Guide to the Types of Chainsaws

When you see a chainsaw, you might think of it as a big and noisy smoke-chugging machine. They have long been associated with some villainous movie characters too. The ones who think that axes and machetes are too low-tech. 

But in reality, chainsaws are an essential tool that comes in handy for landscaping. They can chop wood, remove major obstructions, lop unhealthy limbs from trees, and clear brush to keep your yard maintained. But what exactly is a chainsaw and how does it work? 

What is a Chainsaw? 

Chainsaw placed on a tree stomp

A chainsaw is a portable power tool designed to cut through wood, tree trunks, and branches. It consists of a saw blade built into a chain driven along a guide bar. When you power the machine up, the chain starts rotating along the guide bar, cutting anything that comes in front of it. 

Yes, it is an aggressive tool, and a very effective one at that. You’ll find it useful for a range of tasks, such as harvesting firewood, tree felling, pruning, bucking and many more. 

Different Types of Chainsaws

Man using a chainsaw to cut down a tree. 

A chainsaw consists of two main parts: the first is the cutting chain that you read about above and the second can be an engine, electric motor, or a battery pack, depending upon the type of the chainsaw. Chainsaws can be categorized into different types according to their source of power. Some are gas-powered while others are electric. And even in electric models, you have a choice between corded and cordless models. Below we have rounded up the different types of chainsaws currently available on the market. 

Gas-Powered Chainsaw 

Gas-powered chainsaws are the most common and popularly used type of chainsaws. They have a 2 cycle or a two-stroke engine that serves as their source of power. This engine uses oil and gas to drive the chain. The oil lubricates the internal components of the engine to prevent wear and damage while the gas is combusted to provide power. 

These chainsaws tend to be heavier, yet faster than other types of chainsaws. Their high power-to-weight ratio makes them super effective and powerful. But they do produce noise and vibration, and are a costlier option too. You also need to fuel and service them regularly to keep them operating optimally. 


  • Portable 
  • Powerful 
  • Readily available
  • Suitable for heavy-duty cutting


  • Heavy
  • Expensive 
  • Requires regular care and maintenance 
  • Loud
  • Emits smoke and fumes

Corded Electric Chainsaw 

As the name suggests, corded electric chainsaws are powered by a plug-in power cord. They are equipped with an electric motor that becomes operational as you plug the cord into an electrical socket. 

When compared to gas-powered chainsaws, corded electric chainsaws tend to have less power and can perform limited tasks. They are also less portable because the power cable keeps you confined within a certain area. Corded electric chainsaws are not suitable for felling in tree wood, but it can help you cut small trees and branches. 


  • Lightweight 
  • Easy to use 
  • No fumes 
  • Does not make much noise 


  • Not very portable 
  • Cannot cut through thick trees and branches 
  • Cord can become tangled

Battery-Powered Chainsaw 

Also known as cordless chainsaws, this variation of electric chainsaw is powered by a battery pack. You have to charge the battery pack in advance to be able to use this power tool. This means that you are free of regular fueling and service of a gas-powered chainsaw, as well as of the plug-in limitations of a corded one. But you will have to recharge the batteries often to keep the saw functional. Forget to recharge, and it will limit the amount of work that you can finish in one session. You can extend this duration by having spare battery packs, but it’s they will still run out of juice at some point. 

Battery-powered chainsaws are designed for lighter tasks such as trimming, limbing, pruning, and cutting small trees. They have less power than both the gas-powered and corded chainsaws, but are the most expensive type of chainsaw because of costly batteries.


  • Extremely portable 
  • Does not emit fumes 
  • Quiet 


  • Not very powerful 
  • Battery life is limited 

Pneumatic Chainsaw 

This type of chainsaw is more powerful than any gas-operated model. That too, with less moving parts. Pneumatic chainsaws are powered by pressurized air pockets. The force one of these generates is enough to make straight cuts in metal and concrete, making them useful for construction purposes. This is why you will only find pneumatic chainsaws in an industrial setup. These chainsaws have no business in landscaping tasks. 

If you want to buy one for any reason, you’ll probably have to purchase it directly from the manufacturer as they are not to be seen in a local hardware store. 


  • Very powerful 
  • Can cut through metal and concrete 
  • No emissions 
  • Equipped with a built-in cooling system 


  • Very expensive 
  • Very limited availability

Pole Saw 

A pole chainsaw is essentially a small chainsaw attached to a long extension pole. The equipment also includes a trigger on the other hand that lets you control its operation. 

Technically, it is not a type of chainsaw because a pole saw can have a handsaw or reciprocating saw at its end. But since the chainsaw model is the most popular, we have also included it in our list. 

Like a regular chainsaw, pole chainsaw can also be powered by gas, battery, or via an electrical outlet. They are typically smaller and less powerful than regular chainsaws to reduce the strain on the pole (and hands). These saws are great for cutting dangerous limbs that might fall and hurt someone if left dangling from the tree. \


  • Makes cutting higher limbs easy 
  • Available in varying sizes and power capacities 


  • Useful in a few specific situations 
  • Lacks the power of a true chainsaw 

Gator Chainsaw

Also known as mini chainsaw or looper chainsaw, a gator chainsaw features jaw-like cutter teeth that resemble the inside of a gator’s mouth. You operate it like a pair of scissors for cutting trees, hence it is safer than a regular chainsaw because it prevents the blades (cutter teeth) of the chainsaw from cutting through your gloves.

A gator chainsaw is safe and well designed. You will find it great for cutting substantial wood that requires a lot of effort if you do it manually. Using it is effortless. You have to open the mouth of the chainsaw like a pair of scissors and clamp it shut to cut the tree. It can cut through stems up to four inches wide. 


  • Simple and easy to use 
  • Designed to keep you safe 
  • Highly portable 


  • Can only cut materials up to four inches thick
  • Needs regular maintenance 

Manual Chainsaw 

All the types of chainsaws that we mentioned up till now are power tools. The last chainsaw type that we are covering is the one that you operate with your hands. Also, known as pocket chainsaws, a manual chainsaw is a metallic chain with sharp teeth all over it. It has handles on either end that you can hold while operating it. 

This type of chainsaw is operated by your own power. Simply wrap the chain around the material that you want to cut and quickly pull it back and forth with your hands. Of course, it will take a lot of time, but it is an emission-free and quiet way of cutting through various materials. 


  • Inexpensive 
  • Extremely portable 
  • Works without any power source 


  • Operation is tiring 
  • Takes a lot of time 
  • Can only handle small jobs


So, what do you think? Have you made up your mind? Which chainsaw suits your needs the best? Well, the answers to these questions solely depend upon your unique requirements. Above we have listed the different types of chainsaw. Now, it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you according to your budget and job requirements.