The best 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 zombie apocalypses, and so much more.
We generally recommend electric cordless chainsaws for anyone who isn't an actual lumberjack in the Canadian rockies, but if you want to really and truly chop some trees the hell down, there are a couple of petrol offerings below that are just right for you.
Chainsaws: a beginner's guide
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, one of the best hedge trimmers or a good pair of loppers may be a more sensible (and altogether safer) option.
WHAT IS THE BEST CHAINSAW?
This guide covers petrol, battery and electricity powered chainsaws so if you’re only interested in a cordless model, then hop over to our carefully curated Cordless Chainsaw guide, which lists the very best battery-powered options on the market.
From a power source point of view, our favourite corded electric model is the very cheap and undeniably potent Oregon CS1400, which cuts trunks up to 14 inches in diameter. If you fancy similar performance from a cordless model, go for the Greenworks GD40CS15. And if petrol power is a must because you have a forest in the yard, you won’t find many better models than the excellent STIHL MS 170.
But if all you need is a small one armed bandit for light occasional lopping of branches then the new dinky Stihl GTA 26 is undeniably way to go.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye on our Amazon Prime Day hub for potential big savings on chainsaws in the not-too-distant future.
The best chainsaws - battery, petrol and electricity powered beasts for all your domestic lumberjacking
If you’re likely to only use a chainsaw a few times a year and don’t fancy forking out too much, consider this keenly-priced top selling corded electric model from reputable American brand Oregon.
The CS1400 is equipped with a long 16-inch guide bar which is good enough for tree trunks and fire logs up to a whopping 14 inches in diameter. The six metre cable is of decent length though you may need to include a good quality 15amp extension cable if working at the bottom of the garden. Comfort wise, the Oregon feels well balanced though, at 6kgs, it is pretty heavy so bear that in mind if you have arms like pipe cleaners.
Like most decent chainsaws, it comes with all the required safety features, a tool-less chain tensioning system and an automatic chain lubrication system – simply pour some chain oil (B&Q sells a decent one) into the awkwardly positioned reservoir port and the chain will remain in tip-top condition. However, you will need to sharpen the chain from time to time so if that sounds like a hassle, perhaps consider its more expensive CS1500 stablemate, which features Oregon’s automatic PowerSharp chain sharpening system.
At just £78, the CS1400 is exceptional value – it cuts though even the hardest woods with ease – but you will need to assemble it yourself, including fitting the chain in the correct orientation or it will literally not cut anything at all.
The new Stihl GTA 26 is just the ticket for cutting off branches too wide for a pair of loppers or scything through logs up to 8cm in diameter.
This cute mini chainsaw – which Stihl prefers to describe as 'loppers' – is wonderfully light and grippy in the hand and comes with two key safety features: a thumb switch that must be activated before pressing the trigger and a hinged plastic guard above the chain to protect the user from the high-speed chain and any flying wood chips.
Ostensibly designed for ‘light’ cutting duties, it’s best to let the GTA 26’s chain blade do the work because adding too much pressure during the cut may cause the motor to stall. Nevertheless, you’ll be surprised at how effective this little garden bandit is – it cuts cleanly and quickly through most branches with zero fuss.
Granted, the small 10.8 volt battery only provides about 10 minutes of cutting time but then again 10 minutes is pretty much all you need unless you’re undertaking some serious forestry work at the bottom of the garden.
If you’re in the market for a handy little chainsaw that’s safe to use and remarkably efficient then put this little fella on the shopping list. It even comes with its own carry case with battery, charger and a bottle of chain oil. Nice.
The excellent Greenworks GD40CS15 comes with a long 35cm (14-inch) Oregon bar and chain, a brushless motor that will last forever and a full gamut of safety features, including a brake guard hand protector that must be pulled back to engage the drive. A large 40-volt G-Max Li-Ion battery keeps it sawing for around 25 minutes and recharges in 90 minutes.
The Greenworks is available with or without a battery and charger. If you already have one of the company’s excellent lawnmowers you’re in luck since the batteries are easily swappable. Otherwise you’ll need to fork out another £120 for the battery and charger.
