When the folks from my favorite chainsaw bar and chain company asked whether I would be interested in testing their 40V Max cordless chainsaw this winter, I jumped at the chance. While I was somewhat skeptical of the utility of a machine such as the Oregon 40V Max cordless chainsaw, I am always interested in discovering just how far battery-powered technology has come. I will say from the get-go that the Oregon 40V Max cordless chainsaw is impressive. My saw is a Model CS250-E6, which essentially means that it is the 40V cordless, 14-inch bar saw with the 2.4 amp-hour lithium battery and charger. In fact, my kit came with a pair of batteries, which makes the tool even more useful -- the extra battery is not included with the retail kit, however. I would not hesitate to add a cordless saw like the 40V Max to my collection of gas powered saws (Husqvarna and Echo) and with an MSRP of $499 with the higher capacity battery, the price is completely in line with the Oregon quality and serviceability that we expect from the brand.
On my first outing with the saw, I went to work on a pile of black walnut, Osage orange and maple trees that were downed about three years ago. The wood was pretty dry, but not cured in the way that shorter billets might have been. Over eager to begin cutting, I took the 40V cordless saw out with a single battery and left the other on the charger. I figured I'd get a couple of armloads of wood cut to stove length (18-inches) before the thing ran out of juice. I filled the bar oil reservoir with oil, tensioned the chain with the included screwdriver (a large wing nut tightens the bar making the traditional chainsaw tool largely obsolete with this machine) and lit the the 40V up. Well, I didn't really light it up -- I simply depressed the trigger lock and squeezed the trigger and the saw came to life. The 40V Max is quiet -- no ringing ears, even without hearing protection -- and it made short work of several walnut and maple limbs in the 4 to 11-inch diameter range. I next moved on to some 6 - 9-inch diameter Osage orange limbs -- one of the most dense woods in North America (it makes my gas chainsaw chains spark on occasion) -- and noticed that the saw was laboring and making smaller chips. Time to take a break to sharpen the chain, or to install a fresh one, right? Nope! The 40V Max comes standard with Oregon's very effective, built-in PowerSharp sharping system. Again the skeptic that I am didn't expect that simply running the saw without load and pulling back on the sharpening lever would make much of a difference, but I gave it a shot. Suffice it to say that the saw motored through a couple more Osage Orange cuts before the battery was out of juice.
In the final tally, the saw made about 25 cuts total on the single battery that first time out. That amounted to about 3/4 of a 6-foot-wide tractor loader bucket full of wood that when split yielded a bit more than 1/6 of a cord of firewood. Obviously 24-inch lengths would have yielded even more firewood with the same number of cuts, but my stove likes 18-inch billets well enough. In the hour that it took me to cut, haul, split and stack that wood, the second battery was fully charged and I repeated the entire process. It turns out that the battery I first charged was not fully discharged because it took about 2.5 hours to recharge the battery that I drained by using the saw. In subsequent uses, I've noticed that it takes between 2 and 2.5 hours to recharge the battery.
The 40V Max cordless chainsaw isn't the saw you want to bring to the woods for a day of heavy cutting -- even if you have a truckload of charged batteries. It is a perfect saw for those lighter cutting and trimming duties and as I've come to learn, it is an almost ideal saw for relatively short firewood cutting sessions. I can totally imagine spending an hour or two a day or every other day using the 40V Max with an extra battery to create all of the firewood we need by adopting the slow and steady approach to the process. With two batteries I can cut and split a bit more than a third of a cord in around an hour and 45 minutes. that leaves plenty of time to do the other chores and work on other projects as daily life demands. The fact that the saw starts instantly in any weather, is relatively quiet and produces zero in the way of gasoline or exhaust fumes, and that it is so easy to keep sharp makes it tough to beat for short and sweet sawing sessions.
I plan to put the Oregon 40V Max Cordless Saw through additional testing through spring. I will let you know how I like it after a few months of living with it. In the meantime, if you are in the market for a good chainsaw for those spontaneous trimming or smaller cutting jobs, waiting for batteries to charge is a small tradeoff for a machine that performs and is ready to go the instant you need it. Stay tuned.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.