5 Different Types of Chainsaws, Including Pictures & Videos

working with chainsaws

Is it just us, or do there seem to be hundreds of different chainsaws on the market? Okay, that’s overstating the case a little, but if you’ve been in the market for a chainsaw recently, you’ll understand what we mean.

Fortunately, there are just five main types of chainsaws. Every one of the brands online will fall into one of the following categories: pole saws, gas-powered, electric, battery-powered, or manual. Understanding what type you need is the first step in narrowing down your options. 

List of 5 Different Types of Chainsaws

In this post, we’re going to go through these five categories and advise you on when you should use each.


1. Manual/Pocket Chainsaws

manual chainsaw nordic pocket saw

Manual chainsaws are an excellent option if you don’t have time for the gym. They’re not the most time-efficient option, but they also don’t use gas or power. Essentially, you have what looks similar to a bicycle chain with handles.

Before you scoff and look for a real power tool, hear us out. We wouldn’t want to try to cut a redwood down with these saws, but they’re still pretty useful.

Why?

  • They’re portable: We’re not altogether sure why you’d need to carry a chainsaw around with you in case, but if you do, manual might be the way to go. If you’re out camping, pop one into your backpack to cut firewood. You can’t do that with any of the other versions.
  • They’re a greener option: If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, this is the best option. There’s no need to worry about gas emissions here. That is if you’re relatively fit – if not, you could be gasping for air quickly.
  • They are always ready to go: Just wrap the chain around the material you’re cutting and get started. There’s no priming a motor or pulling a starter cord a million times.
  • They’re Cost-effective: If you’re on a limited budget, you can make one of these at home. As it doesn’t require anything but the effort on your part, they’re very cost-effective to “run.” 
  • They’re quiet: No motor means that your huffing and puffing will be the loudest sound you produce.

2. Battery-Powered Chainsaws

battery chainsaw

As the name suggests, Battery-powered chainsaws run on batteries. Now, there are advantages and disadvantages.

  • No need for a power outlet: You might consider getting a battery-powered option if you’re working in a remote area without easy access to electricity. Without a cord to worry about, you’ve got more maneuverability.
  • Slightly lighter: You’re saving yourself the weight of a reservoir of gas. The battery makes these a little heavier than electric options but lighter than gas-powered models.
  • Great for small projects: If you want to finish a small project quickly, these are great. They’re easy to start and operate. 
  • Rechargeable: You won’t ever have to run to the gas station or keep a supply of gas at home.

The amount of power these models produce is a bit of a downer, though. No battery charged tool will ever match the power of one running directly off electricity.

The other downside of battery-powered chainsaws is that they’ve got limited battery life. Chopping through hardwood, for example, will run the battery down faster. You can opt to get a spare battery as a backup, but that does mean extra weight to lug around with you, and added expense.

It can also be frustrating to get halfway through your project, only to run out of charge. It’s not quite as urgent an emergency as your cell phone running low on power, but it’s annoying.


3. Corded-Electric Chainsaws

corded chainsaw

Now we’re moving into real power tool territory. A corded model will run rings around its manual or battery-powered counterpart.

Why choose a corded model?

  • They’re quieter: Gas-powered models can make an ear-shattering ruckus. Again, this might be overstating the case, but electric models are a lot quieter.
  • They’re lightweight: They’re the lightest of all the models except the manual ones. If you prefer to do the least amount of work, try an electric model.
  • They’re pretty powerful: Only a gas-powered option offers the same brute strength. You’ll appreciate this if you have to chop down a large tree.
  • Unlimited operation time: Technically, you’ll have to watch that the motor doesn’t overheat. That said, as long as you have power, you can keep on going. There’s no gas to refill or batteries to recharge.

So, you’re probably wondering.

“If electric chainsaws are so great, why are there alternative options?”

There are two reasons:

  • The cord gets in the way: The cord restricts you here. You can only go as far as the cord and a suitable extension cord will reach. Also, it’s a lot easier to cut the cord accidentally than you might think. Don’t ask how we know that.
  • You need power: A chainsaw is an excellent tool to clear the debris from a hurricane. That is, as long as the power company has the electricity up and running again. During a power out of any type, your electric model is useless unless you are plugged into a gas generator. 

4. Gas Powered Chainsaws

gas chainsaw

Professionals and homeowners are ones who use Gas Powered chainsaws more often. If you want the maximum blend of portability and power, you might consider getting a Gas-powered chainsaw. Gas power is great if:

  • You don’t have a fixed power supply: If you’re in the back of beyond with hardly any hint of civilization in sight, these are an excellent option. As long as there’s gas in the tank, they’ll keep running.
  • You want the most potent option: Nothing beats these beasts for sheer power.
  • Very portable: There are no cords to get tangled up in here. You can use these on the go.

Okay, so when is a gas-powered model a bad idea? Unfortunately, there are some serious negatives here.

The worst is probably the noise that these models produce. Forget the quiet and clean country air – just about the whole county will know what you’re doing.

Proper maintenance is vital. You’ll need to service these models regularly to keep them in optimal working order. That means messy oil changes and careful cleaning.

They’re the heaviest of all the models available. The extra weight from the full gas tank makes them cumbersome. You don’t have to be Paul Bunyan to operate these saws, but fatigue is going to set in faster when you wield a gas-powered chainsaw.

5. Pole Chainsaws

pole chain saw

These are basically the little engines that could. The pole saws are not considered as chainsaws at all. But, with that said, they work in the same way. The primary difference is that they have a much longer handle.

They run on electricity, gas, or batteries. They’re useful for cutting the taller branches of trees and shrubs. Aside from that, their usefulness is limited.

Why?

  • They’re loud: Even the electric models are a little noisy. The vibrations from the saw seem to be intensified by the movement of the handle. This increases the noise factor.
  • They’re not as easy to control: You’re essentially taking a power tool and attaching it to the end of a stick. The vibrations as a result of this make it a lot harder to control.
  • They’ll never be as powerful as handheld versions: In this case, that’s probably a good thing, though. You have a lot more control over a handheld version. Pole saws don’t have the same degree of power for safety reasons.  

Conclusion

That concludes our basic explanation of the different types of chainsaws. As you’ll notice, each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. The manual models are the most eco-friendly and cost-effective of the lot, but require a lot of effort on your part.

The gas-powered models are the most powerful, but also the worst in terms of noise pollution. Battery-powered models don’t measure up as well in terms of power but offer great portability over short periods.

Electric models offer the best option for prolonged use. Finding a power outlet, however, can be problematic.

Is there one perfect chainsaw? Not really, but that can also be a good thing. If we found the perfect model, how would we justify upgrading to a more powerful option later?

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About the Author David Vieria

David has been a woodworker for most of his life — in his dad’s cabinet shop. After using the tools himself, he decided to share it his woodworking and power tools knowledge with DIYers. Read more about him

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