top handle vs rear handle

Top Handle vs. Rear Handle Chainsaw

Ever found yourself in the tool section, gazing at the chainsaw collection, feeling a tad swamped by the options? Ever pondered the true distinction between a top handle and a rear handle chainsaw? Well, you’re in good company. It’s a frequent puzzle for many, from experienced loggers to DIY enthusiasts.

Now, let’s get straight to the point. What if I told you that the difference between these two types of chainsaws could greatly affect your work efficiency, safety, and overall user experience? Would you take my word for it? Well, you should.

You see, it’s not just about where the handle is. It’s about balance, control, and maneuverability. It’s about how the chainsaw feels in your grip as you’re perched in a tree or slicing through a hefty log. It’s about understanding your requirements and aligning them with the appropriate tool. And it’s also about knowing how to use tools like a chainsaw tachometer to ensure your chainsaw is running at its best.

So, are you ready to explore the intricacies that distinguish a top-handle chainsaw from a rear-handle one? Are you equipped to make a knowledgeable choice the next time you’re in that tool section? If so, then stay tuned. We’re about to clarify the confusion and help you see the forest for the trees.

Key Takeaways

  • Top-handle chainsaws are more powerful, compact, and maneuverable, making them ideal for elevated positions or tight spaces.
  • Rear-handle chainsaws offer improved handling capabilities, stability on the ground, and affordability.
  • When choosing between top-handle and rear-handle chainsaws, consider the task at hand, evaluate your experience level, and assess safety features.

Top-Handle Chainsaws: The Climbing Companions

man in safety gear with top handle chainsaw

Top-handle chainsaws, often referred to as climbing chainsaws, are a favorite among trained arborists. Their design, with the handle on top, makes them ideal for use in elevated positions or tight spaces. Imagine pruning tree branches high up – a top-handle chainsaw is your best friend in such scenarios. But are they beginner-friendly? Well, that’s a different story.

Advantages Of Top Handle Chainsaws

Top-handle chainsaws boast a variety of benefits that make them a popular choice among both seasoned professionals and casual users.


  1. Powerpacked performance: Top-handle chainsaws are much more powerful than their rear-handle counterparts. This power is critical when taking on tough jobs requiring extra force.
  2. Compact design: Despite their robust performance, top handle chainsaws are relatively compact, making them easier to use and carry around.
  3. Unmatched maneuverability: One of the key advantages of top handles lies in their superior maneuverability. The top handle allows for smooth handling, irrespective of the task at hand.
  4. Optimal balance: Professional-grade chainsaws such as top handle models have an excellent balance due to the top handle placement. This feature makes them more comfortable and less tiring to operate.
  5. Flexibility in work: These handheld chainsaws offer great flexibility, allowing users to adapt quickly to different working conditions or tasks.
  6. Durable and reliable: Top-handle chainsaws are known for their resistance to wear and tear during operation, thus ensuring reliability over time.
  7. Stability in operation: Thanks to its design, a top-handle chainsaw provides stability which reduces the chances of kickback, one of the most common causes of injury while using a chainsaw.


Disadvantages Of Top Handle Chainsaws

Despite the numerous benefits, top-handle chainsaws also come with a set of downsides. Understanding these drawbacks is crucial to making an informed decision and can greatly impact your overall experience:


  1. Compromised Stability: Due to their compact design, top-handle chainsaws often lack the balance and stability found in rear-handle models. This can make them harder to control, especially for inexperienced users.
  2. Limited Control: Similarly, the unconventional positioning of the top handle can lead to reduced control when making precise cuts or undertaking complex tasks.
  3. Increased Risk of Accidents: With a higher learning curve compared to rear-handle chainsaws, novice users are at an increased risk of accidents or injuries when operating top-handle chainsaws.
  4. Higher Maintenance Costs: Due to their complex construction and unique design features, servicing and maintaining a top-handle chainsaw generally costs more than its rear-handle counterpart.
  5. Less Ergonomic Design: Some users find that the design of top-handle models can lead to strain during extended use as opposed to rear-handle saws, which are better designed for comfort over long periods.
  6. Limited Cutting Capacity: Top Handle Chainsaws tend to have less cutting capacity than rear-handle models due to their smaller size and lower power output.
  7. Higher Vibration Levels: The compactness of top-handle chainsaws often results in higher vibration levels during operation, causing more fatigue during prolonged use.
  8. Less Suited for Groundlevel Cutting: Given their design foundation for off-the-ground applications, Top Handle Chainsaws are less suited for heavy ground-level cutting tasks compared to Rear Handle Chainsaws.
  9. Limited Availability of Accessories: Since most common accessories are designed with conventional rear-handle chainsaw designs in mind, finding compatible add-ons for your top-handle model may prove challenging.
  10. Higher Learning Curve For Inexperienced Users: The unique handling requirements of Top Handle Chainsaws necessitate a higher learning curve for inexperienced users compared to Rear Handle Chainsaws.

Rear-Handled Chainsaws: The Grounded Giants

man cutting logs with chainsaw


On the other side of the spectrum, we have rear-handled chainsaws. These are the traditional chainsaws that most people are familiar with.

They’re larger, often more powerful, and designed for two-handed operation. They’re great for cutting through thick logs on the ground but try to use them up in a tree, and you’ll quickly see their limitations.

Advantages Of Rear Handle Chainsaws

Rear-handle chainsaws bring several advantages to the table that make them an appropriate choice for many users. First, they offer improved handling capabilities. With the handle positioned at the back, users gain more balance and control while cutting. The design allows for both hands to maintain a firm grip on the saw, increasing accuracy and decreasing user fatigue.

