With its combination of portability and gas-free power, the BLACK and DECKER LCS1240 has been one of the best selling light-duty cordless chainsaws in the past five years. It offers a combination of affordability, quality and ease-of-use — and for most homeowners it’s enough to handle all those cutting tasks around the yard.
The BLACK+DECKER LCS1240 uses a lithium ion battery pack, which allows it to cut faster when compared to old NiCad or NiMH chainsaws. If you’re a DIYer or gardener, this is a solid small chainsaw, enabling you to effortlessly chop down 4×4 fence posts and 5” thick branches. BLACK + DECKER claims the LCS1240 can make up to 60 cuts in pressure treated 4×4 pine lumber. Enough power for light firewood cutting and can be a great secondary chainsaw if you live off-grid.
If you’re a hardcore chainsaw users, then this is probably not the chainsaw for you, in that case consider the Husqvarna 450 Rancher.
In all honestly, you won’t be bothered by the lower power compared to a gas chainsaw unless you’re regularly dealing with logs thicker than 8 to 10 inches. If you’re just trimming some branches in the garden or cutting through 2×4, a gas-powered chainsaw will never be pushed to maximum capacity. Similar to driving a Ford F250 truck without ever going above the speed limit. How much power do you truly need?
Do you want to deal with the fumes of a gas chainsaw — not to mention the loud noise, which will annoy everyone in the neighborhood and might even get you in trouble for violating the local noise laws (unless you live on a ranch). Cordless chainsaws have the advantage of convenience – low noise, no gas, and easy starting. If you think about it, what does your average homeowner really need? Not the most powerful chainsaw in the world, but one that is easy to operate and maintain. Besides, the BLACK + DECKER LCS1240 is more powerful than you might expect.
Later in the article, we review two more cordless chainsaws – the WEN 40417 40V MAX, and the DeWalt DCCS690X1 40V. This should provide you with a good idea of what the competition has to offer in terms of features, and which one of these three is the best value in terms of price to performance.
Finally, we will clear up some misconceptions regarding battery capacity and power. An 18V battery isn’t necessarily less capable than a 40V battery, and if you read our review of the Milwaukee M18 FUEL chainsaw you’ll understand why. Despite being an 18V cordless chainsaw, it gives 38cc gas powered Husqvarna chainsaws a run for their money. And it is undoubtedly the most powerful cordless chainsaw on the market by a significant margin. That’s because of the cleverly designed brushless motor and mammoth 12.0Ah battery which stores up to 216Wh of energy. What do all these numbers mean? How to decide which tool battery is best for you? Read on till the end to find out.
Brilliant Cordless Chainsaw For Limbing And Trimming
- 40V MAX* Lithium Ion battery is always ready and holds a charge up to 18 months
- 12″ Bar and chain designed for smooth and fast cuts
- 40V MAX* 2.0Ah Battery provides over 60 4×4 pine lumber cuts on average per single charge
- *Max initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 40V. Nominal voltage is 36.
- Automatic oiling system for constant lubrication of bar and chain
- Tool-less chain tensioning for fast and easy adjustments
- Full wrap around handle for comfortable cutting in different orientations
- Battery state of charge indicator
- Part of the 40V MAX* outdoor system
Includes : Battery, Charger, Bar + Chain, Scabbard
Tech Specs :
- Bar Length : 12 in
- Blade Type : Low-Kickback
- Power Source : Cordless
- System : 40V
- Weight : 8.3 lbs
- Uses : Pruning branches, Cutting fallen limbs
If you hate mixing gas and oil, this little 12” cordless chainsaw is the perfect companion you can have for cutting trees. It won’t last very long in the hands of a logger, because there isn’t nearly enough power to fell giant 50-foot tall trees. But most of you reading this article aren’t loggers, and simply need a tool to do some light limbing or pruning. Perhaps you’re a DIYer working on a project, like a new wooden bench for the garden. For tasks like these, the LCS1240 is perfect thanks to its compact nature and lightweight construction.
