What Size Chainsaw Do I Need? Guide to Sizing Your Chainsaw

Published Categorized as What Size Chainsaw

What size chainsaw do I need? This is certainly on your mind if you’re considering purchasing a chainsaw. It might be challenging to choose a chainsaw because there are so many different sizes available.

Is it best to simply purchase the longest chainsaw you can afford, or is a shorter chainsaw actually a better investment? I’ll assist you in determining how to choose the ideal chainsaw size for your requirements in order to help you find the chainsaw that best fits your budget. By the end, you can choose the ideal chainsaw size for your needs.

Table of Contents

What Size Chainsaw Do I Need? Guide To Sizing Your Chainsaw

What Size Chainsaw Do I Need?

What size chainsaw you need primarily depends on the guide bar’s length. The metal bar that the chainsaw’s chain rotates around is called the guide bar (or blade). Knowing what to look for is crucial once you begin chainsaw shopping. Since the length of the bar is normally printed on one side of the blade, manufacturers simplify the process.

Learn more about the parts of a chainsaw in our guide!

Additionally, it ought to be one of the features that stands out the most on websites and retail displays. You can check the model’s handbook or measure the bar’s length if you have concerns about your current length. You can also think about getting a neighbor to loan you a chainsaw. To determine the appropriate size to borrow, you must measure the object you wish to cut. But, we’ll get into this further later!

Here are some guidelines on how to measure a chainsaw if you currently own one and are unsure of its length:

  • Carefully measure the distance with a tape measure between the guide bar’s base, where it enters the engine housing, and the chain’s tip at the farthest end of the bar.
  • Round the measurement to the next even number, such as 14 inches, 16 inches, 18 inches, etc., if it is an odd length.

Chainsaw Length Key Considerations

It can be difficult to know how big of a chainsaw do I need, so let’s simplify the answer. The chainsaw should, as a general rule, be at least 2 inches longer than the thickness of the branch or tree being chopped. The optimum chainsaw should have a guide bar (or blade) that is at least 10 inches long, for instance, if the branch is 8 inches thick. This makes it so the wood may be easily cut through in one motion.

The chainsaw’s engine power is another relevant consideration of its size. Users often query what cc chainsaw do I need. Usually, the guide bar’s length and the engine’s output are directly proportional. In other words, a longer guide bar requires a more powerful engine to sustain it.

When using a chainsaw, you may usually replace the blade with a longer or shorter piece. On the guidance bar that comes with the tool, you shouldn’t go higher than one step. The reason for this is that a guide bar longer than two inches over the blade’s original length may not be supported by the engine’s power.

Chainsaw Sizes: Too Short, Too Long?

Purchasing a large chainsaw may seem like the greatest option because it will be equipped to tackle any sawing requirements that may occur. However, it can be risky to use a chainsaw that is too lengthy for the job. A few inches too long is usually not a problem, but larger saws have more vibration and weight, which can be challenging to control.

Your chosen best chainsaw size should be a manageable size for simpler, more precise work so that you can cut or prune only what needs to be removed and nothing more. Longer chainsaws are also more likely to experience kickback. When the chainsaw chain rotation is stopped, a chainsaw will “kick back” towards the direction of the user.

Avoid buying or using a chainsaw that is too lengthy for the job for these reasons. By starting with the right size, you can save money.

On the contrary, you could find that your chainsaw isn’t the recommended two inches longer than the wood you need to cut. A chainsaw that is less powerful than the wood’s diameter can nonetheless be used effectively. In this case, a few passes will be sufficient to completely cut through as opposed to the lengthier chainsaw’s single pass.

If you use a chainsaw that is too short, you will have to chop the tree from opposing sides rather than starting at one side and going all the way through. Your chainsaw might not be adequate for the job if the wood’s diameter is still greater than twice its length.

If the chainsaw is too tiny for the job, it’s time to either buy a bigger chainsaw to make the process easier or hire a professional who can handle the massive project securely.

Your Experience With Chainsaws Matters

The amount of wood you can cut with a chainsaw depends on the size of the bar, which also has an impact on control. The longer the bar, the harder it will be to handle, especially if you don’t have much power tool experience.

Chainsaw use can be extremely risky, thus hiring experts to remove trees is often recommended. Long chainsaw bars frequently have significant kickback, which should be anticipated. To make sure the teeth cut into the wood smoothly, you might need to use more force than usual. Long bars are also more difficult to grip for a lengthy duration. Visit our chainsaw kickback guide for more information!

