Tool Test: Milwaukee Cordless Chainsaw

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No gas, no fumes and a lot of energy for green wood processing.

Tool: M18 FUEL brushless chain saw

Producer: Milwaukee instrument

MSRP: $ 449 (includes battery and charger)

I I made the switch to battery-powered chainsaws for my tree service work in 2011 when the first pro-duty models became available and have never looked back. Battery charging replaced 2-stroke fuel on my job for all but the largest removals, and it also replaced corded electricity in the shop for all but the longest rips while milling. As with many other tools, the convenience of the cordless makes the choice easy. And over gas, there are appreciable advantages with reduced noise, toxic exhaust gases, little engine maintenance, and fuel issues. It’s also nice to have a saw that you can use inside when needed.

Milwaukee is the latest manufacturer to introduce a battery-powered chainsaw and is part of the same 18-volt platform as their most common battery-powered tools. Compatibility with other batteries and tools is a nice feature. Many similar chainsaws are part of high-voltage outdoor electrical equipment lines, so the battery pack you bought with those saws has limited uses.

A great roughing saw. An electric chainsaw is a great tool for woodturners, green carpenters, and anyone who doesn’t want to deal with gas and engines for sizing and roughing rough logs.

I transform interesting pieces of trees into unusual pieces of wood and sculptural parts, then I tear out many trunks, groins of trees and curved branches along their length. Since these pieces are usually too bulky to go through the band saw, a chainsaw is the tool for the job. After filling the Milwaukee saw with biodegradable oil for bars and chains (it’s worth the cost, believe me), I put it to work dissecting various hardwoods into rustic parts of the bench. The 16 “bar is a size I use frequently and the saw had decent balance and maneuverability. It’s a little heavy at 14lbs, but 3.35lbs of that is the monstrous battery pack. I liked the tips in steel tore and I didn’t mind that the bar adjustment required a wrench, but I wish the tool had a motor brake. And as I moan, the sharp angle of the clutch cover (apparently designed for an aesthetic look) has trapped the shavings promptly behind the pinion and was difficult to erase.

While not as fast under load as the most powerful saw I usually rely on, overall the Milwaukee proved to be a very brave saw, able to drive through wood with the bar fully buried. That is, as long as you had the correct battery pack installed.

To gauge the cutting speed and run time, I cut a freshly felled poplar log 7 1/2 inches in diameter, about half the usable length of the saw bar. Using Milwaukees new 12 Ah battery pack, optimized for the tools brushless motor, I made 54 half cuts and timed the first several on average 5.43 seconds. With a 9Ah high-density pack, it also ran well and nearly as fast in 5.68 seconds. However, with a standard 4Ah pack, I only made 8 cuts on an average of 7.43 seconds before the battery cells overheated and broke.

So while this saw will fit M18 battery packs of all abilities and ages, just buying the saw tool and relying on any old M18 packs you already have lying around won’t cut it. For satisfactory performance with full speed cut without stall, large 9Ah or 12Ah packs are the key.

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