Dewalt mini pruning 8" chainsaw DCCS623B review

I was able to pick up the highly anticipated DCCS623B from Home Depot a few days ago. I got a chance to use it for several hours this weekend so here is my preliminary review.

Out-of-the-box thoughts:
It is a bit bigger than I expected. It is larger than the Milwaukee Hatchet mini chainsaws. However, that is not a bad thing. It is very well balanced, feels very solid in the hand, grip is very ergonomic, and the motor is quite a bit bigger, physically, than the Hatchet, so I expect that it will be quite powerful. I have two initial gripes: First is that the safety button which unlocks the trigger is only accessible on the left side of the tool’s handle. This is quite easy to do one-handed using your right hand, but it is challenging to do one-handed with your left hand, especially while wearing work gloves. If you are a lefty expect this tool to be challenging to use one-handed. It comes with a scabbard which has both pros and cons. On the pro side the scabbard retains the tool for adjusting chain tension which is nice since it makes it harder to lose the tool. On the con side the scabbard is a strange clamshell design, it doesn’t just slide on like most chainsaw scabbards. Even if you remove the safety guard from the tip of the bar (which I did), you still cannot slide the bar into the scabbard because there is a peg molded into the scabbard which locks into a hole in the bar. If you cut this peg off (which would be easily done) then there would be nothing to secure the scabbard and it would just fall off. The scabbard is also black in color; I would have preferred a high-vis color. I can see how the factory guard on the nose of the bar necessitates the clamshell design but I don’t really care for it. Next time I’m at a Stihl dealer I’m going to pick up one of their scabbards and cut it down. Those are bright orange and easy to see, and they friction-fit on the bar.

Removing the nose guard:
The guard is held onto the bar with two screws. These are anti-theft type slotted head screws and there is a lockwasher under each screw head. They are easily removed, I just grabbed the screw heads with vise-grips, it didn’t take much to break them loose.

Use:
I had a good opportunity to give the saw a workout. I had two jobs to do. The first is exactly what I bought this saw for: as an assist for feeding my wood chipper. My chipper will happily eat a 4-inch diameter hard, dry, oak log. However, it does not have a power feeder so it is easy for branches to get jammed in the feed chute. I do my best to cut down everything before it goes in the chipper but I always miss some forked or curved branches that won’t play nice with the chute so I need a saw right there as I feed the chipper to cut problem-shaped material so it feeds cleanly. A few days ago I did half my brush pile using a cordless recip saw with a pruning blade. This time I used the DCCS623B. The remaining half the pile was about the size of a full-size SUV, about half oak with some cedar, yaupon, crepe myrtle, etc mixed in. The diameter of material to be cut was about 2 inches on average. I started with a freshly charged and very new 5ah battery. The saw had no problem doing this job but the one-sided safety button made it a pain to use with my left hand only, though right-hand-only cuts were no problem. It was very controllable one-handed, the annoyance was engaging the safety button with my left hand. It is difficult to estimate the number of cuts I made but it was certainly well over a hundred and I made it through the entire pile and still had 2 bars left on my battery when I was done so in my opinion battery life was excellent; when I did similar work with the recip saw a few days ago I was going through an entire battery with fewer branches chipped. I also feel the safety was greatly improved, the chainsaw felt much better balanced and there was also much less vibration.

My second job was a smaller pile of wood, about a third the size of the first one, which was about half cedar, a third oak, and the remainder misc. This was wood too good to chip and it just needed to be cut into firewood or useful pieces; diameters ranged from 3 to 5 inches. I normally would use a gas chain saw for this task but I figured I’d use the DCCS623 just to see how well it would work. This time I was cutting the wood in a sawbuck so I could freely use both hands on the saw for most cuts. Also since I could stack several pieces of wood in the sawbuck at a time I could make cut after cut after cut very quickly and really work the saw hard without giving it a chance to cool down between cuts. I had a 9ah Flexvolt pack on the saw this time and it clearly made a difference on the power. The performance of the saw is impressive. Even cutting discs in 6" diameter oak or knotty sections of cedar it kept right on 'chuggin. There were no signs of the saw or the battery overheating or cutting out. My other “small chainsaw” is a modded Stihl MS150 top-handle. This Dewalt does not cut as fast as that Stihl does but it’s not far behind, and for a mini saw that’s just supposed to be used for pruning and at less than 1/3 the price? That’s mighty impressive. For small cuts it doesn’t give up anything to the Stihl 150, the difference really only shows itself in material right at the max capacity of the Dewalt, getting above 6 inches, then the Stihl is faster. When I was done with that pile I had one bar left on the battery so again, great battery life.