Everyone from your wife to grandfather can handle this nimble 8.3lb chainsaw, and refueling it is super easy. All you have to do is swap out the battery for a freshly charged pack. No more mixing gasoline and engine oil in the correct ratio, then storing the mix in a special container while also adding fuel stabilizer. And you can forget about changing air filters or replacing spark plugs, because this chainsaw doesn’t have any of those parts. The only “maintenance” you’ll ever need to do is take out the bar and chain, and clean the saw with some soap water.
Let us start with the process of starting this chainsaw. First you need to make sure that the side-loading battery is attached, and has enough charge for a complete session of work. The 2.0Ah 40V MAX lithium ion battery can go from zero to full, if you leave it on the charger for about 120 minutes. There is a button operated LED gauge at the rear end of the battery pack which displays the amount of charge left. Once you’ve slotted in a charged battery, place your dominant hand on the rear handle and the supporting hand on the front handle. Pull back on the throttle lockoff switch, while simultaneously depressing the trigger. After a one second delay, the chainsaw motor will spring to life and you can take your thumb off the throttle lockoff. Every time you release the trigger, the chainsaw will immediately stop.
One important thing to note here, is the fact that this cordless chainsaw isn’t equipped with an anti-kickback chain brake. Not a huge problem, since you most likely won’t experience any serious kickback with the tiny 12” bar and relatively low chain speed. The plastic hand guard on the front is there to protect your supporting hand from flying debris. The plastic wraparound front handle isn’t as sturdy as the metal ones on a gas powered chainsaw. But you won’t be applying too much pressure on it anyways, since the motor will stall long before you manage to bend the handle.
The bucking spikes are tiny and made out of plastic, so don’t expect to get a ton of leverage out of them while cutting through logs. Most of the time you’ll be dealing with logs under 8 inches in thickness, but these plastic spikes will slip when you cut larger stuff. Which can result in you feeling more fatigued after a while, since the entire weight of the chainsaw has to be supported by your hands. But this is a light saw, and you are more likely to run out of charge before you run out of stamina.
Tensioning the bar and chain is extremely easy, thanks to the toolless adjustment system on the side cover. When you remove the chainsaw from the package, it will need to be assembled. First, remove the sprocket cover by rotating the black-colored inner locking knob counterclockwise. This will release tension on the bar, and allow you to remove the plastic side cover. Once you’ve done that, it is time to mount the low kickback chain on your 12” Oregon bar.
Check out our article on chainsaw chain direction, if you aren’t sure which way the chain should mount. Once the chain is securely riding within the bar groove, place the whole assembly on the bar stud, making sure to wrap the chain around the drive sprocket. Now replace the sprocket cover, and tighten the bar. But don’t go all the way, because you still have to adjust chain tension. We have an entire article dedicated to chain tension, but the basic idea is that you want no more than 1/8” of vertical play between the chain and bar. You can test chain tension by using your thumb and index fingers to tug on the section of chain running underneath the guide bar, a well tightened chain should snap back with vigor. On the LCS1240, you can rotate the orange-colored outer dial clockwise to increase chain tension (after you’ve reattached the sprocket cover).
Once you’ve mounted the guide bar and chain, it is time to fill bar oil. The BLACK + DECKER LCS1240 has a top mounted oil filler, located right in front of the rear handle. This is a great position, because you don’t have to tilt the saw sideways to fill oil. There is a transparent view window on both sides of the oil tank, which makes it super easy to check oil levels. And you don’t need a funnel to pour in oil, because the inlet is so wide. So, now that the preparation is complete, how does the LCS1240 perform while cutting wood?
It can go through hardwood logs up to 8 inches in thickness, and you’ll have to be a little patient while cutting anything larger than that. You can use it to limb a fallen tree, or for storm cleanup tasks. Be careful while cutting larger logs, because you might stall and overheat the motor or battery. Let the saw pull itself into the wood, and don’t apply too much weight on it. If you try to push it in, you’ll inevitably stall the motor. Fortunately, a stalled motor isn’t a big deal since this is an electric chainsaw. You just start it back up, and you’re ready to cut within seconds. Pine, birch, oak, maple – this saw will handle everything as long you understand its limits.
