6 Different Types of Chainsaws & Their Best Uses (with Pictures)

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To some people, chainsaws are mostly useful for the bad guys in horror movies when they feel like axes and machetes are too low-tech.

For others, they’re a vital part of everyday life: chainsaws can chop wood, clear brush, remove major obstructions, and lop unhealthy limbs from trees.

Yet when you’re in need of a chainsaw, it can be hard to tell the difference between all the various kinds of sales.

If you’ve found this article, chances are you have land to manage or trees to take care of and need the right chainsaw for the job.

Keep this guide on-hand while you shop, and you’ll be able to easily distinguish the six kinds of chainsaws: manual, battery-powered, corded electric, gas-powered, pole, and pneumatic.

The 6 Different Types of Chainsaws.

1. Manual / Pocket Chainsaws.

Pocket chainsaw
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Manual chainsaws are also called pocket chainsaws, which isn’t a nickname — you can literally carry these around in your pocket

A pocket chainsaw consists of a chain with bladed teeth attached to a handle at either end.

To use one, wrap it around whatever you’re trying to cut through, then quickly pull it back and forth.

It’s as exhausting as it sounds, and takes forever, but it’s also emission-free, nearly silent, and incredibly portable.

You can buy good manual chainsaws from a store, but it’s also a breeze to DIY one.

Attach some kind of grip to either end of a chainsaw chain, and you’re ready to go.

Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw 36 Inch Long Chain & FREE Fire Starter Best Compact Folding Hand Saw Tool for Survival Gear, Camping, Hunting, Tree Cutting or Emergency Kit. Replaces Your Pruning & Pole Saw
  • LENGTH MATTERS - While other 24 inch saws are too short, too weak, or simply just break after a few uses, our saw has a full longer, thicker 36" chain (EXCLUDING HANDLES). The bi directional, self cleaning chainsaw style cutting teeth tears through wood cutting both ways! Made of high 65 mn high carbon heat treated steel, the longer chain equals incredibly fast cutting time with razor sharp blades sawing 3 sides of a limb at once...clearly out classing the competition.
  • QUALITY DOES COUNT! - Our saw rips through anything from thin branches to large tree trunks in seconds. Cuts over head branches with ease. Our Saw has heavy duty rugged handles with metal brackets and can easily be re-sharpened unlike other sharp pointed pocket saws. Our Pocket Chainsaw comes with a tough nylon front snap storage pouch and belt loop. It can be sharpened with a regular 5/32 round chainsaw file. Perfect Multitool for all your Bushcraft needs.
  • THE MOST DURABLE SURVIVAL HAND SAW ON AMAZON - You can find pocket saws for less, but they offer you MUCH less. We all know, typically if you spend less now, you'll pay MORE later as the quality of hand chainsaws are NOT all the same Other CHEAPER saws are simply made with a thinner chain & handles You get what you pay for and we guarantee our heavy duty saw for "LIFE"... for a reason.
  • OUR 100% IRON CLAD LIFETIME GUARANTEE COMMITMENT TO YOU - We fully stand behind our TOP RATED, BEST SELLING Saw. If we didn't we wouldn't offer you a LIFETIME GUARANTEE! If you're not impressed or satisfied after using our cool saw, Sportsman Industries offers a full 100%, no questions asked, Money Back Guarantee. (Find another vendor that will do that!)
  • SPORTSMAN INDUSTRIES TM SINCE 2013 - HAS BEEN AS SEEN ON *FOX NEWS *CBS *NBC *ABC and now TV. This tree pruning saw is perfect for Boy Scouts, your Bug Out Bag, Landscapers or your Emergency Gear. Use it to clear mountain bike or ATV trails or when off-roading. Makes a great gift for any occasion! Each saw comes with a bonus 8 mm diameter magnesium Fire Starter.

What it’s used for:

Primarily small cutting jobs such as firewood for a campfire.

Manual Chainsaw Pros.

  • Easy to carry around.
  • Cheap, especially if you make one yourself.
  • Requires no power.
  • Quiet.

Manual Chainsaw Cons.

  • Difficult to use.
  • Takes a long time.
  • Only suitable for small jobs.

2. Battery-powered Chainsaws.

battery chainsaw
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The lightest kind of powered saw runs on a rechargeable power source – usually a lithium-ion battery.

