Paul Gervais of Tracy, MN, was eager to test the new battery-powered Milwaukee Sawzall Hatchet for Farm Industry News. He figured a cordless saw would be handy on the many mundane projects that always seem to crop up around the farm. But soon after we gave him the saw, nature stepped in and raised the bar. A heavy snow proved too much load for Gervais' machine shed, and it collapsed into a tangled mess.

Making the best of a bad situation, Gervais asked an experienced construction crew to clean up and rebuild. Then he handed them the saw, turning a demolition zone into the ultimate testing ground. Gervais took a few turns sawing too.

“We sawed through 8-in. wooden posts. We sawed through nails. The Hatchet had no trouble with any of it,” Gervais says. “When it was time to change blades, the construction guys said they liked the keyless blade clamp much better than the set screw system on their own saw. Some of the guys wondered how durable it would be over the long haul, but it performed fine while we used it.”

The folks at Milwaukee say clamp durability shouldn't be a problem. The keyless Quik-Lok blade clamp on the Hatchet has the same design used on other Sawzall models.

Close quarters

Faced with picking apart his dead shed's crisscross of wood and debris, Gervais says he and the crew also liked the versatility that the Hatchet's six-position pivoting handle afforded in tight situations. “At the 90° position, it feels like a drill,” he says. “Or you can lock it out straight like a conventional reciprocating saw. It's also handy that you can switch the battery around to provide extra clearance when sawing in tight spots.”

Gervais says the high quality of the saw was apparent as soon as he picked it up. Like most of us, he's long made do with lower-priced power tools. “I've got a couple of cordless drills and a cheaper saw, and this Milwaukee tool is head and shoulders above those,” Gervais says. “It's like going to the next level up in quality. It's got good balance, it's nice to run, and if you had enough batteries charged, I think this saw could run all day with no problem.”

The juice

Gervais said the only downside of the cordless Hatchet is its battery life. “As with any cordless tool, this one has its limits,” he says. “With the heavy sawing we did, it wasn't long before we'd notice a drop in power as the battery wore down. Since this tool is good in so many ways, you'll want to use it a lot, so I'd recommend that anyone who buys a cordless Hatchet also should buy an extra battery so they can have two charged and ready to go before every job.”

Milwaukee's own test data claim the Hatchet's charge lasts longer than that of comparable competitive cordless saws. The company says a unique drive mechanism makes for a more powerful, smoother cut with fewer stalls, resulting in greater energy efficiency.

The company's data also show that one charge can cut through more than 80 linear feet of 2 × 4 lumber or 185 pieces of 1½-in. PVC pipe. Maybe Milwaukee's next test should include 8-in. shed posts and 16-penny nails.

A Sawzall Hatchet package that includes two 2.4-amp batteries, two blades, charger and contractor bag costs $770. Contact Milwaukee Electric Tools Corp., 13135 W. Lisbon Rd., Brookfield, WI 53005, 262/781-3600, www.heavydutytool.com.