Chain saws have finally cut the cord. You heard it right: the white-hot trend right now in chain saws is cordless. “My gasoline-powered chain saw can destroy a cordless,” you say. But that’s just it: Cordless technology has made these chain saws just as powerful and effective as gasoline models.
“When we do classes or shows, we will have people come up and you can see the skepticism about cordless,” says Terry Green, technical manager for outdoor power equipment for Makita. “So we’ll challenge them with their gas-powered chain saw and cut an 8-foot-by-8-foot piece of landscape timber, and many times we’ll make 11 cuts with cordless while they make only six to eight cuts with gasoline-powered. They are blown away by how fast the engine runs.”
Green says lithium ion technology now gives cordless products much more power and longer run times then previous generations of battery-powered units. These new cutting machines units have become so popular over the last year or two that sales are tripling and even quadrupling month after month.
“Guys are starting to see that cordless has the power and RPM to run chain fast enough to do quick cuts,” Green says.
Other benefits of cordless include reduced noise levels, not having to mix gas and oil, less maintenance and not having to physically start it. “We see a lot of professionals use cordless chain saws in bucket trucks because they don’t have to get up there and crank it, just pull the trigger,” Green says. “The same goes for arborists who are hanging from trees.”
With all the fascination the industry currently has for cordless chain saws, there also needs to be an understanding of their limitations. With only 16 inches of capacity on the guide bar, it’s not the tool for big trees.
Working on big trees or operating a chain saw four to eight hours a day can be extremely fatiguing, so manufacturers are making chain saws, even larger gasoline-powered models, lighter weight with magnesium housings. Users also typically look for high performance, a good power-to-weight ratio, ergonomics, balance, chain speed and parts availability.
“Chain saw manufacturers are reducing weight either in new designs or material makeup, using stronger but lighter polymers and even carbon fiber,” says Kent Hall, product manager for STIHL.
“There has been a focus on improving the operations of a saw, reducing weight, increasing power and introducing new technologies to make saws more durable and efficient and require less maintenance for years,” Hall says.
For example, STIHL’s saws have anti-vibration systems that operators greatly appreciate. Also, unique to STIHL is an intelligent engine management system based on new ignition modules that have tiny computer chips similar to those used in automobiles.
“It eliminates adjustments on the carburetor and is based on a digital solenoid attached to the carburetor that opens and closes to let the fuel/air mixture enter the engine,” Hall says. “The result is that it adapts to the environment the saw is operating in, whether it’s changes in elevation, air filtration or fuel quality.”
This innovation also reduces the maintenance time required to clean the air filter. Another trend is emissions control, Hall says. Chain saws are putting out less harmful emissions into the atmosphere, burning cleaner and more efficient.
“The side benefit to users is that this creates more power in the saw,” Hall says.
As far as cordless goes, STIHL has introduced a top-handle chain saw or climbing saw for arborists in the tree service industry in Europe and plans to introduce the same saw in the U.S. in the late 2018 or early 2019.
“But until the lithium ion battery technology improves as far the amount of power but reduction in weight, you won’t see it in larger saws,” Hall says.