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Essential cordless tools for a homestead

 
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Hello,

So I am a tool nerd and I especially love my cordless tools.  Like the title suggests, I am wondering what you all think are the best, most important cordless tools to have around the homestead.  Only restrictions are

1) they have an important, practical function best served by being cordless (as opposed to say a table saw which is almost always located near an outlet)

2). It’s a power tool

3). For purposes here, it’s not gas powered

Here is my take.  I think a great starting place is the standard 5 piece intro tool kit.  A hammer drill, impact driver, circular saw, reciprocating saw, and the obligatory flashlight.  Most of these kits include 2 batteries and a charger.

I think this is a great start, but mine has expanded drastically.  For Christmas of 2006, I was looking at one of these kits as I was planning on building a deck in spring.  I looked high and low and came down to 3 brands.  Milwaukee looked awesome, but was by far the most expensive.  This left reliable old DeWalt and up and comer Ridgid.  The price difference was a whopping $10, but Ridgid offered s lifetime warranty on their batteries and my old Craftsman 13.2 volt drill was already on its first repack.  On account of the batteries I went ahead and bought the Ridgid.

I immediately regretted buying Ridgid for a simple, minor reason—the DeWalt came in a nice molded plastic case, while the Ridgid came in a canvas bag.  Minor, but still I missed it.  The tools themselves served me admirably though so I had no regrets there.

I have expanded considerably since.  I did smoke that first drill cutting a 6” hole saw with the drill on high speed.  Dumb!  That was a gen 1 design and had no overload protection.  I bought a refurbished gen 4 hammer drill and it still serves me fine.  I have used/abused the other tools extensively and they still perform to this day.

My original batteries died and I swapped them for new Lion batteries.  I did pay extra to upgrade them to 4 amp hour battery packs.

I added an oil impulse driver which is very powerful and quiet compared to a regular impact driver.

I also added an impact wrench for getting off really torqued nuts and bolts.

I added another hammer drill, the octane version for its immense torque.

I also like outdoor battery powered equipment.  I started with a kobalt 40v trimmer.  It’s no gas trimmer, but it’s not bad and really easy to take off the shelf, squeeze the trigger and go.  A small battery chainsaw is also surprisingly powerful and convenient.

These are just my thoughts, what are yours?

Eric  

 
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Eric,

I have an 18V ridgid set in the atrocious canvas bag since I remodeled the house in 2004. Had 2 2.5Ah batteries and one died. I had my drill stolen so I replaced that in 2010 with another that came with 2 batteries. Other than that the same tools since then. I don't use the bag, I have the tools on pegs. I have recently upgraded to 80V cordless trimmer, hedge trimmer, blower and mower. It cost a pretty penny but I get so much done not replacing spark plugs and draining gas and so on, just grab and go. It has reduced the time it takes to move the chickens by about ten minutes per move. I can't recommend the mower honestly in anything but grass.

Those tools (especially since my initial set was an open box cheapo) have been fantastic. This week I drilled mushroom logs, used the recip as a metal lathe (don't ask), set up 240V circuits in the shop for welding with the power off obviously. My pediatric assistant put together the welding and cutting carts with the drill, etc. Just this week. I don't think there is a big difference between the different brands, you are mostly paying for batteries and they are pretty similar under the hood.
 
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I have a cordless drill (3/8") for quick jobs around the house, but that is it.

I guess my usage is just more intensive than most people. Not so much in that I do more, I do not mean that, but just rather if I am doing a job like cutting, I do a LOT of cutting all at once. It always seems to me that I run out of battery power just when I need to finish up a job. So battery tools are very frustrating for me.

So I have corded or powered tools. But I think some of that comes from me doing my own electrical work. Because of that, I am always in reach of an outlet so battery powered tools do not have the draw for me that they would for other people.
 
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I have Makita battery tools, (drill, torch, hedgetrimmer and have used others) they all take the same battery so you really never do run out of power as each 4ah (they come in sizes from 1.5 to 6ah) battery takes around 20mins to charge and it takes longer to run them out them (even in the chainsaw) than that. Right now I want another battery and the strimmer. I hate our 2stroke stimmer, it's too long for either the husband or I and neither of us like having to mess with mixing oil etc for it.
 
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I am on solar only, and my workspaces are spread out and far from my tinyhouse.

So, it has been worthwhile to me to buy cordless versions of larger tools as well; I have a dewalt 12" compound mitre saw, and a Milwaukee tablesaw, both cordless.

