What is the Best Chainsaw Bar Length?

Chainsaws are a handy tool to have for keeping a well-manicured garden.  They make it easier to prune branches, and keep your hedges trimmed.  However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.  With so many different chainsaws and bar lengths available, trying to work out the best bar length to purchase can be tricky.

The best chainsaw bar length is generally 2 inches longer than the average thickness of wood you’re cutting. This is because it is better to have a smaller chainsaw bar that you occasionally also use for larger jobs, than it is to go the largest size chainsaw bar and try to use it on the smaller jobs. Chainsaw bars are quite versatile and can cut just under double their length by cutting the wood from both sides.

We go further into why this is the best way to work out what the best chainsaw bar length is below…

Should I just buy a bigger chainsaw?

Well… no.

If you don’t need the larger chainsaw, you’ll just be wasting money. The larger a chainsaw is, the heavier it is.  The larger the bar, the harder it is to manoeuvre.  Buying a bigger bar than you need, or are used to handling, will soon leave you physically fatigued. 

It also doesn’t work out the opposite way. While a 20-inch bar works for cutting through mature trees, it becomes unwieldy for smaller jobs, making them more difficult.

Even if you do have the occasional larger job, or tree that you need to cut down, you don’t necessarily need a larger chainsaw.  Although the recommended chainsaw bar length is 2 inches longer than whatever you’re cutting, that’s just to be able to cut it in a single pass.   By cutting the timber from both sides, the diameter you can cut is doubled.  For example, when using a 12-inch chainsaw, you can cut wood anywhere up to 10 inches thick in a single pass, or up to 20-inches thick by sawing through one half at a time.

Read on to learn how to choose the best chainsaw bar length for you.

How do I know which size chainsaw bar I need?

The bar length that you need is dependent upon the tasks you’re using it for.  You wouldn’t use the same bar length to cut down a large tree as you would to prune your bushes, for example.

To determine which chainsaw bar length is best for you, there’s three simple things to consider:

  1. How much experience you have with chainsaws.
  2. How often you’ll be using the chainsaw.
  3. The size of wood you’ll be cutting most often.

It’s better to have the smaller bar that you occasionally also use for slightly larger jobs, than it is to go the largest size chainsaw bar you’d need, and try to use it on the smaller jobs.

As I mentioned earlier, larger chainsaws are heavier, and harder to handle.  Introduce a sharp, high-speed chain blade into that mix and a lack of experience, and you put yourself at risk of physical injury.  And when things go wrong, they go wrong very quickly.  That’s why considering how much experience you have with chainsaws is a vital part of the selection process. 

If you aren’t familiar with using a chainsaw, then a smaller chainsaw bar is better. For example, if the average dimension of your trees that you are cutting is 10 inch than you only need a 12 inch or maximum 14 inch bar. If there are a couple of trees that are up to 20 inches, you can still deal with them. But you are buying the chainsaw that suits the most of the types of trees you are cutting.

So what size chainsaw bar should you get? 

Recommended chainsaw bar length for home use

For occasional light use around the yard, you’ll only need to invest in one of the smaller chainsaw bars.  For pruning back small tree limbs a 12 or 14-inch bar is all you need.

If you have some mature trees that you want to prune the larger branches back on, you’ll need a slightly longer bar.  A 16 to 18-inch bar should be enough to get the job done.   This longer bar length will also work for cutting down small trees or removing shrubs.

The best chainsaw bar length for cutting firewood

If your primary use of the chainsaw is cutting firewood, then an 18-inch chainsaw bar is the recommended go-to.  It will be able to cut through most firewood in a single pass, anything between 16 and 32 inches will need two passes, but the chainsaw is still able to do the job, without you having to move up to a larger, heavier chainsaw.

The best chainsaw bar length for farmers

If you’re looking for a chainsaw to use out on the farm, then the 18-inch bar is recommended as the most versatile.  It can be used to cut down trees up to 32 inches in diameter (cut through one side, and then the other) and will easily cut through branches for pruning.

If most of your cutting is larger trees and you’re able to use the heavier chainsaws, you might want to go a step up and buy a 20 or 22-inch bar.

Which bar length is best for arborist chainsaws?

Arborists perform most of their work off the ground – up in the trees, so a lightweight, manoeuvrable chainsaw is highly important.  Trying to carry a longer bar while climbing a tree isn’t the safest or most comfortable situation.  For pruning tree limbs in these circumstances, the versatile 18-inch bar is the most commonly recommended.

Not all of their work is in the tree though.  Sometimes arborists need to remove a very large, mature tree, where the 18-inch just won’t cut it.  In these situations, the ideal bar length can be anywhere between 22 and 36-inches. 

These extra-long bar lengths are professional territory, so unless you’re a lumberjack or arborist, you won’t ever need a chainsaw bar that size.  If you do have something that big that needs cutting, then hire the professional with the training and experience to do the job for you.

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