10 Best Top-Handle Chainsaws


Using a large powerful chainsaw is usually good for getting tree-cutting work done quickly, but you don’t always have the luxury of working in a large open space. When you have to work off-ground, you need a tool that can compensate for the confined space, altered ergonomic standards, and the lack of ground stability.
 
As most arborists will tell you, the best tool for that kind of job is a top-handle chainsaw. What makes top-handle chainsaws different and what are the best brands you can buy today?

Chainsaw

Bar length

Pros

Cons

Top pick

10 inches

Small and lightweight
Comes with a side handle for two-handed operation
Variable speed options
Has a brushless motor

Not powerful enough for heavy cutting work

10 inches

Small and lightweight
Lots of safety features
Beginner-friendly
Comes with auto lubrication

Not powerful enough for heavy cutting work
Small battery capacity
No variable speed option

12 inches

Higher power output
Longer reach
Comes with an oil reservoir
Has a brushless motor

Heavier
Difficult to use one-handed

12 inches

Extended battery life
Very high cutting speed
Has a brushless motor

Very heavy
Difficult to use one-handed

12 inches

Inexpensive
Comes with a bubble level
Has an auto-oil mechanism

Small battery capacity
Quality control issues

12 inches

Adjustable bar length
Has an anti-vibration system
Comes with a rope attachment

May be hard to start
Expensive

12 inches

Durable and reliable
Very efficient

Very expensive

12 inches

Light and powerful
Good fuel efficiency
Inexpensive

Prone to oil leaks
Build quality issues

12 inches

Very good anti-vibration feature
Well-balanced
Comes with an eyelet for hoisting

Small battery capacity
Quality control issues

12 inches

Very inexpensive
Comes with all the minimum features

New product with not many reviews

Benefits of a Top-Handle Chainsaw


As the name implies, a top-handle chainsaw comes with a handle at the top side. The alternative is the more common rear-handle chainsaw. What’s the advantage of using a chainsaw with this design and when is it the more suitable option?

Better maneuverability

The location of the handle at the top of the chainsaw allows it to be used in ways that would not have been possible for a rear-handle chainsaw. This is important if you need to do in-tree work, as you will most likely have to deal with confined spaces and use the chainsaw at odd angles.

Allows for one-handed use

When working on a stepladder or up a tree, the usual standards of using a rear-handle chainsaw no longer apply. With some awkward angles involved, you may no longer be able to access branches using a chainsaw held with both hands. Fortunately, a top-handle chainsaw is designed specifically for one-handed use. It has a more symmetrical weight distribution and is light enough to be used with one hand.

Typically small and lightweight

When you’re rigged to a tree, setting down your chainsaw somewhere isn’t really as convenient as if when you were on the ground. For this reason, most arborists prefer using a top-handle chainsaw that’s small and light. Aside from being easier to use and control, a light chainsaw is also less tiring for the user.

These advantages of top-handle chainsaws have made them the tool of choice for arborists who need to do in-tree work at high elevations. Traditionally, rear-handle chainsaws are more preferred on the ground as they still provide better stability and control.

Tips for choosing a Top Handle Chainsaw


As with any other tool that’s essential to your job, picking a good top-handle chainsaw requires a careful eye. Not all of them are made equal and you may prefer certain styles depending on how you work.

Weight

An experienced arborist will likely know the weight of chainsaw that they are comfortable with. When choosing a top-handle chainsaw, keep in mind that you will likely be carrying it around with only one hand. If you plan on doing jobs that require you to move around multiple times a day,
 
However, it’s not always a good idea to go with the lightest option as that might mean compromising in other areas, such as the output of the motor or how much petrol the chainsaw can store.

Length of the guide bar

The guide bar is simply the bar where the chain is connected and has standard lengths ranging from 10 to 16 inches. A long guide bar is usually preferable, as it makes it easier to cut branches in hard-to-reach areas. There is a significant penalty to this choice, however, in terms of both weight and ease of control.
 
If you already own or use a rear-handle chainsaw, the common rule of thumb is to get a top-handle chainsaw with a guide bar that is 1 to 2 inches longer. Keep in mind that you don’t have as much mobility when working at high elevation and could really use the extra reach.

Power rating and power source

How much power your chainsaw motor can output is inevitably related to its power source, simply because there is a huge difference between battery-powered and petrol-powered chainsaws.
 
Battery-powered are lighter, run quieter, produce no exhaust fumes, and can be connected to a battery backpack if you need them to run for several hours. On the others, chainsaws that run on petrol are heavier, usually cheaper, have to be topped up with fuel every now and then but are also more powerful.

According to good practice standards, you should not be using a top-handle chainsaw for anything other than trimming, pruning, or delimbing branches. This means limiting your chainsaw to around 42 cc for the petrol-powered option. For battery-powered chainsaws, a motor that outputs around 20 V should be enough for trimming work.

