In Defense Of The Electric Chainsaw

Here at Hackaday we are a diverse bunch, we all bring our own experience to the task of bringing you the best of the hardware scene. Our differing backgrounds were recently highlighted by a piece from my colleague [Dan] in which he covered the teardown of a cordless electric chainsaw.

It was his line “Now, we’d normally shy away from any electric chainsaw, especially a cordless saw, and doubly so a Harbor Freight special“. that caught my eye. I’m with him on cordless tools which I see as a cynical ploy from manufacturers to ensure 5-yearly replacements, and I agree that cheap tools are a false economy. But electric chainsaws? Here on this small farm, they’re the saw of choice and here’s why.

“I’ve Got A Bran’ New Chainsaw, You’ve got 43!”1

A small British farm is not a forestry business, but it’s fair to say that a chainsaw is a tool that sees fairly regular use. Branches come down, pieces of hedge need taming, and with a hungry woodburner to satisfy, firewood needs to be cut. You won’t be surprised then to find that my dad has had more than one chainsaw over the years, but you may be surprised to find that this long experience has led us to rely on electric saws exclusively for the last couple of decades.

So why do we load a generator on the back of the tractor and set upon fallen branches with a power cable trailing behind us when we could do it to the buzz of a 2-stroke motor? The answers are simple enough: maintenance and safety.

If you are a very occasional chainsaw user the chances are your saw will never be challenged. You’ll use it, put it away in the garage, and a year later when you pull it out again it’ll be ready to go after a bit of fettling. And if you’re a forestry worker your saw will be your livelihood, it’ll be an expensive piece of kit and you’ll maintain it to within an inch of its life. If however you are a small farmer without a big budget like my dad, you won’t be able to afford the forester’s maintenance schedule or deluxe saw, and you enter an abusive relationship with a nasty little 2-stroke motor and its work-any-way-up carburetor.

The Curse Of The Tiny 2-Stroke Motor

Let me say this, little 2-strokes really are horrible pieces of machinery when you have to rely on them. Half the parts are made of cheese, the other half vibrate apart if you stop looking at them, and they simply love to coat their insides with nasty gunk. They hate any suggestion that they might start at their owner’s first pull on the cord, and play hard-to-get through a half-hour of careful checking fuel mixtures and heating up plugs. And when you really want them to stop, like for instance when it’s a chainsaw safety issue, they refuse and stutter on for a few revolutions as the blade kicks up in the air and your life flashes before you. No, they save stopping for moments they consider opportune, such as when you’re at the top of a ladder with all the ropes set up to lop off a branch.

By comparison an electric chainsaw is easy to maintain, starts on the button, stops dead when it is asked and when that safety bar is triggered, and won’t cover you in smoke or 2-stroke mix. The inconvenience of carrying a 4-stroke generator, RCD, and extension lead is minor compared to the joys of operating a petrol saw on a small farm as I’ve just outlined.

So there you are. It may not put us in with the cool kids when we say that an electric chainsaw is our saw of choice, but we do so from the position of experience even if it means that using it away from the house involves firing up the tractor.

There is one snag though, and I’ll forestall you commenters from pointing it out. When the zombie apocalypse is upon us we’ll be in trouble if the undead can remember how to unplug an electrical cord.

Electric chainsaw header image: Harisingh&sons [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

1My deepest apologies to the Wurzels.

94 thoughts on “In Defense Of The Electric Chainsaw

  1. Seems like a bit of a non article, but unless you have a pto genny, aren’t you just swapping maintenance on the carb of the chainsaw for the equally as crap one on the generator? Lets not discuss damp storage outbuildings too.
    Disclaimer I had a electric chainsaw, I’ve gone back to a two stroke powered one and put stabilizer in the fuel for periods when its not likely to see much use. I’ve found the real key to reliability is just to not let anyone else near it.

    1. I think the article is quite good, I never thought about using an electric chainsaw, but the points Jenny makes do make sense. It isn’t going to be for everyone but they do have a lot of benefits. I would imagine being on a farm the generator will get quite good use. Jenny would have to have a generator anyway (I presume) So that would be two engines that need serviced instead of one. Also you don’t have to store it in a damp outbuilding if you don’t want but I bet lots of people do, So your point is valid.

