Consumer Report: Top Chain Saws

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When the next big storm hits, are you ready to tackle the cleanup? Chain saws make quick work of clearing downed tree limbs and branches. Consumer Reports’ latest ratings find that some chain saws are much better than others.

Consumer Reports tested 20 chain saws ranging in price from $70 to $400. Testers rate how fast each saw cuts. They use a meter to measure vibration—too much can make a chain saw harder to hold, especially for a long time. And there’s a test that assesses kickback, that’s when the tip of the saw hits the wood and lurches back. Some chain saws kick back more than others.

For cutting up branches just once or twice a year, electric chain saws are convenient.

Consumer Reports named one from Worx, model WG303.1, a Best Buy at $100. Of course you’re connected to the power cord, and if the power’s out, you’re out of luck.

For bigger jobs, gas-powered chain saws are a better choice, but they’re trickier to use.

You need to know the right mixture of gas and oil for your saw and how to start it. It can take several pulls of the starter cord to get it going. Consumer Reports top-rated a gas saw from Stihl, model MS 180 C-BE for $230. For even less, there’s the $150 Craftsman model 34190. It’s not quite as fast, but it comes in a storage case with the supplies you need, including chain oil and a chain-tightening tool.

Consumer Reports says for gas saws, you need about 32 ounces of pre-mixed gasoline and oil, and a quart of bar oil for about an hour of work. For corded electric saws, you’ll need a heavy extension cord that’s 12-gauge.

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