9 Best Top Handle (Arborist) Chain Saws: 2019 Arborist Saw Guide

Top handle saws can be a great addition to your tool set, as their handle placement allows you to use them one-handedly, making it an easier-to-use chain saw. These types of chain saws are commonly referred to as arborist chain saws. They are meant to be used in elevated positions and are not appropriate for ground wood cutting. Elevated working positions can be awkward and these top handle chain saws assist with getting the work done, even while working in tight spaces. Most of these chain saws have anti-vibration systems integrated into the tool which makes the experience more comfortable for the user and leads to less fatigue when used over long periods of time. Although this type of chain saw can be used single-handedly, you will find that you have the most control of the tool when using both hands.

Best Battery Operated

DEWALT DCCS620P1 20V

  • Tool-free chain tensioning
  • Bar tightening knob

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Best Overall

Echo Saw CS-355T

  • Powered by a gas engine
  • Lightweight design

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Budget Friendly

Remington RM4214 Rebel

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Easy maintenance

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This type of saw is the best option whether you are a homeowner tackling tree cutting projects or a more experienced user felling or limbing trees. Keep in mind, this tool is extremely powerful as it cuts through hard woods so you must employ safety at every step – from purchasing to use to storage, safety must stay at the front of your mind as you peruse the available options for your new chain saw. Read below to discover some key components on handling this type of chain saw, what to consider before purchasing, some recommendations for the best products out there, and a buying guide to help orient you on what can otherwise seem like a daunting task.

5 Key Components to a Top Handle Chain Saw

  • Choose a chain saw that is easy and comfortable for you to handle. If this is your very first chain saw purchase, you may want to consider renting the model you are considering first. This will give you a solid idea of the size, the configuration of the blade, and how comfortably it fits in your hands during use. As a novice chain saw user, a bar type blade will be most appropriate and easier to handle. Ensure the engine is well-tuned and the blade is sharp to make cutting a breeze!
  • Learn the four types of cuts you can make. There are four main cuts that a chain saw can make: 1) felling; this is when you cut down an entire tree, 2) bucking; this is when you cut through a large log or trunk to create smaller pieces like those used for firewood, 3) trimming; this is when you cut limbs off a tree, and finally 4) limbing; this is when you cut off the limbs of a tree prior to cutting it completely down.
  • Use the appropriate type of fuel or oil. The gas tank will require the correct type of fuel or oil mixture. This is often a full gallon of gasoline with four to six ounces of engine oil. If you are not careful with fueling, you could cause the chain saw to overheat and burn up, damaging the unit you invested in.
  • Let the chain saw cool off after using and prior to storing. After use, your chain saw will be hot, and it is advisable that you drain out the flammable liquids (fuel and oil) to avoid any potentially dangerous leakage. Once emptied, give the unit time to cool off before you store it in a case or other secure location away from tiny hands or furry family members who may be prone to accidents.
  • Use a chain saw case! A case will be the best option when protecting your chain saw while not in use; however, another option would be to purchase a bar cover so that your chain saw remains protected but most importantly, you and your family members or co-workers stay protected.

6 Key Considerations when Buying a Top Handle Chain Saw

  • Determine what you will be using the chain saw for. This should be the very first question you ask yourself before embarking on your search for your new chain saw. If you are just looking to do some easy trimming throughout the year or maybe some light pruning, an electric saw will be a perfect addition to your tool set. However, if you are going to be handling tougher projects with medium to large trees or needing to cut through large branches outdoors in heavily wooded areas, you should choose a chain saw that is gas-powered. When it comes to chain saws, size does not matter as much as you might think. If you will be needing to maneuver easily in tight spaces, a cordless, compact saw will do the trick. Think thoroughly about how you will be using your chain saw and move forward from there to narrow down your top picks!
  • Decide on the engine/motor type for your chain saw. Gasoline-powered engines have a large range between 23cc and 120cc but if you are a homeowner looking to tackle projects around the home, you can make do with 30cc to 45cc. Battery-powered chain saws primarily use lithium-ion batteries that are rechargeable for ease of use. These usually have a lifetime of two to three years even when not used consistently, so it is always better to keep it at least at a half charge and never let it get below that to get the most power and longer use to handle your work projects.
  • Where will you be using your chain saw? Does it need to be gas-powered? Battery-powered? Are you going to be outdoors, away from man-made establishments while working with your chain saw or will you be near the house or close to your outdoor shed? This will help you determine if you should be using a gasoline-powered chain saw or a battery-operated one. You may also want to consider the sound of the chain saw – gasoline-powered chain saws will be a bit louder than electric saws so if you live close to neighbors, you may want to choose a quieter model.
  • Look for trusted brands. You may find a cheap offer online by an unrecognized brand that could seem attractive budget-wise; however, choosing a trusted brand will ensure you obtain a quality product. Look for warranty availability as well, as you will want to secure your purchase. Review the options listed below to determine which stands out to you.
  • Review available safety features. Chain saws are incredibly powerful – if they can slice through tree branches like butter, just imagine what they can accomplish on a finger or worse, an arm! Check out the safety features of the product you are considering; many chain saws have protective features built into them after manufacturers became aware of the many unfortunate mishaps following improper use.
  • Budget check. You could always go top-of-the-line, only-the-best with your purchase to receive the highest-quality, highest-rated item but is that really what you need? Perhaps budget is not an issue and if that is the case, by all means, splurge! However, if you do have some budget constraints and require a sensible purchase, review some of the more affordable options below that will get the job done and keep your bank account looking and feeling secure.

