The labs are buzzing about our new chain saw tests

The labs are buzzing about our new chain saw tests

Superstorm Sandy blew down more trees in New York and New Jersey than any previous storm on record, experts say. And since then there have been several damaging storms across the nation, including one yesterday that knocked down many trees in the Southeast. So it’s no wonder that chain saws are flying off the shelves of the home improvement stores. We discovered this when Consumer Reports was buying its own batch for new testing, including models from Stihl, Craftsman, Oregon and Worx, among other brands.

In our chain saw tests, we’ll be assessing how powerfully and quickly a chain saw can cut through thick wood, how safely it operates, how easy it is to use and maintain and, for cordless models, how long it runs on a single charge.

We’re looking forward to testing gasoline models including the 16-inch Stihl MS 180 C-BE, which lets you adjust the chain tension without tools. The manufacturer also claims that it has easy starting aided by a single lever that works the choke, throttle lock, and on/off switch. Another model that piques our interest is the Craftsman 34190, $ 150, an 18-inch model that Sears claims has the “fastest cutting.”

Cordless chain saws like the 40-volt Oregon CS250 (see photo), $ 400 with standard battery and charger, are a newer option for users whose needs don’t quite warrant a more powerful gas model but with property that extends past the 100-foot maximum length of an extension cord. Sold at independent outdoor-gear dealers and online at,, and other sellers, the 14-inch Oregon CS250 claims to have a built-in chain-sharpening system.

We’ll also be testing variations on traditional chain saws, with such products as the Worx WG307, $ 120, and the Black & Decker LP1000, $ 80, which clamp onto what you’re cutting for safer work. (The Worx accepts an optional, five-foot extension pole.)

Whether you’re a chain saw newbie or a veteran, safety is paramount with a product that in 2011 sent more than 30,000 people to the emergency room. When using a chain saw, wear snug-fitting clothing and sturdy work boots, preferably steel-toed. Shield your legs with cut-resistant chaps and the backs of your hands with protective gloves, and wear a helmet with a face shield. Also, even electric saws require hearing protection, and sound levels for gas chain saws can easily exceed 100 decibels at the operator’s ear.

When starting a gas-powered saw, grip it with both hands and keep both feet firmly on the ground. To speed cutting and minimize kickback, keep the cutting chain properly sharpened, tensioned, and oiled. Don’t use a chain saw while standing on a ladder or with the chain saw lifted above your shoulders. Avoid sawing with the tip of the chain and bar, where kickback typically occurs.

When our tests of new chain saws are complete, we’ll add them to our current chain saw Ratings, which include three top picks: the gas-powered Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $ 230, and two electric models, the Husqvarna 316, $ 220, and the Poulan Pro 400E, $ 110, which we named a CR Best Buy. And if buying and maintaining a chain saw sounds like too much trouble, we’re also looking into chain saw rentals.

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