How to Pick a Blade Length for Your Chainsaw

Husky electric vs Echo gas
Steve Nix

When selecting a blade length for your chainsaw, it is important to take into consideration the nature of your work and the size of your work area. For most simple jobs, such as backyard pruning, a chainsaw with a saw bar or blade that can cut through an average tree limb will be adequate.

For other work, consider several factors before selecting a chainsaw: blade length and the power of the saw's engine displacement, which is measured in cubic centimeters (cc). It takes substantial power to drive a chain on a longer, heavier bar through dense wood. The length of your blade should ultimately be determined by the horsepower of your saw.

You should also take into account the type of work you will be doing with your chainsaw. A saw that would be perfect for a sawyer on a logging deck might be very awkward in the hands of someone working in a tree. Possibly the most important safety issues to keep in mind are your experience, physical condition, and health. The blade size and power of your chainsaw should match your experience and ability. Small saws can still be dangerous but are more forgiving to new chainsaw users.

Electric Chainsaws

Electric chainsaws attach to a power outlet using a length of cord or are powered by a strong battery. If you are using a chainsaw for the first time, you should start with an electric chainsaw to gain some practical experience. The standard blade sizes are relatively small, at 8 to 12 inches.

Electric chainsaws are perfect for yard work such as limb thinning, trimming and pruning. They are also adequate for larger limb removal and cutting down smaller trees. This type of chainsaw should not be used for storm damage cleanup, felling larger trees, or cutting firewood.

Light-Duty Chainsaws

Light-duty chainsaws are also good tools for beginning chainsaw users looking to gain some practical experience. For many users, they are all you will ever need. The standard blade sizes are 10 to 14 inches, with engine displacements of 30 to 45 ccs.

Like electric chainsaws, these tools are great for yard work, and they come with greater power than their plug-in counterparts. They are also adequate for the removal of larger limbs and smaller trees. As with electrics, these tools should not be used for storm damage cleanup, felling larger trees, or cutting firewood.

Medium- to Heavy-Duty Chainsaws

Here is where things start to get more complicated. Larger saws should only be operated by people who have experience using chainsaws. In the wrong hands, these tools can be very dangerous, so newcomers should train with smaller saws before handling them. The standard blade sizes for medium- to heavy-duty chainsaws are 14 to 18 inches, with engine displacements of 40 to 50 cc.

Heavy-duty saws with long blades are adequate for heavy yard work, though in many cases they tend to be overkill and can actually hinder you on a small job. Large saws are best for cutting larger limbs, bucking medium tree trunks for removal, and working on storm damage. Chainsaws with longer blades (18 to 20 inches) are workhorses best reserved for felling larger trees or cutting firewood.

Professional Chainsaws

Professional chainsaws are mainly for people who use a chainsaw every day, usually in the process of a regular work routine. If you depend upon a chainsaw for your livelihood, this is the tool for you.

Most professional saws will range from 60 cc-sized engines on up to more than 120 cc. Sometimes property owners choose a professional chainsaw to meet the demands of constant heavy work or if the cutting jobs on the property require a larger powered saw. These tools are also used as the power and saw for portable chainsaw mills.