9 Best Chainsaws | March 2017
- zero assembly required before use
- moderately powerful 8-amp motor
- heavy for an electric model
- kit includes a charger
- maneuverable 16-inch bar and chain
- oil tends to leak in carrying bag
- features a powerful 51cc engine
- efficient electronic ignition
- blade dulls quickly
- ergonomic handles
- includes a carrying case
- tool-free access to air filter
- features a safety stop
- tool-less chain replacement
- electrically powered so fume-free
- 20-inch bar for easy handling
- quick release air filter
- meets carb standards
The Chains on the Saw Go Round and Round
When I was growing up I never thought, despite its name, that there was actually a chain on a chainsaw. I thought it just had teeth all around a big blade and that the teeth moved somehow. Once I realized there was a chain involved (still a kid at this point), I thought that it was just a chain with no blades, and that it moved so fast it could cut through anything.
Then, I got to use a chainsaw, and it was made very clear to me how it worked before I was allowed to sink it into some wood.
Most of the chainsaws you'll encounter move their chain, complete with its little shark fin-like blades, the way a motorcycle moves its chain. In fact, the systems aren't all that dissimilar. There's a small, gas powered motor that creates a bit of combustion. That combustion moves a piston in a cylinder that's connected to an arm. That arm spins a mechanism through a simple clutch that determines the power delivered to the chain.
Yes, if you're wondering, somebody did make a motorcycle that runs on chainsaws.
The big difference between the motorcycle's power system and the chainsaw's is the final drive. On the bike, that chain is designed to move your rear wheel and push forward a bike that can weigh anywhere between 200 and 2000 lbs. The chain on the chainsaw doesn't have to move anything, unless you count its teeth. And with all that speed in the blade and all that tasty torque, the cutting is easy.
Safety Can Be Fun, I Promise
Some people can be pretty loose about their chainsaw safety, relying on their thick boots, hard hats, and goggles to keep the worst possible injuries at bay. Me, I prefer to get my confidence from knowledge and the application of proper technique. It's why, for example, I'm not afraid to bowl in front of a date.
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of fun to be had wielding a chainsaw. Just remember that, in 1999 (oh, boy; feeling old), there were a little over 28,500 chainsaw injuries that required an average of over 100 stitches each.
The shame of it is, it's such an easy thing to manage. It's all about kickback. No, I'm not talking about the chainsaw lobby giving kickbacks to politicians who pass laws that favor their industry. I don't even think there is a chainsaw lobby, but if there was, I wouldn't mess with them.
Kickback is the phenomenon you see in the picture there, when a chainsaw violently jerks back at its user. There's a magic little spot on the front end of every chainsaw that's known as the kickback zone, and if you manage that properly, your safety is all but guaranteed.
Down to the Bone
In the late 18th century, around the early 1780s, a pair of wily Swedish doctors came up with the idea of adhering a series of small cutting surfaces to a chain. That chain was spun by a hand crank, and it was meant for the excision of diseased bone.
That's kind of funny, if you think about it. All this talk about protecting the body, and the first chainsaw was actually designed for cutting bone!
The Swedes didn't release their saw until around 1790, and the chainsaw itself was only really used in medical fields until the 1920s.
It was in the 20s that Stihl released mass-produced versions of electrical and gas powered chainsaws, though these were meant to be operated by two men, instead of one, with controls on one end and an additional handle at the end of the blade arm, in what we now call the kickback zone.
Advancements in the metals used for both the blade arm and the chain allowed for the creation of one man saws, and from there the majority of developments that came about were either in the chain or the motor. Saws got sharper, stronger and more durable, and now they even cut through flying sharks. Hooray!