The surprising electric chainsaw

As the Secret Lair approached habitability in 2011 I was faced with a logistical problem: I planned to heat with juniper and so I was going to need a good chainsaw.


Got one, too, through one of those instances of synchronicity that used to happen so often around here they made me want to at least get thoughtful about my agnosticism.

See, for my first year and a half in the Gulch I worked at the local chainsaw’n’generator repair shop. The experience left me with a strongly negative opinion of hardware-store-grade chainsaws and generators, so I couldn’t just save my nickels until I could beg a ride to Lowes and buy the cheapest thing on the rack. That way lies snapping twigs off trees to stave off hypothermia. I knew, without ever having depended on one before, that in the position I’d placed myself I needed a chainsaw. One that wouldn’t fail me when I needed it most, as long as I treated it right.

And happily, I got one: A rebuilt vintage Husqvarna left on consignment at the saw shop after I quit. Had to make payments, but it became available a good year before I really needed it so that was fine. I still have it, too: Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Got me through the first few cold winters in the Lair before I found other ways to gather wood.

The thing is though: Good powerful chainsaws are a pain in the ass. They’re heavy, noisy, dangerous to be near. You need to arrange mix gas all the time. You’re constantly having to stop and adjust the chain. They’re oily and messy: Cleaning them takes as long as cutting with them. They wear out cutting chains with wearying promiscuity, at least on dirt cedar. Even storing them is a hassle because you have to treat diaphragm carburetors with care or they’ll go TU on you during downtime.

Still – gotta have one. No substitutions allowed by reality. Right?

Well, that’s what I thought. I had, until recently, a neighbor who used a pro-grade electric chainsaw and never seemed to complain about his lot in life. I thought he was nuts.

Then several years ago, Big Brother sent me this:


I confess my initial reaction was indifference bordering on contempt. What good was this slow, weak machine ever going to do me? But at least it used the same batteries as all my other cordless tools. Might come in handy for trimming or something.

Turned out it was shockingly useful. And a lot less of a hassle to run than the Husky. Now, more than seven years later, I use it all the time and not just for branch trimming. I dragged it out this morning while it was cool to get a branch out of the way of one of my paths, and that was all I had to do: Get it out of the shed and stick a battery in it. No big dramatic buildup to the act followed by an hour of cleaning and careful mothballing.

Got me to thinking: My neighbor is moving away at the end of the month. I should ask him if he wants to sell his electric.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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7 Responses to The surprising electric chainsaw

  1. Stefan v. says:

    Adding up the oil, gasoline, sharpening, adjusting, cleaning, battery lifetime…..is it break even or perhaps more economical for the electrif?

  2. Jim Price says:

    Similar story here. I bought a new Husky in 1977. It’s been a great saw, and has done everything I’ve asked of it. Then, about 5 years ago, I bought one of the new Milwaukee electrics. The only time since then the Husky has been touched is when I move it from one place to another in the shop. If it disappeared tonight, I’d probably never notice it was gone.

  3. Terrapod says:

    Absolutely, put dibs on that neighbor’s unit, if he will sell it. I have a very old (blue plastic) Ryobi 14″ chain saw from the early days pre-Lithium, that makes it near 30 years old, still works fine, just put oil in the reservoir, a battery and go to town. I think I am on the 2nd chain in that time. I also have a gasser (not used in years) and a plug in 110V electric with a 18″ bar for larger diameter work. Guess which 2 are rarely used.

  4. Mike says:

    A few years ago, my wife got tired of my bitching about fussing around with my STILE chainsaw and got me an electric Husqvarna chainsaw. Since then, all I do is charge the battery, top up the bar oil, clean the crap off it with a brush and occasionally sharpen the chain. Love the ease compared to my gas one.

  5. Spud says:

    I have three chainsaws. A brand new Stihl gas powered for the bigger stuff when hurricane season knocks down stuff. An electric plug in one that can be used as a pole saw or regular chainsaw. Then my lovely wife got me a new Milwaukee cordless itty bitty thang.
    All three have their place.
    With hurricane season once again here, I hope like hell I don’t have to use them !!!!!!

  6. Malatrope says:

    Some time ago, small electric motors stopped being weak, puny, pathetic excuses for power (mainly because: better magnets, synchronous AC instead of DC). I changed all my power tools over to DeWalt electric, and haven’t looked back. They make an electric version of just about anything these days.

  7. SoCoRuss says:

    How do you know if its a pro grade/commercial one vs one in the box store?

To the stake with the heretic!