There's an image that people call to mind when asked to picture a lumberjack. It's often an image of a flannel-clad man, hair short, beard long. He's secured in a harness while pruning the branches of a fifty-foot tree. The chainsaw he's using? Powerful, loud, and in most people's pictures, fueled by gas.
That image is changing, in no small part thanks to changes in cordless chainsaws.
It's true; some jobs are so large that only the power and bar length that a gas saw can offer will do. Unlike gas saws, cordless chainsaws are limited to using bars 18" and shorter.
With the right bar, however, today's battery-powered chainsaws can prove nearly as powerful as gas saws and provide plenty of other benefits:
For quick, infrequent jobs, a battery-powered chainsaw is often the better choice.
So, what features should you look for to get the most out of your cordless saw?
Long ago, nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries were standard in chainsaws and other cordless power tools. They weren't especially efficient; performance of a Ni-Cad battery would suffer as the battery drained, and it could take up to 12 hours to recharge it.
These days, lithium-ion batteries are the battery of choice. Lighter and larger in capacity, Li-ion batteries can recharge in about an hour so that you can get back to work quickly.
When shopping for a battery-operated chainsaw, you'll see a few numbers related to the battery's power that will help you determine how much work you'll be able to do:
Those definitions might sound complicated. However, there's a tidy way to look at them: higher numbers for each of those measurements might make a saw more expensive, but they also mean that your saw is running on a more powerful battery.
A final note about Li-ion batteries: some batteries weigh more than others! Always check the weight of the saw before you buy to make sure that the saw with the battery in place will be a tool that you're comfortable carrying.
A cordless electric chainsaw gets its power from a battery, but the battery isn't the only important part of the saw's electrical system.
The saw's motor takes the electrical energy that the battery provides and uses it to drive its moving parts - specifically, the chain that turns around the bar. Without a good motor, a cordless saw will be inefficient, no matter how powerful its battery is.
Traditionally, electric motors used carbon brushes to help transmit power. However, the brushless motors that have become more common in the cordless tool market depend more heavily on magnets.
Unlike carbon brushes, the magnets in a brushless motor don't need physical contact with other components to transmit a charge, so there's less interference from friction.
For greater efficiency in your cordless chainsaw, look for a saw with a brushless motor.
Due to the constant metal-on-metal friction between the bar and chain of a chainsaw, the bar needs to be continually lubricated with oil. This allows the chain to run smoothly. Without it, chains break easily.
Look for a rechargeable chainsaw with an automatic bar oiler, which will constantly apply oil to the bar. Without one, you need to be vigilant about stopping to oil the bar, which will slow you down.
Some battery-powered chainsaws feature tool-less chain tensioning, which allows you to tighten the chain without having to dig out a screwdriver or multi-tool.
This feature is extremely handy, no matter how experienced you are. If you're out in the field cutting a tree and you notice your chain getting loose, wouldn't you rather reach to the side of your saw and turn a dial than hike back to your truck or house to find a screwdriver?
With features like these in place, a cordless chainsaw can be a tool fit not only for a lumberjack with quick fine-tuning cuts to make, but also for any other user, professional or consumer alike.