If you haven’t used a battery-powered chainsaw in a long time, remember to put the battery in its charger a few hours before you need to start cutting.

The battery life of a rechargeable chainsaw varies between brands. It also depends on how much you use it at a time.

But generally, you won’t be able to spend more than a day in the field before you have to head home to recharge.

Battery-powered chainsaws tend to have less power, making them best for brush-clearing jobs in places where an extension cord won’t reach.

Side note: if you hear someone talking about a “cordless” chainsaw, they almost always mean battery-powered, even though gas and manual chainsaws also don’t have cords.

Worx WG322 20V Cordless Chainsaw with Auto-Tension
  • [FAST, CLEAN CUTS] This cordless 20V PowerShare chain saw is as fast and powerful as anything in its class. And with no gas and no cord, there’s much less muss and fuss
  • [AUTO-CHAIN TENSION] The automatic, tool-free chain tension system ensures you’ll always have the correct tension for the job at hand
  • [AUTO-CHAIN LUBRICATION] The automatic chain lubrication system not only makes for smoother, more efficient cuts, it extends the life of the tool. And the oil level indicator lets you know exactly where you stand
  • [COMPACT, LIGHTWEIGHT] It weighs 6.2 lbs., about as much as a 2-Liter bottle of soda. You’ll work longer, with less strain
  • [DO IT ALL WITH THE SAME BATTERY] Do it all with WORX PowerShare, the only cordless tool platform that uses the same battery to power 20V and 40V tools

What it’s used for:

Small to mid-sized cutting jobs anywhere you travel.

Battery-powered Chainsaw Pros.

  • No gas fumes.
  • 100% portable.
  • Quiet.

Battery-powered Chainsaw Cons.

  • Limited battery life.
  • Less power.

3. Corded-electric Chainsaws.

A corded chainsaw
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Corded-electric chainsaws also run on electricity, but since they’re plugged into a power source, they can run at a higher amperage.

This gives them a lot more cutting power, with the major downside that you can’t get very far from the outlet.

These electric saws are best for jobs near the home. On a one-acre property, you can probably run an extension cord anywhere you need to go.

To work farther afield, you’ll need to lug a generator or rechargeable battery along.

At that point, you might as well just go cordless.

Also, run on electricity, but since they’re plugged into a power source, they can run at a higher amperage.

This gives them a lot more cutting power, with the major downside that you can’t get very far from the outlet.

These electric saws are best for jobs near the home. On a one-acre property, you can probably run an extension cord anywhere you need to go.

To work farther afield, you’ll need to lug a generator or rechargeable battery along. At that point, you might as well just go cordless.

Sale
Oregon CS1500 18 in. 15 Amp Self-Sharpening Corded Electric Chainsaw
  • Includes 18” guide bar and PowerSharp chain, which minimizes downtime by allowing you to sharpen your chain right on the saw in 3 seconds or less.
  • Get to work right away with the instant start capability
  • The chain stays oiled using the built-in Lubri-Tec oiling system which reduces chain friction and increases the saw’s run time
  • No assembly required; comes pre-assembled
  • Low noise, silent between cuts. Chain brake for added safety

What it’s used for:

Small to mid-sized cutting jobs close to home or a power source.

Corded-electric Chainsaw Pros.

  • Cut with more power.
  • Easy for beginners to use.

Corded-electric Chainsaw Cons.

  • Limited to cord length.
  • Only effective up to medium-sized cuts.

4. Gas-powered Chainsaws.

A gas chainsaw
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Gas-powered chainsaws are the most powerful and are used by both professionals and homeowners.

This kind of chainsaw might be the most familiar to people new to landscaping.

They run on a gas-powered two-stroke engine that needs to be lubricated, just like a car’s.

Starting them requires priming the gas tank and pulling on a starter cord.

Gas-powered chainsaws are far and away from the most powerful option, most people will ever use, able to cut through wood of almost any size.

There are downsides, though: these saws are bulky, smelly, and loud.

Ear protection and upper-body strength are prerequisites for using one safely.

A gas chainsaw is cordless and can be taken anywhere. They can only run as long as there’s gas in the tank.

But it’s sometimes easier to bring an extra gas can than a spare lithium-ion battery.

