The Best Small Chainsaws for DIYers and Pros

Whether they’re needed for cutting firewood or maintaining a property, find out which woodcutting tools made the cut for some of the best small chainsaws.

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Best Small Chainsaw

Photo: depositphotos.com

If you’ve got a few trees on your property, chances are you may need a chainsaw at some point. Whether it’s because a storm knocked some branches down or you want to get a little more sunlight in your garden, having a chainsaw on hand can be a big help.

A professional model isn’t usually needed, but that doesn’t mean just any saw will be capable of the job. Consider purchasing the best small chainsaw to fit any upcoming needs. That might mean buying a gas- or battery-powered saw or even a corded model. Keep reading to learn about important features to think about when searching for a small chainsaw, and check out some of the best options below.

  1. BEST OVERALL: WORX 20V PowerShare 10″ Cordless Electric Chainsaw
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WORX 14.5 Amp 16″ Electric Chainsaw
  3. BEST UPGRADE: Makita 18V X2 LXT Brushless Cordless 14″ Chain Saw
  4. ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon 18 in. 15 Amp Corded Electric Chainsaw
Best Small Chainsaw

Photo: depositphotos.com

Before You Buy the Best Small Chainsaw

Whether a small chainsaw will work for a yard depends on how it’s intended to be used and the property’s size. If the goal is to cut firewood, then a larger, more powerful chainsaw may be better suited for the job. If it’s a large yard with mature trees, a windfall might be challenging to cut with a chainsaw bar smaller than 20 inches.

However, if the lawn is small and the plan is just essential maintenance, then a small chainsaw will suffice. It should cut fallen branches easily or clear some stubborn bushes without an issue.

The best small chainsaws are lighter than larger models, and they can be a bit less intimidating to users. They’re easy to handle, won’t tire out the user as quickly, and they’re usually the least expensive within a brand’s lineup. But it’s important to remember that even a small chainsaw can do a lot of damage quickly, so personal protective equipment (PPE) and being mindful of safety is still important.

Types of Small Chainsaws

Before deciding on a small chainsaw, it’s important to know the differences between a few standard styles, including gas-powered, battery-powered, and corded models. Each has benefits and drawbacks, but many of the best small chainsaws usually fall within these three categories.

Gas-Powered

Many people think of gas chainsaws when they picture a chainsaw. These loud, sometimes smoky, machines rip through wood without an issue—if they’re correctly maintained.

A gas chainsaw requires far more upkeep than an electric-powered chainsaw. Users need to maintain a clean air filter, use the proper mix of gasoline and oil, and replace the spark plugs. They also have carburetors, so they require adjustments to fuel and air mixtures, which can make a gas chainsaw finicky.

However, if the property is on the larger side or the plan is to use a chainsaw often, then a gas chainsaw may be the best small chainsaw.

Battery-Powered

Battery-powered chainsaws offer quite a bit of flexibility. They’re low maintenance, like a typical electric chainsaw, but they provide the portability of a gas chainsaw. Today’s options are pretty powerful while also being less noisy than a comparable gas-powered model. The downside is that batteries for these saws tend to be pricey, so keeping a few on hand can cost as much as the saw itself.

Battery-powered saws are best suited for DIYers without sizable properties who only plan to use the saw occasionally. Their low-maintenance needs and portability make them among the best small chainsaws for these scenarios.

One additional benefit of a battery-powered chainsaw is that many of the top power tool brands offer saws that work with the same batteries as their power tools.

Corded Electric

Corded electric chainsaws have been around for a long time, and there are many great options on the market. They have very few maintenance needs other than a quick cleaning and maintaining the bar-lube levels. Many corded electric saws rival the power offered by gas chainsaws.

The issue with a corded electric chainsaw is that they’re limited to where their cords can reach, so they are usually best suited for small yards that don’t require a lot of frequent chainsaw use. For larger areas, an extension cord is often needed. However, they can handle most of the same jobs that a gas-powered saw can handle, as long as there is a power source.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Small Chainsaw

Chainsaw pros know these tools inside and out, but that doesn’t mean everyone has that same knowledge. For those who are not professional woodcutters, here are some important considerations to ponder before shopping. Keeping these points in mind will help the search for the best small chainsaw.

Kickback

If you’ve never run a chainsaw before, or if it’s been a while, it’s important to learn about the dangers of kickback. Kickback can occur when the top half of the saw bar’s tip makes contact with a solid piece of wood. If the sawyer doesn’t have experience or isn’t expecting it, the saw bar can kick back toward them, causing a serious injury.

