Thursday, January 16, 2014

Battery Powered Chainsaws for trail work,...?

Part 1 - What you get & 1st impressions...

SO, been looking at these battery powered chainsaws for some time now. My main reason was personal. I have had like 6 or 7 gas chainsaws since the early 80's. They get used maybe one or two times a year and almost every time I went to use one of them there was always an issue getting the thing up and running after sitting for so long. Yes I did the whole drain the fuel, or use gas saver,  and clean the plug, check the fuel tank.. carburetor bla bla bla... I've done it all so many times I can't count, and it's all just plan annoying when you NEED IT! And not one of them ever really ran right after the first yr or so.  I started just buying the cheapest POS saw I could find and just tossing it after a storm, or giving it away .. just wasn't worth the cost and effort to keep one around for the little we used it.
   But, Battery powered? well of course everyone's first response is going to be "its a toy"  or "there is no way it's got enough power to really cut anything" Well, after almost a year of research I finally decided to get one and try it out. Now I'm not looking for a 20 inch monster saw for clearing property all day long. I'm just looking for something that I can cut up the mid to large sized, dead fall branches or the mid sized trees that fall all the time here on the Connecticut coast after high winds and the fequent summer storm. My second reason was also to be able to carry it reasonably easily out onto trails to do minor to mid level trail clean up. No gas, no starting issues, low noise are all great bonuses for the minor power loss or speed of cutting trade off.

   What I chose was the Greenworks 40 volt 4ah (the newer G-max battery version) 12 inch chainsaw. Retails for right around $200.  There is a 40 volt unit with the 2ah battery which is the exact same saw with a smaller battery for around $170 but I felt it would be rather short run time even for me.

**(caution if you go looking for this, there are still an older 40 volt unit that looks exactly the same for less money out that doesn't use the G-max battery, not a biggy other than it won't work with other items like the pole saw that are G-max and I hear the battery life isn't as good..? and well this is the newer model )**

   There are others out there including some nice Oregon and Stihl units but the price of those are MUCH higher (more than 2x in some cases) and they all have 2ah or 2.5ah batteries and for the extra money I think I'd rather just buy this saw and an extra battery, or I'm actually thinking of getting the 8 inch pole saw with the matching battery, still less or the same money than either of those two.  The many little 18 volt units you can get at the big box stores are fine for pruning, but any real work I find they just don't have the battery power or length of life to deal with what I need, and they aren't that much cheaper in general than this was. Greenworks also make a 16 inch blade saw. It uses the same battery pack and has a newer brushless motor. It costs $100 more which is really the main reason I didn't just get it as I thought an extra battery for the money would be more useful to me and the smaller saw would be easier to hike around in the woods.

   Ok, well what you get for your $200 bucks is the unit, a charger, battery and a chain protector sleeve. Only thing you need to add is Bar and chain oil. Now one of the biggest complaints about the unit I came across while reading all the reviews scattered across the internet was oil leaking out of the oil cap. there is a small breather hole so if you turn it completely upside down the oil can drip out. It's super tiny so I can't see much getting out through it. But what I think they were actually talking about was it dripping from the cap threads, which it looks like it could do. A simple 12 cent o-ring from the hardware store took care of that without a second thought. The whole thing weighs in at a tad over 9lbs which is less than I remember my gas ones being, though don't quote me on that as I'm sure there are some lighter, But this is very well balanced with the battery weight stuck right dead center of the front handle making it pretty easy and comfortable to handle. it's self oiling chain and a simple tool less chain tensioning system. No wrench needed,  which is one more thing you don't need to carry with you when out on a trail. (note read the directions!!! You need to loosen the chain cover before adjusting the chain tension as it helps clamp the bar from sliding and will make the adjustment knob feel like it's not doing anything.)

   Now when it comes to actual use I've gotten out to use it twice now. The first time was just in the yard. I have a short trail along side my driveway that's about 1/4 mile long. I cleared a mess of fallen branches and cut back some brush for about an hour. Mostly 1 inch stuff but a few larger branches and one rather large 6+ inch one that I cut up into many pieces. Then went and cut a large, well, for the saw, 8-9 inch diameter tree that a storm had snapped about 8 feet off the ground leaving a monolithic truck standing there. I had started cutting it with my last gas saw which of course died midway through the stump never to run again, and the monolith has been standing there ever since.

