!
The felling saw with guide length > 45cm is intended for professional use, including intensive felling work. A little trickier to handle and equipped with a high-power petrol engine (2500–6500W), the felling saw requires experience to be used safely. Its cutting length varies from 45 to over 80cm. Due to its bulk, the felling saw is impractical for pruning.
The pruning saw is lightweight , easy to handle and has a guide length under 35cm. Intended specifically for cutting and pruning branches, the pruning saw is held in one hand - making it highly practical but also dangerous for the inexperienced.
The pole pruner is very practical for reaching high branches without having to climb a tree or ladder. The engine is located near the controls, while the chain and its guide are at the far end of a pole. Poles may be rigid or telescopic. The cutting head can generally be tilted to different angles.
What factors should I take into account when choosing my chainsaw?
Before investing in a chainsaw, it's important to make a proper assessment of your needs. If you want to cut wood once a year in preparation for winter, or if you cut down trees all day for a living, you can imagine that the type of machine you need will be quite different. Here are some guidelines to assist you in your choice.
Pruning and regular tree maintenance
For regular use on trees and branches, choose a pole pruner. Its engine capacity is between 20 and 35cm3 and its guide length 20-35cm. For optimal ease of use, go for a telescopic pole.
For more intensive work, pruning from the ground with a pole is out of the question. Instead, choose a specific pruning chainsaw. Its guide length is 35cm max. and its engine power is 25–40cm3. Specific pruning saws are designed for use in one hand, so ideally choose a lightweight model - 3–4kg maximum. Beware, however, because even smaller pruning chainsaws are aimed at experienced users and professionals. There are many risks associated with using a chainsaw in only one hand - poor recoil control, chain skipping, injuries to the free hand, etc.
Frequent cutting, maintenance and felling use
For more regular use, choose a relatively powerful engine (> 35cm3 ) and a versatile guide (up to 45cm). Using this type of saw safely and efficiently still requires experience; regular maintenance of oil levels, starter, chain and filters is essential. Choose a high-quality chainsaw (trusted brand) for regular use.
Intensive cutting and felling
You'll need to go in at the deep end! Depending on the type of felling, choose a suitable guide length between 45 and 55cm for trees of small to medium cross-section, and greater than 55cm for chunkier trunks. Same deal with engine power: you'll need 40cm3 minimum. As you may have gathered, engine power ratings pattern with guide length. If you do choose a more powerful model of chainsaw, make sure you know what you're doing - whether you're a seasoned home user or a professional. And of course this doesn't mean taking any unnecessary risks, either from the saw itself or from falling trees. Always wear appropriate protective gear.
What different types of chain are there?
All species of wood are different. For a start, they can be divided into softwoods and hardwoods. The density of the wood being variable, there are several types of cutting chain.
Square profile: also called "chisel", this is a profile found on powerful chainsaws and specific to hardwoods. It's found mostly on chainsaws with guide length over 45cm.
- Semi-chisel profile: an all-purpose chain type, this profile is suitable for medium and high-power chainsaws.
- Half-round profile: designed for low and medium-range models, it will cut any type of wood but wears quickly.
Round profile: specifically for softwoods, this type of chain can be mounted on any type of guide. Its bite is relatively soft, meaning that on hardwoods it cuts badly and wears quickly.
Chainsaws: what extra features are there?
What... You don't know what a chain brake is? Well then, let us explain!
- Chain brake: a safety device which stops the chain immediately in the event of loss of control.
- Anti-rebound system: To prevent rebounds, the links in the chain have hooks that make purchase on the wood before the limiters. Limiters... whassatthen? The chain consists of gouges (sharpened cutting teeth) with limiters in front that determine the depth of the cut. When the limiters are too low, the gouges bite in too deep and cause the chain to rebound. The hooks therefore help to limit the force of this rebound.
- Capacity: expresses the power of the engine. The higher it is, the more powerful the engine. Expressed in cm3.
- Hand start: basically you pull a handle attached to a ripcord (or launcher) to start the engine.
- Chain: the bit that cuts the wood of course! Made up of three types of link (trainer, limiter, gouge in that order), it must be kept sharp. The rotation rate of the chain is determined by the length of the links.
- Chain guide: the guide is the structure that holds the chain.
- Speed: rotation of the chain in m/s.
How to maintain your petrol-powered chainsaw?
On all types of chainsaw, the chain tension must be adjusted before each use. The same goes for checking the chain oil level.
Engine oil level, spark plug, air filter and petrol must also be checked regularly - at the beginning and end of the season and regularly depending on frequency of use.
Chainsaws: final advice before you make the cut...
A chainsaw is a relatively noisy machine; noise-cancelling helmet or headphones are essential.
In terms of good practice, avoid doing a tightrope walker routine on a rickety ladder and obviously don't make your youngest child hold the piece of wood you're cutting! When starting the machine, don't hold the chain guide between your legs - you might regret it.
Learn more about power saws...
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff 117 guides écrits
Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres; I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites.
for 4 years now, I am restaoring and bulding an extrension to a bungalow in the heart of the welsh countyside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electricty, anything goes! We have, my wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions, and to orientate and advise you on coosing your tools? Easy!
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