Electric chainsaws more than just toys

Chainsaws are the fastest way to cut tree limbs, brush and wood of all kinds in landscaping situations, but the noise, expense and fuel involved in running a gas-powered model puts them out of the realm of what’s reasonable for many Canadian homeowners.

Electric chainsaws are surprisingly useful for building projects involving wider-than-usual cuts. This insulating concrete form can be cut in one pass using a 16-inch model.

Electric chainsaws are surprisingly useful for building projects involving wider-than-usual cuts. This insulating concrete form can be cut in one pass using a 16-inch model.

Chainsaws are the fastest way to cut tree limbs, brush and wood of all kinds in landscaping situations, but the noise, expense and fuel involved in running a gas-powered model puts them out of the realm of what’s reasonable for many Canadian homeowners.

This is where electric chainsaws make sense.

Sure, electrics aren’t up to the job of felling big timber or making serious amounts of firewood, but there are surprisingly effective models out there for smaller applications. Though inexpensive, electric chainsaws, can save you a lot of money you’d otherwise have to spend hiring a landscaping service. They’re even a big help in certain building situations.

To get a better sense of the saws I’m talking about, I took apart a Craftsman 16 — inch model.

At $120, it’s cheap enough to justify for occasional use, and readily available across Canada.

It’s also a surprisingly good little saw, built better than you might expect. It delivers power roughly equivalent to a 30cc gas saw, which is more than enough for jobs around the yard, yet without the noise, fumes and hassles of keeping mixed gas on hand. Despite its mostly-plastic construction, the Craftsman does have proper ball bearings where it counts.

This saw is reminiscent of gas models in other ways, too. The chain is driven by a six-tooth sprocket that looks just like the ones on my gas chainsaws.

The only difference is that this sprocket isn’t connected to a centrifugal clutch.

Being electric, the tool doesn’t need one.

The chain simply stops and starts when the motor is turned ON and OFF with the finger trigger.

As makes sense with a saw meant for general consumer use, the Craftsman comes with an anti-kickback safety chain, and there are two reasons this matters.

The chain is that part of a chainsaw that spins around and does the cutting. It’s got teeth, and if those teeth catch onto the wood while cutting, the saw can jump back at you.

That’s definitely not good, and it’s the reason for anti-kickback saw chains. They include an extra protrusion of metal in front of each tooth that limits the bite of wood that the teeth can take.

This reduces the chance of kickback, though at a price. Anti-kickback chains cut roughly half as fast as conventional cutting chains.

The key to staying safe with any kind of chainsaw is to avoid letting the tip of the tool touch anything while you’re cutting.

This can cause kickback even with an anti-kickback chain. You also need to understand and anticipate how a tree branch or other object will move and potentially pinch the chainsaw as the cut nears completion.

Always work so the weight of the wood opens up the cut and moves the wood apart on each side of the saw chain while you work.

Although most people don’t bother, I also where a face shield, hearing protection and special safety chaps to protect my legs whenever I use a chainsaw.

Got some building to do? Electric chainsaws are often a pretty good way to complete cuts wider than what’s possible with other power saws.

They’re useful for notching out rafters, cutting insulated concrete forms and SIPs panels, for punching out door and window openings through sheathing, cutting engineered beams, rough demolition work, creating holes for roof vents, and crosscutting landscape timbers.

Whatever you do, don’t take electric chainsaws for granted.

They look like toys but they’re just as powerful as a plug-in circular saw, and they’ve got a lot more teeth whizzing around all out in the open.

Chainsaws really are the best tools for some tasks.

Decent electric models are also cheap and easy keepers, making them a pretty good bet if you’ve got a few trees and shrubs that need trimming now and then, or even some building and renovation jobs to deal with.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s award-winning home improvement expert, and technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. Sign up for his free homeowner newsletter at www.stevemaxwell.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Canada's top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue mounting in much of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says, amid rising numbers

Canada’s top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track… Continue reading

hay
Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

Most Read