Overall Best Top Handle Chain Saws

New Echo Top Handle Chain Saw CS-355T 16″ Bar Fast 

Key Features:

  • Powered by a gas engine
  • Lightweight design for one-handed use if needed
  • Small unit with optimized power

Overall Best Top Handle Chain Saw – This New Echo top handle chain saw has an integrated choke on and off switch, a purge bulb, a G-Force engine air pre-cleaner, and an automatic adjustable oiler. It is a small unit with a contoured, ergonomic handle that makes it easy to work with, even while you reach for your coffee – though we wouldn’t recommend multi-tasking this way!

The starting system requires a reduced effort and the 2-stroke engine is of professional grade for the best performance. Although small, this chain saw delivers a lot of power, working beautifully for tree climbers who have to cut through many trees on a regular basis.

Pros:

  • Lightweight design
  • Ergonomic design to reduce hand and arm fatigue
  • Small yet powerful

Cons: 

  • Small unit compared to others

DEWALT DCCS620P1 20V MAX Lithium-Ion XR Brushless Compact 12 in. Cordless Chain Saw Kit

Key Features:

  • Brushless motor for ultimate efficiency
  • Tool-free chain tensioning
  • Bar tightening knob
  • Lightweight, compact design

Best Battery Operated Top Handle Chain Saw – This Dewalt compact chain saw is cordless, powered by a 20-volt battery. It contains an auto-oiling system that keeps the saw and the guide bar well lubricated. It also comes with an oil level indicator, so you know just how much oil is left in the chain saw. Once it reaches less than a quarter full, you will need to remove the battery and refill – be sure to use the right kind of oil!

When pruning trees, the use of a vegetable-based chain and bar oil is recommended. Do not use waste oil or viscous oil; otherwise, you risk damaging your oh-so valuable unit. This unit is lightweight, weighing only 8.8 lbs. The lithium-ion batteries this chain saw requires are included so it will come fully equipped for use once shipped.

Pros:

  • Pre-sharpened chain
  • Surprisingly quiet motor

Cons:

  • Does not come with a case

Remington RM4214 Rebel 42cc 2-Cycle 14-Inch Gas Powered Chain Saw 

Key Features: 

  • High output engine
  • Quick start technology for smoother pull starts
  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Easy maintenance

Best Budget-Friendly Top Handle Chain saw – This gas-powered chain saw by Remington is equipped with a 42cc full crank two cycle engine that delivers notable power with contained vibration. The professional grade components were designed expertly to handle tough branches. The wrap handle is cushioned which makes it easier to handle and operate.

Maintenance is easy with this chain saw because the spark plug and filter access are tool-free, making it simple to make adjustments while you work on your arbor cutting projects.

Pros:

  • Versatile gas model
  • Adjustable automatic oiler
  • Professional grade components

Cons:

  • May be prone to overheating

6 More Top Rated Top Handle Chain Saw:

Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 32.2cc 14-Inch Top Handle Chain Saw with Pure Fire Engine

This top handle Tanaka chain saw comes with a 14-inch bar and chain that has a commercial grade pure fire engine – it delivers power while utilizing minimal fuel and results in extremely low emissions without requiring any extra internal moving parts. The gear-driven oiler is automatic, and it also has an access chain on the side for easy and expedient adjustments. This chain saw comes with a seven-year consumer warranty, a two-year commercial warranty, and a one-year rental warranty.

Makita Tool XCU02Z 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 12″ Chain Saw, Tool

This lithium-ion 12-inch chain saw by Makita delivers run time and power similar to a corded option with a quieter experience and zero emissions for your ultimate comfort during use. The 12-inch guide bar makes for increased capacity and chain adjustments can be made in a tool-less capacity. This product includes the tool only; however, you may purchase the batteries and charger separately. You will receive a manual with your purchase so you will have assembly instructions readily available.

CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch 

This Craftsman cordless chain saw has a high capacity battery pack for a longer use period. The bubble level indicator allows for accurate, straight cutting and it auto oils in a tool-free capacity for minimized maintenance while encouraging efficiency. This model comes with a battery and charger so you will have a full kit ready to use upon arrival. In addition, there are replacement parts available for purchase separately. The compact design of this chain saw permits you to cut in small spaces, making it great for precise cutting in tight environments. This tool comes with a three-year limited, 90-day money back guarantee.

Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Chainsaw

This Husqvarna chain saw is gas-powered with an X-Torq® engine which reduces the consumption of available fuel. It is also easy to start because of its Smart Start® technology and has reduced vibration to make using the chain saw more comfortable for the user. The air filter remains protected with a special system that keep debris and dust from getting through. The caps flip up easily so you can access the chain for re-oiling and re-fueling and the screwdriver and wrench tools are combined for fast adjustments whenever needed.

Tanaka TCS40EA18 18-Inch 40cc 2-Stroke Gas Powered Rear Handle Chain Saw

This Tanaka chain saw has a rear handle and is gas-powered with a commercial grade engine. The pull force to start is reduced by 50% because of its S-Start technology and the side access chain tensioner allows for streamlined chain adjustments. The low-emission engine is designed for quick cuts and is designed to be environmentally conscious. The anti-vibration design makes it comfortable when you use it, even when your projects take up a lot of time. After purchase, you will have a seven-year consumer warranty, a two-year warranty when used in non-rental commercial applications, and a one-year warranty when used in rental applications.

Hitachi CS33EDTP 2-Stroke Gas Powered Top Handle Chain Saw with PureFire Engine, 14-Inch

This top handle Hitachi chain saw is powered by gas that is CARB compliant and perfect for shaping and pruning work. The engine is low emission and commercial grain with a 14-inch sprocket-nosed bar. The anti-vibration system encourages extended use without developing hand fatigue. This chain saw is appropriate for both professionals and homeowners working on yard projects. This chain saw will start up easily with a half throttle choke and a purge primer bulb. Climbing is made easy with a built-in lanyard ring. This product is backed by a seven-year consumer warranty, two-year commercial warranty, and a one-year rental warranty.

 Our 2019 Top Handle Chain Saw Buying Guide

  1. Start with knowing if you will be cutting hard or soft wood. If you will be working with hard woods like oak, hard maple, beech, or birch, you will require an extremely powerful gasoline-powered chain saw. Softer woods can be cut with battery-powered options.
  2. Consider how often you will be using your new chain saw. Your use of the chain saw will determine how much maintenance it will require. If you are only going to be using it a handful of times throughout the year, an electrically powered chain saw will suit your needs because it will require the least amount of maintenance. However, if you are working with tougher woods on a more frequent basis, you will want to go for the gas-powered option – but be prepared to handle all the maintenance it requires!
  3. During which season will your chain saw get the most use? If you reside in a location that has cold winters, you know the pain of icy cold temperatures, especially when there is wind. If you will be working under these conditions, consider a chain saw that has a heated handle and carburetor to keep your hands from freezing while you work.
  4. What kind of safety features will make you most comfortable? Safety is of utmost importance, especially if you are just starting out with a chain saw. A chain saw that has an anti-kickback safety feature will help keep you protected. Remember, these are cutting machines and one slip can cause serious damage and can even be fatal. In addition, equip yourself with safety gear like glasses to protect your eyes, protect your ears from the sound, always wear gloves, and invest in some cut-resistant safety boots. This is a high-powered machine you will be working with and it is your responsibility to maintain your safety and handle it consciously and with respect.
  5. Know your own fitness level to choose the best chain saw for yourself.  You might wonder why this is an important aspect of choosing the right chain saw. However, your capacity to control and maneuver the chain saw is highly dependent on your personal fitness level. If you are strong, handling and holding the chain saw will be much easier than if you lack upper body and core strength. A chainsaw is like an extra limb while you use it and you will feel the way your muscles contract as you maneuver it during cutting projects. Fatigue makes injury more likely so be sure to choose a chain saw you are comfortable handling. This is not the time to risk it or play big, but rather a time to choose a tool that is best suited for you, at whatever fitness level you are at.

 Conclusion

Now that you have some recommendations for your new arborist chain saw, you can employ what you have learned to make the best decision for your purchase. If you take into consideration all the information you must know prior to making your purchase, you will be satisfied with the most optimal tool for your needs. As always, safety is a must. Keep that blade covered whenever it is not being used, opt for heated handles if you will be working in freezing weather, and always wear protective gear. When you invest in a chain saw, you must also invest in the items that will keep you safe as you use it. Also be sure to inspect your chainsaw on a regular basis – make sure all components are operating appropriately, that your battery charge or gas levels are where they should be and keep a first aid kit close by to have extra protection should there be any kind of accident.

If you respect the power of this tool and keep safety as a priority, you will be fully satisfied with the results you obtain throughout the year on the different projects you look forward to completing. Best of luck in finding the right tool for yourself and have safe fun completing your work!

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