    2. “Aren’t you just swapping maintenance on the carb of the chainsaw for the equally as crap one on the generator? ”
      No, because Honda don’t make chain saws, as far as I know.
      I’m a forester and use chainsaws all the time, a good one will start on the second pull a bad one on the fifth, my sawmill has a Honda four stroke, it sits out in the rain all year and starts on the first pull every time,

      1. Yep, gensets will typically use a four stroke. With fewer concerns about shaving weight off everything and without having the fuel double as a lubricant, they’re significantly less finicky.

        Additionally, two stroke chainsaws can be prone to stalling if not handled right; electric motors are more forgiving. I’ve found them a lot easier to handle for casual home use.

      2. That HF seems like a pretty eh not too bad deal for 170 just for the part-scavanging. I couldn’t tell by the original post, are those Samsungs 18650s authentic? (The page he links out to has been suspended likely from overtraffic.) Still, those 60w/3amphour DeWalts are barely enough for a general contractor to use on site, much less a framer who’ll be making a few hundred cross cuts in two-by’s and at least a dozen long rips a day. Even a crappy crappy-consumer TroyBilt inefficient 2 stroke piece of 25cc displacement junk puts out enough CFM (it pushes air, that’s how it do, bruv) to have a measurable output of ~.8hp @ continuous on my faux dyno (don’t worry, I got an NIST cal cert for it) reliable use before it torque stalls. So yeah this article is a non-article.

        As a pro, what do you use to fell trees? Husqvarna is my go-to and I’ve had absolutely no problems with them (I consider them to be basically the equivalent of the Skilsaw HD77, the Hilti DD350 core driller, or the Makita rat tail angle grinder as a staple of absolute indestructability), but I’d love to hear what y’all use.

        My baby 19″ Honda 3hp 4 stroke lawn mower has taken so much abuse, I’m not surprised that your mill is kicking away. I’ve never seen anything come out of Honda which wasn’t engineered great. I’ve cobbled together my own mini-mill with something similar to that and a cheapo set of rails I fabricated out of discount tubing + teflon bushings (woohoo no need for bearings!). I’m by no means a skilled sawyer but I got some decent rift and quartersawn with that janky setup. I’m curious what your mill setup is

        (And also what species timber you rip, do you feel like selling your spare cuts to me ? ;)

        1. Definitely a big plus for Husqvarna chainsaws, and for Honda-powered generators.

          As always, maintenance is the key. Feed your Honda with decent fuel, and – this can’t be emphasised enough – FOLLOW THE MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE, and your generator will run for a long, long time.

          The 2-stroke Husqvarna chainsaw, while powerful and very good on safety, is a right b**** to start when hot. Otherwise, I’m very happy with it. It’s more of a branch-trimmer than a tree-feller, but a sharp chain goes through australian hardwood with little effort. Mind you, australian hardwood dulls the chain very quickly. I’ve found that the chain needs dressing every tankful, and proper sharpening every 3-4 tankfulls (tanksfull?).

    3. Without it saying so, I think the point of the article is not chainsaws, but how to maximize performance and reliability for your use case. Keeping and maintaining the generator allows them other near-zero-maintenance power tools, even if the saw is the one that seems the least likely at first mention.

    4. IMO maintaining a generator is a better use of your time than maintaining individual gasoline powered tools. The generator is so much more versatile, even more so than a compressor. In addition to running multiple electric tools, a good generator can power work lights and fans in remote areas, run a charger to jump disabled vehicles and tractors, substitute line voltage in a power outage, charge a phone or radio in an emergency, etc. Generators (or compressors) are also decidedly safer for indoor workspaces (garage, woodshop) because you can keep the exhaust fumes outside.

      1. Also, 4 cycle engines are far better for the environment, and you don’t need to keep and mix 50:1 gas for ’em. Farms have to keep at least gas and diesel around, 2-cycle engines mean a third flammable substance to store and manage.

        1. Two-stroke oil, while flammable, isn’t easily ignited. If you’ve got a shed fire hot enough to ignite the two-stroke oil stored inside, you’ve already lost the shed. Also, throw a match (or a spark) onto a puddle of two-stroke oil, and it’ll go out. Try that with petrol, and WHOOMPH.

          Also, maintenance on a chainsaw engine is MUCH less than the maintenance on the rest of the chainsaw. Chains require frequent dressing, slightly-less-frequent sharpening, tensioning, oiling, inspection, chainbrake adjustment, etc. The engine in my experience requires infrequent but intense/deep maintenance, compared to the rest of the machine which requires frequent light maintenance. The non-engine maintenance would be the same for an electric-powered chainsaw.

