What is an Arborist Chainsaw? A Comprehensive Guide

What is an Arborist Chainsaw? A Comprehensive Guide

Chainsaws are essential power tools for professionals working in tree care, logging, and woodcutting. As an arborist or tree surgeon, having the right chainsaw is crucial for your work efficiency and safety. In this comprehensive guide, I will explain everything you need to know about arborist chainsaws.

Firstly, I will define what an arborist chainsaw is and discuss its key features. Then, I will explore the different types of arborist chainsaws available, from gas-powered to battery-powered models. After reviewing some top brands and models, I will share tips on choosing the right arborist chainsaw for your needs. Proper maintenance and safety precautions will also be covered. My goal is to provide a helpful resource for arborists, tree care specialists, and any professionals using chainsaws at height.

An arborist chainsaw is a specialized power tool designed specifically for professional tree work and maintenance. Unlike standard chainsaws, arborist chainsaws are optimized for cutting branches, pruning trees, and trimming limbs while up on a ladder or in a tree. They allow arborists and tree surgeons to safely and efficiently carry out tasks like tree removal, crown reduction, deadwooding, and more.

The key features that set arborist chainsaws apart include their lightweight and compact size, top-handle design, high power relative to their weight, fast chain speed, and enhanced safety features. These attributes make them ideal for the specialized needs of climbing, pruning, trimming, and cutting while up on a rope and harness. Maneuverability and control are prioritized over raw power in an arborist chainsaw.

Now let’s take a closer look at the two main types of chainsaws used in tree care – gas-powered and battery-powered.

What is an Arborist Chainsaw? A Comprehensive Guide

Gas-Powered Arborist Chainsaws

Gas chainsaws have long been the go-to for professional arborists and remain a popular choice today. Their combustion engines deliver consistent power and high performance for taking on demanding tree cutting work. Large displacement two-stroke engines provide robust torque and fast chain speeds ideal for shaping trees.

Brands like STIHL, Husqvarna, and Echo offer gasoline-powered arborist saws designed specifically for overhead use. The engines provide enough sustained power to handle cutting medium to large branches and trees while the top handle promotes excellent control and mobility. Though heavier than battery models, gas chainsaws excel at rugged full-time use.

Battery-Powered Arborist Chainsaws

Electric and battery-powered chainsaws are gaining popularity among arborists and tree workers. Cordless arborist saws provide a convenient, eco-friendly alternative to gas motors. With advanced lithium-ion batteries, they can deliver adequate power and performance for most tree care tasks while producing zero emissions.

Cordless chainsaws shine in several ways – they are very quiet in operation, start up instantly with the press of a button, need no fuel mixing, and require less maintenance than gas saws. Their lighter weight also enhances maneuverability when used aloft. While runtime and power is still less than gas, today’s top batteries can handle occasional to regular use pruning trees.

Top Arborist Chainsaw Brands and Models

Now let’s look at some of the top brands and models when it comes to purpose-built arborist chainsaws:

STIHL Arborist Chainsaws

STIHL is synonymous with chainsaws and is the world’s best selling brand. For arboriculture, STIHL offers their specialized top handle saws. The MS 201 T C-M is ideal for tree care, providing a great power-to-weight ratio and excellent handling through its compact size and top handle design. It features tool-less chain tensioning for convenient maintenance when working on trees.

Husqvarna Arborist Chainsaws

Husqvarna is another reputable brand known for performance chainsaws. Their T540 XP is lightweight and powerful, with a ventilated top handle for cool operation when working for long periods aloft. The T435 is another great model, which uses Husqvarna’s X-Torq engine for lower emissions and fuel consumption.

Echo Arborist Chainsaws

The CS-2511T from Echo is purpose-built for tree trimming and pruning applications. It’s designed to be easily controlled overhead thanks to its slim top handle and strategic balance point. Powered by a 25 cc professional-grade two stroke engine, it delivers high torque and fast chain speeds.

How to Choose the Right Arborist Chainsaw

When selecting an arborist chainsaw, there are several factors to take into account depending on your specific needs:

Power and Performance

The engine or motor needs to provide sufficient power and speed for the tasks you will be performing. More displacement or battery voltage equates to higher cutting performance. Make sure it can handle the size of limbs and duration you’ll be cutting.

Weight and Maneuverability

Since these saws are used overhead, light weight and compact size for maneuverability is key. Also consider features like a strategically positioned handle and balance point that help handling.

Safety Features

Look for crucial safety features like a hand guard, throttle trigger lockout, inertia activated chain brake, anti-vibration system, and emergency stop switch. These help protect against injuries.

Proper Maintenance and Safety Tips

Maintaining your arborist chainsaw properly is essential for optimal performance and safety. Here are some key guidelines when using and caring for your top handle saw:

Regular Maintenance

  • Clean the saw thoroughly after each use, inspecting components and checking for damage. Remove all dirt, sap, and sawdust.
  • Sharpen the chain regularly as dull chains cause more kickback. Replace the chain once excessively worn.
  • Check chain tension and tighten if needed. A loose chain can fly off or derail.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for engine care and air filter changes.

Safety Tips

  • Always wear complete personal protection equipment like chainsaw chaps, hard hat, ear and eye protection.
  • Use both hands firmly on the handles for maximum control. Maintain secure footing or positioning when cutting overhead.
  • Memorize and use proper chainsaw techniques like not cutting with the tip and understanding kickback danger zones.
  • Never cut above shoulder height due to the higher risk of kickback.


Arborist chainsaws allow tree surgeons, arborists, and tree care professionals to safely and efficiently perform necessary tree maintenance and take downs. Their lightweight design, compact size, top handle, and specialized features make them ideal for use while climbing, suspended on ropes, or working with trees.

When choosing an arborist chainsaw, consider the power you need, weight, safety additions, and features that improve handling when used aloft. With the right saw and proper care, arborists can increase their productivity in this demanding line of work. Respecting maintenance and safety guidelines is crucial when using chainsaws to their full potential while staying injury-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a top-handle and rear-handle chainsaw?

A top-handle chainsaw has its front handle situated on top of the motor housing while a rear-handle saw’s handle extends from behind. Top-handle positioning provides superior balance and control when used overhead for tree work, while rear-handle chainsaws are optimized for ground-based cutting.

Can I use a regular chainsaw for arborist tasks?

It’s not recommended as standard chainsaws lack the important design elements and safety features for working aloft in trees. Arborist chainsaws have compact shape, strategic balance, anti-vibration, chain catch, and inbuilt safety additions specifically for overhead use.

How often should I sharpen my arborist chainsaw?

The general guidance is to sharpen the chain after every couple of hours of use, but this depends on how often you cut and the type of wood. Harder wood will dull the chain faster. Learn to regularly inspect and feel the sharpness of the cutters.

What is the best way to store my arborist chainsaw?

Always store saws in a dry place away from direct sun and moisture to prevent corrosion. Let the engine cool prior to storage and empty the fuel tank. Some recommend using fuel stabilizers and running the saw dry before storage.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my arborist chainsaw?

Look for decreased cutting performance, inability to hold an edge even when sharpened, excessive wear like cracks in the plastic housing, loose drive sprocket, frequently needed repairs, and general unreliability. These all indicate the chainsaw’s service life has come to an end.

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