Back in the “Your Favorite Tools of 2018?” post, I commented that the Milwaukee M18 Fuel metal-cutting circular saw was one of my favorites even though it came out in 2017.
I received a sample of this saw back in 2017 and have been using it occasionally to cut some steel bars and angle iron, but until I joined a Maker Space last fall and got into welding, I haven’t been able to give it as much attention as I should have.
Cutting metal with a circular saw is nothing new – many years ago I trimmed a steel-clad door using a standard circular saw with a carbide blade. They even make special standard-sized circular saw blades you can use for cutting metal. Still, this new breed of battery-powered saws is designed specifically for metal cutting. They’re lighter and designed to prevent metal chips from flying everywhere.
I had been using a 14″ Evolution saw for cutting metal stock, until I jammed it and broke off a bunch of teeth. Without the use of a metal cutting saw, my project was on hold util I remembered the M18 Fuel metal-cutting circular saw I had sitting in my basement.
Specifications and Features
Stuart wrote a preview article about the saw back in 2017, so I’m just going to summarize the relevant specs and features.
- 5-3/8″ to 5-7/8″ blade size with 20mm arbor hole
- Brushless motor delivering 3,900 RPM
- 2-1/4″ cut capacity (with 5-7/8″ blade)
- Weighs 6.5 lbs with 5Ah M18 battery
- Hanging hook
- Stainless steel shoe
- Impact resistant window
- LED light
The included 5-3/8″ 30T carbide blade is meant for cutting EMT, strut, sheet metal, angle iron, and other ferrous materials. The stated battery life is 370 cuts in 3/4″ EMT — presumably with the 5Ah battery.
The bare tool comes with a 5-3/8″ 30T blade and sells for $219, while the kit adds two 5Ah batteries, an M18/M12 charger, and contractor bag for $419.
It turns out that some of the Home Depots around me have the bare tool in stock, and so I’m also including a link to Home Depot so you can check the availability near you.
Buy Now (bare tool via Home Depot)
While looking on the Home Depot website I also found a pretty good deal: the M18 Fuel metal cutting circular saw kit with a M18 mud mixer for $419, the same price as the metal cutting circular saw kit alone. This deal appears to be online-only.
Buy Now (Combo kit via Home Depot)
In the past 3 months, I’ve been using the M18 Fuel metal-cutting circular saw quite a bit. Here are a few examples of what it can do.
In the video above I’m working on a locking table saw dolly, trimming the excess steel off the caster mounts. I’m cutting pretty slowly because I’m trying not to knock my phone off the table while it’s recording the video, and so the saw can cut the 3/16″ angle iron faster.
Still, it’s a good demonstration of several aspects of the saw: how easily it cuts steel, how fast the brake stops the blade when you release the trigger, and how the saw contains or deflects the metal chips.
Above you can see a closeup of the dolly feet. One thing that’s easier to do with a circular saw than a stationary chop saw is to notch out angle iron like I did for the feet. Ideally a band saw would be a better tool to use, but I didn’t have one available at the time.
I had an idea to organize a file drawer, and it involved cutting 45° notches in two matching pieces of 3/16″ angle iron. After marking out the cuts I proceeded to clamp the stock in the vise and make 3 to 4 passes with the circular saw. It took a lot of cuts to make, but the saw handled it easily. I would probably have been able to complete the project on a single charge, but I had started with a half-full battery.
For another project, I needed some small rectangles of 1/4″ steel for the base of a stool. The steel needed to be thick enough so I could tap it and screw casters into it.
Before anybody comments on the horrible weld, although I’m just a beginner, I am not that bad. I had just started run out of shielding gas on the left side and it took me the entire length of the weld to figure why it was sputtering so badly.
It took the M18 Fuel metal-cutting circular saw a little longer to cut through the 1/4″ steel plate, but it was able to handle it. I wouldn’t recommend cutting through yards of steel plate this thick, but it works well for small cuts.
I left the saw at the Maker Space for several months, and the people that I talked to that had used it were really impressed with the saw. Although, one day I walked in and tried to use the saw, but I couldn’t see the cut line and the saw was having trouble cutting even 1/8″ steel.
Above is what the view of the blade should look like through the protective window. It’s even easier to see the blade and the cut line when the LED is shining after you pull the trigger.
This next photo is what the guard looked like after I picked up the saw that day. It’s not dirty, it’s scratched beyond repair. There’s a long shaving trapped inside the guard and I suspect this was part of the reason it was scratched.
Nothing I had cut had ever created long shavings, and I suspect the material was either not ferrous or there was something wrong with the blade.
I went online, located the service parts list (PDF), and found the part number for the clear guard (44-06-0201). Then I found the nearest Milwaukee Service Center and called to see if they had the part. Unfortunately they had just sent an order, so it would be two weeks before I could get a new guard, but it would cost me less than $2.
While I was waiting, I picked up a new blade at Zoro for $40 after shipping and tax. Comparing the new and old blades, I could see the carbide teeth on the old blade were severely worn down to the point where the carbide was the same height as the back side of the tooth. This blade was toast, no wonder it wouldn’t cut. It’s possible that the teeth might be able to be reground, but it would require reshaping the steel tooth as well as sharpening the carbide.
Since I didn’t have a guard I could see though yet, I tried to use the saw without the guard in place and that was a mistake. I was continuously pelted with metal chips in the face. I had already taken the precaution of wearing not safety glasses, but safety goggles, but it was too distracting. I definitely do not recommend trying this.
Danger aside, I was able to determine that with the new blade, the saw was back to it’s former steel-eating glory and I was eagerly awaiting the new guard so I could use the saw again.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the M18 Fuel metal-cutting circular chews through ferrous metals like steel with the included blade, but that’s not all this saw can cut. You can also buy other blades to cut aluminum, brass, copper, plastics, plexiglass, PVC, and more, but I have yet to try that.
As I wasn’t there, and nobody approached me about the damage to the saw, I don’t know how the extreme wear to the blade and guard occurred. It very well just could have been used so much the blade dulled naturally, or it could have been abused. Such is the nature of a communal work space when you leave your tools for general use.
I haven’t tried the other cordless metal-cutting saws like the Makita or Bocsh yet, and I suspect they probably perform just as well. The purpose of this review wasn’t just to try out this saw, but to show what a saw in this category can do. They are definitely quicker than using a cutoff wheel on a grinder, and probably safer on the whole too.Thank you to Milwaukee for providing the review sample.