          You’re right about four-stroke engines being better for the environment, but a 40cc four-stroke engine is heavier, and delivers less power than a two-stroke counterpart.

    5. I had a two stroke garden tool that would start first time if you held it north-west and there was a gentle 8 knot breeze to the east, at an atmospheric temperature of 29.176 degrees Celsius and an altitude 1476.1973 feet.

    6. Agreed, good maintenance on a carb is always key. The condition of the rest of the engine could be less than ideal, but if your carb is well tuned it won’t make much difference. Balance and you won’t get gunk or burn out your engine. Also don’t let anyone touch it xD.

      –Testimony of a chainsaw user, a North Michigan resident(born and raised), and a person who uses a Puch moped for all travel.
      PS(to author) my moped always starts up first try, even in the winter, just has to be primed and choked right ;)

      1. Well compare that to the *anything at all wrong = wont start* of a two stroke to the *anything at all wrong = slightly more fuel consumption* of a four stroke.

        If it won’t start then you might as well get right down there and chew through the trees with your teeth unless you happened to drag your mechanical workshop with you.

      1. That doesn’t explain the preference of forestry workers for two-stroke chainsaws. If electric models delivered better performance (when you take generators, etc into account), they’d use those instead of petrol-powered models.

        1. 1) If you start a two stroke *every day* then you will avoid most of the issues they have.
          2) A forestry worker is *NOT* going to use a chain saw that is in *any* way comparable in price or anything else for that matter to an electric chainsaw.

          I once was called to work on a rock crusher. It had an electric motor that was about 7 foot tall and about 11 foot long as you might expect for something that smashed rocks into gravel. It was in the middle of nowhere.

          The setup was a 14 foot long diesel motor driving 18 foot long generator and then 3 x 4-foot by 4 foot – 6 foot tall cabinets that converted the power from the generator to 3 phase AC to drive the rock crusher motor. It was an exceptionally expensive setup and most people would question why not just use a diesel motor in the rock crusher itself and the answer is the maintenance costs. A day of outage costs $25,000. Diesels need more maintenance than an electric motor which is extremely important when the the motor is buried in this massive piece of equipment and would take several days to remove and then you have to transport it !!! The diesel generator was a common piece of kit that even had wheels attached for transport and the other bits in-between were not so hard to replace on short notice.

          So, just like the case between an electric or two stroke chain saw for in infrequent user, it comes down to maintenance and weather or the God damned thing will even start by the time you next want to use it.

          There is no question that a two stroke chain saw is much better than an electric for a forestry worker who has spent half a live working around two stroke engines, but for the average Joe Blogs, the thing wont even start when he wants to use it and he wont understand why. Two stroke engines are a right pain in the ass to diagnose problems with. Four strokes just work so there is rarely a need to diagnose problems and electrics will just work first time even if they have bees sitting idle for a year.

          Bottom line is – if it don’t start then it’s worthless for intended purpose.

    7. I’ve been a convert to electric chainsaws for years. Trying to keep everyone else away from the saws wasn’t an option, and sometimes the only saw on the farm that worked was the electric one. A nice feature was that it was easier to maneuver one-handed for my brother with a disabled arm. If your generator has a crappy carb, why did you waste your money on a crappy generator?

      1. It’s also easier to justify a decent electric generator vs. an expensive chain saw, if you’re not sawing regularly. The generator is very useful for any other electric tools, as well as backup power, etc. The chain saw is just a chain saw.

        I grew up in a forestry family, and my father is a die hard 2 stroke chainsaw guy after decades spent as a faller. I know how to maintain and fix them, but still, in the ways of children everywhere I’m a disappointment as I only own an electric chainsaw. I use it maybe once a year, and I couldn’t be bothered with all the maintenance that goes along with the 2 stroke. If I used it regularly, maybe, but as an incidental tool… I just plug mine in and go, and it Just Works.

  2. Very good article, as a farmer with trees and a set of deluxe 2-stroke saws I totally agree. I’d switch to electric if I didn’t have so much wood to cut. generators are so much easier to maintain then the constant hassle of gas chainsaws.

    I recently learned that hydraulic drive chainsaws exist for underwater and high fire risk work. It would be impractical but I want one just for the fun of it!

    1. My dad cuts 12 cubic meters of firewood annually. After he tried my electric chainsaw he went home and bought one for himself. The chain is thinner so it cuts faster and produce less saw dust. It is also lighter to carry. Depending on the model of course. Bonus, no breathing two stroke fumes.