We advise looking for a chainsaw with low kickback if you want to take on any large trees on your property. You should be able to maintain sufficient control over the device thanks to this function keeping yourself safe.

If you’re worried about your degree of experience, learn everything you can about how do chainsaws work? & how to use a chainsaw safely in our guides!

Are You Physically Strong?

Although it’s not the most vital aspect of measuring your chainsaw, this is something to take into account. You will only have your physical strength to rely on when using a chainsaw.

Having said that, you don’t want a device that is too difficult to operate for a lengthy period of time. Because of this, electric chainsaws are more popular among homeowners than a gas chainsaw. In comparison to gas chainsaws, electric chainsaws (both battery chainsaws and corded chainsaws) have much less parts and are much lighter. A gas-powered chainsaw may offer greater cutting power, but they can wear you out far more quickly.

Learn more about the two in our electric vs gas chainsaw guide!

How Is A Chainsaw’s Size Measured?

A chainsaw’s size is typically measured by two main factors:

  1. Guide bar length: The guide bar is the long, narrow metal piece that extends from the chainsaw’s body and around which the chain rotates. The length of the guide bar determines the maximum cutting length of the chainsaw in a single pass. Common guide bar lengths range from 10 inches (25 cm) for small, lightweight chainsaws to 24 inches (61 cm) or more for professional-grade models used for felling large trees. Guide bar length is often used as the primary measurement when referring to a chainsaw’s size.
  2. Engine displacement: This refers to the volume of air and fuel mixture that the engine can draw into the combustion chamber in a single operating cycle. It is typically measured in cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic inches (cu in). A larger engine displacement generally indicates a more powerful chainsaw, which is better suited for heavy-duty tasks. However, larger engines also mean heavier chainsaws, which can be more challenging to maneuver and cause more fatigue during prolonged use.

Other factors, such as power output (measured in horsepower or kilowatts), chain pitch, and gauge, also contribute to a chainsaw’s overall performance and suitability for specific tasks, but are less commonly used when describing the size of a chainsaw.

What Chainsaw Should I Buy: Chainsaw Sizes for Each Task

Chainsaw Sizes Chart

Here is a summary table of the information provided below, with the recommended chainsaw sizes for each type of job.

TaskRecommended Chainsaw Sizes
Pruning limbs6″ to 10″
Removing branches8″ to 12″
Felling small trees12″ to 14″
Spitting firewood14″ to 16″
Felling medium trees16″ to 18″
Felling large trees20″ and greater

Every woodcutting operation requires a particular length of a chainsaw blade for the safest cutting. Consider the work you regularly perform when you determine the ideal chainsaw size for you. Typically, you’ll need a smaller model if you’re only in charge of light duties. This is one that is under 16 inches. These are perfect for light trimming, pruning, and occasional light cutting of bushes, etc.

Chainsaw diameters of between 16 and 18 inches are ideal if you want a general-purpose chainsaw that can chop through heavy branches and big logs. A powerful and larger chainsaw is frequently more suited for rural holdings. You might require a heavy-duty chainsaw if you anticipate using it to cut a lot of trees and bushes. Therefore, you should consider a 20-inch chainsaw in this situation.

Upwards of 20 inches in bar length, and using the chainsaw can become challenging. It will be cumbersome and difficult to handle. Safety should never be compromised. This means resisting the urge to purchase a really huge model just because it appears to be capable of handling every task.

With a large model, you’ll discover that smaller and more intricate work will be exceedingly challenging. On the other side, a chainsaw that is too small would prevent you from taking on bigger projects without wasting valuable time.

Chainsaw Length Guide – Chainsaw Size Vs Tree Diameter

The size of a chainsaw should be chosen based on the diameter of the tree being cut. A chainsaw that is too small will not be able to handle the size of the tree and can result in injury or damage to the chainsaw, while a chainsaw that is too large will be difficult to handle and control.

For small trees with diameters of 6-10 inches, a 12-14 inch chainsaw is typically adequate. For trees with diameters of 10-16 inches, a 16-18 inch chainsaw is recommended. For trees with diameters larger than 16 inches, a 20 inch or larger chainsaw may be necessary.

It’s important to keep in mind that these are general guidelines and the specific tree species, as well as the user’s experience and strength, should also be considered when choosing a chainsaw size. Additionally, safety gear, such as protective gloves and glasses, should always be worn when using a chainsaw.

