Chainsaws have changed a lot since the old days when they were heavy with gasoline and were wielded only by burly lumberjacks. Now there are smaller and more lightweight versions for the average homeowner to do basic yard maintenance. But is it a good idea to get one instead of calling the local landscaper?
A national chainsaw manufacturer’s beginners’ guide suggests first of all, not to purchase a saw if you don’t feel comfortable about handling one, because you will need to maintain a determined tight grip and firm control.
Chainsaws come in blade range sizes from 6 to 20 inches. A short blade of 6 to 12 inches on a lightweight corded or battery pack saw might be all you need for trimming back minor branches and separating fallen limbs into three foot sections for trash pickup. The corded and battery pack models are also easier to maintain and to store. They are quieter, too. However, they may not cut as strongly as a gas powered saw. The battery powered ones are the weakest, but there is sometimes no choice if your tree project is nowhere near an electric outlet.
Some lightweight chainsaws come with an extension pole to reach fairly high tree branches. Balancing the weight of the saw on such a long pole takes a lot more strength than one might imagine. If possible, try holding the store model above your head for a while to see if you can maneuver it well. Learn how long it takes before your arms tire out.
You want to get a saw whose blade is wider than the wood. A 6 to 14 inch saw is good for cutting down small trees, and 14 to 16 inches for most firewood.
Try to find an enclosed saw that shields the blade from the user, and has a chain brake that stops the saw instantly if it kicks backward, which can sometimes happen if the chain hits a wood knot or a nail, or if the nose of the blade strikes an object. You always want to start a cut from the center of the blade.
You will have to learn about keeping the chain tightened on the blade, and keeping the blade oiled. When it’s time to get the blade sharpened, take it to a lawnmower repair shop. Electric and battery powered saws only need to be wiped down after each use. However, gas-powered chainsaws will need annual maintenance – again, at a lawnmower repair shop. Blades also need to be replaced periodically.
So, before buying a chainsaw, think of all the activities you would do with it, find one with a blade size and energy source that is appropriate for your needs, and also consider how much time and effort you are willing to invest in it. If you might use it only once a year, it may be best to call the landscaper.