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Gas or electric?

18-volt batteries give electric chainsaws more power

Nearly every farm workshop, especially those on livestock or mixed farms, has a chain saw tucked away on a shelf, and it may only get used when there is a tree down on a pasture fence. If so, that dust-covered saw will probably not be willing to start easily when needed, especially if it’s been a while since the last time the cows were out.

Because of the need to mix gas and oil for two-cycle engines, there is a temptation to leave mixed fuel in the tank of a chain saw. But modern fuel gets stale pretty fast, and it can gum-up a small carburetor preventing the engine from starting. That can lead to a lot of frustrated pulling on the starter rope without any success. Add to that a possible lack of regular maintenance and the likelihood of a rarely used saw starting easily just fell even further.

In the past, most electric chain saws were limited in power, making them more suitable for work in urban back yards than cutting 10-inch tree trunks out on the back 40. So it was a gas-powered saw or nothing. But today’s battery powered chain saws are different. Going electric may actually be the better choice, particularly on farms where saws just see occasional use.

“If you’re only using one of the smaller saws, like a 32 or 35cc to do the occasional job around the farm, you don’t want to have gas around all the time, especially mixed gas,” says Mike Mayers, a product rep for Makita. “It’s going to go stale and you have the oil to deal with. So you go to the battery.”

Makita was demonstrating its line of tools at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ontario, this past fall when Grainews stopped in for a discussion on the benefits of gas versus electric chain saws.

“With the battery you’re not giving up any of the power or ability of the smaller gas saw,” he continued. “On a full charge, a couple of batteries are going to last about as long as a tank of gas, generally speaking.”

Along with its gas-powered models, Makita offers three different electric chain saw versions with 16 or 18-inch cutter bars. They also have a small model with a 4.5-inch bar designed for one-handed use. All of them use a pair of 18-volt batteries for power.

An added benefit of opting for one of the electric chain saws in Makita’s product line is batteries have been standardized across most of the company’s product line. If a farm shop also has battery operated hand tools, like an impact driver, the batteries are all interchangeable. That also cuts down on the purchase cost of each tool, because a single pair of batteries will work for all of them.

“What you are gaining is portability and the efficiency of using the same battery in your chain saw as in any other tool in your shop,” Mayers says.

Even with a higher purchase price for an electric chain saw than for one with a gasoline engine, there are cost savings to be had, according to Mayers.

“Cost-wise, they’re a little bit more expensive right out of the gate. But the cost savings overall are huge. No fuel. No regular maintenance like you need for a combustion engine, spark plugs, filters and so on. You don’t have any of that with a battery-operated.

“The only maintenance required on a battery powered saw is making sure you have enough (chain) oil. That’s it. You just pick it up and go. We back up the cordless saw and the batteries with a three-year warranty.”

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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