Safety features

As with any other power tool, the importance of the safety features of a top-handle chainsaw cannot be overemphasized. The most critical of these is the chain brake, a mechanism that instantly stops the chain when a kickback happens. This single feature has probably prevented thousands of chainsaw-related injuries.

A safety throttle is also nice to have with a top-handle chainsaw, especially if you plan on moving around with it. This prevents the chainsaw from accidentally activating when the trigger is pressed, either through an errant motion or when the handle gets snagged in the undergrowth.

For jobs that will have you using the chainsaw for several hours, having a good anti-vibration system will go a long way towards reducing fatigue. As any safety advocate will tell you, continuing to work when you’re already tired is one of the most dangerous things you can do, especially when handling power tools.

Aside from those, make sure that your top-handle chainsaw comes with the standard belt eyelet attachment and strop connectors. These are critical both for making sure that your chainsaw stays secure on your belt while working and that you can retrieve it easily even with just one hand. 

Grip material and shape

The quality of the grip material, as well as its shape and size, plays a huge role in ergonomics and safety. A good chainsaw grip should have both an anti-slip surface and vibration dampening material. This ensures that you can get a good handle on the chainsaw and that you won’t get fatigued by its vibrations too quickly. Make sure that the grip of the chainsaw you get is not too thick for your hands – you may need to see the product for yourself for you to check this.

As parting advise, it is not enough that you pick out the perfect top-handle chainsaw with all the best safety features. Just as important is that you wear all the prescribed safety gear when handling a chainsaw, including eye protection, hearing protection, gloves, and boots. Extra-stringent safety protocols need to be in place when doing high-elevation work.

The 10 best top-handle chainsaws


Best electric top handle-chainsaws


The Makita XCU06Z is only one of several top-handle chainsaws from the Makita brand but is also one of their smallest and lightest. At only 7.2 lbs. and with a 10-inch guide bar, the XCU06Z is the perfect option when you need to do light delimbing work.

This bundle comes with a 5.0 Ah removable battery, which should last for at least 30 minutes of continuous cutting work. If you’re not doing anything particularly heavy, you can set the motor to lower speeds using the chainsaw’s variable speed rating (0 to 4720 rpm). This should extend how long the battery lasts, although we still recommend getting one or two spare batteries.

The 18V motor isn’t particularly powerful but helps keep the weight of the chainsaw down. It should still be good enough for casual yard work. According to users of the chainsaw, the XCU06Z can cut through up to 5 inches of hardwood without a problem. Anything more than 8 inches would be more of a challenge and will be demand a slower approach.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Power rating: 18V

Bar length: 10 inches

Weight: 7.2 lbs.

Battery capacity: 5.0 Ah

Small and lightweight
Comes with a side handle for two-handed operation
Variable speed options
Has a brushless motor

Not powerful enough for heavy cutting work


Just like the Makita XCU06Z, the VIVOSUN cordless chainsaw is a compact and lightweight power tool suitable for light yard work. This option is a little more beginner-friendly, making it more accessible to those who aren’t exactly professional arborists.

Weighing only 7 lbs., the VIVOSUN chainsaw is one of the easiest to use and control. It features a no-slip rubber-coated handle for improved grip and vibration reduction, double safety switches, and an auto lubrication system. Compared to other entry-level chainsaws, this is one that requires a lot less maintenance.

A limitation of the VIVOSUN chainsaw being designed specifically for beginners is that it also limits how well it can handle heavier work. The chainsaw comes only with a 2.0 Ah battery and has no variable speed settings. While it is rated to last up to 30 minutes when doing pruning and cutting work, you may find yourself stopping too short when doing more intensive delimbing.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Power rating: 20V

Bar length: 10 inches

Weight: 7.0 lbs.

Battery capacity: 2.0 Ah

Small and lightweight
Lots of safety features
Beginner-friendly
Comes with auto lubrication

Not powerful enough for heavy cutting work
Small battery capacity
No variable speed option


Those who have more experience with chainsaws frequently find that battery-powered chainsaws simply lack the kind of power they are used to. If you think the same, then the 12-inch battery-powered chainsaw from DEWALT may just change your mind.

The DEWALT chainsaw is a little heavier than many of its counterparts. This is probably one of its biggest limitations – at 8.8 lbs., using the DEWALT top-handle chainsaw with just one hand may be downright unsafe for some people.

The extra weight is mostly because of the longer 12-inch guide bar of the chainsaw. With a large cutting surface powered by a 20V motor, the DEWALT chainsaw makes short work of tree limbs up to 16 inches thick. The extra reach provided by the longer bar could be crucial when working inside confined spaces and with poor mobility.