    2. I’ve been seeing utility workers clear branches around here with hydraulic chainsaws. It makes sense since the boom they are standing in is hydraulically operated so it just has to plumbed in to the existing system.

  3. I agree, you use the right tool for the job. For me, it’s the electric saw. I am “off the grid” as regards electricity. I have a large solar sysem, batteries, and the inevitable couple of backup generators, as no one does (or can) really design a homestead system for February in the mountains here.

    I heat with wood. If you’re going out onto my woodlot to get some, you’re bringing the tractor, and a cart, unless you want to throw a tree up the mountain a piece at a time. One of my backup gennies is one of those small (1.1kW rating) Honda inverter-generators like they sell to well-off people for tailgating. It runs a rather hefty, and very cheap (Remington!) saw I got at Lowes just fine, and with its variable engine speed, handles variable loads very gracefully. Since it is run now and then as part of the home system, it’s always ready to go, and small enough that it’s a one-hand lift to put it in the tractor cart. Anyone who has maintained both sorts of things can say, NO, there is simply no comparison between an easy pull 4 stroke that always has fresh gas and needs a couple oil changes a year, and a 2-stroke saw with gas mix that turns to varnish during storage, gets peppered with sawdust and resin, and spends a lot of time in sometimes-condensing conditions in “deep storage”.

    The main issue with the electric saw is that it has so much torque it easily stretches chains (Oregon chain and bar) long before they are worn out from use and sharpening. I had to drill extra holes in the bar to allow for this to get full chain life.
    The generator you lift twice – in and out of the cart. The saw you lift all day. It’s light. No contest.

    As well as the advantages mentioned in the article, this setup is *much* quieter, and well, never ever just quits at the wrong time if you have decent discipline about the power cord. Noise is a safety issue when felling trees, as it’s nice to hear those little pops when it’s about to go down. It’s not just a matter of not having to wear uncomfortable hearing protection, a tree can kill you. This setup uses less fuel and doesn’t need a dedicated mix. I think I’m about 5 years and 10 oil changes for maintenance, about 2 chains total to manage and generate several cords a year to heat the homestead (more than one building’s worth).

    I gave away Stihl and Poulan saws to local people who couldn’t believe their luck until I let them try what I replaced them with.

    1. “One of my backup gennies is one of those small (1.1kW rating) Honda inverter-generators like they sell to well-off people for tailgating.”

      The heaviest use I see these generators employed for are sports events with timing / line camera / registration systems. I’ve never seen someone use a $500 generator for “tailgating” and your classism is annoying. You’re not a better person because you see yourself as not “well off”, as the fact you’re making such comments on HaD shows.

      1. I don’t see the classism here, can you explain further? From where I’m sitting it seems like you both agree $500 would be a lot for a genny for tailgating. From the description of the generator it appears that this would be for convenience. If someone is spending more than typical on something recreational solely for convenience there’s a reasonable chance they’re well off. I’ll happily admit it’s not the only explaination, but it’s certainly not massively flawed reasoning.

        As for OP not being well off, I don’t know the person so I can’t comment for sure, but he does appear to be well enough off to give away 2 chainsaws made by recognisable manufacturers for nothing.

        Maybe you should worry more about that chip on your shoulder than the one you’re imagining on others.

      2. Ha ha ha. Classism? What an invented concept. Poor rich dudes, did you hear the butler whispering a complaint to the maid about having to repolish your $900.00 Italian lofters? That must have made you feel so oppressed.

        The world has actual real issues, don’t think classism is one of them.

    1. I actually have one of those really old Maytag machines, and yes, it did have a gas engine that didn’t work when I got it. At the time, I hadn’t expanded my solar system enough to run a newer machine, and water use was also a problem (I started this off-grid thing with bare land, zero utilities and built from there). A friend donated a snail-mail spam machine that had a useful 1/4 hp motor along with a bunch of other neat parts to fold up and staple flyers for the old style spam, and I adapted that to it. It seems to do a somewhat better job than the new, computerized stuff, actually, as with human intervention, it seems easier to adjust soak times, cycle length and so on. The wringers are a blast and do a great job, a clothesline handles the rest. The machine can handle sitting outside, collects rainwater all by itself sometimes, and can take being frozen solid with a full load of water in it without harm. It’s all cast Al alloy other than the gearbox stuff. Only the wringer clutch actuator has needed repair in my shop the decade or so I’ve used it, which was build up a worn slot with a welder and mill it back to spec.