I have had several shitty experiences with Dewalt tools, including shitty warranty service and failure to fix the issue. I really regret purchasing any of their products, and will never buy another.

My Milwaukee tools have been excellent. Can't speak to warranty as I haven't needed it yet.

Milwaukee is also notable for really good battery powered lighting, branded as Trueview. Properly selected color bins for the LEDs make all the difference.

Ridgid would be my budget choice, especially if you don't need any of the more exotic tools Milwaukee makes.


The basic kits have lower quality tools in them. I bought half my Milwaukee stuff used, but it was the top line versions. They absolutely outperform the entry level drill/driver/saw options. For example, I have been unable to finish driving long structural screws with lower end drills/drivers, and drilling through thick steel with my backup lower end drill is a miserable task that would clearly burn out the tool in short order.

Essentials? Inpact driver, heavy duty drill, hackzall(a single handed sawzall), circular saw, grinder.

Most useful less common hand tools have definitely been impact wrench and grease gun. But, if you don't have equipment, you probably don't need these much.
 
Eric Hanson
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TJ,

Glad another Ridgid user out there more or less agrees with me.  Since that 1st tool set in 2006 (and I am pretty certain I got it on clearance) the Ridgid line has improved a lot.  In the long run, I am pleased that I went with Ridgid and not DeWalt simply for the fact that DeWalt changed their battery format and Ridgid stays the same.  I actually repacked my old batteries and they work fine on any tool.  

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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BTW,

There are a great many excellent cordless tool brands out there and the observation that we are mostly paying for batteries is an astute one.

I was mentioning Ridgid based on my good experience with them.

Two other brands I like are DeWalt and Milwaukee.  I especially like Milwaukee, but they are quite expensive but they are really prime quality.  In fact, if I had to buy all my cordless tools over again and money did not matter, I might well buy Milwaukee.  Still, there are a couple of my Ridgid tools I think are better than even Milwaukee, such as my new Octane hammer drill with awesome torque and the oil impulse driver that is quiet.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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I am not sure this counts, but Paslode used to make an excellent cordless nail gun. It kind of sucked to have to buy the compressed air cartridges, but it was nice not having a coil of air hose streaming behind you too.

I know this does not count at all, but after 15 years my Bostich Nailer gave up the ghost today. I tore it down, regreased the piston, and now it worked just fine. It was (4) allenhead bolts, and a lot of wiping of dusty grime off the inside. I did not have any good grease, so I used Katie's Vaseline. I'll smell funny using my nail gun now, as the Vaseline was coconut scented, but it works. (You can buy a $25 rebuild kit for those nail guns too).

I was pretty proud of myself. 30 minutes of work, and not a penny spent on repairing it, and a $212 nail gun is back in use.
 
Eric Hanson
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Nice fix Travis.
 
Eric Hanson
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Dillon,

Yes, Milwaukee is VERY nice stuff and they seem to have a cordless option for every arcane tool available.

Ridgid gets the basics, has nowhere near the selection of Milwaukee, but are solid tools for reasonable prices.  I tend to think of Ridgid as an ideal bang-for-buck tool.  The newer gen5x and Octane tools are really pretty nice.  I have the octane hammer drill with octane battery and it is a torque monster.

Eric
 
D Nikolls
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Eric Hanson wrote:Dillon,

Yes, Milwaukee is VERY nice stuff and they seem to have a cordless option for every arcane tool available.

Ridgid gets the basics, has nowhere near the selection of Milwaukee, but are solid tools for reasonable prices.  I tend to think of Ridgid as an ideal bang-for-buck tool.  The newer gen5x and Octane tools are really pretty nice.  I have the octane hammer drill with octane battery and it is a torque monster.

Eric



I think I have seen more Ridgid tools on other homesteads than any other brand, and don't recall anyone being unhappy with their choices. Solid value for sure. I like them, much better then most of the other non-Milwaukee stuff.

I think Bosch is a pretty solid value as well, and had good luck with a drill/driver set; the tool selection was just not adequate as I got more serious about building though.
 
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I'm a huge fan of Milwaukee's Fuel line.  Brushless is the way to go if you've got the money.  Milwaukee's Fuel batteries last much longer and offer much greater power.

As for essential tools, I'd list 5:

Drill
Impact Driver
Reciprocating Saw
Palm Sander
Circular Saw

Cordless circular saws used to be a stupid waste of money --- underpowered and basically useless after 30 cuts or so.  But Milwaukee's fuel batteries keep their circ saw cutting for over 100 cuts.  With a sharp blade it powers through thick stock like nothing.

