Compact DeWalt Reciprocating Saw Fits Right In

DeWalt DCS367P1 Credit: DeWaltIf your property has trees, the need to chop branches into little pieces is frequent. For many such tasks, a chainsaw is more than you need—but with a bow saw, you’ll grunt through every stroke. In between is the sweet spot of the reciprocating saw, and these versatile tools are as handy indoors for studs, drywall, PVC and sheet metal as they are against tree limbs. The cordless DeWalt DCS367P1 20V Max XR Brushless Compact Reciprocating Saw, $250, has another plus: the four-position blade clamp DeWalt has been adding to its line.

Whether you call this tool a reciprocating or recip saw, a saber saw or a Sawzall (oops, that’s competitor Milwaukee Tools’ trademark), it’s the same beast, and the blade’s teeth usually face downward. You raise the keyless clamp, insert the blade’s shank and clamp back down. Then you’re set to go. But with the DeWalt DCS367P1, the vertical slot accepts a blade with teeth facing up or down. An adjacent horizontal slot, which forms the top of a letter T-shape, takes a left- (shown below) or right-facing blade. Why is this useful? Outdoors, you might never need the feature. Once you’re scrunched into a tight corner with scant room to work, a choice of blade orientation suddenly matters.

That versatility is part of the attraction, and the DeWalt’s compact size—just 13 inches from handle to shoe—helps in those awkward settings. The DCS367P1 is also fairly lightweight: just 6½ pounds counting its 20-volt, 5-Ah, lithium-ion battery.

Having a trim profile wouldn’t mean much if a saw couldn’t deliver. But from specs alone, the DeWalt seemed up to the task. Both its 1-1/8-inch stroke length and no-load 2,900 stroke-per-minute speed are above average for reciprocating saws, and the brushless motor is an improvement over older models that should mean more cuts per charge and longer product life.

Included with the saw is one DCB205 XR battery, a DCB115 charger and a kit bag.

Putting the DeWalt to Work
We used the saw to slice through lumber, tree limbs and roots, PVC and sheet metal using wood- and metal-cutting blades from 5 to 8 inches. (You can use blades as short as 3½-inch.) As with any recip saw, the closest to pretty cuts you can get result when you can rest the pivoting shoe against what you’re cutting—a luxury you don’t necessarily have. Whatever the material, the DeWalt DCS367P1 made short work of it. A bright LED shines on your cut and stays lit for 20 seconds after you release the variable-speed trigger.

DeWalt DCS367P1 with blade Credit: DeWaltRun time isn’t especially relevant when the typical job for such saws requires just a handful of cuts at a time. So rather than measure the length of a charge in minutes, we made successive rough cuts of an untreated pine 4×4. The saw made it through 61 full cuts before fading out. The three-LED “fuel gauge” grants some idea of time remaining: When you’re down to one LED, you’re below 50 percent. Recharge when the last one goes out to avoid running the lithium-ion battery down too low—which would shorten its overall ability to take a charge.

With one particular job, removing a tree root that had worked its way out from beneath a wooden retaining wall, the choice of blade orientation came in handy. By installing the blade facing rightward, we were able to slice the root flush with the wall.

One knock against the saw is little vibration control. The main handle’s grip is anti-slip, but if you’ll be doing a lot of cutting with a hand on the rubberized handle, do yourself a favor and put on a pair of work gloves. (You should already be wearing goggles.) That rubber otherwise could cause blistering.

Should you need the saw for a lot of cutting at a time, the approximately 15-minute recharge time is very welcome. Want an extra battery all the same? A two-pack from Amazon, at the time of this posting, cost $149—a bargain compared to the $129 you’d pay for a single one at Home Depot.

The Verdict
From its sheer power in a low-maintenance product, any reciprocating saw can quickly become your favorite tool. And whether you’re a contractor who needs a saw for tight places or a homeowner who wants muscle in a lightweight, compact product, the DeWalt DCS367P1 won’t disappoint you. The choices in cut direction, quick charging and breakneck speed are just part of this standout saw, and the brushless motor should help keep it among your arsenal for a long time.

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Is Your Mower Ready for Spring?

