The Milwaukee M12 Ax Pruning Saw Takes Mini Chainsaws to the Next Level
You can use a chainsaw for your garden pruning needs when hedge trimmers won't cut it, but why would you need such a large tool for small branches? The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet Pruning Saw joins a growing number of garden pruning machines (also known as mini chainsaws) designed to get the job done with less hassle.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Ax Performance
A pruning saw like the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet steps in to cut branches down to about 3 inches. They're much bigger than a hedge trimmer can handle, and almost depressingly small for your 16-inch chainsaw.
In Milwaukee's case, they started with a brushless motor and paired it with a 6" Oregon rod and chain. Despite its smaller form factor, the Hatchet uses a whole house chain with a cutter on each link, rather than a skip tooth design that makes the motor easier to use at the expense of cutting speed.
When it's time to replace your chain, look for a 6-inch, 28-link, 3/8-inch spacing, 0.43 gauge replacement.
There is a variable speed trigger to control cutting speeds up to 984 fpm. In fact, not only is it much faster than a handsaw, but it's also less tiring.
If you're used to using an air saw for pruning and pruning, one benefit of switching to battery power is that the chain will spin up in no time. There is no slight delay in the engine as the fuel comes through.
For runtime, Milwaukee tells us that you can make up to 120 cuts on 2-inch oak on a single charge from the 4.0Ah battery in the kit. Paired with a hedge trimmer for branches under 3/4 inch, a chainsaw for branches over 3 inches, and the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet for everything in between, one battery is enough for a full day of Landscaping work.
What about using a reciprocating saw?
We advocate using a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade for this type of work, especially if you're using a one-handed model like the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hackzall. However, there are some advantages to switching to Milwaukee's mini chainsaw.
First, it's designed for pruning work. A one-handed reciprocating saw works best on thin-walled pipe and other thin materials. The pruning saw is specifically designed to cut thicker and harder wood than we prefer to use a one-handed reciprocating saw, and it's lighter and more compact than the full-size models. Plus, Hatchet makes cuts faster.
Then there is the action of each saw. Reciprocating saws have much more vibration than chainsaws, and the Hatchet is a more comfortable pruning tool.
There's nothing wrong with using a reciprocating saw for pruning, but our overall experience was much better when we brought the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet to work.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet Design Notes
A quick look at the Hatchet's design reveals that the base is very similar to the M12 Fuel Hackzall. From there, it swapped out the blade clips for a 6-inch bar and chain, and added a handguard up front. In addition to providing protection for the top of the chain, it encourages two-handed use.
There is also a lower guard below the trigger.
size and weight
Including rod and chain, the tool is 18.5 inches long. Obviously, this is more compact than a standard chainsaw or reciprocating saw, and easier to move around the branch you want to keep.
The weight is also significantly better than other power tools you might turn to. With a 4.0Ah battery, it weighs only 4.85 lbs.
Bucking spikes are great for securing the saw to a branch so it can swivel through your cut in a steady, controlled manner. On light duty saws we usually see plastic bending spikes (if they exist) and if Milwaukee used plastic we wouldn't think twice. However, they stepped up and mounted the metal fixtures, and we're happy to have more durable components.
Instead of a tool-less chain tensioner, the Hatchet uses a single stud design that requires tightening. The benefit is a more secure grip on the bar, so you spend less time re-tightening it throughout the day. The scraper is stored onboard, making any adjustments you need to make more convenient.
Given the choice between easier or safer tensioning, we prefer the higher security.
One thing that differentiates Milwaukee's Mini Chainsaw from the Stihl GTA 26 Garden Pruner is the automatic oiler. Oiling the chain manually every time you use the saw is annoying, and not as effective as automatic oiling more often. As we expected, the tank is translucent, allowing you to check the oil level at a glance.
If you already have an M12 battery and want the bare metal, the Milwaukee 2527-20 is $179. After adding the 4.0Ah battery and charger, the 2527-21 kit costs $249.
Milwaukee backs this tool with a 3 year warranty.
the bottom line
Mini chainsaws, cordless loppers, pruning saws, or whatever you want to call a tool like the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet doesn't have much competition right now. Of the ones available in the US, the Milwaukee one is a bit bulky. However, it has higher performance than its competitors and a more complete design. Considering the overall landscape, this is the top cordless pruning saw on the market.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hatchet Pruning Saw Specifications
- Models: Milwaukee 2527-21 (kit); 2527-20 (bare)
- Bare Size: 6 inches
- Chain: 0.043" x 3/8"
- Chain Speed: 984 fpm
- Fuel dispenser: automatic
- Dimensions (L x H x W): 18.5 x 9.1 x 3.8 inches
- Weight: 4.85 lbs (with battery)
- Warranty: 3-year limited
- Price: $249 (kit); $179 (bare)