How to buy - chainsaws

Your choice of machine will depend on the user as well as the job, Sally Drury explains.

Chainsaws: top-handled models for working in trees should not be used on the ground - image: Makita
Chainsaws: top-handled models for working in trees should not be used on the ground - image: Makita

Q: What are the guidelines for choosing the right chainsaw for the job?

A: It is more a case of choosing the right chainsaw for the user as well as the job. Firstly, if you have little or no training in the use of chainsaws, you should consider sticking to hand tools, calling in a contractor or signing up for a course at your local land-based college.

Anyone with limited experience and only needing to use a chainsaw every now and again will find it easier to use an electric or battery powered machine. While petrol power gives you total freedom, with a chain dashing round the guide bar at high speed you need to know exactly what you are doing.

There are basically three types of chainsaw - rear-handled, top-handled and pole saws. Rear-handled saws are used for ground work such as felling, logging and preparing firewood. Top-handled models, on the other hand, should never be used on the ground. These saws are for climbers working within a tree and can only be purchased on showing a certificate of competence in chainsaw operation. Pole saws are the ones that allow a certain amount of pruning work to be done on lower branches but the length of the pole allows the user to keep both feet firmly on the ground.

Petrol chainsaws vary in terms of size, displacement (cc), power (kW or hp) and bar length. Most chainsaw manufacturers offer a range of machines aimed at the domestic or hobby market. Along with electric models, these saws will be less expensive than their professional counterparts and are ideal for anyone who occasionally needs to tackle small jobs. Electric saws also have the advantage of being quieter and less smelly. There is also no risk of fuel going off between infrequent operations.

Where the location, frequency of use and type of work makes the semi-professional or professional chainsaw a must, choice will still largely depend on your skill level. Smaller saws tend to be easier to manoeuvre and less tiring, which make them safer in the hands of those who are not used to the daily operation of saws.

Smaller saws should be sufficient to trim trees, thin bushes or cut firewood. Larger and more powerful saws will be needed for felling, especially hardwoods. Professional arborists will also need a saw with fast acceleration and high torque to boost efficiency.

Q: What features should I look out for on a new chainsaw?

A: Safety is a priority. The saw must have an effective chain brake and chain catcher, and the operator must be able to reach the on/off switch quickly and without moving their hands from the working position. The front grip must have a guard to stop your hand slipping onto the bar. If it is a petrol saw, the exhaust should be positioned where it will not cause burns to the hands or legs.

The other aspects to consider are weight and balance of the chainsaw. When using the machine, it should not put any strain on your hands, arms, shoulders or back and neither should it overbalance the user. However, any weight reduction in the chainsaw should not be at the expense of quality.

Noise, particularly of petrol models, should be considered - especially when working in urban areas. In some locations it may be better to use the quieter electric or battery powered models. Vibration levels are also important, more so for those expecting to use the saw for significant periods of time. Always ask to see the vibration figures before you make a purchase.

Other features to consider include ease of chain tensioning, the size and position of filler holes and access to air filter and spark plug.

Q: What are the latest developments in petrol chainsaws?

A: Last year Stihl introduced the MS 661 C-M. At 7.4kg it is the world's lightest 90cc class 5.4kW rated chainsaw and is intended for heavy-duty forestry use. Compared to its predecessor, it delivers more power and torque across its working speed range. As well as 2-MIX engine technology, this saw also features self-tuning M-Tronic technology.

New from Echo is the CS-620SX. This has a 15 per cent improvement in cutting performance over its predecessor due to the premium-grade high-torque 59.8cc engine, which has an output of 3.32kW. Ideal for felling trees, this saw features a semi-automatic decompression system and a SUGIHARA bar.

Q: Are there any new models of electric chainsaw?

A: Stihl has introduced the MSE 170C-BQ and MSE 210 C-BQ for cutting firewood and DIY projects. The 170 has a 1,700W motor and is available with a 30cm or 35cm bar and the Picco Micro Mini saw chain. More powerful, the 210 has a 2,100W motor and is additionally available with a 40cm bar plus the Picco Micro chain as standard. Both have 10m of electric cable

Q: What is new in the battery powered department?

A: Stihl's MSA 160 is a battery powered top-handled chainsaw for pruning and remedial work in trees. It uses an AP 115 lithium-ion battery, which gives 23 minutes actual trigger time. Complete with 30cm cutting attachment, the unit weighs 3.5kg.

Extending its Twin-18V concept, Makita has introduced a 30cm chainsaw. It generates 800W output from the twin 18V batteries to provide power to run the chain at 8.3m per second.

Fitted with a 35cm Oregon bar, the new EGO Power+ chainsaw has a 2.0Ah 56V battery and operates at 6,300rpm. New from Hydundai is the 36V HYC36Li with 304mm Oregon bar for logging and ground-level tree work.

Chainsaw supplier information and contact details

The following details are for the major suppliers of electric, battery powered and petrol chainsaws, including rear-handled and top-handled models as well as pole saws. Omission of any product or supplier does not imply criticism:

Barrus, EP

Tel: 01869 363636

The MTD range includes two electric models with 35cm and 40cm bars plus rear-handled petrol units with engines of 38cc, 41cc and 50cc and bar lengths of 40cm and 45cm. A top-handled petrol model with 25.4cc engine and 30cm bar is available for professional use.

