Milwaukee M18 Cordless Jig Saw Kit
Contractor-tough and cordless to boot
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 5-2-2010
The new Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw is the latest offering that sports their impressive 18V Lithium-Ion battery technology. Until recently, cordless jig saws appeared to have been designed for (and some perhaps by) the home handyman. The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw suffers no such deficiencies but rather is a high end power tool that you can take to any jobsite, shop or task and leave the extension cord behind.
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw kit shown in this review (#2645-22) comes with the jig saw itself, two 18V Lithium-Ion battery packs, a 1-hour (110V) charger, a sample blade and instruction manuals. All of these components come packed in a tough, form-fitted carry case.
Body and Power
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw actually looks and feels like its corded siblings. It is immediately obvious that Milwaukee did not back off of their tradition of using quality materials and design. From the comfortable top-strap grip to the industrial-tough all-metal front housing and the smooth-running blade drive mechanism the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw is durable yet always easy to use.
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw is 10-1/2"-long and weighs in at 7-3/4 lbs. The weight is admittedly up there a bit that is because of the heavy duty materials, motor and battery pack. If they wanted to make the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw noticeably lighter, they would of had to reduce the quality and that simply is not compatible with their slogan, "Nothing but Heavy Duty."
The grip area has rubber overmolds that give the operator a solid slip-resistant feel of control. Those same overmolds also provide vibration dampening that reduces fatigue. The shape of the top strap and the space between it and the top of the motor housing accommodate any sized hand, even when wearing gloves on the not-so-warm days on the job.
The variable speed trigger is logically placed and comfortable to use. The trigger has enough travel to make holding a specific speed within the 0 to 2700 (no load) 1"-long strokes per minute easy. Just above the trigger is a side-to-side slide button that locks the trigger in the Off position or releases it.
The motor housing is surprisingly small considering the power you feel when using the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw. Milwaukee has been building electric motors for a very long time and continues to pack more power into ever-smaller packages. Most importantly is that they do not sacrifice dependability as they reduce physical size.
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw features a generously sized 7-1/4"-long by 2-7/8"-wide shoe that keeps this tool stable. The shoe comes with a snap on, snap off one-piece no-mar cover that protects the material being cut. This cover is also very "slick" which makes sliding the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw across material easy and predictable.
The shoe can be set in any of the 0, 15, 30 and 45-degree notches (left or right) with the over sized locking lever. The length of the locking lever makes it very easy to secure the shoe in virtually any bevel angle up to 45-degrees for special jobs. The rear edge of the half round shoe boss has markings that show the basic bevel angle detents.
The shoe has a slip-in anti-splinter plate that works much like a zero-clearance insert on table saws. A clear plastic shield surrounds the forward blade area for safety. This shield and the anti-splinter plate are removed for bevel cuts but both are tool-free so the process is simple and fast.
Blade System and Tool-Free Changing
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw features an easy-to-use blade changing system that is operated by simply flipping the front-mounted locking lever open to pop the old blade free. To install the new blade hold the locking lever open and push the blade into position. Release the locking lever and the blade is locked in place. The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw uses the very popular T-shank blade design which gives you lots of blade design options for wood or metal cutting.
The blade has a full 1" stroke for maximum use of the blade area. An adjustable orbital stroke lever on the side of the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw has four levels of orbital action. That range of settings allows you to make the cutting action as aggressive as you need or the orbiting action can be shut off completely when extra clean cuts are the goal.
A roller guide at the rear of the blade helps keep it stabilized during cuts. This guide is fully automatic and requires no adjusting for use. If you use good quality blades and good technique, the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw will make clean, square cuts.
Batteries & Charger
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw comes with two 18V Lithium-Ion battery packs that are smaller than expected for this voltage. The batteries plug onto the jigsaw (and charger) with a keyed connection that prevents backward installation that could damage the battery or motor. The M18 batteries have a push-button "fuel gauge" on the front that gives you a quick indication of the amount of charge remaining.
Also included is an intelligent charger that refreshes the packs in 30 to 60-minutes. The actual condition of the pack and your level of use determines the precise recharge time. The 110V charger has a pair of LED lights that indicate what it is doing. A graphical legend next to the lights explains the flashing or color being shown.
In the Shop
The Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw is very simple to use and is surprising only in that it has far more power than I expected from a cordless tool. You don't have to use this saw very long to realize that Milwaukee did a great job designing and building it. There is no compromise in materials or workmanship as is evidenced by the clean fit and finish along with its overall heft. This is not a lightweight tool by any means but neither is it overly heavy. If you want a durable, long-lasting tool, this is how it should be made.
Somewhere between the overall design and the weight of the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw vibrations common to this type of tool are almost nonexistent. I am sure that a large part of that is a well-designed and manufactured drive system and motor but overall, there is surprisingly little vibration for a jigsaw.
The blade changing system is first rate and makes this task simple and very quick. I like that the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw uses the T-shank style blades because that means you are never farther than the nearest woodworking shop or home improvement store from a good selection of fresh blades.
The 18V Lithium-Ion battery packs are a far cry from the early cordless tools (including the early Lithium-Ion batteries) in terms of the power they deliver and how long they continue to deliver it. The Milwaukee packs are long lasting and recharge surprisingly fast. Actual battery life is totally dependent on what you are doing with the jigsaw but throughout the evaluation I never felt that the batteries were running down too quickly or lacked power. They deliver virtually full power right up until it is time for recharging.
Actually cutting wood with the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw is easy and accurate. Following curved layout lines is easy as is making straight cuts with the aid of a clamped on fence. The adjustable orbiting action makes setting this saw up for the job at hand easy.
With a street price of $349.99 (4-30-2010) the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw is not cheap but we have to remember that it is not cheaply designed or manufactured either. Milwaukee has a reputation for building long-lasting tools for the contractor environment so expecting a tool like this to maintain its performance for a very long time in the woodworking shop is by no measure unreasonable. For most of us in the woodworking/home owner crowd, this will be a one time purchase.
If you are looking for a very tough, full-featured cordless jig saw, the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw deserves a hard look. This is a top shelf tool with all of the capabilities we need and the toughness that we want. There is nothing halfway about the Milwaukee M18™ Cordless Jig Saw and when you need a cordless tool, that is precisely what you want!
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