Cleaning mower deck / Credit: ToroWinter has a way of delivering one last smackdown before it pushes off, and this one was a case in point—with snow still lingering in some areas despite the approach of Passover and Easter. But even if you can’t yet see the lawn, this is a good time to prep your walk-behind mower for a lawn just itching to grow. You’ll need less than an hour if you have parts and tools ready, and it’s time well-spent.

What to have ready: fresh gasoline, fuel stabilizer, oil (SAE 30), and possibly a replacement air filter and spark plug. Your manual will specify which plug is appropriate. You’ll also need a socket-wrench set, a short (about three-foot) 2×4, a drain pan, a pair of work gloves and, if you’re blessed with the gift of foresight, a spare mower blade.

Drain Those Fluids
Your first chore is to tip that mower over, and this is a good time to put on the gloves. If your fuel tank has old gas to which you had added fuel stabilizer, you might be able to start the mower with it. But if you hadn’t stabilized the fuel—just left it sitting over the winter—you should drain out every drop possible. For that, you’ll need to remove the gas cap and slowly turn the mower over with a drain pan beneath. (Many service stations will accept old fuel.) But don’t add fresh fuel yet.

If you had changed your mower’s oil before putting away the machine last fall, you needn’t do it again now. But once that old fuel is out, tip the mower back upright and reposition the drain pan on the other side. Remove the oil cap and turn the mower back over, in the other direction. Don’t yet refill it.

Start With a Sharp Blade
Many people pay no attention to the blade, but it’s important for a couple of reasons. A sharp blade means less work for the engine—less resistance as it turns—and it also is less stress on the grass. A dull blade rips rather than slices the grass, and you’ll soon see its effects from the brown-tipped lawn, the beginning of a season gone bad.

So while your mower is on its side, check the direction the blade turns and wedge in the 2×4 to keep the blade from moving. Use a socket wrench to remove the bolt or two holding the blade in place, and removing it while noting the order you’ve removed the parts accompanying the blade. (Here are more-detailed instructions.) If you have a spare blade you sharpened (or took for sharpening) at your leisure, install it now. If you have only one blade, the rest of your mower prep will need to wait till a blade is back on the machine. Unless you have a mower like Toro’s Recycler SmartStow line of models that store standing up, gas tends to spill out when you tip the mower over.

Once you have the newly sharpened blade on, of course, it’s time to refuel and add oil if necessary.

The Filter Matters
Given that it takes seconds to change a mower’s air filter, you might think it’s a task you can shrug off. Before you do, consider the part of your yard that gets the driest during the summer. Running a mower over that section might leave you wishing you’d used a dust mask for yourself, and that’s exactly what the air filter is. Even if your entire lawn is pretty moist all summer, the air filter stops a lot of fine debris that otherwise would make it into the carburetor. That, as much as old oil, is what will shorten that mower’s service life. Take those few seconds and remove that old filter; some foam filters can be washed and reused. Your manual will give you more detailed instructions, but some advice is here as well.

And Now the Electrical
Remember the last time you replaced your mower’s spark plug? If you keep good track of it, you know you needn’t change the plug every year—though a good wire brushing and regapping (see video below) could help. If you don’t know how old the spark plug is, replacing it removes one last potential obstacle to starting. You’ll need your socket set’s smaller spark-plug socket for this. Hand-tighten first to be sure the plug is straight before finishing with the socket wrench.

Mowers with electric start typically use lead-acid batteries that need May temperatures to charge. In other words, you might be using the pullcord to start the mower at first. While you do, check it for fraying. You might not need it much once you can regularly charge the e-start battery, but next fall—or during a days-long rainy week—you can take the mower in to replace a cord that’s wearing thin.

If you have a cordless-electric mower, lucky you: You can skip everything above. But one thing you must do, every fall, is take the battery indoors for a winter-long trickle charge out of the cold. If you’d left it in the mower over the winter, you might be replacing that battery sooner than you think.

Last Licks
There’s more you can do to help your mowing, such as spraying the underside of your mower’s deck with silicone spray, a lubricant that helps keep grass from stick to the deck. Manufacturers also recommend greasing your wheels’ axles and provide instructions in your manual. Want more still to do? Read through that manual. The steps above, however, are the most helpful for getting you going so you can enjoy the spring in your hammock—instead of shopping for a new mower at your local home center.

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