They’re the ultimate mothers of destruction, but before you make a purchase you must ask yourself — what size chain saw do I need?
Choosing the correct machine mass and capacity can save you money, boost safety, and ensure that your powered cutting tool can cope with your most common projects.
This article gives you an in-depth explanation of the sizes of chainsaws — and how to make the correct purchasing decision.
How You Measure a Chainsaw
Before we get down to the chainsaw size you require — it’s important to understand how these brawny beasts are measured.
And, it’s not as simple as checking the dimensions of a door or piece of lumber — as there are generally four different ways of gauging a chainsaw:
The most basic method and easiest concept to grasp. Look at any manufacturer’s spec sheet for a particular saw model, and it will describe the tool in terms of its length, width, and depth — usually in inches, but sometimes in millimeters for those weird continental types.
The bar is the distinctive metal plate on which the chain is mounted and spins around — and can range anywhere from 10 to 30+ inches.
Cubic Capacity (cc)
The cubic capacity is the grunt behind the machine.
Consider it the same as your automobile. If someone asks you how big is your car engine, you don’t respond with — oh, it’s about 36 by 44 by 28 inches. Well, unless you’re my wife, I guess.
Instead, you’d proudly declare you’re the owner of a 6.8 liter — or 6800 cc — monster.
Chainsaws can be judged in the same terms — well, at least the gasoline-driven models. Their petrol motors range from about 32 cc up to an eye-watering 120 cc.
Wattage and Voltage
Although chainsaws are traditionally gas-powered, the market is now awash with both corded and battery-driven electric models. Often providing more convenient operation for casual users and home DIYers — as there’s little risk of fire, no trips to the gas station, and less chance to chop off your hand — they are measured in both watts and volts.
How Big a Chainsaw Do I Need?
Now you understand the four methods by which chainsaws are gauged — how do you know what metric to use to ascertain the correct sized machine for your project?
It depends on the demands of your job.
You need to consider the:
In short, how tough is your target material?
Thick hardwood tree trunks naturally demand more grunt than a few sticks of light kindling, so you naturally will need a higher-powered machine. The lowest brawn machines are the battery models, electric corded units have a little more muscle, with gasoline saws the most powerful.
For light pruning work and branch trimming, a cell-driven or mains lead electric machine with either 20 volts or 10-12 amps — such as the DeWalt DCCS620P1, will be sufficient. For medium thickness branches and small tree felling, opt for a 15-amp electric or 40 cc gasoline machine. And for seriously large tree chopping or milling (making trunks into planks), go for a 60 cc chainsaw — like the Husqvarna 460 — or above.
This is the point where the bar length comes into play.
If it’s too short, you will not be able to chop or cut wood in a single pass — not only increasing your workload, but it can also lead to splitting and imperfect shears.
Furthermore, there is also a chainsaw bar length v cc consideration. You need to ensure that the bar is suitably lengthy to tackle the wood size, but also that the engine grunt is sufficient to power through the density of the material. Naturally, larger diameter timber is tougher than smaller.
Here’s my brief guide to timber grades and the most suitable bar dimensions. The basic rule of thumb is — choose a bar that’s at least two inches larger than the wood diameter:
Limb Pruning – 6-Inch to 10-Inch Bar
If you’re just tidying up your garden with light trimming of hedges and shrubs with thinner branches — a 6-10 inch bar is ideal. That said, if the twigs are less than a couple of inches in diameter — don’t be lazy, just get out your manual handsaw.
Branch Removal – 8-Inch to 12-Inch Bar
Slightly more substantial timber branches on small to medium trees require a longer bar. To ensure an effortless single pass, utilize a chainsaw with an 8-12 inch bar.
Felling Smaller Trees – 12-Inch to 14-Inch Bar
Chopping down insubstantial trees and larger shrubs require a longer bar — usually around 12-14 inches. Bear in mind that some more stubborn flora, such as Camelia and Sambucus, will need at least a 45-50 cc motor to fell.