I'll use my drill and impact driver for a couple of days before I need to recharge.  

And the reciprocating saw has become my go-to tool for tree trimming.  It's light enough that I can stand on a ladder and cut through limbs as thick as 6 or 8 inches.  

We just remodeled our kitchen this summer and I used all of those tools repeatedly, from demolition all the way through till fine finish work.  Its worth the money to buy good tools that will last for years and have the power you need to keep working all day.

 
Eric Hanson
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Marco,

In my old Ridgid 5 piece kit I have a left handed 6.5” circular saw that I absolutely love.  It’s old, brushed motor and all, but I love the left side blade—I can easily see the blade as I cut, and I don’t think I have ever run my battery down on a project.

When I was finishing my basement, I did a lot of drilling masonry and screwing in tapcons.  I would hammer drill all day and screw in tapcons with a same drill all day, some really heavy drilling.  My 4ah lion battery packs  never got drained past the second of 4 battery lights.  That was a gen 4 brushed motor.  I am wondering what my current octane drill would have done.

I always wanted bigger, more powerful battery packs, but now I have to ask myself why.  Before the basement project I stocked up on battery packs and grew my collection to 5 4ah batteries.  This was to ensure I could have several tools ready to grab at any instant but still have a couple batteries charging.

Milwaukee makes fine tools, no doubt.  In my experience, I have yet to find find the task where I can exhaust any single one of my battery packs in a day.  I have seen the tool shoot out videos and while Milwaukee often wins these competitions, they don’t win by much.  Milwaukee tools do just feel very nice in hand and you can feel the quality just picking it up.  But they are pricey.  As a homeowner, it’s hard to justify their quite high price.

Like I said before, if money were no object and I was re-buying all my tools over again, I would likely go Milwaukee.

Changing subjects altogether, for an essential tool kit, I would go with the following:

All-purpose hammer drill
A secondary drill**
Impact driver/pulse driver ^^
Circular saw
Reciprocating saw
Pistol grip flashlight

Depending on one’s tool proclivities, maybe
Grinder
Impact wrench

**secondary drill could be another hammer drill, but better would be a lighter weight 18v drill.  All the power but less weight to lug around.  I have owned s hammer drill for over 15 years but only used the hammer part on 2 occasions.

^^there are a LOT of impact drivers out there, but only s few impulse drivers.  I have the ridgid stealth force impulse driver.  It is strikingly more quiet.  It is more powerful.  It drives in screws in the blink of an eye.  I wish these were more common.

All just my thoughts,

Eric

 
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I'm mostly using the Milwaukee M18 (Li-Ion) tools now; but previously used the Milwaukee V18 (NiCad), Makita 14.4 (NiMH), and Makita 9.6 (both NiMH and NiCad) one of which was my original cordless from 30 years ago.
That first Makita, was the tool of choice at my workplace (we had to supply our own tools). A week didn't go by when someone needed to borrow a charger or a fresh battery. Standardizing across the company made a big difference for productivity.
Many of us also had a corded drill and extension cord, for backup, or for high volume work. Since the job was office cubicle assembly/rearranging/moving, every room, every cubicle had multiple outlets (once the wiring was hooked up, that is).

The biggest issue with battery powered tools... is the batteries.
A spare battery is a must have, if you are doing more than just drilling/screwing a few things around the house. (a tool with a built-in battery is the worst... do they even still make those?)
Runtime with the Li-Ion batteries is far superior to the old NiCads, and the LED lighting tools are so much better than the incandescent bulb ones. (here's where the incandescent bulb isn't better... ;-p)
Proprietary batteries. *UGH.* Pick a brand and run with it... you'll accumulate batteries if you buy more tools/kits that come with them, or even just purchase a spare battery.
(sometimes the introductory offers with an "extra" battery are great deals.) If a battery or tool breaks, at least you can still use what remains.
If you use different brands, there's more chance you have time spent waiting for a battery to charge, and if something breaks you might just be stuck.

Hammer Drill, Impact Driver, Reciprocating Saw, Flashlight? kit is a great place to begin. This covers most of the common tasks, usually gives you two or three batteries.

A work light for BIG area lighting. It's so much better than a flashlight, and good even if you are also using a headlamp. I have a tall one with a tripod stand and a small cube-shape one that clamps or magnets onto stuff.
Maybe a lantern type one would be good for room lighting for a power outage?

