Chainsaws - electric and battery models advance

Changing demand has driven the development of electric, cordless and petrol models, Sally Drury finds.

Tree surgeons: petrol-engined chainsaw remains at the heart of operators’ business - image: ECHO
Tree surgeons: petrol-engined chainsaw remains at the heart of operators’ business - image: ECHO

Not all that long ago an article about chainsaws for professional users would have considered only petrol models. However, over the past five or so years demand from the commercial gardening sector and other occasional users, along with the need for cleaner and quieter saws, has driven the development of more electric and cordless units. For tree surgeons, nevertheless, the petrol-engined chainsaw remains at the heart of the business.

The wide range of chainsaws available from Husqvarna means there is a model to suit whether you are a professional logger, tree surgeon, professional gardener or demanding homeowner.

The 550XP and 560XP professional units, with rapid acceleration and high chain speed, are optimised for precision cutting and make smooth work of limbing and felling tasks. Speaking of the new 550XP, Husqvarna trade marketing manager Andy Eastaugh says: "With a compact and lightweight design, this chainsaw is exceptionally responsive in fast-moving situations."

For those working within the tree, Husqvarna’s new T540XP is a professional low-weight top-handled chainsaw that combines first-class ergonomics with optimal power-to-weight ratio.

It is fitted with the X-Torq engine, making it even more powerful in relation to the weight of the machine while reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent and emissions by up to 75 per cent.

Echo also has two new top-handled models. Its CS-280TES is designed for comfort and has a wraparound handle that slopes back towards the operator’s body and thus affords a higher degree of control. It is fitted with a stage-2 emission compliant 26.9cc engine. With an output of 1.04kW, this makes the 280TES an impressive 20 per cent more powerful than its predecessor. The price is £340.83 + VAT.

More powerful is the CS-360TES top-handled saw. This has a powerful, stage-2 emission compliant 35.8cc engine with an output of 1.5kW. Again focusing on user comfort, this model has a tapered handle set at 18° to make it well balanced and comfortable to use. There is also a palm rest, adjustable to two sizes for greater comfort and reduced fatigue. Prices start from £410 + VAT and a two-year professional-use warranty is now available on all Echo tools, subject to registration and servicing.


Professional users

Another new Echo chainsaw likely to attract the attention of professional users is the 59.8cc CS-620SX, boasting the cutting performance of higher-capacity machines. In fact, it has an impressive 15 per cent improvement over its predecessor. This is due to its premium-grade high-torque engine, which has an output of 3.32kW.

Ideal for felling large trees, the saw has a dual-post chain-brake handle for durability and semi-automatic decompression for easy starting. Chain adjustment is from the side. Twin felling dawgs and SUGIHARA bar are supplied as standard. Prices start from £624.17 + VAT.

New chainsaws in the professional range from Makita include the EA6100P45D with 61cc two-stroke engine developing 4.5hp with a power rating of 3.4kW. The saw features the Makita-designed SAS stratified air scavenging system to ensure clean emissions while the compact and slimline engine installation makes the unit more manoeuvrable in forestry operations. It weighs just 6kg.

Disaster response team

Makita recently equipped DART — the Disaster Arborist Response Team — with 50cc, 79cc and top-handled chainsaws ready to deliver humanitarian aid and rescue services wherever needed in the world. The team aims to clear fallen or dangerous trees following natural and climatic disasters, opening up access for aid organisations as well as reclaiming the timber for shelter construction and fuel.

Seen as a genuine advance in forestry’s heavy-duty chainsaw class, the new MS 661 C-M from Stihl is a whopping 91.1cc unit, rated 5.4kW.

It has advanced features and is intended for serious forestry use, yet at 7.4kg it is the lightest in that class. The weight has been kept down with the use of special components such as a stainless steel muffler and the fitting of a Rollomatic ES Light guide bar. In practice this means foresters used to the weight of a standard 50cm guide bar can now step up to a 71cm ES Light and still save an overall 100g in weight.

Compared to its predecessor (the MS 660), this new model delivers more power and torque across its working speed range. The advanced 2-MIX engine and self-tuning M-Tronic technology optimise starting and performance while cutting emissions by up to 70 per cent and fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent. A new anti-vibration system retains crucial guiding rigidity, while vibrations are significantly reduced to 5.5m/s2 and new double bumper spikes ensure great cutting precision during bucking and felling.