Splitting Logs for Firewood – 14-Inch to 16-Inch Bar
Dry, thick, and dense hardwood logs can be challenging. Always ensure they’re sufficiently secured before the address, and use a 14-16 inch bar with a gasoline motor unit.
Felling Trees – 16-Inch to 20+-Inches
The mother-of-all trees may require the mother-of-all chainsaws — even the biggest powered cutter may need more than one pass to fell a mature tree. Unless you’re a pro or seriously experienced amateur, I’d leave the chopping down of massive timber to the specialists — if you don’t want the trunk crashing down on you or your house.
Level of Experience and Strength
If we were in a bar drinking beer, and we began to ponder the three most dangerous power tools in the world (we’d already exhausted our conversations on politics, football, and the waitress’ pert breasts) — I’d declare they are the chainsaw, the chainsaw, and unsurprisingly, the chainsaw.
Sure, pointing a hammer drill at your knee or testing the temperature of a heat gun on your skin can cause some nasty damage — but they aren’t going to remove your head. However, a toothed, spinning blade rotating and screaming like a banshee a few inches away from your precious body could mean accidental decapitation or the loss of a valued limb.
If I were to give you just one piece of life-saving advice in this article, it would be this:
The best size chainsaw is determined by what you can safely handle.
You need a machine that’s suitably dimensioned and weighted for you to wield, without fatigue, for extended periods. If your arm strength begins to flag during operation, this can be extremely hazardous.
Furthermore, if you’ve never operated a chainsaw before, don’t go for a gasoline-driven machine with the grunt of a JCB and a bar that’s longer than your entire body.
Genuine novices should start with a low-voltage, small bar, cordless model. Then step up to a longer bar corded machine — and finally, when you have confidence and experience, only then should you go for a gasoline unit.
What Size Chain Saw Made Simple
I know what you’re thinking. You came here for some straightforward advice on selecting the correct-sized chainsaw, and instead, I’ve made matters worse by introducing you to a multiple of metrics and a cornucopia of considerations.
Worry not. Here’s my simple chainsaw size chart for choosing the perfect unit for the job:
|Casual Home Improver
|Large Felling Milling
Why Can’t I Just Choose the Longest Chainsaw?
Sure you can. Buy the biggest, beefiest, longest, and heaviest chainsaw possible — safe in the knowledge that whatever your project, nothing is going to be too challenging for your mammoth machine.
Just don’t complain to me via email when your bank balance is zero and you’re short in the hand department to the tune of one.
If nothing else, buying a unit that’s way over-specced for your project is a waste of your hard-earned dollars. There’s little point having a chainsaw that could bring down General Sherman in one pass — if your gardening jobs merely involve chopping a few twigs.
The bigger the machine, the harder it is to wield and maneuver. Furthermore, longer bar units increase the risk of kickback and vibration.
Instead purchase a unit that’s suitably sized for your anticipated project, within your experience capabilities, and within your budget.
When choosing your chainsaw, ensure that the bar length is suitable for the diameter of your timber. Check that the engine grunt is sufficient to tackle your target material’s density, and that its dimensions and weight are within your handling capability and experience.
I hope you thoroughly enjoyed this article, and found the information informative, interesting, and educational. And, if you have a friend or colleague you believe would also benefit from this What Size Chain Saw Do I Need discussion — please feel free to share!
Small, Medium, Or Large Chainsaw FAQs
Q: What Is the Best Chainsaw Size?
It depends on your projects. Ensure that the bar length is suitable for the diameter of your target timber, and that the engine grunt is sufficient to tackle the density of the material.
Q: What Is the Best Size Chainsaw for Home Use?
If you’re a casual home user or novice operative, I’d recommend opting for a cordless electric machine with a versatile 12-inch chain, such as the Black+Decker LCS1240.
Q: What Length of Chainsaw Do I Need?
Ensure that the bar length of your chainsaw is at least two inches longer than the diameter of your target material. This will allow you to cut the timber in one single pass.
Q: What Size Chainsaw Do I Need to Cut Firewood?
For small kindling, a six to 10-inch chainsaw bar will be sufficient. For more substantial firewood logs, consider a more generous 14 to 16-inch bar.