TIM Uhler

Last summer, DeWalt released a new line of batteries and tools called FlexVolt to a lot of fanfare. I was looking forward to their release because of how much the company was hyping up the new offerings. You can read more about it here. Most of the tools DeWalt has been releasing aren’t of interest to me. I don’t want a blade right cordless saw as an everyday saw, don’t need a heavy duty grinder, table saw, SCMS, or heavy duty drill. However, its Flexvolt reciprocating saw with brushless motor looked interesting.

What Is Flexvolt? The so-called FlexVolt tools are designed to run on one or two 60v MAX FlexVolt batteries, which also convert automatically to 20V Max when mounted in a 20V tool. Since different tools have different power demands, DeWalt is trying to cover them all with a battery system that is more flexible to the tool. In a 60V FlexVolt tool, the battery gets less runtime than it does in a 20V Max tool. You can read about it here and here, and there is a lot of reading if you start reading tool blogs covering Flexvolt.

Recip Saw Features. A feature that is becoming ubiquitous in cordless tools is an LED light that illuminates the work being done, and I like this feature. DeWalt has included it in its recip saw. The blade change is keyless, and the trigger is variable speed. The shoe is not adjustable beyond pivoting; I don’t use adjustable shoes on other recip saws that often, but it’s a nice feature when I need it. Most of the saw has a rubber overmold, which I found very grippy and comfortable to use. It doesn’t have a rafter hook, which was disappointing.

Performance. I was excited to use this tool and figured it would have loads of power and just tear through wood like the Milwaukee M18 Fuel we had been using for a few years. I had mixed results. At first it seemed to me that this recip was slower than our first Milwaukee M18 Fuel and then we received the new one for review. The new M18 Sawzall seemed at first so much faster than this DeWalt.

Loser in the 2x6 Speed Test. We set up two tests to see if the speed difference was real or perceived. We cut 2x6 on edge one-handed, so one guy had the DeWalt and one guy had the new Milwaukee recip. We raced then switched so that each saw was run by both guys. Both times, the Milwaukee beat the DeWalt by a large margin.

Winner in the 4x4 Speed Test. We repeated the test, this time cutting 4x4, and the DeWalt won both times. In all these tests, the recips had exactly the same brand new Diablo blades. Though not a completely scientific test, what I learned is that my initial feelings weren’t correct: The DeWalt does cut very fast under certain circumstances. From my experience with both saws, it seems the DeWalt cuts faster in thicker material where there is more consistent blade friction.

While it cut faster through thicker material than the M18 Sawzall, I found the FlexVolt battery to be large and heavy, although not a nuisance. I felt I had a lot of control while cutting, and I didn’t feel very much vibration. I couldn’t get the blade to stop in anything; it had plenty of muscle.

Don't Jump Ship. All of that said, I wouldn't switch to DeWalt's ecosystem just for this recip, but if you are already heading in that direction you won't be disappointed. For me, and the work that I do, I think the Milwaukee is more compelling. If I didn't have a huge investment into either battery platform and was looking to go with my first cordless reciprocating saw, I would buy the Milwaukee.

You can buy this tool, one 60V MAX battery, a blade, a 20V/60V fast charger, and a bag for $300.

Pros
Good battery life
Plenty powerful
Rubber overmold provides a comfortable grip

Cons
Non adjustable shoe (length)
No rafter hook
Only comes with 1 battery