Chainsaw? It is handy to not mess with gas/oil/pull starting/fumes/noise of a gas powered saw... Not for logging, or serious cordwood processing, for sure... but small trees, pruning, bucking a few logs.

A way to get a USB port, powered from your power tool battery I don't have one... however Milwaukee has one for the M12 battery, the jobsite radios probably have them? I don't know for sure.



 
Eric Hanson
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Kenneth,

Really good points!

Lithium batteries are amazing.  It will be interesting to see how the charge/discharge cycles stand up.  So far mine are doing great.  And if I need to repack, I consider it an investment in good tools.

Backup battery is absolutely a must.  Most kits come with 2 batteries, but I will quickly spend for the 3rd.  I have 5 4ah batteries for my collection and a new 3ah Octane.

Battery commonality is a huge plus!

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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D Nikolls,

I am not surprised by Ridgid showing up on homesteads. They cover the basics very well, are sturdy and reasonably priced.  Recently they have become quite inventive in their tech.

In my opinion, the biggest strike against them is that they are somewhat heavy.  Milwaukee Tools are light as a feather, but you pay for that!

Eric
 
D Nikolls
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Speaking of drills vs hammerdrills, my favorite drill is an older M18 brushed drill. No hammer function.

On paper.itnis not as powerful as my M18 Fuel brushless drill, and its no lighter.

But! On low, the max speed is a bit lower than the Fuel drill at only 1500RPM, and it has gobs of torque. I use it on steel up through half inch, and can put about 130lbs of pressure on it while still controlling speed easily.


I can easily exhaust several big batteries; dewalt 9AH, or even the amazing M18 12AH. The worst culprit is the grinder, followed by the chainsaw. Sawzall cutting thick steel drinks power, and a bunch of ripping on the tablesaw does as well...

 
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The lifetime warranty alone made me switch from Dewalt to Ridgid.  Lifetime warranty covers batteries, and battery charger.  I don't know any other company that does that.  My friend dropped his table saw off the back of his pickup at 50 mph.  Covered.  He got a new table saw for free.  Milwaukee tools are top notch, but even they don't have a warranty like that.
 
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I'd like to chime in on lifetime warranties. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news or poo-poo on anything said here or burst any bubbles, but, I think it's important to understand what lifetime means when it comes to warranties. I was under the impression that lifetime meant something like my lifetime of ownership, and I was wrong. Lifetime warranties mean the life expectancy of the tool, appliance, object, whatever is warrantied. Here's an example. I build a home last year and my new windows came with a lifetime warranty. Sweet! Here I am thinking that as long as I'm alive and own this house my windows are covered. Well, not really. The lifetime warranty is for the life of the window. The window manufacturer deems the expected life of my windows at twenty years. The "lifetime" warranty on my windows is really a "twenty year warranty", but manufacturers love to use the word lifetime, because it's open to interpretation and can be misleading, but the information on the warranty details is in the fine print.

Since windows have nothing to do with tools, I'd like to cite Ridgid's lifetime warranty, and this is not a jab at Trace or his post (nothing personal man! ) but I think it's important that buyers be informed. The following is from Ridgid's website about their lifetime warranty:

RIDGID branded tools are known the world over as best-in-class tools that allow the end-user to complete jobs more quickly and reliably.

However, there’s added peace of mind with the RIDGID Full Lifetime Warranty. Should your tool ever malfunction from defects in workmanship or materials, we will repair or replace the tool free of charge.

What is Covered

RIDGID tools are warranted to be free of material and workmanship defects.

How Long Coverage Lasts

This warranty lasts for the lifetime of the RIDGID tool. Warranty coverage ends when the product becomes unusable for reasons other than defects in workmanship or material.



Let's look at that last sentence. It lasts for the lifetime of the tool, and when the tool stops working, for a reason other than a manufacturer defect, the warranty expires.



 
Marco Banks
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This thread is why I love Permies.com.  So much knowledge and experience.  Great points everyone.
 