The LCS1240 has no trouble going through 4×4 posts, or branches up to 6” in thickness. Make sure you’ve got two batteries with you before you walk out into the woods with one of these, since a single battery is good for only 30 to 40 minutes of moderate cutting. And that is with you taking short breaks in between each cut. High temperatures will reduce battery life, and lengthen the amount of time it takes for the battery to recharge.
WEN 40417 40V Max
- Ditch the gasoline, extension cords and maintenance required with alternative chainsaws
- Brushless motor maximizes both the torque and the lifespan of the unit
- 16-inch Oregon chain runs at speeds of up to 49 feet per second
- Includes 40-Volt 4Ah fade-free lithium-ion battery and charger compatible with the entire WEN 40V Max series
- Oregon Guide Bar
- Chain Brake
- Tool-Free Chain Tensioning System
- Brushless Motor
- Includes scabbard for bar and chain
- 4 Amp-Hour Lithium Ion Battery
- 40V Max Charger
- Two-Year Warranty
If we just look at features and overall performance, the WEN 40417 chainsaw kit is undoubtedly superior to the BLACK + DECKER LCS1240. It has a proper chain brake for operator safety, metal bucking spikes for better leverage while cutting logs, and a brushless motor which results in higher chain speeds and longer runtimes. Even the battery is objectively better, at 40V and 4.0Ah compared to the 40V 2.0Ah battery system used in the BLACK + DECKER LCS1240. And you get all of this for a lower price! That’s right, the WEN 40417 chainsaw kit containing a brushless tool, battery, and charger costs less than the LCS1240 kit. But how did WEN manage to pull this off? Have they compromised on build quality? It appears that’s not the case, since this chainsaw is equipped with a more robust wraparound front handle and metal bucking spikes. In comparison, the BLACK + DECKER feels like a less refined product with its plastic bucking spikes and a front handle that doesn’t seem as sturdy as the one on this WEN chainsaw.
VIDEO | Learn How to Install the Bar & Chain
The ergonomics are excellent, thanks to the long rear handle which gives you plenty of space to get a firm grip while wearing thick work gloves. And unlike the BLACK + DECKER 40V chainsaw, this one doesn’t have an offset battery mounting spot. Instead, the battery slides into the middle of the rear section, from the top of the chainsaw. Which means you get amazing weight balance, resulting in cleaner cuts and less fatigue while operating in certain positions. This also makes the WEN a slightly more ambidextrous alternative to the BLACK + DECKER, which can feel awkward if you’re a left handed user.
The throttle lockoff switch however, could have been placed on the top of the rear handle instead of the left side. This would have made the WEN truly ambidextrous, and we like the way BLACK + DECKER did it on the LCS1240. Another nice thing about the LCS1240 that we would love to see in the 40417 is the giant oil filler placed at the top of the chainsaw. It isn’t possible in this case due to the location of the battery, which takes up a ton of space. Due to this, WEN had to move the oil filler cap to the front bottom section, on the left side of the powerhead. You will need to use a funnel in order to refill bar oil, because the opening isn’t as big as the one on the LCS1240. But you do get a retainer string which keeps the cap secured to the inlet hole and prevents it from getting lost in the woods or jobsite.
In terms of performance, the WEN is the clear winner. There is simply no doubt about it. Faster chain speed which allows you to slice through the hardest of woods with ease, and a longer bar which means you can actually fell trees and buck 12” logs with this chainsaw. Its brushless motor is less prone to stalling compared to the brushed motor on the BLACK + DECKER. This is because brushless motors don’t overheat nearly as fast, and can therefore run for longer durations at higher loads.
The larger capacity battery also helps, because it literally packs twice as much energy as its BLACK + DECKER counterpart. The WEN comes with a 40V 4.0Ah battery, which can store up to 160Wh of energy. In comparison, the BLACK + DECKER LCS1240 comes with a 40V 2.0Ah battery which stores 80Wh of energy. How did we get these numbers, and what does Wh mean? Read the entire article to find out, as we explain how batteries work.
