How to Choose the Right Chainsaw for Limbing Trees: A Guide

How to Choose the Right Chainsaw for Limbing Trees: A Guide

As an avid gardener and landscaper, I often find myself needing to trim back tree limbs around my property. While hand pruners work for smaller branches, larger limbs require more heavy-duty equipment – namely, a chainsaw. However, not just any chainsaw will do when it comes to limbing trees. You need one with the right power, features and safety precautions to get the job done safely and efficiently. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the key factors to consider when choosing a chainsaw specifically for limbing trees.

First, I’ll overview the different types of chainsaws and their suitability for limbing. Next, I’ll recommend ideal bar lengths for different limbing needs. I’ll also cover crucial safety tips for using your chainsaw, including protective gear and safe operation. Then I’ll outline proper maintenance routines to keep your saw in tip-top shape. Finally, I’ll suggest top chainsaw brands and models that I’ve found work exceptionally well for limbing trees.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to choose the perfect chainsaw for limbing the trees around your home or property. Let’s get started!

How to Choose the Right Chainsaw for Limbing Trees?

How to Choose the Right Chainsaw for Limbing Trees: A Guide

When selecting a chainsaw for cutting back tree limbs, there are several key factors to take into account:

Size and Type of Trees to be Limbed

Consider the size of the branches and overall tree you’ll be working with. For light limbing of smaller trees and branches, a compact electric or battery powered saw will suffice. For thicker branches and medium to large trees, opt for a more powerful gas chainsaw. Think about how often you’ll need to refuel a gas motor – for occasional use, battery powered is convenient.

Frequency of Use

If you only limb trees sporadically, an electric or cordless chainsaw is probably your best bet for convenience and cost savings. For frequent limbing, go for the power of a gas chainsaw. Also consider noise levels if you’ll be using the saw regularly close to your home.

Experience Level

If you’re new to using chainsaws, start with a lightweight, easy to handle electric or battery powered model with built-in safety features. As your experience level grows, you can upgrade to a more rugged, powerful gas chainsaw.

Safety Features

Look for chainsaws equipped with safety mechanisms like chain brakes, reduced kickback bars, anti-vibration handles and automatic chain tensioners. These help prevent injuries for beginners and experienced users alike.

Maintenance Requirements

Electric and battery powered chainsaws typically require less maintenance than gas models. But all saws need regular upkeep like chain sharpening, tension checks, chain lubrication and air filter cleaning. Make sure you know what’s required for your model.

Chainsaw Types and Their Suitability for Limbing

Now that you know what factors to consider, let’s examine the pros and cons of different chainsaw types for limbing trees:

Gas-Powered Chainsaws

Gas chainsaws pack plenty of cutting power for large branches and dense wood. This makes them ideal for frequent, heavy-duty limbing of bigger trees. However, gas motors are heavier and require more maintenance than electric models. They also emit unpleasant fumes.

Electric Chainsaws

Electric chainsaws provide a balance of power and convenience for moderate limbing needs. They’re lightweight and easy to start, with no emissions or engine maintenance. Corded models provide unlimited runtime but limit your mobility. Cordless models run on batteries with limited life between charges.

Battery-Powered Chainsaws

Battery-powered chainsaws deliver quiet, eco-friendly operation with less maintenance than gas models. They offer great portability and are well-suited for lighter limbing tasks. Improved battery life allows runtimes rivaling some gas saws. Just be sure to have extra charged battery packs on hand!

Chainsaw Bar Length Recommendations

The right bar length depends on the size of branches you’ll be cutting:

  • 14 inches or less – Best for light, occasional limbing of smaller trees and branches
  • 14 to 18 inches – Allows faster cutting of medium sized limbs on larger trees
  • 18 to 20 inches – Ideal for frequent heavy limbing and small to medium tree felling

Longer bars give you better reach and ability to cut thicker branches. But they add weight and can be trickier to maneuver. I recommend starting with a mid-range bar length like 16 or 18 inches for versatility. You can always go shorter or longer as your experience and needs change.

