Chainsaws: How we test chainsaws
How we find the best chainsaws
To help you choose the best petrol, electric or cordless chainsaw, we put each machine through a series of rigorous tests to see just how good they are at cutting wood, how quick they are at doing it and how easy they are to use.
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We select chainsaws aimed at garden use to test from the most popular brands. Our tests start long before we switch the chainsaw on. We assess how easy each machine is to put together and we review the quality of the instructions.
- We rate how extensively the instructions demonstrate cutting techniques and safety guidelines
- We rate how effectively the instructions cover essential maintenance.
Chainsaw safety first
All of the chainsaws we’ve reviewed are safe to use. Our independent experts check that they are equipped with all of the required safety features and that these work in line with the British Standard on portable chainsaw safety. For example, we check that the chain brake will stop the chain dead in less than a second if it’s engaged.
Once we’re sure they are safe to use, each chainsaw is put through the same set of tests to separate the best from the rest.
How to find the best chainsaw
The best chainsaws will cut through wood like a knife through butter. When it comes to cutting, we rate chainsaws on how well they can slice through different types and sizes of wood.
- Our testers time how long each machine takes to make a series of slices in a 5cm-diameter branch.
- They inspect the cut to see whether the saw struggled or caused any damage to the remaining branch.
- They rate how cleanly each machine cuts.
This test is repeated on logs of increasing diameters – 10cm, 15cm, 20cm and 30cm – to see how well each chainsaw tackles a range of garden tasks, from pruning to chopping up large logs for firewood.
Tougher tasks for chainsaws
To really put these chainsaws through their paces, we run them through a hardwood log – such as chestnut or oak – and a railway sleeper, timing how long it takes and rating how cleanly they cut. The best chainsaws will power through these obstacles with ease.
Ergonomically designed chainsaws
It’s not just about the cutting: a chainsaw should be well-balanced and comfortable to hold to achieve the best cutting technique, so our testers rate each machine on how evenly its weight is distributed and how well-positioned the handles are.
Badly positioned trigger and throttle lock-off switches can be hard to press and hold while you’re using the chainsaw, so we assess how easy the switches are to engage for a reasonable length of time – the time it would take to slice through a log, for example.
A chainsaw will inevitably produce vibrations while it's cutting. However, the best models will minimise the transfer of these vibrations to your arms and shoulders. We assess and rate each chainsaw on how noticeable the vibration is.
The best chainsaws are simple to hold and use for a range of cutting jobs, so we conduct a total of 21 different tests to see how easy it is to use each chainsaw.
- We assess each model while making a series of vertical cuts at waist height.
- We rate how easy it would be to use for chopping logs in a sawhorse.
- We rate how easy it would be to use between waist and knee height, for slicing through low-hanging branches.
- We assess each model while making horizontal cuts, to rate how easy each machine is to use for cutting through the trunk of a shrub or small tree.
- We assess how simple it is to switch between horizontal and vertical cutting.
- And how well each chainsaw can be manoeuvred among branches, to rate how easy it is to use for heavy pruning.
Chainsaws require a fair amount of regular maintenance to keep them in tip-top condition, yet this is an easier job with some models than it is with others.
Our expert testers assess how easy it is to top up the chain oil and tension the chain, and how simple the chain teeth are to sharpen. They also rate how detailed the teeth-sharpening instructions are and how easy they are to follow.
We also rate petrol chainsaws on how straightforward they are to fill with fuel and start from cold, and how easy cordless batteries are to remove and refit.
There’s no escaping the fact that chainsaws are noisy machines, but, while some are tolerable, others are extremely noisy and may annoy the neighbours. So we rate each chainsaw on how noisy it is and how irritating this is likely to be to others.
Chainsaw testing final scores
Once the testing has been completed, we set to work evaluating all of the results to find the best chainsaws.
- We allocate 50% of the final score to convenience, which includes all of the results for clarity of instructions, general handling, ease of starting (petrol models only), ease of use, manoeuvrability and maintenance.
- Cutting performance is worth 40%, with slightly more emphasis on the results for larger logs and harder wood than for smaller logs and horizontal cutting.
- Finally, 10% of the final score is based on how noisy the machines are to use.