Sale
Husqvarna 120 Mark II 16 in. Gas Chainsaws, Orange/Gray
  • Compact, casual-use chainsaw that’s designed to start up easily
  • Low kickback safety features, including built-in safety break, reduces risk during operation
  • Lightweight chainsaw is compact and maneuverable with excellent ergonomic comfort features
  • Automatic oiler delivers a steady supply of chain lubrication for safe and effective use
  • Husqvarna 16 in. chainsaw for homeowner use is ideal for everyday tasks such as tree pruning, hobby work or firewood cutting

What it’s used for:

All-purpose, heavy-duty cutting of lumber and large trees.

Gas Chainsaw Pros.

  • Most powerful & readily-available chainsaw.
  • Portable.

Gas Chainsaw Cons.

  • Loud.
  • Emits gas fumes.
  • Heavy.
  • It can be a hassle to start.

5. Pole Chainsaws.

A pole chain saw
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Pole saws are not technically considered chainsaws, but they work pretty much the same way.

Some pole saws are just handsaws or reciprocating saws with extended handles.

However, since the most popular pole saw designs are based on chainsaws, we thought they’d be worth mentioning.

A pole saw is a chainsaw on a stick, used for lopping off tree branches that would otherwise be hard to reach.

They’re great for getting rid of dangerous limbs that might fall and hurt someone if left unchecked.

Pole saws tend to be shorter and less powerful than normal chainsaws, in order to lessen the strain on the pole.

Most pole saws include triggers that allow you to operate them from the other end of the handle; some also let you oil the blade this way.

Like regular chainsaws, they can run on corded power, gasoline, or rechargeable batteries.

Sale
WORX WG309 8 Amp 10" 2-in-1 Electric Pole Saw & Chainsaw with Auto-Tension,Orange and Black,9" x 8" x 42"
  • Patented auto tension chain system for extended bar & chain life
  • Powerful 8 Amp Motor offers a consistent Performance; Oil Tank Capacity 120 milliliter
  • Rotatable working handle for sasy pruning; Chain links: 40
  • 8 foot extension pole with tool less installation
  • Compact and light weight design ; Rated Voltage: 120V to 60Hz; Chain speed:8.5 meter per second

What it’s used for:

Pruning of small to mid-size trees and branches.

Pros.

  • Great for reaching high limbs.
  • Multiple options for shape and power.

Cons.

  • Only useful in specific situations.
  • Not as powerful as handheld saws.

6. Pneumatic Chainsaws.

man using pneumatic chainsaw, Types of Chainsaws

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen

There’s a sixth type of chainsaw that can be even more powerful than a gas chainsaw, without as many moving parts.

We’ve left them until last because they’re much more common in industrial settings — landscaping tasks are unlikely to demand a pneumatic chainsaw.

These saws are typically purchased directly from the manufacturer – you won’t find many on Amazon, unfortunately.

Pneumatic chainsaws are powered by highly pressurized air pockets.

They can build up enough force to make straight cuts in metal and concrete, which makes them useful for construction work.

Unlike gas chainsaws, they’re emission-free. Some have mechanisms that deliver water or oil to keep the blade from overheating.

What it’s used for:

Industrial cutting jobs; not for beginners.

Pneumatic Chainsaw Pros.

  • Can cut through metal and concrete.
  • No fumes.
  • Less likely to break down.
  • Often contains its own coolant system.

Pneumatic Chainsaw Cons.

  • Extremely expensive.
  • Quieter, but still not quiet.

Conclusion.

By now, you’ve seen that each class of chainsaw has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Buying the right chainsaw is not a search for the “best,” but a process of matching the tool to the job at hand.

The list below summarizes what kind of task each chainsaw is best in order to help you in your search.

  • Manual: Pruning small branches, chopping small firewood.
  • Battery-powered: Pruning and trail-clearing away from power sources.
  • Corded electric: Small to medium-sized jobs near your home.
  • Gas-powered: Heavy-duty jobs away from power sources.
  • Pole: Removing dangerous or unhealthy tree limbs.
  • Pneumatic: Sawing through concrete and metal.

They are all excellent choices for the appropriate size of work and the amperage available.

One isn’t necessarily better than another. It is all up to what you need it for and what your personal preference is.

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