Bar oiling works great. I would have preferred a little higher flow on the oiler but I must admit it works well, every time I stopped to check I could see oil made it to the nose of the bar. One fill of the oil tank made it all the way through the chipper job and halfway through the firewood pile.

I was impressed at how well chip evacuation worked. Chips packing up under the cover of a chainsaw is always a hassle and it seems that the problem is worse with smaller saws. This one wasn’t bad at all, I did not have to stop work to clear chips even once. When I was done working I pulled the cover off to clean the saw and there were some chips it there but it’s not bad at all. My MS150 chainsaw and polesaw are both worse in this regard. There is a quite a large open gap for chips to exit the Dewalt saw.

Overall I am super happy with the saw: it knocks the important details out of the park. It’s very powerful, it’s ergonomics are great, it’s comfortable to use for hours at a time, its battery life is excellent. It is safer and more comfortable to use than a recip saw. You can work it hard, much harder than you would for its advertised “pruning” application, and it does not overheat.

My gripes are minor:
-If you plan on removing the guard from the nose of the bar you will likely find the factory scabbard lacking, thankfully you can easily use whatever other brand you prefer.
-the safety lockout button is not lefty-friendly if you are planning on using the saw with one hand.
-it would be nice if it had some more aggressive bumper/bucking spikes aka “dogs”. This saw is powerful enough to make use of them.

Future plans:
-I’m going to make a wooden scabbard mounted to my chipper trailer, that way I’ve got a convenient and safe spot where I can “holster” the saw as I’m working.
-Possible modification of the safety switch to make it more lefty-friendly?
-It feels like the saw can handle a 10-inch bar?

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Great review! How did the chain and bar wear?

The chain is apparently made by Oregon. It feels a little more dull than it did when it was brand new but it still cuts great and I don’t feel that it needs to be sharpened yet, nor did I sharpen it during the work that I did. The only thing I did was re-tension the chain one time. Bar wear is insignificant. I bet the bar would pass for new if I cleaned it off carefully. That is honestly impressive as well: first off, these piles of wood have been sitting on the ground building up for months, and those branches at the bottom which touched the ground had sand all over them…so at least some of those cuts were made in sand-embedded dirty wood. And second, this is quite a short chain so there aren’t very many teeth to divide the cutting wear among.

I think it’s worth noting that the bar did not work loose, the only reason I had to retension the chain was simply because new chains always stretch a bit as they wear in, and also because the drive sprocket was also wearing in. The tension adjustment felt very secure, I was not having to fight the bar adjustment constantly working loose which is an issue I’ve had with some other chainsaws in the past. I am glad they did not put one of those “tool free” chain tension mechanisms on the saw, in my experience those never work well. This has the classic screw and a nut, it’s simple and it works. Also the nut is captive so if you take the cover off you can’t easily lose the nut.

why did you take the end cap off - it looks to be useful.

interesting item. I don’t know I need one but it’s nice to see. I have a 12 in and plan on getting the new 18 flexvolt if I have to fell a tree or 2 this year.

Nice review!

I haven’t done this kind of work, but I may have to soon. So somebody help me out? When do you use a recip saw, and when do you use a chain saw (other than for stuff a recip blade is too short for)?

Regarding the nose guard, end cap, or whatever you want to call it: I think the guard does have some value for inexperienced users, mainly because it stops people from inadvertently nicking limbs they don’t intend to if they are using this saw for pruning. That said I don’t plan on doing very much pruning with this saw, and I’ve also had a lot of experience using chainsaws, including professional instruction, so I don’t think I need the “training wheels”; I’d rather be able to use the whole length of the bar. I did keep the guard so if I end up having to do something like demo a deck or cut up a bunch of pallets where I might want the guard then I can put the guard back on for that job.

Your question made me wonder just how much kickback risk this saw has without the guard on it so I just did a little test. I took a fully charged 5ah batt and went out to an old stump. I held the saw loosely in one hand with my other hand just hovering above the support grip just in case and then I deliberately tried to make the saw kick back by trying to cut on the wrong part of the tip of the bar. I couldn’t cause any sort of dangerous kickback. If I let the chain gently contact the wood on the nose of the bar then it would jump up a little but hardly enough to be dangerous. If I pressed harder the motor would instantly cut out. The combination of the short bar, the weight of the saw, and the electronics make kickback pretty much a non-issue on this saw, at least with the factory chain.