ECHO Power Tools

Tel: 01844 278800

This range of petrol chainsaws includes 11 models from 26.9cc to 80.7cc as well as two top-handled machines with engines of 26.9cc and 35.8cc. There are saws for all levels of user, with focus on providing operations with lightweight, comfortable saws that can be used for long periods of time. Japanese build quality and low vibrations are features of these saws, which come with a two-year commercial warranty.

Emak UK

Tel: 01543 687660

Offering Oleo-Mac and Efco brands, Emak provides chainsaws for all levels of users. A range of electric models are backed by Universal and Essentials ranges for home use, including intensive home use. There are also Burn Right saws noted for low emission levels, Tough-Tec models for intensive use, Sharp-Pro for professional use as well as top-handled and pole saw models.


Tel: 0151 549 1166

New entry in the UK market, the EGO chainsaw is fitted with a 35cm Oregon bar and will make up to 100 cuts of 4x4in softwood per charge. Features: 2Ah 56V battery (supplied separately), tool-free chain tensioning and a weight of less than 5kg including battery.

Etesia UK

Tel: 01295 680120

The Pellenc Selion range of battery powered pole saws is offered by Etesia UK. Four models provide reach heights of up to 4.5m in fixed or telescopic versions. Features include 1,200W motor, automatic chain tensioning and multi-position tilting head. The saws are said to give a full day's work on a single charge.

FGM Claymore

Tel: 01789 490177

Distributes Tanaka branded products in the UK, including petrol rear-handled chainsaws with engines from 33cc to 50cc and bar lengths from 14in to 18in. Also available is a 28cc top-handled unit and a 1.8m long-reach chainsaw with 27cc engine, 10in bar and extension kits. Some products, including the long-reach model, feature S-start to allow starting with a finger/thumb pull first time.

Henton & Chattell

Tel: 0115 986 2161

Cobra chainsaw range introduced by Henton & Chattell this year includes three electric models with bar lengths of 35cm (1.8kW), 40cm (2kW) and 45cm (2.4kW). The saws weigh around 5kg, feature a chain speed of 13.5m/s and come with 10m of cable. The petrol range includes two 42cc models with 14in and 16in bars, plus a 52cc saw with 18in bar. All bars are by Oregon. An electric pole saw is also available.


Tel: 01325 300302

A comprehensive selection of professional chainsaws offering something for the novice, landowner, semi-pro, arborist and forester. Petrol powered units include technologies such as X-Torq engines, AutoTune, Air Injection and LowVib. There are rear-handled and top-handled models as well pole pruners. Offering a battery powered solution, model 536LiXP is a rear-handled saw and T536LiXP is a top-handled unit for professionals.

Hyundai UK

Tel: 0164 487880

Hyundai brand, distributed in the UK by GenPower, offers three models of chainsaw with engines from 38cc to 56cc and bar lengths from 16in to 20in. The range, fitted with Oregon bars and chains, features the Walbro carb. New this year is the HYC36Li 36V battery chainsaw with 12in Oregon bar.

Makita (UK)

Tel: 01908 211678

Makita's wide range of chainsaws includes five models of electric saws with 35cm and 40cm bars, rear-handled petrol models from 35cc to 90cc, two top-handled saws rated 22cc and 34cc plus a four-stroke 25.4cc long-reach machine with telescopic shaft giving 3.92m reach and carrying a 25.5cm bar. In the cordless department, Makita offers 14.4V, 18V and twin 18V units.

Rochford GM

Tel: 01963 828000

Rochford supplies 11 rear-handled Mitox chainsaws with prices starting at £139 including VAT, plus a top-handled unit with 35cc engine and 30cm bar. Rochford also supplies three models of AL-KO electric chainsaws with prices starting from £129.

Sanli UK

Tel: 01793 33212

Represented in the UK by Handy of Swindon, this Chinese manufacturer offers 37cc and 45cc petrol chainsaws.

Schiller Grounds Care

Tel: 0800 988 4828

The Mantis 2,400W chainsaw has an 18in bar length, weighs just 4.8kg and is designed for general-purpose use. It features tool-free assembly and chain tensioning. The Manti Pro Chainsaw is also electric. It weighs 4.2kg and has a 16in bar.


Tel: 0800 137574

World-renowned for its range of petrol chainsaws, Stihl aims to make work easy whether cutting logs on the estate, pruning street trees or carrying out forestry operations. Technology such as 2-MIX engines, QuickStop, Quick Chain Tensioning, ElastoStart and the more recent M-Tronic engine management system broaden use at all levels. Latest machines include the MS 180 and MS 201 C-M rear-handled machines as well as MS193 TC-E and MS 201 TC-M top-handled models. Stihl's new pole pruner is the HTA 65 battery powered unit.


Tel: 01889 565155

Three Greatland models from Trenchex include 37.2cc and 46.4cc petrol rear-handled machines plus a 25.4cc top-handled version.

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