      1. Heh, was hoping someone knew what I was on about. Yeah, can still be really useful off grid. That’s a skill that needs maintaining, building up worn parts with weld and remachining, barely anyone does it any more.

        Where have all the gaswashers gone, long time passing,
        Where have all the gaswashers gone, long time ago,
        Where have all the gaswashers gone, powering sixties gocarts every one,
        When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.

      2. Heh, snail mail spam, it took me a minute to figure out what you were talking about. Spam, the “food”, is a staple in almost every house here (except mine) so I was envisioning your friend sent you, via USPS, a machine that produced advertising flyers for Spam. That sort of thing wouldn’t be out of place here, not that anybody here needs to see an advertisement to remind them they should purchase Spam

        I agree with you on the efficiency of a semi-manual washer. I have a new-ish, semi-manual electric machine, It’s a slightly updated version of the old outdoor washing machines, with a separate centrifugal spinner instead of a wringer.

        I can get my clothes clean* with just the right amount of resources, and can select the amount and length of wash/soak cycles – soaking does wonders. We have crippling droughts, and since I have to fill it manually, it’s not much more work to reuse captured shower water, then reuse the water from the washer to fill the toilet. Thanks to simple mechanics and lack of pumps, I can even use ocean water for the main wash cycle, though this can’t be used to flush the toilet without compromising our already failing sewage system, and it requires slightly more rinse water.

        * cleanliness is an especially fluid concept during drought season.

  4. Rule of thumb for ANY small petrol(Gasoline here in the US) powered engine: If its going to be stored for any period of time longer than a week or so, drain the fuel, and run it dry until it stalls itself out. That way, you don’t have the fuel mix in there fouling things up over the next couple months as it sits in storage, evaporating all the volatiles out. I have always done this, and it works every time. When you remove it from storage, it might need to be primed to get it going again, but it wont be plugged up. Gas it up and go…

    1. That’s real pain if there’s any capacity left in the fuel system, and doesn’t necessarily drain the float bowl on that type carb, but yes, it works. Question is, do you save time and effort? It might be easier to just run the thing now and then (also keeps oil on things) and don’t overfill the fuel for the job at hand in general. One trick I do here on small engines is to make sure they are at TDC on the compression stroke (valves closed) for storage, makes them start lots easier next time. Things like my log splitter tend to be misers on gasoline, but have large tanks…I kill it with the choke, hand-turn the engine to have closed valves, and it starts first pull once it’s been run that season.

      1. It drains the carb bowls on most units I have used, so I would have to say yes it does save me a lot of effort. It saves having to disassemble the carb and clean out the varnish every time you pull it from storage, which depending on the unit, could be a real pain of a job. Stuff like the lawn mower, or trimmer, where it will be put away for several months, and not run during the dead of winter, are particularly where it does save a lot of trouble. They usually run dry in less than minute or so after you have emptied the main tank into whatever you plan to use for fuel storage. YMMV, but it has helped me. For really long term situations, there are also special treatments you can spray or apply to the unit to help protect against moisture and such during storage, but living in a dry climate I have not needed them.

        I also agree that you should pick the right tool for the job. I lived in a condo for some time, and the yard was small. It didn’t need mowing often, but when it did, it made more sense to use a small electric mower rather than a full size gas one, as it usually took longer to start the gas mower than it did to just plug in and mow the grass with the electric one.

          1. Agreed. Ethanol is poison for small engines, and diaphragm carbs especially. Even in my biggish yard (I have 40 acres but only some of it is “yard”), I use electric for all the small tools, Honda for the big ones. So, weed whacker, tiller, chainsaw – all electric, and it’s not like the old days when those lacked the power – they are in fact better than the gasoline ones. I still use Honda gasoline for the push mower, one backup gennie, and logsplitter. My other gennie is BTW an old Lister Diesel 8HP with a delco generator for a starter motor. But with ~ 4kw of solar…I don’t use the backups much except in cloudy/rainy season when I’ve run things down and want to drive my Volt (which then becomes diesel-electric in a sense, if I want that). My tractor is hydrostatic drive 20 hp but only 4 feet wide w/o the mower and is a good “ATV” around the hills.