The auto lubrication system of the chainsaw makes it less likely that you will forget to lubricate the saw chain and guide bar. Surprisingly for a 5.0 Ah battery, the DEWALT chainsaw runs for a very long time on a single charge given that the saw chain is in good condition.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Power rating: 20V

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 8.8 lbs.

Battery capacity: 5.0 Ah

Higher power output
Longer reach
Comes with an oil reservoir
Has a brushless motor

Heavier
Difficult to use one-handed


Having to stop work because you need to swap in new batteries is certainly one of the more frustrating parts of using a battery-powered chainsaw. Makita skirts this problem with the XCU02PT – a chainsaw that runs on two 5.0 Ah batteries.

Having two batteries gives the XCU02PT license to run on more power. With a total power rating of 36V, the chain can run at speeds of up to 1650 rpm. With a sharp chain, the XCU02PT will cut through tree limbs like butter. Just like other Makita chainsaws, this product is equipped with a brushless motor that requires less maintenance and is more efficient than brushed counterparts.

All that power comes with a heavy weight penalty. At 12.3 lbs., the Makita XCU02PT is almost twice as heavy as other battery-powered top-handle chainsaws. Fortunately, the chainsaw comes with a side stabilizer for two-handed use. If you’re not comfortable carrying around this weight with just one hand, you may have to settle for a lighter alternative.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Power rating: 18V

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 12.3 lbs.

Battery capacity: 5.0 Ah x 2

Extended battery life
Very high cutting speed
Has a brushless motor

Very heavy
Difficult to use one-handed


The Craftsman V20 chainsaw doesn’t exactly excel in any one area but gets the job done for a friendly price. This relatively inexpensive chainsaw does not disappoint and can be a valuable addition to the toolset of anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.

With a motor that can output a maximum of 20 V and a 12-inch guide bar, the Craftsman V20 can cut through branches and tree limbs without problems. It has been used branches that measure as much as 12 inches across. The oil reservoir helps keep the chain and bar in good working condition, while the integrated bubble level is a nice little accessory for making precise cuts.

If you think that the 4.0 Ah battery seems small, then some users of this chainsaw may agree with you. The battery should last for about a half-hour of light cutting work, but it would be a good move to have multiple batteries on hand.

As impressive as the Craftsman V20 is, it is a product seemingly besieged by quality control issues. There have already been several accounts of the chainsaw falling apart after some use. Although they are in the minority, it’s best to play it safe and make sure that the chainsaw comes with a good warranty when you buy it.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Power rating: 20V

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 9.9 lbs.

Battery capacity: 4.0 Ah

Inexpensive
Comes with a bubble level
Has an auto-oil mechanism

Small battery capacity
Quality control issues

Best fuel-powered top-handle chainsaw


Coming in first is the fuel-powered top-handle chainsaw from Husqvarna. With decades of experience in power tools, it’s really no surprise to find this top-handle chainsaw coming in first on this list.

The Husqvarna top-handle chainsaw has a maximum power output of 2.01 hp and a maximum cylinder displacement of 35.2 cc. This makes it considerably more powerful than other compact top-handle chainsaws available today. With a maximum speed of 10,000 rpm and maximum torque of 1.57 Nm, there’s probably no tree delimbing job too big for the Husqvarna top-handle chainsaw.

The chainsaw can accommodate guide bars ranging from 12 to 14 inches. It features the X-Torq technology which supposedly helps deliver more fuel efficiency and reduced emission levels. Combined with the anti-vibration mechanism that helps ward off fatigue, few chainsaws are more suitable for use in long work periods.

At more than $300, we consider the Husqvarna chainsaw as a mildly expensive addition to your set of power tools. Some users have reported difficulty in getting the motor to start, but we find that is a common issue for almost all fuel-powered chainsaws.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Cylinder displacement: 35.2 cc

Power output: 2.01 hp

Tank volume: 260 mL

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 7.5 lbs.

Adjustable bar length
Has an anti-vibration system
Comes with a rope attachment

May be hard to start
Expensive


This tiny top-handle chainsaw from Echo is one that we consider punches way above its weight class. Small but powerful, the Echo 12-inch chainsaw is a masterclass in efficiency.

The 26.9-cc engine displacement does not seem like such an impressive figure but it’s enough for the chainsaw’s purpose. It is designed specifically for a 12-inch guide bar. With a lean 6.6-lb. body, the ECHO 12-inch chainsaw is very easy to use and control one-handed.

The automatic oiler and signature G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner helps lower the maintenance needs of this chainsaw. Despite a small 240-mL fuel tank, the ECHO chainsaw can go upwards of 45 minutes for light trimming and pruning work. Again, the efficiency of this small chainsaw is one of its more impressive characteristics.