For tree surgery and wood carving, Stihl has introduced the new three-part Carving E with a 30cm bar length. The first ¼in Picco pitch carving guide bar on the market, the bar nose has a radius of just 8mm, meaning it takes fine geometries and tight radii in its stride — perfect for tree work and precision carving. It can be fitted to Stihl’s MSA 160 and 200 cordless models, the 150, 201, 231, 241 and 251 petrol units or the MS 150T and 201T top-handles.

Costing just £149 including VAT, the MTD GCS410040 and GCS380035 chainsaws from
EP Barrus are extremely well priced. They are designed to offer domestic users the performance level of a professional chainsaw and, with 37.5cc two-stroke engines delivering plenty of torque, should appeal to occasional users and those tending estates and gardens.

They come with 35cm or 40cm guide bars and 3/8in chain, making them suitable for cutting logs, felling small trees and general timber work.

More powerful, but still well priced, the MTD 460045 chainsaw has a 46.4cc engine, developing 1.6kW, and comes with an 18in guide bar for £179 including VAT.

A new name to the market in 2014, Cobra equipment is distributed in the UK by Henton & Chattell. The range includes two petrol chainsaws — 38cc with 40cm bar and 45cc with 46cm bar — weighing from 4.4kg to offer a lighter option.

Electric options: new models from Makita, Henton & Chattell and Stihl

Four new versions of Makita mains-powered chainsaws feature 1,570W and 1,800W motors with 35cm and 40cm bar lengths carrying 3/8in chains that run at 14.5m per second. With single-lever tool-less chain adjustment mounted on the side and improved automatic oiling, these saws come with 10m cables.

Part of the enormous range of Cobra lawn and garden maintenance equipment now available from Henton & Chattell, the 1,800W (35cm), 2,000W (40cm) and 2,400W (45cm) models feature a 13.5m/s chain speed and come with 10m of cable. Prices range from £79.99 to £100 including VAT.

Ideal for cutting logs and woodworking projects, the new MSE 170 C-BQ (1,700W) and 210 C-BQ (2,100W) from Stihl provide 20 per cent higher power than their predecessors and feature low-kickback chains. Model 210 (pictured) is suited to professional and trade use, coming with 30cm, 35cm or 40cm guide bar and Picoo Micro chain for high cutting quality.

A special feature is the QuickStop Super braking system.

Cordless chainsaws: green, clean and quieter than their petrol counterparts

Some people still think of cordless as a gimmick but increasingly professionals are adding these tools to their armoury. Green, clean and quieter than petrol chainsaws, battery powered models are coming to market in growing numbers.

The latest from Stihl is the MSA 160T (below), a top-handled chainsaw weighing 3.5kg when fitted with battery and 30cm bar that offers up to 23 minutes running time. Charging time is 25 minutes to 80 per cent capacity or 55 minutes to full.

Ideal for pruning and remedial work, low vibrations and zero emissions make it pleasant to work with, while the low noise levels mean operators may not need to wear ear defenders. Crucially, the low noise allows tree-care work to be carried out in noise-sensitive areas such as the grounds of hospitals, schools and offices.

Released last year, a new 300mm chainsaw from Makita uses twin 18V batteries to provide power to run a 3/8in chain at up to 8.3m/s. Model DUC302 LXT is classified as a top-handled unit and should only be used by certified professionals.

In a further advancement, Makita has introduced a 5.0Ah Li-ion battery to provide maximum power and up to 66 per cent more run time. Recharge time is 45 minutes.

Lightweight and powerful models from Husqvarna include the 536Li rear-handled chainsaw and the T536Li XP top handle (pictured) for arborists. The chain speed is 20m/s, reduced to 15m/s in "savE" mode for prolonged running time. Back pack batteries are also available for those who want to work all day without the need to recharge.

The latest range of cordless kit to come to market is the EGO, including a chainsaw with 35cm Oregon bar. Said to be capable of making 100 cuts of 4in sq softwood, this saw has a kickback brake, tool-free chain tensioning and oil level indicator. Weight is less than 5kg with the 2.0Ah 56V battery. Retail price is £199 excluding battery and charger.


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