Best Mini Chainsaw
Mini chainsaws are great for powering through light-duty lumberjacking projects, like pruning branches and cutting small logs. Their rugged design and powerful motors pack a serious amount of cutting power into a small package, and offer a durability that users typically won’t find in other power saws. They’re not great for precision cuts, but if you’re looking for a tool to quickly and effectively chew through wood, one of these tools will have you covered. Chainsaws—regardless of their size—require substantial control by the user to be operated safely, so if this is your first chainsaw, take the time to thoroughly review the instruction manual.
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Mini chainsaw buying guide
Here are some of the things to consider while sorting through the many options you’ll find online.
• Safety concerns. There are hundreds of so-called mini chainsaws sold all across the internet. However, the vast majority aren’t made by reputable manufacturers such as Stihl or Milwaukee. They’re generic products with unknown names, and they’re sometimes accompanied by outrageous claims — for example, listings saying they feature 98V batteries, when the realistic range is 12V-20V in a single battery pack measuring around 5” x 3”.
There have also been reported scams. Many websites claim to sell the Stihl GTA 26, one of the first handheld chainsaws to hit the market, at a fraction of its actual price. Then the seller either ships a completely different product (similar to the generic ones found on retail websites by other names) or doesn’t ship anything at all.
Mini or not, chainsaws are dangerous power tools that when misused can result in severe injuries. Going the cheap route with a product like this is not the best idea. First, consider the reputation of the brand you’re considering. Second, look at the tool’s safety features, such as two-step activation (having to hit two different buttons or triggers for it to turn on), a blade guard covering a side of the chain, or a divider that separates your hand from the chain in case it slips. An automatic oiler isn’t a bad addition either, as it will prevent the chain from getting stuck or even pop off. Oiling manually can be tedious and easily forgotten in the middle of a job.
• Power. With chainsaws, power or cutting capability is measured in chain speed (meters per second) and torque. Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t always displayed, or sometimes just one of them is shown, most commonly chain speed. On chainsaws of this size, however, chain speed will have more of an impact since they’ll be used to cut small branches.
Torque refers to the strength with which the chain spins. It’s important when cutting hard woods like maple, and even more so when trying to cut large pieces of it and you encounter knots midway through.
High chain speed, on the other hand, makes cutting small branches a lot easier because even with hard wood, there is very little resistance overall in a 1” to 4” diameter branch. If you think you’ll be using your compact chainsaw for some tougher jobs every now and then, consider torque too. However, you should consider a full-size chainsaw (maybe even a gas-powered one) if you’ll be taking down trees or branches wider than 6” on a regular basis.
• Size and shape. Commercial-grade gas-powered chainsaws tend to have guide bars that range from 16” to more than 30” in length, and can weigh anywhere from 9 pounds to 25 pounds or more. For a mini chainsaw, you should be looking for lengths in the 4” to 10” range and a weight below 7 pounds for maximum portability and ease of use.
When it comes to the shape, there are many options, from traditional two-handed set-ups to lopper-like designs that tend to provide more safety. There’s also the now popular handheld pruning chainsaw.
To remove small 1” to 3” diameter branches, a lopper-style chainsaw can be more than enough. For more versatility, power and out-of-the-garden projects, you might want to get something closer to a traditional two-handed chainsaw with 8” to 12” guide bars.
• Warranty. The warranty is essential when it comes to not only an expensive tool, but a dangerous one. If any part of your chainsaw fails, the manufacturer should be able to help either by troubleshooting or by providing replacement parts quickly.
The standard for battery-powered chainsaws is two to three years of coverage. Anything below that — or worse, no available warranty information — should be considered a red flag.