The Cordless finished it off nicely and cut the trunk into a few manageable pieces pretty easy. After all this time there was still 1/2 the battery power left by the gauge. Much better battery life than I really expected. I was pretty impressed for a first time user. The next time I used it was at Hartman Park in Lyme CT. After getting approval from the town's land manager I headed over to the park. It fit in my pack rather easy as well as a bunch of stuff like cameras, food and drink, though it is a large mountain hiking backpack. A "day pack" would probably be OK but the blade would have to stick out. Weight wise it was fine and I probably could have hiked most of the day with it back there. If I had to just carry it in my hand, I really don't see it as being a problem either, it's just not that heavy and it is really well balanced. I hiked it out for about a mile or so to a tree that, well, is probably larger around than the saw was really designed to cut. I almost didn't attempt it because of the size.


But I went for it anyway. I cut the very large tree in 2 places and again after I finished there was still a good 1/2 charge left. I set up my Contour Cam in a tree and filmed it.. don't laugh to hard, I never claimed to be an expert tree cutter. but the thumbnail before starting the video kinda gives you a good idea of the size of the tree.

Now It's no gas saw for sure. but it did pretty well considering what I was doing with it. All in all I'm pretty impressed with this little saw.

  OK, there are a few minor issue I'll point out at this time.
  1.  First off the above mentioned oil leak which the O-ring fixed rather easy.
  2. Oil fill cap and hole are kinda small, use a funnel or have a rag ready when filling, thought that's the same with gas saws soooo...
  3. It seems to consume chain oil rapidly, (self lube chain) It doesn't hold much either, guessing like 1/4 cup if that. You'll need to refill it at least once if not two or even three times before you'll kill the battery. Keep chain oil handy and keep an eye on the level in the window.
  4. The kick back or gripper teeth on the body are plastic instead of metal. Surprisingly I found they do hold on the tree when rolling into the cut, but I don't think they will for long as they will round off over time, and smoother barked trees I don't see them holding at all.
   One of the bigger issues I thought at first was it kinda would grab and stop the clutch. It really didn't take much and it wasn't binding, just seemed like it was either fighting or was just plan taking too big a bite. It didn't seem to hurt it, just would stop and you'd have to pull it out a hair to get it spinning again. There were more than a few reviews I read that claimed the chain was a total POS and they went out and got a new Oregon chain and the cutting improved greatly. Funny thing is if you watch the movie it stopped doing it about half way through the first cut and never did it again finishing that cut or on the second half of the tree. I'm guessing from the sound of the motor, smoothness, and the speed it cut that either the chain was too tight, not in tension but the actual links binding, or the tip wheel or some other thing that just needed break in time as it's running better and cutting much faster (which you can see as I start the second cut in the video) I'll still probably order the other chain and save this one for a spare.

So all things considered I still think this saw is a really good buy.  Again it's not a gas powered saw, it doesn't cut as fast, but really that's it, it's lighter, quieter, costs less over time with no gas and oil mixture to buy plus little or no cost to upkeep unlike a gas saw. It's more than a pruning saw for sure, but it's not for all day use either. I will say it's probably going to be the perfect trail maintenance saw. great for those limbs that you "could" cut with a hand saw, but just don't want to!!  If you use it for what it's intended for, then I think anyone getting it will like it. Those that don't like it are most likely  using it for more than it was designed to do.

I'll write again after I've used it a bit more and post on how well it's lasting. I'll probably get a better chain and see if that makes it even better also.

now for a little after work reward to take a bite out of the chilly air... that ain't no sugar brandy, that's the real stuff :)


  1. That's great information. Thanks for sharing this blog. I did a search and found your blog and glowing review. It's been a big help! Thanx!

  2. Thanks a lot for the review! I was thinking of getting a battery powered saw and matching hedge trimmers for trail clearing as well. This review is making that decision a lot easier.
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    Nathanael Silver

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