While the BLACK + DECKER is perfect for DIYers and gardeners, this WEN brushless chainsaw is aimed towards people who want a little more oomph from their cordless chainsaw. It is not for a lumberjack, and we certainly don’t recommend this for felling trees on a regular basis. It isn’t even a saw that you would use to chop 2 or 3 cords of firewood each year. But it can certainly be used to cut down 4×4 wooden posts or 10” oak logs on a jobsite. We can see this chainsaw being used by construction crews, landscapers, linesmen, and even arborists.
It is pretty light for a 16” chainsaw, and has really good ergonomics which allows you to be really confident with it on a ladder or tree. Of course, don’t climb a ladder or tree with a chainsaw unless you’re a licensed professional like a linesman or arborist. Carpenters will love this WEN chainsaw, since it produces no fumes and runs relatively quiet. Both of which are excellent qualities for a saw that you want to use indoors, within a workshop.
DEWALT DCCS690X1 40V
- Chain brake for kick back protection with 16″ Oregon Bar and chain
- Auto-Oiling with and for continuous lubrication. Quarter-turn oil cap for quick oil refills
- Tool-free chain tensioning and Bar tightening knob for proper Bar clamping force
- Variable speed trigger for full power control
- High-efficiency Brushless motor maximizing run time and motor life
DeWalt designed this chainsaw kit for tree care professionals, landscapers, construction crews, etc. It is a cordless chainsaw for the pros, but that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy it as a homeowner or DIYer. It is light, ergonomic, and powerful. Easily one of the most powerful cordless chainsaw we’ve reviewed on this website, and it certainly performs better than the WEN or BLACK + DECKER 40V alternatives. It is also the most expensive of the three, so keep that in mind before you decide to purchase the DCCS690X1 chainsaw kit. What do you get within the kit? First of all, there is the DCCS690B brushless 16” chainsaw. You also get a DCB407 40V 7.5Ah MAX Premium XR lithium ion battery, along with a charger. This battery holds up to 300WH of energy, which means you get plenty of runtime for cutting firewood or delimbing trees.
It is equipped with toolless chain tensioning and an automatic bar oiler. You can monitor bar oil levels anytime you want, by tilting the saw to the side and looking at the transparent view window on the front. Next to this view window you’ll notice some plastic bucking spikes which are sure to wear down over time with regular use. DeWalt should’ve included metal bucking spikes at this price, especially since much cheaper models like the WEN 40417 are doing it. But we can overlook that shortcoming, because this brushless chainsaw makes up for it with tons of power. It can maintain a chain speed close to some of the entry level gas powered models, even when you’ve buried the bar in 12” thick logs. And the best part about it is that you don’t need to pull a starter cord every time you need to restart the saw. This speeds up your transition time in-between cuts, and your arms don’t feel nearly as fatigued after a day of work.
Since this is a cordless electric chainsaw, you also don’t have to deal with the jerkiness and excessive vibration that is associated with 2-stroke gas engines. The power delivery is smooth, and you have nearly maximum torque right from 0 RPM. Cuts are also cleaner, since the saw is easier to handle. While it is true that experienced loggers can make the most precise of cuts even with heavy gas saws, the DeWalt is just a much more approachable tool. You can feel like a pro without nearly as much experience.
The massive 7.5Ah battery provides plenty of runtime, and you can easily make 100+ cuts in 6×6 pressure treated pine with a bit of charge still left in the tank. In the real world, you can fell a pine tree, chop it up lengthwise into 24” logs for your wood splitter, and slice up the branches for an outdoor fire pit. All this can be done within a single charge. This chainsaw can comfortably slice through hickory, maple, birch, oak, cedar, cherry, and all other sorts of hardwood. It is heavier than most cordless electric chainsaws, at nearly 13.5lbs with the battery installed. But the molded grips and ergonomics mask this weight really well, since the saw feels very comfortable in your hands.