            Protip – for small gasoline engines, almost all of a given size range use the same crankshaft-flywheel nut and a 3/4″ socket driven by almost any 18v drill saves a lot of exertion (I’m old enough to care about that). Same would work for chainsaws…probably different socket size. I just took the pull starter crud off the engines for this, and now, for the price of a 3/8″ drive adapter (and sockets and a drill I already own) – I have electric start on everything that needs a start. It’s pretty cool life-hack that many of my neighbors have copied. Beats the ~ $100 adder on things and extra weight of having electric start on a bunch of different things – if you can even get it. So, you can just crank past a bit of water in the gas and so on and save your cardio for using the tool, not just getting it going at all.

      2. This is my all purpose…×500/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/s/iso_99_1l.jpg

        … Gum and varnish preventer, gas line antifreeze, fuel stabilizer, water remover, octane improver, carb and fuel injector cleaner, lock deicer, electrical cleaner … … … (Seriously, some stuff up to $19,99 for 125ml in the auto section is just rebottled plain IPA.)

        Though in a 2 stroke, good quality 2 stroke oil is a big help, if you’ve got one designed for an ashless synthetic, use an ashless synthetic, and if “Daddy always said 15:1” ignore him and use manufacturer spec or it will just piss unburned and half burned oil everywhere and run badly.

    2. What a pain. I don’t do that. I don’t have trouble with my Stihl 2-stroke chainsaw either. If I did, that rule of thumb would make an even stronger case for electric saws. I may just have to try one.

        1. My experience there is that the Stihl especially has such high compression that it’s gonna start if there’s anything in there that’ll burn. The tradeoff is, it’s one heck of a pull and a backfire can break things (like your hand, or the cord).
          And better stuff is better, doh, and not cheap either.

  5. It happened to me–
    If you’re a first-time electric chain saw user who is used to a gasoline saw, be certain that you familiarize yourself with the electric’s operation while you’re on the ground. The absolute-FIRST time I ever used one was at the top of a ladder. The immediate-start and high torque frightened me so badly that I nearly fell off the ladder.

    Thanks for introducing us to the Wurzels.

      1. I was a construction worker for ten years. I have built houses six floors high. The first company I worked for and did my apprenticeship banned ladders on site. Not even sub contractors were allowed to bring their own. My ex-girlfriends grandfather died falling of a ladder. My friends dad limps after he broke his spine falling of a ladder. A have witnessed with my own eyes a person falling two meters on to a concrete floor, crushing his shoulder so bad he lost most of his mobility of his arm. And yes I do a lot of repair on my house so when I bought it I also bought myself a heavy duty steel scaffold.

  6. Hate to do gardening, hate petrol engines even worse.. Bought an 230v bosch electric chainsaw, holyfaxk those cut down trees like there is no tomorrow. It ripped through it in a few seconds. Probably was in the 30s, but the amount of woodsnips per second make it good fun.

  7. One other thing to notice about electrics is that it may be too easy to run out of chain oil. With a gasser you are forced to look at it so might as well check the oil level (refill oil each two tanks of fuel). An electric is a little too easy in that regard, or do the current ones have a cutoff that kills the power when there is no chain oil?

  8. For light jobs, I definitely prefer electric, even with the necessity of carrying a generator. The decrease in weight saves a lot of wear and tear if I’ve got a lot of cutting to do.

  9. Wait, Jenny uses a genny? What’s that about?

    I use an electric for my couple-times-a-year fight with the trees and brush around my biggish yard. But I can reach everything with my assortment of orange outdoor extension cords.

  10. Husqvarna makes a pretty fancy 40V cordless electric chainsaw that will provide 10 hours of runtime with the available backpack battery unit, not sure how much it all costs but saves from packing a generator around.

  11. And so now I must wade in…

    I’ll admit to being a chainsaw snob and a diehard man of Stihl. I managed the 10-acre woodlot on our old place with my trusty MS290 Farm Boss for years. When you get into the pro-grade lines, Stihl tools have it all over every other brand, IMHO. Although I will saw that my first saw, a Craftsman-branded Poulan saw, is cockroach tough. Relegated to a toolbox chained to a tree on the woodlot once I graduated to Stihl, the thing never failed to start when I needed it to retrieve my main saw from a pinched log or felling gone wrong. And with zero maintenance and after sitting for years with the same gas in it. Amazing.

    All that said, I can certainly see the use case for an electric saw. I had one once that I used for timber framing my woodshed, and they’re handy tools to have around. But to me they seem more dangerous than gas saws for psychological reasons – it just seems “friendlier” than a gas saw screaming bloody murder and spewing noxious blue exhaust. A woodshop analogy – my kids were always willing to use my bandsaw but were afraid of the table saw. Never mind that butchers use bandsaws to divvy up carcasses; without all the noise of a table saw, they saw the bandsaw as less threatening.

