Guide written by:
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester
Structural work to carry out? Planning to build yourself a wood frame house? Bring the timber saw onboard! This high-power electric chainsaw will greatly facilitate work on large-section wood, making it the ultimate weapon in the carpenter's arsenal!
- Cutting capacity
- User comfort
Chainsaws and timber saws - what's the difference?
Never make this rookie mistake in front of a carpenter or you'll risk getting a slap in the face!
The electric timber saw we're talking about here is operated with twohandles on top - under which you find an aluminium baseplate holding the chain that cuts through wood.
Whereas a handheld logging chainsaw is operated with the strength of your arms and can cut in any direction, a timber saw is designed to slide along the piece of wood on its baseplate, in order to carry out edging work - longitudinal cuts in the direction of the wood - as well as cross-cuts - with ease and precision.
The possibilities are many: tenon / mortice joints; solidwood, glued laminate, insulatingpanels; stacked boards for rapid high-volume work... and the option of mounting your saw on a guide rail for perfectly straight linear cuts!
Which power rating and cutting capacity?
The smallest timber saws run at around 1600W, the most powerful at 2800W. The record goes to the monster machine with two 3000W motors - still running on single-phase electricity - which will make you a framework god and the envy of the neighbourhood!
Since power and engine speed go hand in hand, it follows that idle speeds range from 3000 to 21,000rpm for the most powerful models. This of course dictates cutting speed, but it's better to take your time and save money if you're only an occasional DIY user!
As regards cutting capacity, given typical timber sections, the smallest is 200mm while the big guns can cut up to 400mm! Just like a circular saw, the chain can be tilted for biased cuts: angles range from 0 to 60° on the majority of models. Essential for anyone planning to undertake joinery work, where angled cuts are king!
Finally, machines with a tilting front offer a slight benefit over others: allowing a 10° forwards tilt, their blades are less likely to overheat and chip evacuation is much improved when cutting large thicknesses. Depending on the cutting capacity and power rating, prices can really yo-yo - so it's up to you to think carefully about what you need: for carpentry and framework, a 3000W model with 260mm cutting depth will give you both versatility and efficiency without breaking the bank. No need to choose a beast with 2 motors and 400mm cutting depth for small-scale work... If you're a professional, however, you know what to do!
Other characteristics of a timber saw
Don't make your choice on power and cutting capacity alone.
There are a variety of features to improve user comfort and machine performance. As always - safety first!
Electronic safety system
The motor stops in case of overheating and / or overload and restarts after cooling down. Improves saw durability.
Choice of engine speed
Your choice of speed should be appropriate to the range of thicknesses you plan to cut.
To enhance braking speed, prevent engine and chain wear, and help to reduce accidents.
Never use your machine without it! It provides an obstacle between you and the chain, and also acts as a riving knife to avoid rejections when making edging cuts.
For the health of your lungs and your machine alike, you're best off connecting a vacuum, especially in an enclosed workshop space! All timber saws should come with a chip outlet compatible with workshop vacuum cleaners.
Weight rangesfrom6.5 to 24kg! your choice, but you'd be best advised to keep the really heavy machines for fixed workshop use.
Available in a range of adjustable lengths: 80cm for standard cutting - light and handy - and up to 300cm for beam edging. Make sure you obtain compatible clamps to secure it and ensure your safety.
Designed by trusted manufacturers that will do anything to make your life easier, the controls are quick, simple and effective. No need to worry with a decent timber saw! These days you can get automatic lubrication systems - with a separate oil tank - and even automatic chain changers!
Tips for choosing and using
Always use both hands to guide the machine, and fix the guide rail with sturdy clamps.
Safety goggles, hearing protection and safety shoes with good grip are all crucial to working safely. Keep your chain sharp and in good condition.
One last thing - don't confuse a timber saw with a chain mortiser (although the two machines are similar): some chains are designed for one rather than the other, or specifically for insulating materials, for instance.
Right, that's it. Time to get planning your dream chalet!
Learn more about woodworking tools...
To find out more about woodworking tools, follow our editors' advice and check out their other guides:
How to choose your chainsaw?
How to choose your circular saw?
How to choose your workshop vacuum cleaner?
How to choose your lubricant, oil and grease?
How to choose your protective eyewear?
How to choose your hearing protection?
How to choose your safety shoes?
How to choose your mortiser?
Guide written by:
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester, 27 guides
After some time busting my hump at construction, specifically at renovation, painting, carpentry, laying kitchen and bathroom tile, I decided to get my degree as a Carpenter. And I did well because nothing is more pleasant than working on a timber frame or designing a wooden house. Everything about woodworking fascinates me, and building my own home in this material is one of my goals. I’m also a follower of construction tools: I love to learn about innovations, the way they’re used, the tips and tricks, or the performances of each new tool on the market, whether it’s for woodworking or not. I would be happy to advise you and help you with your choices. Happy Tinkering.