While plunge cutting the bar’s nose into a log is a well-known technique, it’s a skill for experienced woodcutters. Unless you have years of chainsaw experience, consider leaving the guard on the end of the bar. It’s also helpful to run low-kickback chains on a saw. They cut slower, but they’re much safer. It’s also important to always cut with two hands on a saw at all times.

Motor or Engine Size

The size of a chainsaw’s motor (electrical models) or engine (gas-powered saws) has a lot to do with its intended capabilities. It also may determine if it can be upgraded to a longer bar or if it is heavy duty.

For most small, gas-powered chainsaws, engine sizes range between 30 and 40 cubic centimeters (cc), which is an acceptable size engine for anything from a 10- or 12-inch bar up to 16 inches. An 18-inch bar is a possibility, but that’s as large as it gets with a saw in this range. Matching these bars to this engine size will provide plenty of power and torque without getting in over your head on a large tree.

For electric saws, consider amperages. An electric motor’s amp rating describes how much power it can handle before internals may start to break down. Saws with a 14-amp rating are more than suitable for most home uses.

Bar Length

The length of a chainsaw’s bar determines the type of work it’s best suited for, but there are some things to know. Longer bars (24 inches and longer) may seem intimidating, but they’re actually relatively easy to control. Top-handle saws with short bars (usually 10 inches) look like mini chainsaws. They are small and seem more approachable, but they can be more unpredictable and dangerous for a new sawyer. They’re ideal for tree-climbing arborists.

A 14- to 18-inch-long bar saw is an excellent meet-in-the-middle size that can handle most DIY-type jobs. They can fell small trees, buck large branches, and cut firewood without much issue. These bars also are easy to find if they need to be replaced.

There also are mini chainsaws with bars just a few inches long, but they’re best for pruning duty. These blades are even smaller than the ones found on a typical pole saw.

Weight

Depending on the sawyer’s physical strength, weight can be the most critical consideration of all. If someone is unable to handle a saw safely because it’s too heavy, the fuel source or bar length simply won’t matter.

Corded electric saws and battery-powered saws are often the lightest chainsaws on the market. They don’t require a full tank of fuel mix, and their motors are smaller, so they are lighter weight and easier to use in a variety of scenarios.

Keep in mind, though, that a saw can be too light as well. A top-handle saw with a lot of power, a short bar, and a light motor can act unpredictably if it experiences some kickback. The added inertia of a heavier motor will help minimize the effects of kickback.

Noise Pollution

If you’d like to maintain a pleasant relationship with neighbors, you may want to consider how much noise a chainsaw can create. Gas-powered saws can be deafening—100 decibels is not unheard of (no pun intended), so woodcutting is best left to late mornings and afternoons when the fewest people may be sleeping.

Even some electric- and battery-powered options are a little loud. The whine of the electric motor and the noise the chain makes as it rips through the wood combine to create some chatter.

The other thing to realize about noise is that hearing protection should be worn. There are plenty of muff-style protectors at local home improvement stores, and they’ll do a lot to maintain hearing after spending a day at the end of a chainsaw.

Safety Features

Chainsaws can be dangerous; there is no denying that. Many saws now have some features that help keep users safe. Most importantly, a chainsaw can have an inertia chain brake. These clutch-style brakes sense the rapid change in inertia caused by kickback and lock the chain to stop it from running. If there is kickback, the brake will engage and help keep the user safe.

Also, low-kickback chains are now installed on most small chainsaws, and they do a lot to minimize the effects of kickback. Regardless, wear proper protective gear, including chainsaw chaps, sturdy boots, and both eye and ear protection as well as a pair of properly fitting work gloves.

The Advantages of a Small Chainsaw

Small chainsaws tend to be less expensive than their larger brethren. The engines are small and the bars are shorter, which means fewer materials and a lower cost to produce. While a small chainsaw does have its limitations, it’s often the smart choice for anyone working on a tight budget or someone who doesn’t need a professional-grade model with a professional-grade price tag.

There is a significant difference between a small chainsaw (around 16 inches) and a larger model (20 inches or more). While this might make the larger saws a bit more robust, the weight can do a number on a woodcutter’s back and arms over the course of a few hours. A smaller saw will allow a new woodcutter to cut more wood for longer periods of time before having to hang up their chaps for the day.

Smaller saws often translate to less maintenance as well, which can be a large benefit. While spark plugs and air filters still need changing (on gas models), smaller saws have shorter chains that are easier to sharpen. Also, many of the best small chainsaws actually run on battery instead of gasoline, meaning that other than a cleaning to make sure the bar oiler is clear, there isn’t a lot of maintenance required.