    Personally, that banshee scream, those punishing vibrations, the foul exhaust, and the whole experience of using a gas saw keeps me focused on the task at hand. I think about every move, watch my footing, check carefully for overhead snags, and work slowly and deliberately. I try to do the same with an electric saw, but it’s just not the same.

    And whatever saw you chose, for the love of God do NOT operate it without proper protective chaps. Ask me how I know.

    1. Then like the noise-makers on electric cars you should hook speakers and play that AC/DC song with chainsaw lead while using a safe quiet saw. When converted to riding electric, bikers swear increased safety because they hear everything around them that they were deaf to on their former straight piped hogs.

    2. This. I refuse to operate a saw any more after seeing my girlfriend’s safety gear. Proper chainsaw pants are designed to clog and stall a saw and a good visor should prevent the worst of a kickback. She sharpens the chain for every half hour of use to reduce the risk of kickback. More often if ripping. The chain brake will not stop it in time as my mechanic discovered when he cut his face in half. Luckily they sewed the pieces together and he looks almost normal.

    3. Good point. Just few hours ago I had to cut a tree that got tangled up in another. With my gas saw, I had to make multiple relatively low cuts because the thing just cannot be lifted above shoulder height. With electric it is easy to get into the temptation to cut branches that are too high. Youtube is full of videos of people doing stupid above head cuts, and they end up being knocked on the noggin.

  12. Some years back, dad had a WEN electric body grinder that quit running. Rather than chuck it and buy a new one, he took the armature out of his WEN electric chainsaw. Direct fit into the grinder motor. Lots more power, would rip away rust and old Bondo like never before.

    Just one small problem. It ran the opposite direction, so he had to put the disk retaining nut on *real tight*. Only came loose one time.

  13. Most of the folks who aren’t for the electric seems to be against having to haul a generator. Anyone have experience with a battery powered? I know a friend of mine bought a 40V dewalt but havent had a chance to see how he thinks it does.

    1. Got a buddy who has a battery powered limb saw. Not sure what brand. He cleaned out his new backyard with it. Cutting mostly stuff 5-6 inches, it worked for about 40 minutes (not continuously, he was handling and moving branches) before needing recharge, but it was a small back yard, and he had it done in one weekend.

      On my (mini) farm, I’ve got a combination of gas log splitter, Husqvarna 20″ chain saw (gas) A harbor Freight Plug in chain saw and limb(pole) saw. Used to use a 16″ Craftsman that was awesome for about 25 years. I think it has finally run it’s course (Still in the shed out of some sort of sentimentality) And there’s two Poulan 18 inchers.
      Once upon a time, I used the two poulans and the craftsman. Because with chain saws, one is none, two is one, and three is two…. I swapped between the two poulans to let someone else work on one to get it back running while I kept cutting. Yeah, reliable they were not. And while the Craftsman was reliable, it wasn’t big enough for the larger stuff.
      (The Poulans are still around as “loaners” NO ONE TOUCHES THE HUSKY.)

      A few years ago, my mother wanted a small electric saw for cutting light things. I steered her away from batteries for her needs, because her yard just isn’t that big. …..Yeah, guess what I end up using a lot now? The little HF. Running off the cheap HF generator in the back of the truck, or on an extension cord from the barn. But, if I’m cutting a LOT of wood all at once, I grab the Husqvarna. It’s still a 3 pull start (two pulls for priming, third cranking) And I like that thing.

      But the electric STOPS when you let off the trigger. That’s a big plus. (I’ve never been hurt by a chain saw, and make my cuts so that kick back has never been an issue, but… you never know.)

  14. Had a Remington pole saw with AC universal motor on it. Got hung up in a limb and the plastic brush holder got hot and melted.
    I really like the idea of a brushless motor for such applications.
    As for two strokes, they have their place..

    Is it too hard to write the word “tools” ? Piece of kit?

    1. I don’t know of any fuel injection 2-stroke motors for saws – they all seem to do perfectly fine with diaphragm carbs. Electronic ignition is very much a thing with saws, but the tried and true magneto ignition is most common. And there are the high-end saws with complete EMU systems, like Stihl’s M-Tronic that controls everything from throttle position to fuel mixture to ignition timing. I’m sure the Other Orange Brand has something similar, too.

