Chainsaw Maintenance

What Size Chainsaw Do I Need? [Empower Your Choices]

Are you standing before a towering task, wondering, ‘What size chainsaw do I need to turn these massive trees into manageable pieces?’ The answer lies in the girth of the timber you’re tackling. 

Small branches and sprigs bow down to an 18-inch chainsaw, but when you’re facing the forest’s giants, it’s a hefty 20-inch or more that you’ll be wanting by your side.

Let’s dive into the gritty details of chainsaw selection, ensuring you wield the power to cut through your tasks with precision and ease, without a splinter of doubt.

What Size Chainsaw Do I Need? Quick Overview

  • Chainsaw size selection depends on the intended task.
  • For pruning and smaller tasks, a 12-inch bar chainsaw is sufficient.
  • For larger tasks like chopping firewood or felling trees, an 18-20-inch bar chainsaw is recommended.
  • Larger chainsaws can be more challenging to handle.
  • For most homeowners, a chainsaw with a bar length of 16-18 inches is a safe choice.

Chainsaw Sizes Chart

Blade Length (inches)General UseBest For
6-12Detail work, light trimming, pruningSmall trees, shrubs
12-14Light cutting, firewood cuttingSmall to medium trees
16-18Moderate cutting, light fellingMedium trees
20-24Heavy cutting, felling, buckingLarge trees
24-36Professional-grade cutting, felling large treesVery large trees
36+Milling, professional forestryVery large trees, logs

Choosing the Right Chainsaw for Your Needs

Before diving into our chainsaw expedition, let me share a little story. I recall my dear old neighbor, Joe. A good-natured fellow, Joe was always quite the do-it-yourself enthusiast. One weekend, he decided to prune the oak tree in his backyard.

Joe’s tool of choice was his bulky, professional-grade chainsaw. Now, while the tool was superb, it was not the right fit for Joe’s task, turning a simple job into an afternoon-long ordeal. The lesson here: always match the chainsaw size with your task.

Small Chainsaws (6 to 14 inches)

Starting on the smaller end of the spectrum, we have chainsaws ranging from 6 to 14 inches. These compact and lightweight models, like the popular Black+Decker 20V MAX Cordless Chainsaw, are excellent for trimming small trees and shrubs. They’re also fantastic for cutting up fallen branches after a storm.

Note: Small chainsaws are not designed for heavy-duty cutting. Using them for such tasks will risk damaging the tool, not to mention posing a safety risk.

Medium Chainsaws (16 to 20 inches)

Moving up in size, medium chainsaws, typically between 16 and 20 inches, are the go-to tools for many homeowners. They provide a balance of power and maneuverability.

If you’ve got medium-sized trees around your property that need some pruning, or if you occasionally need to cut firewood, this is your perfect match. The Husqvarna 455 Rancher is a fan favorite in this category.

If you’re a novice chainsaw user, start with a medium-sized chainsaw to get a feel for handling before moving up to larger models.

Large Chainsaws (22 to 36 inches)

Finally, we reach the giants, chainsaws ranging from 22 to 36 inches. If you’ve ever seen professional loggers at work, you’ve likely marveled at these beasts.

Large chainsaws, like the Stihl MS 880 Magnum, are designed for the most demanding tasks: felling large trees, splitting hefty logs, and even milling lumber.

Note: Large chainsaws require significant physical strength and experience to handle safely. They are best reserved for trained professionals.

Choose Wisely The Right Size

Now, remembering our friend Joe, it’s clear that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to chainsaws. The best chainsaw for you is the one that matches your specific needs and physical capabilities.

Before you go, here’s a quick recap:

  • Small Chainsaws (6-14 inches): Ideal for light tasks such as trimming shrubs and cutting small branches.
  • Medium Chainsaws (16-20 inches): Perfect for moderate tasks like cutting firewood and pruning medium-sized trees.

Large Chainsaws (22-36 inches): Suited for professional-grade tasks such as felling large trees and milling lumber.