D Nikolls
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James Freyr wrote:I'd like to chime in on lifetime warranties. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news or poo-poo on anything said here or burst any bubbles, but, I think it's important to understand what lifetime means when it comes to warranties. I was under the impression that lifetime meant something like my lifetime of ownership, and I was wrong. Lifetime warranties mean the life expectancy of the tool, appliance, object, whatever is warrantied. Here's an example. I build a home last year and my new windows came with a lifetime warranty. Sweet! Here I am thinking that as long as I'm alive and own this house my windows are covered. Well, not really. The lifetime warranty is for the life of the window. The window manufacturer deems the expected life of my windows at twenty years. The "lifetime" warranty on my windows is really a "twenty year warranty", but manufacturers love to use the word lifetime, because it's open to interpretation and can be misleading, but the information on the warranty details is in the fine print.

Since windows have nothing to do with tools, I'd like to cite Ridgid's lifetime warranty, and this is not a jab at Trace or his post (nothing personal man! ) but I think it's important that buyers be informed. The following is from Ridgid's website about their lifetime warranty:

RIDGID branded tools are known the world over as best-in-class tools that allow the end-user to complete jobs more quickly and reliably.

However, there’s added peace of mind with the RIDGID Full Lifetime Warranty. Should your tool ever malfunction from defects in workmanship or materials, we will repair or replace the tool free of charge.

What is Covered

RIDGID tools are warranted to be free of material and workmanship defects.

How Long Coverage Lasts

This warranty lasts for the lifetime of the RIDGID tool. Warranty coverage ends when the product becomes unusable for reasons other than defects in workmanship or material.



Let's look at that last sentence. It lasts for the lifetime of the tool, and when the tool stops working, for a reason other than a manufacturer defect, the warranty expires.






I seem to recall looking in to Ridgid's warranty as regards batteries, and seeing a specific life expectancy listed at the time. It was decent, but certainly not a 2-digit number!



Then there is actual warranty service.

My Dewalt grinder was fixed under warranty after it stopped turning on... but it took almost 3 months.

Then they ended their agreement with that repair shop, so I have no choice but to ship things.

My Dewalt flexvolt chainsaw went in with a bad tensioner, and they sent it back with a letter that said it was fine and scolded me for it being 'too dirty', and 'having gas mixed in the oil reservoir' - a flat out lie. 50 bucks for shipping and my saw is still busted. Never again.

 
Travis Johnson
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Sounds like Husqvarna...the first thing they say is, "You are not mixing your saw at the right ratio". Then when you insist you are, they say, "you are not using our brand oil 2 stroke oil." They did that to my friend, and when he insisted he did what the manual said, finally they looked it up, and said there was a recall on that chainsaw for a bad coil!

I am not sure if I ever told you this, but I HATE my chainsaw, and most people who have bought them, hate them. It is not a battery chainsaw, but stay clear of the Husqvarna 562 XP chainsaw in any case.
 
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I work construction, on the jobsite I see mainly Makita and Milwaukee, with dewalt a distant third.  We can run a jobsite 100% cordless if we need to, but still prefer air nail guns and plug in routers.  Those tools aren't as fast or strong in cordless, but we don't even carry the other corded tools in the trailer any more.

Homestead tool list:

Drill
Driver
reciprocating saw
Circular saw--the top of the line 7 1/4 saw
grinder
Chainsaw
 
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Didn't find a cordless tool repair thread, but wanted to mention a fix that may be of use to others.  For some reason, we have a real problem with low life-span of the keyless chuck on Dewalt cordless drill/drivers.  Seem they don't last a year for us before they won't open or close and then we have to decide if we want to replace the chuck or send it off for service.  The most recent issue was with an older NiCad battery unit that already has had a chuck replaced.  I think the screw holding the chuck onto the body has a stripped (hexagonal) head and so I was thinking to destroy the screw-head by drilling it off.  Then I happened upon an obscure YouTube video.....some guy with a powerful Scottish brogue....who mentioned holding the driver with the jaws upright and tapping gently with a hammer on them.  Something about the jaws getting mis-aligned over time and the tapping able to set them back into place.  But he also recommended a bit of light oil.....something we've never done as a possible preventative measure.  Anyone else ever heard of doing this?  Should the chucks routinely be oiled?  Thanks!
 
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We heavily use drills around the farm and about once a year I service them.  I like to take either and wash the chuck out first.  Then I blow them dry with the air compressor.  I like to use Rem oil on them so they don't gum up in the cold. I use a few drops on them and run them in and out a couple times.  We haven't stuck one yet.
 
John Weiland
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:We heavily use drills around the farm and about once a year I service them.  I like to take either and wash the chuck out first.  Then I blow them dry with the air compressor.  I like to use Rem oil on them so they don't gum up in the cold. I use a few drops on them and run them in and out a couple times.  We haven't stuck one yet.



