Chainsaws on smallholdings are invaluable. Most smallholdings will have a few fruit trees to prune, and even a couple to fell, and if you are environmentally conscious you will be seeking to heat your home with wood fires (the ultimate renewable heating source) in the winter, for which you will require firewood.

Thus, a chainsaw will become necessary.

Electric or petrol? If all you want to do is cut up small quantities of firewood, ie, work in a single location, then an electric chainsaw will probably suffice. If, however, you want to trim branches in situ and fell trees, a petrol-powered machine will be necessary.

But have a look also at the new battery-powered models that are now available. They’re quieter than petrol machines, so you don’t annoy your neighbours, and they are pollution-free.

Like with brushcutters, your smallholder chainsaw will not be in constant operation (you’re not starting a tree-felling business, after all), so an intermediate machine is probably adequate.

What to Look For

  • Weight of the machine (a 7kg chainsaw becomes incredibly heavy as the day progresses);
  • Anti-vibration engine mountings (the more a chainsaw vibrates, the faster it becomes incredibly heavy);
  • Good balance means that the chainsaw lies well in your hands;
  • Easy and quick chain tensioning (fiddling about with tools in the field ensuring a properly tensioned chain wastes time).

    Chainsaws on smallholdings
    Smallholders use chainsaws to cut their firewood.

Make sure that the air filter and fuel pump are easily accessible, and that it’s easy to tighten the chain, all of which will make maintenance easy.

Note that while cutting bar length and power are important, they’re not that critical at our level.  You’re not felling California redwoods, after all, and a bar length of 35 to 50cm should be more than adequate for cutting up firewood and trimming branches. The sharpness (and tension) of the chain, and operator skill, are more important than the power of the engine.  You will waste more time trying to cut with a blunt, loose chain, or with bad technique, than you will by the machine being under powered.


Make sure that the saw has plenty of safety features that are well tested, to reduce the risk of injuries.

Also, like a brushcutter, a chainsaw is not something one buys alone and uses unprepared: with your chainsaw should come spare chains, protective footwear, trousers, gloves and head wear with ear protection. And vegetable-based (and therefore biodegradable) chain lubricant.

Finally, after a loaded pistol with the safety catch off, a chainsaw is probably the most dangerous item you will own on your plot. It should not be used by anybody who has not been properly trained and equipped, and certainly not by children.

To read more about tools and machinery on smallholdings, click here.

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