The only major drawback is that it’s very expensive. At more than $500, this is already one of the most expensive top-handle chainsaws you can buy. It’s still a great deal at that price, as this chainsaw can last several years even under heavy use.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Cylinder displacement: 26.9 cc

Power output: No info

Tank volume: 240 mL

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 6.6 lbs.

Durable and reliable
Very efficient

Very expensive


The Tanaka 12-inch chainsaw is another great example of a chainsaw that’s lightweight and powerful. For a friendly price, you get a chainsaw with a slightly higher power output than the ECHO option. The Tanaka chainsaw has its issues as well, as we shall see later.

The Tanaka chainsaw has a 32.2-cc, 1.6 hp motor and is designed for 12-inch guide bars. The gear-driven oiler keeps the chain in tip-top condition while in use. If you’re having problems getting a fuel-powered chainsaw to start, Tanaka tackles this with an option for a half throttle choke with a purge primer bulb.

For light pruning and trimming work, a full fuel tank of the Tanaka chainsaw should last between 30 minutes to an hour. This is a fairly good output indicative of good fuel efficiency. In terms of cutting power, there are no issues with this chainsaw as long as it is used within reasonable limits.

The flaw of this product is that it seems to have problems with the build quality. A lot of users have reported issues with the air filter cover and chain cover falling off during use. Having these things happen while you are in the middle of cutting tree limbs isn’t just frustrating – it’s downright unsafe. However, this is a small problem that Tanaka should be able to address easily.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Cylinder displacement: 32.2 cc

Power output: 1.6 hp

Tank volume: 290 mL

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: No info

Light and powerful
Good fuel efficiency
Inexpensive

Prone to oil leaks
Build quality issues


The 12-inch SALEM MASTER fuel-powered chainsaw is the perfect chainsaw for in-tree work or for any delimbing jobs that need to be done at high elevations.

Looking at the numbers, there is nothing particularly impressive. The 25.4 engine and 1.2 hp motor is about average for top-handle chainsaws. At 10.3 lbs., the SALEM MASTER also isn’t exceptionally lightweight.

However, this chainsaw excels in ease of use and ergonomics. Despite being quite heavy, the SALEM MASTER top-handle chainsaw maintains very good balance. Along with the vibration dampening springs connected to the motor, this helps make the chainsaw a breeze to use. The non-slip contoured handle also goes a way towards reducing fatigue, even during one-handed use.

The chainsaw comes with a convenient eyelet for securing to your harness or hoisting up a tree.
All in all, the SALEM MASTER chainsaw is the middle of the road option in terms of both price and features. It’s not exactly the best top-handle chainsaw available today but it rarely disappoints.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Cylinder displacement: 25.4 cc

Power output: 1.2 hp

Tank volume: 190 mL

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 10.3 lbs.

Very good anti-vibration feature
Well-balanced
Comes with an eyelet for hoisting

Small battery capacity
Quality control issues


The first thing you’ll notice about this top-handle chainsaw is that it’s very inexpensive. You would be hard-pressed to find a good fuel-powered chainsaw that costs less than $200. The second thing you’ll notice is that it’s a fairly generic chainsaw – it does not come from any of the major brands.

That said, this 12-inch chainsaw sold by Ejoyous seems to tick off just about enough of the boxes we need for a good top-handle chainsaw. The 25.4-cc displacement engine is at par with many other brand-name options, as is its weight and tank volume. 

The ergonomic non-slip handle and tool-less chain tensioner address common chainsaw-related quality of life issues. As for safety, a rotating lock switch makes sure that the chainsaw does not get activated accidentally via the trigger button.

Glaringly missing are some features we have come to expect from more premium brands such as an anti-vibration feature and technologies to enhance fuel efficiency. The 3000 rpm maximum speed of the Ejoyous top-handle chainsaw is also way below what the other products in this list are capable of.

Just for being one of the cheapest top-handle chainsaws available today, the Ejoyous chainsaw is worth consideration. Just keep your expectations at a moderate level as you will most probably get what you pay for.

 tech Specs

Pros

Cons

Cylinder displacement: 25.4 cc

Power output: No info

Tank volume: 160 mL

Bar length: 12 inches

Weight: 10.4 lbs.

Very inexpensive
Comes with all the minimum features

New product with not many reviews

Conclusion


When using a chainsaw, power isn’t always the most important thing. In some cases, you can also benefit from a smaller, lower-powered chainsaw that allows for easier maneuverability. This is frequently the case when you need to do pruning or delimbing work up a tree.

Professional arborists already know the value of using a compact top-handle chainsaw. Not only is it small, but it is also designed to maintain balance and control even when used one-handed. Just as with any other tool, knowing exactly how a top-handle chainsaw is used and when it is suitable is the first step towards doing a job safely and effectively.


Tags


You may also like

5 Awesome Axe Throwing Targets

5 Awesome Axe Throwing Targets
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!