Thanks for the tips!....
 
Eric Hanson
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John,

My father had an old Porter Cable (from back when PC was still a really good brand) 14.4v drill.  He used that regularly until the chuck started to get stiff.  We tried to take out the center screw and even tapped with a hammer.  We did not use any oil, but this may have made the difference.

Incidentally, although the chuck would still roughly open and close, it no longer really functioned as a drill.  We did try working in a long screwdriver bit but the tip broke off in the head of the screw.  That was pretty much the end of the effort for us.  In retrospect we would have used oil, tapped with a hammer and used a hardened, perhaps impact rated screwdriver tip.

Great advice though!  I wish we had it a few years earlier as that was a great little drill and with a simple battery repack would have been as good or better than new.

Eric
 
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I love my cordless chainsaw. It gets used regularly for all sorts of heavy pruning work, and the occasional tree or branch that comes down. It's lightweight so not a hardship if you have to carry it a certain distance and - not needing petrol - I don't need to faff around with mixing fuel and having a can with me. It handles anything up to about arm thickness easily, but beyond that I start reaching for the petrol saw.

I probably use it five times as often as I use the petrol ones these days.
 
Eric Hanson
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I am a big fan of the battery chainsaws as well.  Below a certain diameter they cut just as well as a gas saw and they are handy, easy to carry about, require no mixing of fuel, etc.

Eric
 
Michael Cox
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Can I include a totally different form of "tool"?

I recently used a kit to convert my knackered old hybrid bike to an ebike. It is bloody amazing. It has replaced the need for a second car for the whole family, and I'm now using it every day to commute to work. A fifteen mile round trip, with some beefy hills. Unlike a normal bike on that journey, I arrive at work fresh and not hot and sweaty, so I can go straight into teaching lessons without changing and showering. It is faster, door to door, than the car because I don't need to park at a distance and then walk, and I avoid all the traffic delays in town. I get about 20 miles of heavy motor use from a charge, or about 40 if I go slower, pedal more and am economical with the motor.

We now consider it essential, as it replaces a second car with all the associate costs. And its stupidly fun to ride.
 
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Hi Eric,

What brand and size of battery chainsaw are you favoring?
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi John,

I don’t really have a favorite brand, but I use the Kobalt 40v saw and I am happy with it.  There could be improvements.  Mostly I would like to see a battery potential greater than the present 2.5 amp hours.  But even just that amount cuts a surprisingly large amount and I can always just carry an extra battery with me (I do this often).

My 40v saw has a 12” bar which is small but useful for trimming.  If I need something larger than about 10” diameter cut I break out the 16” Stihl gas model.

Eric
 
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I am glad I asked. I have a couple of gas saws.  I had been considering a battery one.  Anyway, my wife asked me for a battery chain saw.  So that got me in a serious search.  Kobalt was not on my list.  But at less that 200 for a complete 14 inch saw, it has my attention. Extra batteries are under 100.  
 
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As others have said, to avoid frustration, especially off grid, you need extra batteries. That means it's helpful to have a system of multiple tools using the same batteries.

For hand/construction tools, pretty good systems have been around for some time, though they keep on getting better (e.g. more power by 12V->18V, brushless motors, etc). I think duty cycle matters a lot. If you're going to be building 8 hours a day, I'm sure it's worth it to choose carefully between Makita and Milwaukee, or to go for mid-range DeWalt over cheaper brands. But if you use a drill/driver/sawzall for 30 mins a day, and a nail gun for 2 hours 3X a summer, you can probably get away with a cheaper system just fine. I got into the Ryobi 18V line years ago, and while it is considered lower-tier than Ridgid, DeWalt and the 2 Ms, I haven't had any trouble with any of the tools. Plus they go on sale frequently, including batteries (which do deteriorate over time), and used tools are for sale 2nd hand for next to nothing all the time. For *my* usage patterns, it's better to have two lower-grade drivers, one at my yurt and the other at my shed, than one better one always at the wrong place when you need it.

Outdoor cordless power tools have, in my opinion, improved from toys to genuinely useful in just the past couple of years. By and large, higher voltage is better, and the current crop of 80V tools is very good. It's not absolutely necessary to have such high voltage. In particular, the Stihl 36 or 40V range (I forget) is very well respected (though expensive), as is the Milwaukee M18 one. But most 18V chainsaws are crap, and the 80V ones are better than the 60 or 40V ones (e.g. Kobalt).  Yes, the batteries are heavier, but it's worth it. Once again, think system rather than single tool.