The Next Generation from Dewalt : FLEXVOLT
DEWALT DCCS670X1 FLEXVOLT 60V
- Low kick back 16 in. Oregon bar and chain for construction and outdoor cutting applications
- Tool-free chain tensioning and bar tightening knob for proper bar clamping force
- Auto-oiling for continuous lubrication, quarter-turn oil cap for quick oil re-fills
- Chain brake for kick back protection
- Up to 70 cuts per charge on a 6 in. x 6 in. pressure treated pine wood
- Includes 3.0 Ahr battery and charger
- Hard bar cover
Gas vs Cordless Electric
We don’t know if any of you have ever operated a gas chainsaw before, but it can get quite frustrating after a while. Especially once you get past the age of 50 and joint problems start popping up all over your body. Imagine tugging at a starter rope half a dozen times whenever you need to get the engine running. You’ll have to do this multiple times while cutting a tree, because a gas chainsaw doesn’t shut down when you take your finger off the throttle. It simply idles, which means the engine is still running and the clutch is the only thing preventing the unguarded chainsaw from spinning its chain into the ground. Let’s not forget about the fuel either, because unlike a cordless chainsaw you can’t simply pop in a battery and start cutting wood.
You see, the starting process with a gas-powered chainsaw is much more complicated. First, you need to get some gasoline with less than 10% ethanol content, so you don’t gum up the carburetor over time. Then, you need to mix in 2-stroke engine oil, making sure to maintain a proper ratio which is between 40:1 and 50:1 (gas to oil). Then, you’ve got to check the spark arrestor to make sure it isn’t clogged up with unburned fuel particles.
Maybe you got a little too lazy with the fuel mix last time and ended up putting too much oil in it. Now you’ve got an engine which won’t start because the spark arrestor is clogged. Finally, you get to start the chainsaw. But wait, there is a choke to activate. This is a small 2-stroke engine, and you can’t just start it up like that when it is cold. Maybe you also need to push the primer bulb a few times to pump some fresh gas in there. Maintenance is another massive headache; you’ve got to do a bunch of things to make sure that your gas chainsaw runs smoothly. Clean the air filter, replace spark plugs, check the fuel filter, adjust the carburetor, etc. Yeah, a well-maintained gas chainsaw will last a decade or more. But some people just don’t have the time or patience for that. They would much rather own a cordless chainsaw which requires no maintenance other than occasional cleaning.
You’ve got to go through all this trouble if you want the performance of gas. Which by the way, is completely unnecessary if you’re an average homeowner living in the city who just wants to trim a couple of overgrown trees in the garden. Or maybe you need to cut some firewood for the wood stove. Both of those tasks can be completed just as easily with an electric chainsaw. The thing with buying an oversized gas chainsaw is that you never really get to use all its power. It’s like trying to drive a Lamborghini down the middle of Times Square on new year’s eve. You’d be lucky to push past 10 mph, so that massive 600+ HP V12 sitting behind you is barely able to stretch its legs.
You may think you look cool, but everyone else thinks it is silly. Now, we aren’t claiming that there is no use for a gas chainsaw if you’re not a professional logger. Maybe you live off-grid and need to chop down trees for firewood on a regular basis. Or perhaps you want to build a log cabin, in which case you definitely need a heavy duty chainsaw. Even then, we’ve already got professional grade cordless chainsaws with large lithium ion batteries and brushless motors which rival the performance of 30 to 40cc gas models. The DeWalt DCCS690X1 and Milwaukee M18 FUEL chainsaw are two perfect examples.
Understanding How Batteries Work
In order to understand how batteries work, we need to familiarize ourselves with a few terms. Amps, Volts, Watts – what do they mean? An amp, or ampere is a measurement of electric current. Current is the flow of electric charge. Electric charge consists of tiny negatively charge particles that zoom around an atom. Voltage can be defined as the “electrical pressure” between two points on a circuit, which causes current to flow between those points. A nice analogy of this would be a faucet in your kitchen sink.
