Chainsaws aren’t just for waving around your head in horror movies. You might not need a petrol-driven monster capable of cutting down giant redwoods, but chainsaws are handy for pruning small trees, cutting branches into logs, making firewood, fighting the zombie apocalypse and so on.
There are two and a half kinds of chainsaw: petrol ones, electric ones and cordless electric ones. Petrol and cordless have the benefit of going far from the reach of any extension cable, provided you have fuel or remember to charge them, but petrol chainsaws are noisy while battery-powered saws soon run out of puff.
No matter what kind of chainsaw you buy, it’s essential to remember that they are incredibly dangerous: they’re arguably the most dangerous power tools you can buy. Tens of thousands of people injure themselves every year with chainsaws, so make sure you know how to use one safely and wear the correct protective equipment. If you check YouTube for Husqvarna chainsaw safety you’ll find some useful advice. If in doubt, hire an expert to do the sawing for you.
It’s also a good idea to ask yourself, do you really need a chainsaw at all? If you just need to tame some smaller trees or hedges, a hedge trimmer such as the may be a more sensible - and safer - option. Here are our favourites.
Our pick of the top chainsaws to buy today
1. Husqvarna 450 Pruning Chainsaw
Best for serious jobs
Power: 2.4KW | Type: petrol | Speed: 9000rpm | Sound pressure: 103.5dB(A) | Bar length: 33-50cm | Weight: 4.9kg excluding cutting equipment
The Husqvarna is “expensive but worth it,” Chainsaw Journal says - but it’s heavy too, at 4.9kg plus cutting bits. That means it’ll start to feel like a dead weight during protracted pruning sessions, so it’s not one for the slightly built. It’s powerful, though, with the ability to cut through wood up to 24 inches across as if it were made of butter. Now in its second generation, the 450 boasts a quick release air filter for easy cleaning, a flip-up tank cap for simpler refuelling, a centrifugal air cleaning system to reduce wear and reduce cleaning frequency and what Husqvarna calls X-Torq, its system to deliver maximum performance while meeting the world’s most stringent environmental legislation.
2. Black & Decker GKC3630L20
Best for battery power
Power: 36V | Type: cordless | Speed: 5m/s | Sound pressure: 73.9dB(A) | Bar length: 30cm | Weight: 3.8kg
This Black & Decker chainsaw offers an impressive combination: it’s fairly cheap - especially with £55 off the RRP, as it is at the time of writing - and it manages to cram a powerful 36V battery into a fairly lightweight 3.8kg body. The battery is lithium ion, so there’s no battery effect over time, and you should expect around 560 x 3.5cm cuts from a single charge. The battery can hold its charge for up to 18 months and takes 90 minutes to charge from flat. Many users have happily swapped from two-stroke chainsaws to this: it’s safer, quieter and lighter than many petrol-driven chainsaws and while it doesn’t have the long bar of pro-level saws it’s more than capable of most ordinary cutting tasks.
3. Ryobi RCS2340 Chainsaw
Best for power on a budget
Power: 2300W | Type: corded | Speed: 14m/s | Sound pressure: not stated | Bar length: 40cm | Weight: 5.1kg
Ryobi has built quite the reputation for power tools on a budget, and this corded electric chainsaw helps demonstrate why: you’re getting a 2,300W, 14m/s, 40cm chainsaw for the same money some people spend on garden strimmers. It’s a big chainsaw for big jobs and it probably helps if you’re big too: it weighs around 5kg. The chain tensioning is tool-less, there’s a clear oil tank so you can see when it’s time to grease it up and the use of an Oregon bar and chain means spare parts are easy to get. There’s an electrical chain brake that kicks in when you release the trigger and a mechanical brake that acts whenever there’s any kickback. The cord is 8m long.
4. Worx WG305E Electric Chainsaw
Best for small jobs
Power: 1100W | Type: corded | Speed: 8.5m/s | Sound pressure: not stated | Bar length: 25cm | Weight: 3kg
You probably know Worx already: its power tools are a familiar site on Homebase shelves and in the Argos catalogue, and we’ve always found them to be good value for money. If you don’t need the size and weight of a massive chainsaw this model is excellent value: its auto-tensioning chain means you don’t need to fiddle with tools and it’s more than capable of light to medium trimming. Its relatively small size - the bar is 25cm - and lack of battery means it’s a very light 3kg, and the rapid reaction kickback brake and chain catcher stop you getting into trouble if cutting becomes difficult or something goes wrong. The 1100W motor won’t get you bragging rights at Chainsaw Club, but it’s quiet and fine for garden work.
5. Black & Decker 18V Pole Pruner
Best for branches
Power: 18V | Type: cordless | Speed: not stated | Sound pressure: 85dB(A) | Bar length: 20cm | Weight: 3.7kg
If you’re planning to prune high branches, a dedicated pole saw is a much more convenient kind of chainsaw - and it’s less likely to end in a pink mist than teetering on a ladder with a massive petrol-driven monster. The 18V battery lasts for up to 130 cuts on a single charge, it reaches up to 4.5m (including you: the usable length is 2 to 3 metres) and weighs a reasonable 3.7kg, so it doesn’t feel as if you’re waving a lawnmower over your head. There’s an anti-kickback system to keep you safe, non-slip ergonomic grips so you don’t drop it on your face and it’s easy to clean - something you’ll be glad of, because small bits of debris can jam it quite easily.
6. Stihl MSA 120 C-BQ
Best for portability
Power: 36V | Type: cordless | Speed: not stated | Sound pressure: 83dB(A) | Bar length: 12 | Weight: 2.5kg
If you need to perform cutting back and pruning-style jobs in a noise-sensitive area then the Stihl MSA 120 C-BQ is the chainsaw for you. It weighs in at a super light 2.5kg, making it incredibly portable and versatile - especially considering it is a cordless saw - and operates at a maximum sound pressure level of 83dB(A), making it very quiet too. Run time varies on application, however, even undertaking the most demanding trimming duties will see you get around 35 minutes of non-stop cutting action.