By Robert Robillard on Tools PLUS!


By Ralph Mroz

I would submit that almost any trades person should have a small cordless chain saw in their bag of tricks.  Also, any homeowner that’s responsible for their own outdoor maintenance and has trees needs one.

For homeowners: maintenance and emergency preparedness

Trees need regular trimming and maintenance — it’s just their nature.  Storms bring down limbs and trees that need to be cleaned up.  You may be thinking that you could easily call a tree service for your tree needs, and while that’s true, it has some potentially serious drawbacks.  The minor reason is that it’s quite expensive.

The more important reason is that a downed tree or limb can pose a real danger that needs to be addressed right now.  Perhaps you have a downed tree or limb blocking your driveway and you need to get a family member to the hospital.  Or maybe you just really need to get to work that morning.  You might have a fallen tree compromising your fence and you can’t let the dogs out the dog door and you need to get to work, or if it’s during the aftermath of a hurricane you have important things to attend to away from home.  I could list a lot more examples but you get the idea: beyond DIY maintenance a chain saw can be an emergency tool, even an emergency rescue tool.  A chain saw should be thought of as a companion tool to a generator, and you have them for the same reasons.

For trades people: the right tool to keep costs low

Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, roofers, siders, etc., aren’t arborists or landscapers, and aren’t in the business of tree removal or maintenance.  But they can still benefit from occasionally having a chain saw around.  Branches may have to be trimmed or small trees removed in order to put on that addition, install that new service, paint that exterior wall, etc.  Being able to do that quickly and easily will make your job go smoothly and on schedule, and make the job less expensive for the home or business owner.

Carpenters will occasionally find that a chain saw is the best tool for cutting, say, large timbers or beams, or gang-cutting anything.  This need has been recognized in the last couple years by major tool companies who’ve brought chain saw circular saws to market — but these tools won’t take care of tree work for you.  In short, a cordless chain saw that’s easily transported will cover all the bases.

Doesn’t have to be expensive

None of these tasks require a pro-level, turbo-charged, jet fuel-powered, 450 HP saw with an eight-foot bar (just kidding), designed to be used (not kidding) continuously for eight hours a day, 260 days a year.   An inexpensive cordless chain saw will fit the bill just fine.  You really want cordless because these are pretty much “add chain oil and go” tools.  A gas chain saw not used and maintained regularly can be finicky to start, especially if it’s been sitting for a while.   You don’t want to be trying to impatiently start one in any kind of odd position or location, and certainly don’t want inexperienced people doing so — they increasingly get themselves into more and more unsafe positions as they pull repeatedly, with increasing frustration, on the cord.  With electric saws by contrast, you just pull the trigger. Electric saws require a whole lot less maintenance than gas saws, and need fewer tools in the field.  They don’t have engines, carburetors, throttle plates, chokes, and so on.  But corded chain saws, while easier to use than gas ones, have an extremely inconvenient and often unsafe long cord to deal with. Cordless is the way to go, with the added benefit that they are quiet — often no ear pro is necessary.

WORX 14-inch, 40 volt brushless chain saw

The new WORX 14-inch bar (13.5-inch cutting length), 40 volt brushless chain saw (model number WG384) fits the bill.  The motor is software controlled to reduce heat, friction and wear.  It’s powered by two 20-volt lithium 2.0 Ah batteries with easy charging level readouts.  This saw comes with a dual-port 60-minute charger (and it really does charge both batteries from depleted to full in 60 minutes).  It incorporates a chain auto-tensioning system that is ergonomically dial-controlled.  The saw with batteries weighs about 10 pounds, making it easy to handle, and it balances well. There are overmolds for a good grip, and the reduced kick-back chain does just that.  The best part: the saw, complete with charger and two batteries, retails for only $199

How does it perform?

Using the new factory chain running at 26 ft/second, the WORX saw cut a 6-inch diameter oak log in five seconds, with the saw doing all the work (no help from me).  This is very respectable performance from a small chain saw, and on par with other cordless models (and even some gas models, too).  I then cut a whole mess of oak logs that were improperly cut, from 18-inches to 16-inches.  It took me about 45 minutes, at about a 33% duty cycle (equating to approximately 15 minutes of continuous cutting time), to deplete the batteries.  The saw ran flawlessly, and was easy to control and handle.  I had no complaints whatsoever.