On outdoor tools I bought in to Kobalt 80V (nearly interchangeable with Greenworks 80V). I may have made a mistake. To be clear, it has worked quite well: I have 2 18" chainsaws, and the 16" string trimmer. The latter I use more as a generic powerhead, since it accepts TrimmerPlus-standard attachments. Via those attachments, I use it as a rotary brush cutter, a pole saw, and blower. The brush cutter and chainsaws work very well. I've cleared multiple kilometers of trails with them, and made several cords of firewood. Duty cycle is important, though. Their power is great, and they work great at 1-2 hour intervals. But they feel a bit flimsy and I do worry they might overheat, or that plastic parts might break. Though so far they haven't, but in particular with the chainsaws, I'm very happy with using them several times a week to chop up a tree or two, but I'd be worried about working them 8 hours straight on a firewood-making day.

The attachments are good in terms of the flexibility it offers you, but they make clear functionality compromises versus a dedicated polesaw, blower, etc. And Kobalt actually discourages brushcutter and/or polesaw use with the powerhead, and I've discovered why. The attachment point is plastic, and melts when it overheats. I destroyed both powerhead and polesaw that way. Being a glutton for punishment, I bought (2nd hand) more of the same and am just being more careful (no using attachment polesaw nonstop for an hour...)  But I do wonder if I should have waited a bit, and spent more $ on Stihl, and on dedicated tools rather than attachments.
 
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Hi Martin,

Thanks for the well thought out reply.  I do have a pretty solid collection of DeWalt and Firestorm tools.  But I do not yet have a battery chainsaw. The reason behind my having a cheaper brand is when I boldly go where I have no business going.  If I drop the Firestorm, it is no great loss.  I am afraid i might try to hang onto the DeWalt at risk to myself.  Following that logic, i may well begin with a cheaper brand.  I appreciate you bringing up the topic of melting.  I have more than a few years on me. So I tend to work in 2 hour spurts.....then take a break.
 
Eric Hanson
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John,

Martin makes several good points, but especially about having more than one battery.  I have a nice collection of Kobalt 40v tools.  Whenever I needed a new tool, my wife went out and bought me a complete new kit for my birthday or Father’s Day.  This got me an extra battery and charger and not just the tool.

KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS THOUGH!!

Kobalt is notorious for its 40v batteries to fail early and this happened to me a couple of times.  When returning, Lowe’s wants not just the battery, but the whole tool set.  I lost a couple of batteries this way.  I still have extra batteries so this has not set me back, but it is worth noting.  The tools themselves work very well, but the battery failure rate is a problem.

Eric
 
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If anyone is considering 80V for outdoor tools (chainsaw, lawnmower, trimmers, etc.), it's worth noting that the 2 major brands, Kobalt and Greenworks, are actually made by the same outfit in China. With a bit of tinkering, you can turn one battery into the other. See for instance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7KAbpDb2Q8 though other instructions are also available, and it takes a certain comfort level to irreversibly grind stuff.

The reason this is worth noting is that the higher-voltage battery systems are quite pricey. So a bit of reassurance that your investment won't become obsolete because one brand manager somewhere doesn't like the numbers in a spreadsheet is valuable.

As I and others have mentioned earlier, it's not *necessarily* the case that you need higher voltage for the higher power requirements such tools provide. But it is *easier* for manufacturers to provide it at higher voltage, and so for outdoor tools 80V tends to be better than 60V, 40V, 24V, etc. Not necessarily the case, e.g. Milwaukee M18 line, and Makita 2x18=36V and Stihl 40V. But in general true.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Eric,

I have continued to read reviews and price products. I appear to be landing on an odd course of action ....buy two 40v 14 inch Kolbalts.  My logic is that one costs 200. An extra battery costs 140. A chain costs 18. A bar in the 20s.  Of course if I added an extended warranty 25. I normally dont buy the warranty, but that is what the extra saw would represent. In the end. I still land on a price point below many products on the market.

Opinion?
 
Eric Hanson
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John,

You could do that.

The other route is to buy other 40v tools and if a battery fails at least you have backups.  Alternatively you could try getting a battery repacked.  I have not done a 40v repack so I cannot comment on the cost but I have repacked tool batteries and those were cost effective.

Just my thoughts,

Eric
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