Pruning Limbs: 6″ to 10”

A 6″ to 10″ chainsaw is the right device for the job if most of your chainsaw demands involve pruning little branches or trees with thin branches. However, a small handsaw would be better suited for the job if the branches are only a few inches thick or even thinner than that.

Removing Branches – 8” to 12”

The branches are frequently between 6 and 10 inches thick when taken from larger trees at home. To make the operation simple and quick, your guide bar length should be at least 8 to 12 inches long.

Felling Small Trees – 12” to 14”

Depending on the thickness of the tree trunk, a chainsaw measuring between 12″ and 14″ is needed to cut down small trees in a yard or garden.

Splitting Firewood – 14″ to 16”

Unless the logs you are cutting are exceptionally huge, either a 14 vs 16 chainsaw will typically do the trick when splitting logs into firewood.

Felling Medium Trees – 16” to 18”

Medium-sized trees with trunks between 14 and 16 inches will need a larger chainsaw, so either a 16 or 18-inch chainsaw is required to cut down in a single, simple pass.

Felling Large Trees – 20″ and Greater

It’s usually preferable to leave the removal of huge trees to experts. However, you may be able to get away with a 18 or 20-inch chainsaw for some trees. For larger ones, you will need a guide bar that is at least 20″ long if you have previous expertise with chainsaws and can safely use a larger chainsaw.

Interested in purchasing a chainsaw? Visit our buying guides:

Here’s a useful YouTube demonstration from Stihl on choosing the right chainsaw:

Can You Change Your Chainsaw Bar?

You can change the bars on the majority of chainsaws from reputable brands to boost the tool’s adaptability. You will be able to have all three sizes in one chainsaw rather than needing separate ones for small, medium, and large trees. Before making the adjustment, it’s crucial to make sure your particular model will support bar substitutions. Usually, your owner’s handbook or the manufacturer’s website will include this information.

Swapping Your Chainsaw Bar Considerations

Most chainsaws support up to three different bar sizes, however the precise sizes depend on the manufacturer. While some models have limited ranges, others can accommodate diameters from 14 to 40 inches.

The bar cannot simply be changed by substituting one piece for another, hence the following factors must be taken into account:

  1. Chain
  2. Oiler nipple
  3. Sprocket

1. Chain

The chain must be changed along with the chainsaw’s bar in order for it to fit properly. Make sure the chain is a tight fit for the new bar’s diameter. Making ensuring the guide links fit in the new guide holes is also crucial. The chain will break if the guide links are too little, and there will be too much pressure if they are too big.

When rotating at dangerous rates, extra pressure on your chain can cause it to snap. Fortunately, with the appropriate measurements, determining the ideal chainsaw chain size is extremely easy. To prevent dangerous situations, make sure your replacement bar’s pitch measurement matches exactly too.

2. Oiler Nipple

The main responsibility of the oiler nipple is to ensure that the bar is consistently lubricated while you are cutting. This component is especially important for chainsaws that have automatic oilers.

Make sure the bar is the correct size and aligns with the oiler nipple when you replace it. The pitch size and guard slots should be indicated on the bottom of your new blade. Then, you need to be able to determine whether a particular bar would exactly fit into your current housing.

3. Sprocket

The sprocket, which holds the driving links for the chain, is the last component to take into account when adjusting your bar. The links fit into very specific grooves on the drive sprocket. The sprocket, which is near to the clutch, is responsible for using the engine to drive the chain. A chainsaw that is operating effectively will have no problems gliding around the sprocket.

You’ll need to pay special attention to the chain links, much like the chain. Inadequately sized chain links could break or cause the sprocket to grind down. If done incorrectly, making hasty improvements to your chainsaw might be dangerous.

Always be sure to adhere to the exact guidelines and directions in your owner’s manual. If not, you run the risk of losing both your life and limbs. Rely on the experts if you don’t feel confident making the modifications yourself. A professional will make sure the bar can be changed without difficulty while safeguarding important components like the crankshaft, clutch, and chain.

