Stanley FATMAX 24″ Bow Saw BDS6510: Product Review
When you’re not the first and only bow saw on the market, it helps to be the best. Is the Stanley FATMAX bow saw the best of the breed? I think so.
Available on Amazon
While Stanley is a household name in the tool business, they weren’t the first makers of the now-ubiquitous bow saw (that distinction goes to the ancient Chinese and Hellenistic cultures). Nor were they the first to use the familiar tubular metal frame (that honor goes to the Swedes). So if the Stanley FATMAX 24″ bow saw wasn’t the first and isn’t the only bow saw on the market, is it at least a better bow saw than all of the rest?
|Weight:||Approximately 1.4 lbs|
|Dimensions:||Cutting teeth on the blade 22″; 28″ overall length, 9 ¼” high, 1 ¼” thick (at handle)|
|Materials:||Plastic handle; the frame of welded steel tubing; steel Blade ArmorTM blade for increased precision and blade life|
|Extras:||Secure, comfortable molded handle with protective hand guard; high-tension control lever; removable/replaceable blade|
WHAT’S A BOW SAW?
If you’re not familiar with a bow saw, its name comes from the bow part of a bow-and-arrow as opposed to a bow-tie. The blade sits where you’d expect to find the string on a hunting bow.
All modern bow saws, including the Stanley FATMAX bow saw, come with detachable (ergo, replaceable) blades. The steel blade is laser cut with a thin row of razor-sharp teeth. I’m not a sawologist. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s not even a thing. So let me describe the blade in non-technical terms. Running down the length of the blade is a pattern of 4 single teeth followed by 1 double-tooth.
The teeth aren’t perfectly straight; instead, they alternate bending to the right and left of the blade. That’s not a defect. The thin, narrow blade is designed for bucking (cutting a felled and delimbed tree into smaller pieces) and pruning branches. If the teeth were not angled left and right, the blade would be more likely to pinch and bind while cutting a limb.
“Use the right tool for the job,” my dad said to me when he once caught me pounding in a nail in the wall with the heel of my shoe. My dad was no tool guy, but he did have a hammer and knew when to pull it out.
I said that as a way to state the obvious: a bow saw is NOT a substitute for a chainsaw! With just over a 9″ gap between the blade and the back of the saw frame, you have no space to cut through anything approaching that size before the back of the saw frame stops you. The blade is certainly strong enough to cut down trees and branches 3-6″ in diameter.
Whenever you use the saw, make sure that you have firm footing. Be especially careful when cutting overhead branches because gravity will bring down limbs and branches in potentially strange and unpredictable directions. When cutting overhead branches I recommend wearing a hard hat – just in case. And always wear safety glasses (I recommend any from Wiley X, like these).
The Stanley Fatmax 24″ Bow Saw arrived in a non-descript cardboard box. From an environmental standpoint, I appreciated the minimalistic packing. Inside the box, I found the tool with a cardboard sleeve wrapped around it. That’s it.
The only things written on the cardboard sleeve was the name of the product, the warranty, and standard warnings (i.e., wear safety glasses, avoid contact with electric wires, be careful around kids, and be careful on a ladder or other unstable surfaces). It came with no instructions. And for some reason, I found the lack of an operating manual refreshing, like maybe that was Stanley’s vote of confidence in me, the consumer, as having the intelligence to push and pull a blade.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
You should be familiar with a few things before you use the saw for the first time. First, it arrives with a hard plastic cover over the blade. It didn’t want to come off easily, so I took the same approach to it that I use when my powerful, aggressive cat needs a pill shoved down its throat: I let my wife do it. Actually, I put on protective, leather gardening gloves (try these Bionic Tough Pro gloves). Eventually, I worked one edge of the cover off the blade, and it came off without any further hassles.
Second, the blade is secured to the saw frame on both ends. The front of the blade connects via bolt and wing nut. To remove or replace the blade, you twist the wing nut counter-clockwise and pop out the bolt from the attachment hole in the blade.
The back end is held in place with a high torque tension lever.
Finally, while using the saw, you’ll want to regularly check the blade tension. Keep the wing nut at the front finger-tight. To maintain proper tension on the blade, pull down the high torque tension lever and turn it clockwise to tighten; conversely, turn the tension lever counter-clockwise to loosen.
As a rule of thumb, you should strive to keep the tension tight enough so that you can bend it 45 degrees.
Don’t let the blade loosen to the point where it will bend 90 degrees. The blade will become mushy, and you will struggle to make a cut, much less a straight one.
READY, SET, GO!
Wear leather gloves to keep your hands protected should the blade jump. Just like with any tool, use it on stable ground to avoid injury. Wear protective eyewear, like any of the Wiley X glasses), because the saw will generate quite a bit of wood dust.