Our Top Picks

Woodcutting can be hard work. But with a bit of background information on what to look for when shopping for the best small chainsaw for a property, choosing a model doesn’t have to be laborious. Chosen with the critical considerations and key features in mind, the following recommendations made the cut for some of the best small chainsaws.

Best Overall

The Best Small Chainsaw Option: Worx WG322 20V 10 Cordless Electric Chainsaw
Photo: amazon.com

This 10-inch saw uses a 20-volt battery to run the chain at speeds up to 12.5 feet per second, which is plenty for most yard projects. Its best feature, however, is its light weight. At only 6 pounds, this WORX model can be a great choice for new sawyers who don’t yet know how much a heavy chainsaw can tire out their backs. A battery and battery charger are included.

Best Bang for the Buck

Best Small Chainsaw WORK
Photo: amazon.com

For small properties with relatively light chainsawing needs, this 14.5-amp, 16-inch WORX can be an effective, economical choice. Capable of felling small trees and cutting firewood, this cordless electric chainsaw uses an automatic tensioning system, which extends the life of the bar and chain while also making less work for the tool operator.

Best Upgrade

Best Small Chainsaw Makita
Photo: amazon.com

This Makita model boasts just about as much power as the average 32cc gasoline engine, making it more than capable of taking down small trees and cutting even dense firewood like oak and maple. The chain adjustment is tool-less, requiring the operator to simply turn the knob on the side of the saw for the desired tension. The brushless motor creates a lot of power while also preserving battery life. Note that only one 5.0AH battery is included.

Also Consider

The Best Small Chainsaw Option: Oregon CS1500 18 in. 15 Amp Corded Electric Chainsaw
Photo: amazon.com

Cutting firewood with a dull saw is not fun. To make it easier to maintain the sharp tool, Oregon created a self-sharpening electric chainsaw with plenty of power. This model has an 18-inch bar and a self-sharpening lever that grinds a fresh edge onto the chain’s cutting teeth in 3 to 5 seconds.

This saw has a 15-amp motor and uses a tool-less chain tensioning system, allowing the user to adjust the chain to the proper tension and lock it back into place with ease. One of the best features of this saw is how quiet it is when running, while still providing plenty of power to get the job done.

The Advantages of Owning a Small Chainsaw

There are a lot of advantages to owning a small chainsaw. Secure storage, ease of use, and better affordability are all benefits.

Storing a small chainsaw in a garage or workshop is much easier than storing a larger model, which could have a bar that is a full foot longer and weighs twice as much. The options included in the top picks list can sit on a shelf, under a work table, or anywhere there is space. Larger chainsaws are harder to situate and may be too heavy for some shelves.

Smaller chainsaws are generally easier to use, as most are DIY models. These saws have plenty of power and safety features but are lighter than larger saws. They can be used for basically any project that comes up in the life of a typical home. Plus, there isn’t the need to call or pay for a professional to do this work.

Owning a smaller chainsaw is often more economical than a larger saw because they’re usually less expensive. Since many are electric- or battery-powered, they’re less costly to maintain as well. A simple chain-sharpening and a bottle of bar lube will usually keep a saw in running condition for years.

  • Smaller chainsaws are capable and easier to store than larger saws.
  • Smaller chainsaws are more comfortable to use than larger saws.
  • Smaller chainsaws are more economical than larger saws.

FAQs About Small Chainsaws

You might have a chainsaw in mind now, and that’s great. But there also may be some questions you’d like answered before you add that saw to a shopping cart. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the best small chainsaws.

Q. How lightweight do chainsaws come?

Small chainsaws can weigh anywhere between 6 and 20 pounds. The weight depends on their power source, how many batteries they use, and their construction materials.

Q. Do you need to wear special gear when using a chainsaw?

Chainsaws can be dangerous; there is no denying that. When operating a chainsaw, keep yourself protected by wearing chainsaw chaps, sturdy boots, and both eye and ear protection as well as a pair of properly fitting work gloves.

Q. What can you cut with a small chainsaw?

There are many situational factors that can limit what a chainsaw can cut, but a small chainsaw can cut woods like pine, cedar, birch, and oak.

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s for property maintenance or cutting small logs for a backyard campfire, owning a small chainsaw can hasten the job. While many don’t need a true professional’s tool, finding the right blend of power, size, weight, and safety is the name of the game. Luckily, there are plenty of options, and this guide highlights some of the best.