As for when to use a recip saw vs. a chain saw, my personal views are:
The recip saw is a classic example of the “jack of all trades, master of none”. It can cut just about anything with the correct choice of blade, but generally speaking it is slow, poor cut quality, and there is often a lot of vibration involved. The chain saw is more specialized. It cuts clean wood only, things like nails will quickly dull a chain, even getting the tip of the bar in the dirt can cause the chain to dull fast. However it does cut extremely efficiently compared to other types of saws, especially a recip saw. Neither are particularly precise.

In my opinion a chainsaw isn’t truly necessary for pruning unless you have a big property with a lot of trees to prune or you’re a pro landscaper. A recip saw, especially a compact recip saw that’s easy to use with one hand like a Hackzall or similar is fine for the average person’s pruning needs. So if someone already has something like that I’d say get a pruning blade for it and you’ll be set.
Chainsaws do make sense for things like cutting firewood, felling trees, “log cabin” construction or working with large timbers, maintaining trails or campsites, and similar tasks…situations where you have to cut large pieces or large volumes of wood and there is very little chance of things like nails being involved. Recip saws are best suited for demolition and rough cutting.
If someone has neither tool and they want to buy something with pruning in mind? That’s a tough call. A mini chainsaw like this (or the Hatchet, etc) is certainly the better pruning tool, especially as the diameter of things to cut gets bigger. However, it’s a one trick pony that’s not good for much else. A compact recip saw like a Hackzall isn’t as efficient for pruning, but you can use it for other things too with other blade options, and it’s plenty good enough unless you need to do a lot of pruning.
When do I use a recip saw? Demolition, or when none of my other power saws can be used for whatever reason.
When do I use a chain saw? Cutting clean wood (no nails, etc.) when precision and cut quality are of minimal importance, or if the work is beyond the capacity of other power saws.

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I was mostly thinking the end cap is most useful in the pruning situation but also if you were cutting up limbs and crap on the ground - keep the end from getting in dirt as much. also it looks like for as pruning option it would act as a buck for the other side. IE undercutting vs overcutting.

regardless nifty device - couple that with that pruner shear and their 20v hedge clippers and you’d tackle most of the suburbanite homedwellers needs.

Thanks, that makes total sense!

That’s a good point about how the guard cap could help prevent accidental contact with the ground. I hadn’t given that much thought. Normally when I’m cutting branches for the chipper I’m doing this with with the thick end of the branch propped up on the chute so I’m cutting at roughly waist-height with no risk of hitting the ground with the bar.

I have been around chainsaws in use a fair bit but nearly never operated one myself until recently. I cut up a windfallen tree with a max of 18"-24" diameter. I first gave it a shot with my milwaukee recip saw, a diablo 12" carbide pruning blade(awesome) and a handful of batteries then ended up renting a gas chainsaw(20" bar, about 34 cc). From this experience and previous ones id suggest a recip saw to be functional up to about 6" dia. Its probably 1/3 as fast at this size and gets worse the larger you go. I made a couple cuts of 16" dia+ and these took nearly 10 times as long as with the chainsaw.

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With the Boy Scouts we’d leave the chainsaws and power tools to the Ranger or other adults to use.
For the boys and (now girls too) were stick with hand-powered tools like:

Bowsaws

Handsaws

2- Man saws

But my favorite camping/trail saw was a Silky

Same here, fred. When I was in scouts power tools were verboten so it was the 'ol bow saw to the rescue. I wish that we had Katanaboys back then, things have come a long long way.

Bow saws have been around since Roman times - and get the job done. The Bow tensioning the blade helps with controlling blade flex. The Silky Saws work without the bow - on the pull stroke - so tensioning the blade may be less of an issue. The combination of the steel that Silky uses, plus their blade/tooth geometry/hardness make them hard to beat IMO.

I HAVE used bow saws a little. As fred says, the bow keeps the blade straight, as does the tension in Japanese-style pull saws But further, that means that for both styles, the blade can be thin, which means the kerf is thin, which means the sawing goes quickly.

But bow saws blades are impossible to bend, so they will stand up to some amount of twisting or poor sawing technique, etc. Pull saws can be bent if you don’t use a good, straight, smooth stroke.