To put the Stanley FATMAX 24″ bow saw DBS6510 through the paces, I cut hardwood and softwood, green wood and dead wood.
Cutting Hardwood/dead wood
Immediately, the oversized handle won me over. Not only did it make the saw feel more comfortable and secure in my hand, it also allowed me to get both hands inside so I could make quick jobs even faster when the angle allowed me to do so safely. I tried it on oak, maple, sweetgum, and hickory branches. I neatly cut a 6″ oak branch. With the wind blowing saw dust in my face, I was glad I wore wrap-around glasses.
How easily did the saw cut through hardwood? Let’s just say that I got in a little cardio workout. But the saw remained sharp and allowed me to work quickly. After cutting for about 30 minutes, I figured that had I prepared the gas-powered chainsaw for use, it would have taken about the same amount of time.
Next, I tried the bow saw on dead branches or dead trees like a dogwood and a corkscrew willow. No matter how dry or dead the wood, the blade bit in aggressively, allowing me to create a groove and make quick work of it.
After using the blade against hardwood surfaces (coupled, no doubt, by my brutal and fierce strength), the blade loosened slightly after about 20 minutes of use. No problem. Lowering the tension lever, I cranked it clockwise for two revolutions. Problem solved.
Next, I cut through soft wood like pine, cedar, hemlock and a few fruit trees. The blade bit into big, heavy branches with ease, leaving surgical cuts behind.
However, it struggled with smaller, more rubbery branches in the 1″ range. The smaller branches and small trees bounced around the blade unless I put the branch under tension by bending it. Obviously, softwood branches of that size can be handled easily with good quality bypass loppers (or even some pruners) like the ARS LPB-30M Orchard Lopper.
PROS AND CONS OF THE FATMAX BOW SAW
Is it time to replace and upgrade your current bow saw? Here’s what I really liked about the FATMAX:
- Quality: Granted, a bow saw is not a high-tech tool with whirling motors or moving parts. But the FATMAX is a simple tool made very well. The blade stayed frightfully sharp throughout testing, even after I cut a nail in half that I didn’t see sticking out of a branch until I saw the sparks fly (the eyes are the first thing to go).
- Comfort: FATMAX had me with the well-designed handle. My hand didn’t get fatigued from use, and it allowed me to hold the saw straight without twisting in my hand. Also, I could fit both hands inside to apply even more power to cut.
The saw is light enough that I used it for three hours and got more tired hauling away the debris than cutting wood. And this last point is a little subjective, but the saw pointed naturally, meaning when I extended it in my hand, it fell automatically into the best position for me to apply the most power without having to fiddle around with finding the right place to start my cut.
- Price: At less than $20, the FATMAX is priced so that every homeowner will want one, especially since it’s built “to be the last bow saw you’re going to need”.
- Miscellaneous: I don’t like having to pull out my chainsaw, especially for smaller tasks. By the time I mix the gasoline and oil, adjust the tension, add bar and chain oil, and remember how to start the damn thing, I’ve forgotten what I planned to cut. The FATMAX allows me to grab it, cut, and be done quickly.
And one final thing, sometimes I like using hand tools instead of power ones because it makes me grateful that I still have enough internal horsepower to do some things myself.
But there are a couple of things I didn’t care for—
Just kidding. Actually, I couldn’t think of a single thing I didn’t like or would suggest they change, except maybe they could send a person along with the saw to use it for me! The FATMAX worked great for me, and it now has a permanent home in my tool shed.
It should be noted that the saw blade is impulse hardened steel and can’t be sharpened by the homeowner or even a professional sharpening service. Replacement blades are the only option and are available from Amazon, and probably at your local hardware store that carries the Stanley brand. But as you can see the cost of the replacement blade with the shipping price added on is more expensive than a new saw, so my recommendation is to purchase a new saw if you dull or damage your blade. This is true with a lot of saw manufacturers these days that use impulse hardened blades. It is cheaper to buy a new saw than just a blade. And blade lengths, cutting teeth patterns and hole retention sizes differ with each saw manufacturer. So it’s not as simple as replacing a 24″ blade made by Stanley for its 24″ FATMAX Bow Saw with a competitive brand. The blade may fit the saw but the cutting characteristics may be so different that it’s not worth the effort to switch to a competitive brand, even if the price is lower.
The Stanley FATMAX Bow Saw comes with a limited lifetime warranty. You might go through a few blades during the lifetime of the saw, but I’m pretty sure you won’t need to redeem the warranty due to manufacturing defects or workmanship.
Will I recommend the Stanley FATMAX 24″ Bow Saw DBS6510 to others? Absolutely and without hesitation.
WHERE TO BUY
You can find the FATMAX bow saw on Amazon Prime for $16.99. Spare blades are available from Amazon for $10.79 (plus $18.35 shipping).
Last update on 2018-09-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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