Can chainsaws cut through metal? While most chainsaw jobs traditionally involve trees and lumber, these power tools are a versatile piece of machinery that actually have many different applications (ever seen someone carve an ice sculpture with a chainsaw?). So the answer to the question is yes, chainsaws can cut through metal — but it’s not as simple as just grabbing any old chainsaw off your local hardwore store shelf and hacking through a slab of solid stainless steel.
Whether or not a chainsaw can cut through metal really depends on the type of metal that you intend to cut through, as well as the type of chainsaw blade that you’re using. There are also some special safety considerations you’ll want to take into account when using a chainsaw to cut metal.
What types of metal can you cut with a chainsaw?
When answering the question “Can chainsaws cut through metal?”, the truth is — it depends on the metal! It doesn’t take a professional metalsmith to realize that there’s a big difference between cutting through lightweight metal and something much heavier. Lightweight metal might refer to something like the tin that is used on a shed, while a steel pipe would be much more difficult to cut through.
In some cases, thinner metal like the aforementioned tin is so pliable that you can actually bend it with your bare hands. That’s a sure sign it’ll be easy for virtually any chainsaw to cut through. Cutting through a heavy-duty steel pipe, however, is whole different ballgame. This task will require a chainsaw that has a blade actually specifically designed to cut metal. It also requires someone that’s at least somewhat experienced using a chainsaw.
Cutting through metal with a regular chainsaw blade is generally never a good idea, but occasionally while cutting wood you’ll run across a nail. A high-quality chainsaw is typically capable of going through that type of metal with relative ease, as long as its blade is properly sharpened (for more on that, see our tips for sharpening chainsaw blades).
However, hitting a nail can be rather unnerving for someone that is not very experienced at using a chainsaw. This is because when the chainsaw blade contacts the metal it usually creates a small spark. If you’re using a chainsaw, hopefully you’re already wearing safety goggles, but if not you’ll definitely want to. Flying metal shards and eyeballs do not mix!
What kind of chainsaw blade cuts through metal?
Using a chainsaw blade to cut through metal on a routine basis is entirely possible. But as previously mentioned, it does require the use of special equipment. In general, a chainsaw designed for home use doesn’t have the necessary strength to cut through metal. It’s true that you may be able to get the chainsaw you use for cutting firewood to hack through a piece of metal once in a while. However that might be the last time that particular chainsaw functions properly!
However, there are times when even these chainsaws cannot stand up to the punishment they are being put through. Therefore, chainsaws of this type are usually heavy duty pieces of equipment and they typically require a little more routine maintenance in between uses in order to keep them in good condition.
The blades on an industrial chainsaw intended to cut through metal need to be made from a special material. Typically you’ll see the blade with either a diamond or carbide edge. Diamonds, of course, are the hardest natural substance found on earth, so it’s easy to see why they’d be useful in cutting metal. Carbide, on the other hand, is a type of compound steel commonly seen in cutting tools like saw blades and lathe bits. Additionally, carbide is darker in color than regular steel and much harder. A carbide blade can also be strong enough to cut through metal without quickly becoming dull or even breaking.
At this point you may be thinking you can simply go buy any old diamond-tipped chainsaw blade and put it on your chainsaw in order to cut metal. However, that isn’t the case; read our answer to Are chainsaw blades universal? for more on that.
Safety considerations when using a chainsaw to cut metal
Even after reading that cutting metal is a tool best left to professionals, you may still be tempted to do it. You may already be familiar with the dangers of using a chainsaw, but using a chainsaw to cut metal presents totally new dangers. Here are a few reasons you may want to think twice about cutting metal with your home chainsaw:
You could start a fire or burn yourself
Anyone who’s ever watched a welder knows that metal on metal creates sparks. Sparks are hot, and you could severely burn yourself or even start a fire, depending on what’s around you.
You could break your chainsaw
Any chainsaw user worth their salt understands that it’s a dangerous piece of equipment. By trying to use your chainsaw for a task it’s not equipped for, you run the risk of breaking the chain. It’s not hard to see why a flying, unpredictable piece of sharp, electronically powered metal is something to avoid.
You could create metal shrapnel
If you’re using a chainsaw blade that’s not quite up to the job, there’s a high probability you’ll be creating shrapnel. Safety goggles can only do so much; you definitely don’t want chips of metal flying at you at a high speed.
If you plan on cutting a lot of metal, don’t think that you can do it with a regular chainsaw. All you’ll eventually do is wear out the blade and probably the chainsaw too. You may also endanger yourself in the process. If you do plan on cutting through metal on a routine basis, take the time to purchase the right equipment. (Also make sure you’re using it properly, ensuring that you know the answer to questions like “How tight should a chainsaw chain be?” and “Can chainsaws get wet?”) An industrial chainsaw may be expensive but it will make the entire process much easier and safer. In the end, you’ll be glad you took the extra time and effort to get the job done right.
What type of chainsaw should I buy?
Given these points, do you need help deciding which brand of chainsaw to buy? In that case, check out our picks for the best overall chainsaw brands. Or in the event that you’re looking for a great at-home chainsaw for cutting firewood or lumber, check out our picks for the best small gas-powered chainsaws. Lastly, our complete buying guide to the Best Chainsaw Reviews 2021 will arm you with the knowledge you need to make the best chainsaw purchase.