A chain-saw alternative for the squeamish

You don’t have to watch horror movies to be afraid of chain saws; they cause roughly 30,000 accidents a year. Electric loppers, which mount the cutting apparatus two feet away within a pair of jaws that shield the user, are a good alternative. Consumer Reports recently tested two but both limit you to 4-inch branches and only one is worth a second look.

The Black & Decker LP 1000, $75, is the better of the two. It’s faster than the $120 Worx WG307 and, at just 7 pounds, weighs about 2 pounds less. That difference in weight could mean a lot if you have to reach to make a cut, especially if you’re using the five-foot extension pole sold as an option (about $36) for the Worx. We also found the Black & Decker’s scissor-like action more elegant than using the Worx, which requires you to push toward what you’re cutting.

With both models, it’s safe to cut above shoulder level—an otherwise risky move that's never recommended with traditional chain saws—or strip a limb of its smaller branches. And since these models’ 6-inch blades retract, they’re very safe for storage.

But even the Black & Decker is slow compared with a regular chain saw. Its tiny bar-oil reservoir requires frequent stops for refills. And getting to the recessed chain for service is a challenge on both.

The bottom line? Consider the Black & Decker LP 1000 if chain saws give you the willies and your work is strictly light-duty. But if you sometimes need to cut larger pieces, a corded-electric chain saw like the Worx WG303.1, $100, would be a better choice. Whatever you’re considering, be sure to read our buying guide before viewing our Ratings of two dozen chain saws.

—Ed Perratore

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