On the other hand, I find it harder to control the cut angle of a bow saw, if that matters (certainly for furniture work, but maybe for pruning trees.) Besides being thin, the bow saw blade is narrow, giving you little guidance. And the bow itself has some weight, and can tend to pull the cut to one side sometimes. The bow is also bulky (though there are some good folding bow saws) and doesn’t have the reach of a long pull saw. Those Katanaboys look like just the thing for forest management or trail maintenance, where you might have to reach between two limbs to remove a third limb, maybe highish up on a tree.

That all sounds correct regarding bow saws. The tension does allow them be thin like the Japanese style pull saws. But where I think Silky really shines is their tooth design. The geometry is much more efficient at cutting than the classic bow saw, they are crazy sharp and hold their edge for a very long time.

Aha, I can see that.

I wonder if any bow saws use Japanese-style tooth patterns. Why not? Silky has refined the tooth geometry, and also tweaked it for various applications (like cutting green wood), but other makers have too.

I’ve had a chance to get a lot more use out of this saw so I figured I’d follow up.

After the work mentioned above I’ve used the DCCS623 for cutting up some larger pieces of firewood into more manageable sections, this wasn’t anything too challenging but the saw performed great and it was more time on the chain, and still, so far so good, I was very happy with its cutting performance.

I figured it was time to try something more serious: I had a dead oak tree on the property that needed to come down, diameter at chest height was about 20" and it was 35 feet high. I thought I’d use this saw as much as possible in getting rid of it. I also figured I’d try and make the chain a bit more aggressive as well to see if the motor had the power to handle that. I took 3 strokes with a file off each depth gauge. I intended to sharpen the chain too, but it turns out that even the smallest of my Stihl files is too large for this chain so that didn’t happen. I felled the tree and made the first few bucking cuts with my big saw, a Stihl 461, but I used the DCCS623 for everything else. Now I was shocked at how well the saw performed: I was able to cut up the rest of the tree on one 10ah pack and it still had a bar left when I was done. There was one branch which was half rotten but most of it was very strong, hard, wood. Then I went back to the stump. One side was cut near perfectly flush with the ground, but due to the slope of the ground on the other side the stump rose about 2 inches above the dirt there. I attacked this part of the stump with the DCCS623 and a fresh battery. I had the bar buried full depth and then cut sideways through…no problem, it made smooth steady progress all the way though. Keep in mind this was a very hard oak stump, on a half-dull chain with the depth guides filed down, with the bar completely buried in the cut. I can’t think of much of a tougher challenge than that and it handled it no problem at all. Cut progress was plenty reasonable and I was still getting reasonable size chips from the chain, it wasn’t anywhere near the “dust” stage yet. The chain needs to be sharpened at this point but it’s still cutting, which is amazing given the abuse involved.
I’m very impressed, this saw is a lot more capable than its size would suggest. I am quite sure it could run a 10" bar.

As a side note, I’m going to pass on a suggestion an arborist friend of mine made to me which I found very useful: Get a small wedge and secure it to your chainsaw’s handle or lanyard ring with a short loop of cord, a QD keyring, a carabiner, or some other quick-release method so it’s always there whenever you grab your saw. This small wedge is not mean to be a replacement for felling wedges, rather you stick it in the kerf to stop it pinching the bar when you’re pruning, bucking, whatever. This was a fantastic suggestion that I wish I had learned about years ago. I bought one of each of these:

and

…and some high-viz accessory cord to make some lanyards, now I’ve got one on each of my small saws. I haven’t used either of them long enough to give a good comparison between the two, but my initial impressions are that the CBF wedge is the better of the two, they’re both about the same size and easily pocketable but the CBF is easier to grab and it’s larger hole makes it easier to attach to something. It also is thick enough to work with nearly any size chainsaw whereas the smaller yellow “pocket wedge” is only thick enough for small chain sizes so it is limited to compact chainsaws only. The hole through the pocket wedge for running a cord is quite small as well, it was a challenge to get 5mm cord through it. The CBF also comes in an orange color option. That said, I am not knocking the “pocket wedge”, you can get a surprisingly good grip on it despite its appearance, and it is functional, small, light, and easy to see.

I do have a set of felling wedges in a drawstring bag that bring if I have to take down a tree but I’m probably going to pick up another one of the CBF wedges & keep it on the 461 as well. It’s just so convenient to have the wedge close at hand when you’re working with the saw and if you physically tie or clip the wedge to the saw you can’t lose it or get lazy and not bother to bring it with you.

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