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Chainsaws are powerful, complicated tools with the potential to cause horrific injuries if their high-speed moving parts malfunction. That’s why many first-time or small-project buyers will splash out on more expensive chainsaw types from trusted brands like the Husqvarna 3120XP – after all, there’s no putting a price on safety.
Budget chainsaws, however, are built to the same standards as more expensive models. The difference is in their intended use. If you’re buying a chainsaw for personal use in your garden rather than as a professional tool for logging, a budget chainsaw is the most efficient use of your money – Why buy a vast gas-guzzling machine that weighs more than you do and costs £1,300 when a £200 battery or electric chainsaw is cheaper, easier and sufficient for the task at hand?
For under £100 your options are limited to Bosch machines, but don’t despair – the £95 Bosch AKE 40 Electric and Bosch AKE 35S Electric saws are precise, compact chainsaws that will still get the job done if employed for smaller tasks with their 1800W engines. Safety-wise both machines are above average, equipped with high-quality automatic kickback brakes and user-friendly safety catches. Automatic oiling systems with large capacity reservoirs also help keep them running smoothly.
For £80 Bosch also offer the AKE 30S, a smaller electric chainsaw (weighing just 3.9kg) with the same 1800W motor and a 30cm blade. The AKE 30S has all the features of the AKE 35 and AKE 40 but with a slightly smaller blade – not really a problem if you’re only doing light cutting work cutting thin branches or small trees, as 30cm is plenty of blade in those cases.
Budget chainsaws are often designed for work in residential or urban areas where noise levels are a concern but proximity to charging points isn’t. The £115 Efco MT 1800 E Electric follows this design philosophy, and is designed for cutting firewood, pruning tree branches and DIY rather than serious logging work. It’s even designed for people who don’t have the full range of adjustment and maintenance tools, with specialised systems that allow users to hand-fit and tighten the chain without using spanners or screwdrivers.
Moving up the price list to a more portable realm, Efco also sell a range of battery-powered chainsaws for garden and light firewood work. These saws are better for non-garden work than the Bosch budget chainsaws as they are independent and battery powered, so you don’t need to drag an extension cord around. The Efco MT 2200 Battery Chainsaw with the 35cm bar (£137.95) provides clean cutting performance and a solid alternative to older petrol-powered saws. Battery saws run quieter and tend to be cheaper to both buy and run than petrol saws, as well as easier to use thanks to the constant weight of the battery making a useful counterweight in saws that are properly designed (like this one). As such many budget saws are battery or cord-powered, which in turn makes them easier to repair and maintain.
If you’re looking for a budget chainsaw and have your heart set on a petrol chainsaw, however, there’s good news: The well-regarded Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna have you covered with the Husqvarna 236 Petrol Chainsaw, usually £150. This chainsaw is a favourite among homeowners for its light weight, its sturdy Swedish construction and incorporation of Husqvarna’s X-Torq emission reduction technology. It’s only 4.7kg and equipped with anti-vibration technology and an easy-start system, making it perfect for light outdoor useage. If you’re looking for a cost-efficient long-lasting chainsaw that will let you chop your own firewood, the Husqvarna 236 is your best bet.
As high-performance cutting tools, chainsaws require sharpening regularly to stay at peak efficiency as part of a managed maintenance plan. Not only will a properly sharpened chain ensure that your saw is cutting as quickly as possible, it’s also safer, reducing kickback and reducing the amount of time spent cutting. Purpose-built Chainsaw Sharpeners are available, but for non-professional users who don’t have the room or the money to buy them there are other options for keeping your chainsaw in good condition.
The simplest option is the basic chainsaw file. Once you’ve determined the gauge of your saw’s chain (typical sizes are 3/16, 5/32 and 7/32 an inch in diameter) find a grindstone or chainsaw file that matches the diameter of your saw. Once that’s done, clean the chain thoroughly with small amounts of mineral oil or degreasing detergent and a brush. While doing this, inspect the chain for damaged links or teeth – if the top plate of the cutting teeth is less than ¼ inch in length it might be time to replace it. Once that’s done, set the saw down on a solid surface or clamp the bar of the chainsaw in a vise to hold it steady. The latter is the preferred option as it allows the chain to rotate freely. It’s best to start from the leading cutter – the shortest cutter on the chain. Make sure you file each cutter equally when filing, and file the front of each notch. Each cutter will have been cut at an angle- some saws have visual aids to help determine this, others will have the angle listed in the manufacturer’s notes. Slide the file across the face of the cutter, twisting it slightly to remove metal filings.Try pushing the file from both sides to see which works for you, and make sure to work every second tooth from your beginning point around the loop. Once this is done, reverse sides of the saw and file the unfiled teeth angled in the other direction.
Once all the teeth are filed, use a gauge to check the rakers on both sides to make sure they’re below the level of the teeth, and file them off if not. These secondary teeth are designed to remove the wood chewed up by the cutters but should not impact solid wood directly. Once that’s done you can oil your chainsaw and check the tension, and it should be ready to cut again.
The best tools for this process are the Multi-Sharp kits, sold on Lawnmowers Direct in 4.0mm and 4.8mm. Each kit includes a chainsaw file, a depth gauge and a flat file to provide a complete, easy system to sharpen your chainsaw. Files are clearly marked and set so you can keep them in the right place, and the depth gauge and flat file can be useful when checking the teeth and filing down the rakers.
If you’re looking for a less time-intensive solution and have the money to burn, the Portek Mini Chainmaster from Lawnmowers Direct is a much faster automatic sharpener that makes sharpening chains much more efficient, but does come with a couple of drawbacks. You’ll need to remove the chain from your chainsaw, a time-consuming process that often requires tools, and will also need to inspect the chain for damage before and after using the sharpener. Once that’s done, however, the Portek Mini Chainmaster is easy to adjust and has an intuitive design as well as the ability to be powered by an inverter to make it portable for field use. It’s still more expensive, however, so for budget chainsaw use we’d still recommend the Multi-Sharp file kits.