Milwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle Chainsaw Review


Milwaukee Introduces More Electric Chainsaw Options For Lawn Care Pros and Arborists

I remember the first time I “fired up” a battery-powered top handle chainsaw in anticipation of doing some climbing…only to behold its glorious silence. While some cordless and battery-powered tools still have to fight and claw their way into replacing their gas counterparts, top handle saws are there. At least, well-designed and well-executed ones like the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2826 fall into that category.

Whether cutting down small trees or working at height, a powerful, nimble battery chainsaw eliminates a lot of the hassle users of gas chainsaws have endured for decades. My only question was whether the Milwaukee M18 Fuel top-handle chainsaw provided pro-level performance. Everything I convey about the tool below, including our testing, aims to answer that key question.

Reasons to Buy

  • Equivalent power to gas
  • Quick chain acceleration
  • NO GAS OR FUMES
  • Much quieter than a gas saw
  • Onboard scrench storage!

Consider Another Model If You…

  • Need a bar larger than 14″
  • Want the lightest possible top-handle for climbing
  • Plan to work far away from a power source

Editor’s Note: Check out our best battery chainsaw article to see my top picks.

Which Size Milwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle Chainsaw to Buy

Milwaukee Tool lets you choose from either 12-inch (2826-20C) or 14-inch (2826-20T) bar lengths for its top handle chainsaw. Presumably, they put these out as separate models to make it easier to purchase the initial length that you want. That seems to make sense as most Pros know what they’re looking for in a saw. Both chainsaws have the exact same bodies and are rated to cut faster than 35cc gas saws.

Both models feature an Oregon bar and chain. The best-selling, most general-use model is the 14-inch top handle chainsaw. Milwaukee touts the 14-inch it as the optimal tool for arborists looking for a quiet and powerful solution for climbing and climbing.

Some applications do make sense for the smaller 12-inch saw, however. The first thing that comes to mind is the lineman. When you simply want a smaller saw for cutting back branches that get in the way of powerlines, a 12-inch saw does the job with slightly less weight. I don’t know about you, but I want the weight of that saw as small as possible if I’m up in a bucket near power lines! If you need something more than a 12-inch bar, you don’t need to be dealing with that branch!

Performance and Electronics

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle Chainsaw throttles up very quickly. How quickly? I pulled the trigger and it got to full speed in less than a second. Thanks to the use of intelligent motor electronics, this saw doesn’t waste your time when you squeeze the trigger. In my book, that simply reduces downtime and doesn’t force me to work any differently than I would with a gas saw.

For a professional looking to transition some tools to battery—this matters more than you think. I’m happy to say that between the retained nuts, metal bucking spikes, and quick acceleration, the Milwaukee 2826 feels close to gas top-handle even if it does add a few pounds compared to the Stihl MS 201 T C-M. That’s mostly due to the robust brushless motor and M18 High Output battery.

Milwaukee 14-inch top handle chainsawMilwaukee 14-inch top handle chainsaw

Milwaukee told me this chainsaw would maintain its speed without bogging down. Still, I had to test it for myself. After watching some colleagues make some cuts with this saw with an XC 8.0 battery pack, I took my turn. On a ~10-inch diameter log, I made nearly a dozen cuts in a row—pushing the saw as hard as I would a gas tool.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle ChainsawMilwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle Chainsaw

The Milwaukee M18 FUEL top handle chainsaw is STRONG. I can stall a gas saw—and I could have stalled this one by applying an unreasonable amount of pressure to the chain as it cut. With that said, it didn’t stall on any of those cuts, and I had a crowd of people around me staring. I wasn’t about to baby the tool with an audience!

Speed vs Power

So what about that speed? This chainsaw operates at around 15 meters per second (49 feet per second). That’s not as fast as many gas-powered top-handle chainsaws which hit around 62 fps or more. This is where most of the complaining comes from online (we know who you are!)

What Milwaukee does, however—like most battery-powered saws we’ve seen and used—is make up for the drop in speed by giving you more torque. That means you don’t see the chain speed drop very much as you continue through your cut. It’s very confident and consistent.

What’s the Runtime on the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Top Handle Chainsaw?

After making these cuts and wondering at the efficiency of the tool, I took a look at the battery. I still had three bars out of four. Having not been the first person to use this tool, I can see why Milwaukee would claim up to 150 cuts per charge in 4×4 cedar with an M18 RedLithium High Output XC8.0 battery. We were working the tool a lot harder than you would slicing 4×4 cedar.

Field Testing the Saw at the Ranch

Our team took the 14-inch model out to the ranch to deal with an oak tree that lost one side in a storm. We planned to tackle the main branches with a larger saw but wanted to limb the smaller branches first to clear out a safe working space.

The 14-inch Milwaukee top-handle chainsaw made the work incredibly fast. It completely cleared our work area in just a few minutes. Of course, the top handle design and relatively low weight were a big help in clearing everything from down low to up high and at a wide range of attack angles.

After taking turns with the tool, none of us really felt like we were using a battery-powered saw. We simply realized that the Milwaukee 2826 got the work done exactly as anticipated…and with a lot less fumes. Score one for Big Battery.

Additional Features

  • Easy-access chain tensioner
  • Automatic oiler
  • Translucent oil reservoir
  • Metal bucking spikes
  • Onboard scrench storage
  • Lanyard loop
  • Climbing scabbard w/tie-off points that covers the bucking spikes

The only niggle I had with this chainsaw was its small, thin trigger. I often had to adjust my grip to get the Milwaukee 2826 top handle up to full speed. I eventually got the hang of it, but I always like tools to work intuitively and as I anticipate.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle Chainsaw Price

The 12-inch model retails for $339 as a bare tool (2826-20C). The 14-inch model comes as a bare tool for $349 (2826-20T). You also have two kit options for the 14-inch model. With one 8.0Ah High Output battery and a rapid charger, it runs $499 (2826-21T). With an 8.0Ah High Output battery, a 12.0Ah High output battery, and a simultaneous dual-port rapid charger, you pay $699 (2826-22T).

The Bottom Line

Our field work verified what we initially thought during our very first testing. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Top Handle Chainsaw is a highly convenient, fast-cutting tool that can replace your gas saw without a problem. Whether you’re in a bucket clearing power lines, working as a professional arborist, or need a supplement to your primary rear handle saw, pick up the Milwaukee 2826 and take it for a test drive.

Specifications

  • Model: 2826
  • Chain speed: 15 m/s (~49 fps)
  • Bars: 12- or 14-inch
  • Working Weight: 11.1 lbs with 14-inch bar and oil


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