Chainsaw Safety Tips

Operating a chainsaw safely should always be your top priority. Here are some key safety precautions to take:

Personal Protective Equipment

Chainsaw kickback and flying debris can cause severe cuts and injuries if you’re not properly protected. Always wear safety gear including:

  • Chainsaw chaps – Protect legs from accidental contact with the spinning chain
  • Steel-toe boots – Guard feet against falling limbs
  • Gloves – Provide grip and resist cuts from sharp branches
  • Eye protection – Shield eyes from sawdust and debris
  • Ear protection – Prevent hearing damage from loud noise
  • Hard hat – Protect your head from falling branches

Safe Chainsaw Operation

In addition to protective gear, using proper technique is crucial for safe limbing:

  • Maintain a solid, balanced stance with feet planted shoulder-width apart
  • Keep left hand on front handlebar and right hand on rear handle and throttle
  • Cut with the chainsaw close to your body for maximum control
  • Watch out for springpoles – cut these bent limbs carefully to avoid whipbacks
  • Release throttle trigger when not actively cutting to stop the chain
  • Avoid cutting with the tip of the guide bar to prevent kickbacks
  • Pay attention to shifting limbs and branches overhead
  • Set the chain brake before transporting/carrying your saw

Following safe chainsaw practices prevents injuries and ensures you remain vigilant when cutting tree limbs. Don’t let familiarity breed complacency!

Chainsaw Maintenance

To keep your chainsaw running smoothly for limbing tasks:

Daily Maintenance Tips

Perform quick daily checks to ensure safe, trouble-free operation:

  • Test the throttle trigger and chain brake
  • Check chain tension – the chain should have just a little up and down movement
  • Ensure bar nuts are finger tight
  • Check chain lubrication by observing oil fling off chain when running
  • Examine the saw for any loose or damaged parts
  • Clean the exterior of the saw to remove debris, sap and dirt

Weekly and Monthly Maintenance

Do more thorough maintenance weekly or monthly:

  • Inspect the chain for damaged, loose or worn cutter teeth
  • Sharpen dull cutters with a file and depth gauge tool
  • Replace the chain once stretching exceeds 1/4 inch
  • Check guide bar rails for wear and clean out built-up sawdust
  • Examine fuel filter – replace if dirty
  • Inspect anti-vibration mounts for deterioration or cracking
  • Clean air filter to prevent engine starvation
  • Drain old gas and add fresh fuel to prevent stale fuel issues

Proper maintenance reduces risk of injuries and keeps your saw primed for limbing tasks. Refer to your owner’s manual for model specific procedures.

Chainsaw Brands and Models for Limbing Trees

With so many chainsaw brands and models available, it can be tricky choosing one suited for limbing. Based on my experience, here are some excellent options:

Top Chainsaw Brands

Three chainsaw manufacturers stand out for reliability, power and safety features:


Founded in Germany over 90 years ago, Stihl produces professional-grade chainsaws renowned for high cutting performance and durability. Models like the MS 261 excel at limbing larger branches while still being relatively lightweight.


Sweden-based Husqvarna is another legendary chainsaw brand dating back to the late 1600s. Their limbing saws like the 445 deliver robust power-to-weight ratios with ergonomic designs.


This Japanese company produces dependable, fast-cutting electric and gas chainsaws ideal for limbing. The Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf has plenty of power with reduced vibration.

Recommended Chainsaw Models for Limbing Trees

Based on the brands above, here are some specific chainsaw models I recommend for limbing:

Stihl MS 261 C-M

The Stihl MS 261 packs potent mid-range cutting capacity at just 12.6 pounds. It starts easily with ample torque for larger limbs.

Husqvarna 460 Rancher

Husqvarna’s 460 Rancher provides rugged construction and Smart Start technology, making it ideal for frequent limbing jobs.

Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf

With robust air filtration and anti-vibration handles, the CS-590 smoothly powers through limbing tasks while reducing fatigue.

These models offer the right mix of power, safety and reliability to tackle limbing chores while minimizing risk of injury. Always look for a chainsaw with enough cutting capacity for the limb sizes you encounter, without being overly heavy or unwieldy.

Limbing Techniques and Best Practices

Once you’ve chosen the right chainsaw, proper limbing techniques further ensure safety and efficiency:

Proper Limbing Height and Stance

  • Stand firmly on the left side of the trunk when limbing to avoid being hit by falling branches
  • Keep your face and body out of the line of kickback danger zones
  • Work with the chainsaw close in to your body for maximum control
  • Always limb trees from the base up to avoid cutting limbs that support your weight

Cutting Techniques

  • Make an initial shallow undercut halfway through the underside of the branch
  • Finish with a deeper overcut from the top until the limb falls
  • Avoid letting the tip of the guide bar do the cutting to prevent kickbacks
  • Cut branches as flush as possible to the trunk for fastest healing
  • For heavy leaning branches, use the step-cut method for controlled removal
  • Let the chainsaw do the work, don’t force it through limbs too quickly

Proper limbing stance, height, and cut techniques prevent dangerous situations. Go slowly, remain aware of your surroundings, and take frequent breaks to avoid fatigue.


I hope this comprehensive guide provides the knowledge you need to choose the safest, most efficient chainsaw for limbing trees. Key takeaways include:

  • Selecting the right power and features based on the size of limbs and frequency of use
  • Following essential safety precautions like protective gear and proper operating procedures
  • Performing regular maintenance to keep your chainsaw in peak limbing condition
  • Opting for a professional brand like Stihl, Husqvarna or Echo
  • Using proper limb removal techniques to safely operate your saw

Limbing trees doesn’t need to be an intimidating or hazardous task if you have the right chainsaw and know-how. Use this guide to find your perfect limbing partner, keep it well maintained, and employ safe practices. With the proper preparation, you’ll make short work of excess branches!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best chainsaw bar length for limbing trees?

For light limbing of smaller branches, a 14 inch bar or less is ideal. For frequent cutting of medium to large limbs on bigger trees, choose a bar length between 14 and 18 inches. This provides sufficient reach while still allowing maneuverability.

How do I maintain my chainsaw for limbing trees?

Follow daily, weekly and monthly maintenance routines. This includes checking chain tension and lubrication, inspecting vibration damping components, replacing worn parts, cleaning the saw and air filter, inspecting the chain for damaged cutters, sharpening dull teeth, and draining old gas and oil. Proper maintenance prevents injuries and keeps your saw in peak limbing condition.

What are some safety tips for using a chainsaw for limbing trees?

Always wear protective gear like chaps, boots, eyewear and hearing protection. Maintain proper stance with both hands on the saw. Avoid awkward positions that put you off balance. Keep the tree between yourself and the chainsaw blade. Engage the chain brake when not actively cutting. Avoid kickback zones around the tip of the guide bar. Stay alert and never limb trees overhead.

Which chainsaw brands are recommended for limbing trees?

Top professional chainsaw brands for reliable limbing include Stihl, known for high-powered cutting; Husqvarna, renowned for performance and ergonomics; and Echo, which produces fast cutting saws that reduce vibration and fatigue. Specific models from these brands to consider are the Stihl MS 261, Husqvarna 460 Rancher and Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf.

What are some limbing techniques and best practices?

Make shallow undercuts first, then finish with a deeper overcut from the top to drop limbs. Stand firmly on the left side and keep your face away from the kickback zone. Avoid letting the tip of the guide bar do the cutting. Cut branches as flush as possible to the trunk for quick healing. Take your time and don’t overextend with the saw. Stay aware of shifting branches overhead. Let the chainsaw do the work rather than forcing it.

Similar Posts