In order for water (current) to flow out of the faucet, you need to generate some pressure (voltage) within the pipe. So what are watts then? You see, in order to do work we need power. And power is simply the rate at which energy is changed into work. Or in our case, the rate at which electrical energy is consumed. One Joule of energy consumed per second turns out to be one watt. More power means you can do more work, i.e. spin the chain at a faster speed and cut through larger logs in less time. A watt can also be defined as a function of voltage and current, where one watt is one ampere of current flowing at a voltage of one volt.
All that is great, but we aren’t trying to bore you with numbers and scientific definitions. How does the battery in your power tool generate electricity and what metrics should you be looking at before deciding which battery to purchase? All modern tools use lithium ion battery packs, which contain several individual cells connected in a combination of series and parallel connections. A series connection adds up the voltage of all the cells, while current stays constant.
A parallel connection adds up the capacities of the cells (current) while voltage stays constant. To make a series connection, you join the negative terminal of a cell with the positive terminal of another. For parallel connections, we join the positive to positive and negative to negative. Most tool batteries use the 18650 lithium ion cell, which looks very much like a AA battery. What does that number mean? It is 18 x 65 millimeters, and the 0 shows that it is a cylindrical cell. Various companies like Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, etc. make their own versions of the 18650 cell while staying within the standardized parameters for dimensions.
Depending on the cell chemistry, different versions of the 18650 cell will have anywhere from 2000 to 3400 mAh of capacity. One thousand mAh or milliampere hour equals one Ah (ampere hour). And what is an ampere hour? It denotes the amount of current the battery can deliver over a period of 1 hour. So if we have a 10Ah battery, theoretically it is capable of delivering 10 amps of current for one hour before discharging completely. But does that mean we can draw 20 amps of current in 30 minutes? Or 600 amps for one minute? No, because the internal chemistry of a battery undergoes changes as it discharges, and this will affect the voltage as well as current.
All cells have an internal resistance to the flow of current, and when you increase the current being drawn it heats up the cell and increases resistance. Maybe you can draw 20 amps for 40 minutes before the battery discharges. Or 100 amps for 4 minutes. Besides, each battery pack has a maximum current limit beyond which it becomes unstable. Larger batteries like the ones in inverters and cars have a “C” rating printed on them. The C rating allows us to measure a battery’s maximum discharge rate. If you have a 1C 5Ah battery, it can supply 5 amps of current for one hour.
The same battery with a discharge rate of 2C can supply 10 amps of current for 30 minutes. You’ll often see large lead acid batteries with 100Ah capacities, but they can’t deliver all of 100 amps within an hour. Somewhere on the box, you’ll find the following printed – 100Ah@20hr (1/20C), which means it can safely deliver 5amps of current over a period of 20 hours. Batteries with higher C ratings are capable of supplying large burst of current that far exceeds their normal Ah ratings.
When purchasing a battery, you need to value the total amount of energy it can hold. Which is obtained by multiplying the Voltage with the Ah rating, resulting in Watt hours or Wh. A 40V 5Ah battery can store up to 200 Watt hours of energy, which means it can supply 200 Joules of energy per second (1 watt is 1 joule per second), for up to one hour. The Watt hour is how you obtain a battery’s true capacity, and it is far more valuable than simply the voltage.
An 80V 2.0Ah battery will be beaten by an 18V 12.0Ah battery, because power is a function of both voltage and current. Of course, there is more to choosing a battery than just Ah and voltage. Most modern tool lines from the same manufacturer tend to share the same battery platform. Today you purchase a 40V cordless chainsaw, tomorrow you might need to get an impact driver. Or a mower. Make sure the battery platform is robust and supports all sorts of tools, both large and small.
Some companies make great mowers, but they don’t have any drills or table saws in their lineup. So you’ll have to juggle between two battery platforms when you buy a new tool for your workshop. Milwaukee is a great example of a tool manufacturer with a robust battery platform. Their M18 18V battery platform supports everything from ¾” impact wrenches to reciprocating saws and leaf blowers. You’ll also need to look at the feature set supported by a battery platform. Does the company make rapid chargers for their batteries? Is the battery equipped with onboard electronics for overheat protection?