Assessing Your Needs: Determining the Right Chainsaw Size

First things first, you need to understand that the size of the chainsaw is determined by the length of the guide bar, not the physical size of the chainsaw itself. The guide bar is a long piece of metal that guides the chain, and its length dictates the size of the tree you can cut.

As a rule of thumb, the diameter of the tree should be no larger than the length of the guide bar. For instance, a 16-inch chainsaw can comfortably cut through a 16-inch diameter tree.

However, if you come across a 30-inch tree, you’d need a chainsaw with at least a 30-inch guide bar. But, let’s be honest, such large trees should probably be left to the pros.

Choosing the Right Chainsaw Bar Size: Key Points

  1. Your Project Needs: A homeowner trimming branches will have vastly different needs from a professional logger tackling mature trees.
  2. Your Expertise Level: Beginners should start with shorter bars, typically 12-16 inches, to prioritize safety and control. Seasoned users can handle longer bar sizes.
  3. Your Physical Strength: Remember, the larger the bar, the heavier and more physically demanding it becomes to operate the chainsaw.

Sizes of Chainsaw Bars

Chainsaw Bar SizeIdeal User & Tasks
12-14 inchesHomeowners, light trimming, pruning
16-20 inchesFrequent users, firewood, tree felling
22-36 inchesProfessional loggers, large trees, heavy-duty tasks

Common Chainsaw Bar Sizes: In-Depth Look

Small Chainsaw Bars (12-14 inches)

If you’re a casual homeowner like my neighbor Bill, a small chainsaw bar is perfect. Bill mainly uses his chainsaw for pruning tree limbs and cutting up small logs for his fireplace. With a chainsaw of this size, maneuverability and ease-of-use are key.

Medium Chainsaw Bars (16-20 inches)

Remember my father from the story earlier? He’d typically use a chainsaw with a bar size of 16 to 20 inches. This size is perfect for homeowners with larger properties or professionals with moderate cutting needs. It provides the versatility to tackle a wider variety of tasks, from cutting firewood to felling medium-sized trees.

Large Chainsaw Bars (22-36 inches)

This is the category of chainsaw bar sizes for professionals. When I worked with a tree removal service one summer, we’d use these beasts to bring down large trees. If you have heavy-duty needs or work in forestry, these are the tools for you. Remember, these require experience and significant physical strength.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size chainsaw file do I need?

The size of the chainsaw file you need depends on the chain’s pitch; for instance, a .325″ pitch chain requires a 3/16″ file.

What size chainsaw do I need for a 36-inch bar?

For a 36-inch bar, you’ll need a chainsaw with a powerful engine, typically over 60cc, to handle such a large bar effectively.

What size chainsaw do I need to cut up a tree?

To cut up a tree, a chainsaw with a bar length of 14-20 inches is usually sufficient for most trees, but larger diameters may require a bigger saw.

What size chainsaw do I need for milling?

For milling, a chainsaw with at least a 50cc engine and a bar length that exceeds the width of the milling material is advisable.

What size chainsaw do I need for an Alaskan mill?

For an Alaskan mill, a chainsaw with a bar length of at least 24 inches and a powerful engine (preferably 70cc or more) is recommended.

Best size chainsaw for homeowner?

The best size chainsaw for a homeowner is usually between 14-20 inches, depending on the specific tasks and tree sizes they will encounter.

Should I get a 14 or 16-inch chainsaw?

Choose a 14-inch chainsaw for light work and smaller trees, or a 16-inch for slightly larger trees and more frequent use.

Key Takeaway

  • Match the chainsaw size to your specific tasks: 12-14 inches for light yard work, 16-20 inches for regular cutting, and 22-36 inches for heavy-duty tasks.
  • Consider your own strength and handling comfort when choosing a chainsaw size.
  • Safety first: the right size ensures better control and reduces risks.
  • Take a cue from Joe’s and Tom’s stories: bigger isn’t always better.
  • Your best chainsaw is one that feels like an extension of yourself, efficient and reliable.