The Greenworks has a decent heft to it, and makes short work of cutting tree trunks, branches and logs up to 30cm (14 inches) across. Also, the chain comes pre-fitted so there’s no chance of cocking up setup. Not that you would, of course.
Looking for a keenly-priced and extremely effective electric model that comes highly rated by a horde of chainsaw-wielding gardenistas? Step right this way.
The German-made electric Einhell features a 40.6cm chain bar with ‘kick back’ cut-off protection in case it does what all chainsaws occasionally do – rear up suddenly towards your face. It also comes with the usual gamut of electric chainsaw safety features, including a hand protector and a cable relief clip that prevents the 5m cable from disconnecting. The chain rail – manufactured by top supplier Oregon – will cut through most woods with ease; many users report it that tackles branches and logs up to 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.
As with most chainsaws, this product requires fitting the chain onto the chain bar yourself, but thankfully it’s a relatively straightforward procedure. However, be sure to orientate the chain in the correct direction because the internet is full of comments by people who put chains on the wrong way round and then wondered why their chainsaws never cut through anything. You will also need to pop out for some chainsaw oil to keep everything nicely lubricated (£6.28 from B&Q).
In the pantheon of electric chainsaws, this model is one of Amazon’s biggest sellers. It comes with a decent run of cable, a good set of safety features and it performs exceptionally well.
Not for nothing is Stihl the horticultural power tool of choice among most council workers and professional tree surgeons. Its products are clearly highly reliable and exceedingly efficient or you wouldn’t see so many of its distinguishable orange and white products being wielded up and down the country’s pavements. With that in mind, we highly recommend this powerful domestic-spec petrol-powered beast for all your large-scale garden topiary.
The MS 170 is equipped with a short 30cm (12-inch) bar – ample length for branches and logs up to 10 inches in diameter – and Stihl’s own Ematic lubrication system for keeping the chain in optimum condition whatever you throw in its path. For a domestic model, the Stihl’s 30cc, 1.2kW pull-start engine punches way above its weight and it isn’t ear splitteringly loud either. At 4.1kgs, it’s also pretty light for a petrol chainsaw, though you may need to give your arms a rest from time to time if cutting at horizontal angles.
As is the case with the majority of two-stroke petrol products, you will need to mix 50 parts of high octane fuel with one part of specific two-stroke oil but luckily Stihl produces its own pre-mixed MotoMix blend which we recommend for hassle free filling.
Perhaps more of a hobby and DIY tool than something for gardening – although it does make short work of pruning – this is a pocket-sized chainsaw, although maybe don't actually put it in your pocket. It's actually a little hard to say quite what this tool is for, but it's a very well-engineered device that operates very effectively. Maybe it's just right for some obscure cutting need you have.
The AdvancedCut18 cuts through wood up to 65mm and is designed for sawing through things and for doing plunge cuts. It's low vibration and also low maintenance given that no oiling is needed ever, and the blades are easily swapped out via Bosch's SDS system. The chain is self-tensioning, too. Hilariously, Bosch doesn't quote a battery life in hours but instead states that it will 'Cut 250 roof laths (24x43 mm) with just one charge'. Thanks for that, Bosch.
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 mousse.
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.
Okay, this isn't really a chainsaw, it's some electric secateurs. Good product, though. Unlike real chainsaws, which have the spinning chain rail completely exposed and therefore ripe for quick amputation, this lopper-style number comes with heavy steel jaws that clamp around a short 10cm chain bar. Short of actively sticking your arm between the clamps, there’s very little chance of injury with this system.
To use, simply pull the power trigger, open the jaws and clamp them round the offending branch. Voila, job done, and with none of the usual will-I lose-an-arm-today apprehension associated with chainsaws in general.
Despite its short stature, this chainsaw easily slices through branches up to four inches in diameter, is relatively light (3kgs) and, above all, confidence inspiring. The jaws also trap a lot of flying sawdust so safety goggles aren’t mandatory though still advised.
A top choice for scaredy cats, although it is, strictly speaking, more like an extremely hardcore pair of secateurs than a chainsaw in the classic sense.
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.
Now check out our guide to the Best Cordless Chainsaws