How to choose a chainsaw

Every power tool possesses certain technical characteristics which can considerably influence its performance and life cycle. Chainsaws are not an exception and selecting the wrong type of equipment can lead to low performance and even injuries.
Buying a chainsaw can be a challenging task especially for those, who have never used this tool before. This short and comprehensive guide will help you to decide about what options and parameters should be taken into account when selecting a chainsaw.

First off, it is necessary to understand, what kind of job you are planning to do – are you going to use the chainsaw as a supplementary tool in your home and garden activities? Or is to going to be the main professional tool for some heavy duty work?

Depending on these criteria we can distinguish 3 main types of chainsaws:

  • For home usage. Small light-weight models (up to 4-5 kg) with the guide bar up to 33-38 cm (12-14”) long, can output up to 3 hp. These tools are good to use for house maintenance works and gardening, perfect for cutting small branches, firewood and beams. It makes sense to purchase such chainsaws if you are going to use it not more than 20 hours per week. The most suitable modes for home usages are STIHL MS 180 С-BE, Stihl MS 211, Husqvarna 236 X-Torq, Husqvarna 135 X-Torq.
  • Semi-professional chainsaws. Universal tools that are suitable for gardening and farming activities such as cutting trees and thick branches, large volumes of firewood. These tools can output from 3 to 4 hp and are equipped with a guide bar from 37 to 45 cm long and with the 3/8“ chain pitch or 0,404″ if higher performance is required. Most popular modules in this category are Stihl MS 271, Stihl MS 291, Husqvarna 440E II, Husqvarna 455-e II.
  • Professional heavy duty chainsaws: highly professional equipment suitable for forestry works and intensive farm activities, can withstand up to 10 hours of operation per day. Professional chainsaws, such as Stihl ms 260, Stihl MS 362 C-M or Husqvarna 560 XP x-torq, can output up to 6 hp., are equipped with guide bars that are up to 75 cm long and with a ⅜” chain pitch.

Now, let’s check out the main technical parameters such as the guide bar and the cutting chains.

Length of the guide bar

The guide bar length determines the size of the area that the chainsaw can cut in a single pass. The larger is the guide bar – the wider is the piece of wood that it can process. When selecting the chainsaw you always have to take into account what this chainsaw is going to be used for. Basically, the length of the guide bar should be about 4-5 centimeters longer than the width of the wood you are going to cut on a regular basis. For example, for regular home usage it is enough to have a 33-38 cm (12-14”) bar – this will let you easily cut small fruit trees, firewood, tree branches etc.
If you are a professional or need to have more powerful equipment for length cutting of beams and roof rafters then it makes sense to select the guide bar of 14”-16” (35-45 cm) long.

Chain pitch

Chain pitch is measured as the distance between 3 chain rivets divided by 2. Most common chain pitch sizes are: 1/4″ (6,35 mm), 0,325″ (8,2555 mm), 3/8″ (9,525 mm), 0,404″ (10,26 mm) and 3/4″ (19,05 mm). The larger is the chain pitch size – the higher will be performance of the chainsaw and the more power the tool will require for cutting. Therefore, when choosing the chain make sure that the pitch size corresponds to the power that the chainsaw can output. For instance, powerful professional models tend to use chains of 3/8 or .404” size, while for a homeowner it is quite enough to use a 0,325″size chain.


Gauge stands for the thickness of the drive links. The chain gauge should correspond to the size of the guide bar. The regular gauge sizes are:

  • 1.1 mm for electric chainsaws;
  • 1,3 mm for small chainsaws, suitable for homeowners and for garden work;
  • 1,5 mm – semi-professional;
  • 1,6 mm – professional chainsaws