      1. So that ‘won’t start’ thing can be fixed by buying the right saw I gather.
        I really can’t imagine the cost having to be much higher for electronic versions, the parts are off-the-shelf I imagine since there is a large industry around motors.

        1. EFI can’t fix the problems cheep two strokes have.

          When you *tune* a two stroke carby you are adjusting it to compensate for all the other issues the motor has and if you don’t ‘adjust’ the carby correctly the it wont even start!

          If there one magic setting for the carby then it would come from the factory pre-adjusted. To use EFI you would need to attach so many sensors to detect the wide range of problems that two strokes have, that you might as well have spent the money on a four stroke.

          Two stokes in their place – I used to race two strokes that had more cylinders than wheels but if you comparing down at the bottom end in the range of two strokes that is in any way price comparable to an electric then you are comparing the cheapest of crappy two stroke junk.

          Even two stoke (mixed) fuel has issues. It starts to sediment after a week or to of sitting still and that leads most people down a diagnostic path the eventually allows then to see the fuel has segmented but by the time they make that realisation the spark plug will usually fouled from all the previous attempts to start it and they don’t realise they have a *new* problem.

  15. I’ve gone to cordless sawsall with a 14″ very coarse blade for trunks up to 24 inches across.
    It takes up to double the time, but it’s light and easy to control, and QUIET, so you can easily hear limbs cracking above you, or a spotter calling out. And it’s easier to escape to your safe spot if you have to move, as you can move without worry of a saw kicking or dropping an expensive tool.
    Used it once as it was what we had; now due to the control it provides, for occasional tasks, it’s my tool of choice for the purpose.

  16. I just wanted to say that I have an electric used for general purpose stuff like cutting off tree limbs ect and it works great. Next to no maintenance, no gas mixing, it just works. So long as you aren’t trying to cut down a big old tree with it they are way better than the gas ones.

    1. Don’t forget machetes – they can do some damage too. The latest scar in my collection is on my left wrist from a machete used to trim brush before feeding it into a chipper.

  17. Most of my tools are cordless. I have cordless screwdrivers and saws all around the place- most of them are a familiar black and yellow color with “STANLEY” imprinted in the handle or frame somewhere.
    Matter of fact, don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those with cord.

  18. the only reason electric power tools exist is EU regulations. basically they outlawed petrol motors in the EU via extreme emission standards which they went and broadly applied all the way to the humble 25cc line trimmer. nobody is going to fit a complex ECU and range of expensive sensors to even a thousand dollar trimmer. I dont think running a lawn mower for 15 minutes a week is really less harmful to the environment than having to dispose of those bricks of lithium(which you’re not allowed to legally transport without a placard) or worth the extra risk of a power cable dragging around.

  19. +1
    Bought my stepdad a Remington electric pole saw, and I used it as both a branch cutter and a small tree cutter. I cleared hundreds of overgrown square feet with it.

    When I got a house, I bought another for myself, then a bigger 16-inch one for bigger trees. I’ll accept the tradeoff of a 100 foot 12/3 extension for greatly reduced maintenance. Also bought a corded leaf blower. Only 1/2 acre has grass; I would have gone electric mower had our property not already had a free gas mower. I have a 14 amp corded snowblower too (mainly for out of gas emergency or when it’s a 2-person job… I still prefer the gas snowblower but it was a hand me down Aries. Cords do suck in the snow…$

  20. I’m all for this sort of practical thinking.

    Allow me to suggest a solution to crappy battery powered tools:


    If you pick battery tools in the 12-18v or 18-36v ranges you can run them direct from your vehicle’s 12v or 24v power respectively. I’ve got a collection of otherwise scrap battery tools that now have long leads soldered to their battery terminals with a pair of jumper clips on the end. If you can’t get the vehicle near the job, even the smallest near-death car battery will run a 12v drill for days on a charge.

    eBay, freecycle, and even the tip will turn up all manner of battery tools with dead or missing batteries for cheap.

  21. I find the 2 stroke gas chainsaws to be a lot more safe, because the electrics don’t have a gearbox, and they come on with full power and full torque the moment I hit the switch. The gas chainsaw starts slow for a moment and then speeds up, which is less likely to kick back. I also find that the electric cord tends to inhibit safety as i find myself dealing with the cord and not being able to concentrate on safe footing.

    Yeah, the little two strokes need maintenance, but it’s a simple engine to care for.

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