The next day I had to take down two trees that had been blown over by the wind last year, were hung up, and were threatening my fence.  One maple was about 6-inches in diameter, the other about 8.5-inches.  I would not have previously thought that a cordless chain saw like this would have handled the job, but handle it it did, just as well as my gas Husqvarna would have, and more conveniently to boot.  Again, with the factory chain.  After taking these trees down and bucking them up, I had used half the battery charge. I was impressed.

I didn’t bother to cut up any framing timber because that stuff would have been easy compared to the hardwoods I’d been cutting with this saw.  Clearly this WORX chain saw will go through KD and PT softwoods with ease.

It’s all about the chain

What’s true with all saws is, of course, true about chain saws — the quality and speed of the cut is as dependent on the blade (or chain, with a chain saw) as on the saw itself.  Both contribute, of course, but the actual thing doing the cutting counts perhaps more.

We all know that circular saw and table saw blades come in at least a dozen common types and several dozen variations.  Ditto for reciprocating saws and any other kind of saw.  We also know that once you get beyond the basics, the details of blade design, tooth geometry, and so on get real geeky real fast.  It’s the same with chain saws.  There are several types of chains is common to use, and many more types available for special purposes.  Chains also differ in their pitch (which relates to link length), gauge (which relates to bar thickness), tooth shape, and several other characteristics.  Like I said: geeky, fast.

Like most chain saw manufacturers, WORX ships this saw with a general-purpose chain that performs well, as described above, in common cutting tasks.  I’d be happy with this WORX 384 as is with the factory chain for all the purposes I detailed at the beginning of this piece.  In fact, I don’t plan on replacing the chain at all.  But if I had a specific need or a need that occurred quite often, I’d probably bring the saw into my local chain saw shop and say “Sell me the chain I need”.


I can’t let this review go without stressing safety.  Chain saws are extremely dangerous.  Of course, all the tools we use on a job are, but most of them, while they can cause serious injury, have a much lower chance of causing a fatal injury than a chain saw does.  I won’t let anyone under my supervision use a chain saw — on the job or off — unless I know that they have experience with it and I’ve seen them operate one safely.  Tree work poses yet another danger.  Upright or felled, the trunk and every limb are under both compressive and tensile forces.  Learning how to read these forces, and knowing how to cut relative to them, is critical to being safe.  Trees can do unpredictable things at high speed with their considerable mass when these forces are released.  Experience is necessary to know how to manage them.

There are any number of chain saw safety videos on YouTube; the ones by the large chain saw manufacturers tend to be the most complete and best organized.  Invest a few minutes.

You also need protective equipment (PPE).  Eye pro is a must always.  With electric chain saws, ear pro may not be necessary.  Rubber-faced gloves are recommended if it’s wet or the materials you’re cutting are.  At a station in the open, bucking logs to length, you may not need a hard hat and many people don’t use them there.  Remember though that one of the things a hard hat protects against is chain kick-back which can drive the chain straight into your head.  Your choice.

However, anytime you’re cutting in the woods, and especially if you’re felling a tree (of any size), a hard hat is necessary.  One saved the life of a friend when a tree he felled released an unseen dead limb that had hung up on its canopy and hit him square on the noggin.  He was just felling a fairly small tree on his property, so most of us wouldn’t have thought a hard hat necessary.  Let’s learn from his experience.

Kevlar chaps are worn by professional arborists and loggers, and good chaps (which aren’t even very expensive these days) protect well against leg cuts and the severing of the femoral artery, which is a likely fatal injury indeed.  Europeans are pretty adamant about wearing them anytime they’re operating a chain saw, but Americans are a little more casual about it.  Again —  your choice.  Most tree professionals have a first-aid/trauma kit on their belt and that’s a good idea, too.  At a minimum carry a proper tourniquet and learn to use how it  — Rob has a good two videos on that subject, part one here.


I do believe that almost every tradesperson should have a cordless chain saw in the shop or truck — there are just too many situations that will come up over the course of a year for which it’s the right tool.  Of course, once you have one you’ll be finding uses for it that you never thought of.  At $199 for a tool that performs like this and includes the batteries and chargers, the WORX WG384 is a bargain.  If you ever need “more” chain saw, you’ll easily find a use for this at home or as a back-up.  It’s simply too inexpensive and too useful not to have.  Give it a try.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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