To get the best performance from a chain saw, you need to keep the chain properly adjusted and the saw sharpened. First-time users, growing in number with every major storm, may not be prepared for the repeated sharpenings the saw will need, which can cost up to $10 when performed by a pro. Or, as we discovered in Consumer Reports recent tests of chain saws, you can buy a $60 kit that’s compatible with most major-brand chain saws and lets you sharpen the saw yourself in seconds.
Sold at Home Depot, Sears, and other retailers, Oregon’s PowerSharp comes in several versions that differ according to a chain saw’s bar length and whether you’re retrofitting it for the first time. The full kit includes a replacement chain and guide bar (what the chain wraps around). The sharpener resides in a sleeve into which you insert the business end of the saw, as if you were putting it into a protective case. Once the saw is in the sharpener, you engage the blade and presto, it’s sharp again. This feature is especially handy when you have hours of cutting to do and might need to sharpen the blade more than once.
While the starter kit costs about $60, the price tag will be half that when the time comes to replace just the chain and sharpener. Oregon says the chain can be resharpened five to 15 times, depending on the condition of the blade. You’ll know the blade needs sharpening when you see fine sawdust instead of chunks of wood.
The same technology is bundled into a model in our chain saw tests, the cordless Oregon CS250S, at $400 the most expensive we tested. Despite the convenience of easy sharpening, this model was among the slowest in our chain saw tests, and its battery lasted for only about eight cuts through our test 10x10-inch oak beam. The other battery-powered model we tested, the $200 Ryobi RY40510, was even slower and ran out of power after even fewer cuts. Committed to an electric chain saw? Consider the Worx WG303.1 instead. In addition to superior speed and a longer bar (16 rather than 12 inch), it’s a bargain at $100.
In all, we have 24 gas and electric models in our chain saw Ratings, along with two power loppers we’ll soon be covering in more detail. Before shopping, check out our buying guide.