How to Choose the Right Size Chainsaw

Consider the following factors:

  1. Type of work: Determine the primary tasks you’ll be using the chainsaw for, such as pruning, limbing, felling trees, or cutting firewood. This will help you narrow down the appropriate guide bar length and engine power.
  2. Guide bar length: Select a guide bar length based on the diameter of the wood you’ll be cutting most often.
    • 6-10 inches: Small, lightweight chainsaws for pruning and trimming small branches.
    • 12-14 inches: Suitable for light-duty tasks, such as cutting small trees or firewood.
    • 16-20 inches: Versatile chainsaws for general property maintenance, cutting medium-sized trees, and firewood.
    • 22-24 inches: Professional-grade chainsaws for felling large trees and heavy-duty cutting.
  3. Engine power: Choose an engine size that matches your needs and the guide bar length.
    • Under 30cc: Ideal for light-duty tasks and smaller guide bars (6-12 inches).
    • 30-45cc: Suitable for general-purpose chainsaws with guide bars up to 16-18 inches.
    • 50cc and above: Powerful engines for professional-grade chainsaws with guide bars 20 inches or longer.
  4. User experience and strength: Consider your physical strength and experience with chainsaws. Larger, more powerful chainsaws can be heavier and more challenging to control, especially for inexperienced users.
  5. Budget: Determine your budget, as larger and more powerful chainsaws generally come with higher price tags.

Remember, it’s essential to prioritize safety and choose a chainsaw that you can comfortably handle and control. If you’re unsure, consult with a professional or a knowledgeable salesperson at a reputable chainsaw dealer.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Should I get a 16 or 18 inch chainsaw?

When it comes to the 16 vs 18 chainsaw, it’s not that big of a deal as they’re so similar in size. If your work is only going to require cutting trees and branches of up to 14 inches then the 16 inch chainsaw is perfect. If you believe you may experience trees up to 16 inches then the 18 inch chainsaw is advised.

How big of a tree can a 20 inch chainsaw cut?

A 20 inch chainsaw will be able to cut through a tree with a thickness of 18 inches and below from one side. It may be able to tackle a large tree, however, you will have to make cuts from opposite sides of the tree.

Is a 16 inch chainsaw big enough?

Yes, a 16 Inch chainsaw is suitably sized for both home and professional use, helping you cut down medium-level trees that are up to 14 inches in thickness. They’re suitable for the majority of pruning limbs, removing branches, and cutting firewood tasks. They may also help you maintain your property and even aid in construction tasks.

What size of chainsaw do I need?

In general, you should obtain a chainsaw that is at least 2 inches longer than the thickness of the branch or tree being chopped. If you have trees to cut at a thickness of 12 inches then you need a chainsaw with a guide bar of at least 14 inches. Sure, you can get away with a smaller chainsaw guide bar but it will become more of a challenge. A greater sized guide bar than the tree thickness makes it easier to cut through in just one pass.

What is a good size chainsaw for a homeowner?

For a homeowner, a good size chainsaw typically falls in the 12-18 inch guide bar range with an engine displacement of 30-50cc. This size range offers a balance of power, maneuverability, and versatility for common tasks around the yard or property.

Is a 14 inch chainsaw big enough?

When deciding if a 14-inch chainsaw is big enough, consider the size and type of wood you’ll be cutting most often. If your tasks primarily involve lighter yard work or cutting smaller trees and branches, a 14-inch chainsaw could be a perfect fit. However, for larger trees or more demanding tasks, you may need to consider a chainsaw with a longer bar.

What size chainsaw is best for cutting trees?

The best chainsaw size for cutting trees depends on the tree’s diameter:
Small trees (up to 12 inches): 12-14 inch guide bar, 30-40cc engine
Medium trees (12-20 inches): 16-18 inch guide bar, 40-50cc engine
Large trees (20-24 inches): 20-24 inch guide bar, 50-60cc engine
Very large trees (over 24 inches): 24+ inch guide bar, 60cc+ engine
Always use proper safety precautions and techniques when felling trees. If inexperienced, seek professional guidance or hire a certified arborist.

What size chainsaw do i need to cut firewood

The best chainsaw size for cutting firewood largely depends on the specific dimensions of the wood you’ll be cutting and your level of comfort and experience with chainsaw use. For most homeowners, a chainsaw with a bar length of 18 to 20 inches will be versatile enough to handle a variety of firewood cutting tasks efficiently.

By Dave Cross

Hi, I'm Dave. I’ve been sawing for more than 40 years. I feel most at home when I’m surrounded by nature and my saws, but occasionally, I’ll share some of my know-how and experience on Cross Saw Mill.

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