Disadvantages Of Rear Handle Chainsaws

Rear handle chainsaws, while popular for certain tasks, do have a few drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages to consider:


  1. Limited maneuverability: Rear handle chainsaws can be more challenging to maneuver in tight spaces or when working at different angles. This can make it difficult to cut branches or logs that are in awkward positions.
  2. Heavier weight: Compared to top-handle chainsaws, rear-handle models tend to be bulkier and heavier. This can increase fatigue during long periods of use and make it more challenging to control the saw.
  3. Less comfortable handling: Rear-handle chainsaws may not offer the same level of comfort as top-handle models. The design and placement of the rear handle can cause discomfort and strain on the user’s wrist and arm.
  4. Reduced visibility: When using a rear handle chainsaw, it can be harder to see the cutting area clearly due to the position of the saw’s body. This decreased visibility increases the risk of accidents or mistakes while operating the chainsaw.
  5. Poor performance on vertical cuts: Rear handle chainsaws are not as well-suited for cutting vertically or overhead as top handle models. Trying to use a rear handle saw for these types of cuts may result in less precise cuts and increased safety risks.

Choosing The Right Chainsaw For Your Needs

close up of chainsaw

Consider the task at hand, your experience and capabilities, as well as the safety features when selecting the right chainsaw for your needs.

Consider The Task At Hand

When choosing the right chainsaw for your needs, it is important to consider the task at hand. Different chainsaws are designed for different purposes, so evaluating what you will be using the chainsaw for is crucial.

If you have a lot of pruning or trimming work to do in tight spaces, a top-handle chainsaw may be more suitable due to its compact size and maneuverability. On the other hand, if you will primarily be cutting fallen trees or larger logs on the ground, a rear-handle chainsaw would provide better stability and control.

By considering your specific tasks and requirements, you can select a chainsaw that meets your needs effectively.

Evaluate Your Experience And Capabilities

Before choosing between a top handle and rear handle chainsaw, it is crucial to evaluate your experience and capabilities in handling these powerful tools. Operating a chainsaw requires skill and understanding of its functions, as well as the safety precautions involved.

If you are an experienced professional, you may be comfortable handling either type of chainsaw. However, if you are a homeowner or beginner, it is generally recommended to start with a rear-handle chainsaw.

Rear-handle chainsaws are typically easier to maneuver and provide better stability when sawing fallen logs on the ground. Understanding your own experience level will help ensure that you select the right type of chainsaw for your needs without compromising safety or efficiency.

Assess The Safety Features

To ensure your safety while using a chainsaw, it is essential to carefully assess the safety features of the tool. Chainsaws can be potentially dangerous if not used correctly, so taking precautions is crucial.

You should prioritize features such as kickback prevention mechanisms, noise reduction technology, vibration control systems, and ergonomic designs that reduce operator fatigue. Additionally, make sure to check for safety certifications on the chainsaw you are considering purchasing.

By evaluating these factors and considering their importance in relation to your specific needs and tasks, you can select a chainsaw that prioritizes your safety without compromising on performance or efficiency.

The Bottom Line on Top Handle Vs. Rear Handle Chainsaws

In conclusion, when it comes to choosing between a top handle and rear handle chainsaw, it’s important to consider your specific needs and circumstances. Top-handle chainsaws offer increased maneuverability and reach in tight spaces or elevated positions, making them ideal for tree work.

On the other hand, rear-handle chainsaws provide more power and stability for ground-based tasks that require cutting through thick logs. Ultimately, the right choice depends on your experience level, the type of work you’ll be doing, and your comfort with handling different types of saws.

Top Handle vs. Rear Handle Chainsaw FAQs

What is the difference between a top handle and a rear handle chainsaw?

A top-handle chainsaw is designed to be operated with one hand and is typically used for tree climbing or working in tight spaces. A rear-handle chainsaw, on the other hand, is operated with two hands and provides better balance and control for larger cutting jobs.

Which type of chainsaw is best for professional use?

The choice between a top handle and rear handle chainsaw depends on the specific needs of the professional user. Top-handle chainsaws are commonly preferred by arborists or tree climbers due to their lightweight design and maneuverability, while rear-handle chainsaws are often favored by professionals who require more power for heavy-duty cutting tasks.

Are there any safety considerations when using a top-handle chainsaw?

Yes, it’s important to follow all safety guidelines when using a top-handle chainsaw, as it requires a one-handed operation. Users should ensure they have proper training in using this type of saw, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and goggles, and never operate the saw above shoulder height to maintain stability.

Are top-handle chainsaws dangerous?

All chainsaws can be dangerous machines if not used properly. A Top-handled chainsaw, due to its one-handed operation and use in elevated positions, can pose additional risks. Therefore, top-handle saws are typically recommended for trained professional arborists.

Can I convert my existing rear-handle chainsaw into a top-handle model?

No, you cannot convert an existing rear-handle chainsaw into a top-handle model. The design differences between these two types of saws mean that they cannot be easily modified or converted without compromising the safety and performance standards set by manufacturers. It’s recommended to purchase a dedicated top-handle or rear-handle model based on your specific needs.

Are top-handle chainsaws more expensive than rear-handle chainsaws?

The price of chainsaws can vary greatly depending on the brand, model, features, and more. However, top-handle chainsaws are often more specialized tools and can sometimes be more expensive than rear-handle saws. It’s always a good idea to compare prices and features before making a purchase.

Which type of chainsaw is better for pruning tree branches?

If you’re pruning branches high up in a tree, a top-handle chainsaw is usually the better choice due to its design for one-handed operation and use in elevated positions. An even better choice would be to use a pole saw for pruning those branches.