Three months after Milwaukee introduced its newest additions at NPS18, we’re starting to see the first of those new products appear “in the wild.”
To be honest, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the event. Being a longtime ToolGuyd reader, I’d read plenty of coverage in years past, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for the experience. Someday, I’ll share some rambling thoughts from my maiden voyage but until then, I thought this would be a good time to look at my own personal Top 5 New Tools from the event.
But first, a little disclaimer…
I am *not* a tradesman. Nor am I anything close. I have no background in science, engineering… heck, I can barely do math. I like to pretend I’m some kind of hybrid woodworker/carpenter/maker but in reality, I’m just a baseball writer from Milwaukee who has a lot of tools and likes buying more tools, but doesn’t produce nearly enough things to warrant his investment so far.
That said, I do find myself at a crossroads in terms of tool needs and to-do lists. After my mother passed away in December 2015, I wound up moving into her home – my childhood home – which I get the pleasure of cleaning, repairing, gutting, and rebuilding so it can be sold to settle the estate or, by some miracle, become my own.
So at each session, I paid special attention to the tools I could use to accomplish those tasks, and while Milwaukee is undoubtedly not designed, engineered, produced or even marketed to your average weekend warrior/DIYer, good tools are good tools and I knew Milwaukee would have what I need.
With that out of the way, here are my top-five new tools from NPS18, along with a few honorable mentions.
M18 Fuel Cordless Table Saw
Two years ago, I followed the rumors leading up to that year’s event and then consumed every word of coverage from it as Milwaukee announced their brushless M18 miter saw.
At the time, my “shop” was my patio in the middle of Downtown Milwaukee (actually just two blocks from that year’s NPS venue) and cordless wasn’t a matter of convenience; it was a necessity as the two outlets I had to work with also ran half the lights in my condo.
Fast forward to the present, and I finally have a garage, but the power situation is just as untenable. I found this out the hard way last winter as I tried to finish some Christmas presents, only to blow a circuit every five minutes. I finally gave up, gave in and bought Dewalt’s FlexVolt cordless table saw and for the most part, it’s done the job adequately.
The Dewalt FlexVolt cordless table saw was certainly capable enough for my needs, but the lack of a second miter slot makes using a sled or jog difficult, and the world’s most absurdly maddening switch cover has sent me into a profanity-laden fury on more than one occasion.
Milwaukee has addressed both those issues in their new M18 Fuel table saw, and included dado blade capabilities. Plus, it runs on the batteries I already have.
Count me in.
As soon as I saw this, I immediately felt like Wayne Campbell, sitting outside the music shop staring at the Fender Strata-caster.
It will be mine. Oh yes … it will be mine.
Stuart has already taken a quick look at the saw and fortunately for him, his garage is a long ways from mine or I’d be out there using it daily.
M18 Fuel Brushless 3-in-1 Vacuum
It’s almost embarrassing how many vacuums I own. I’ve got a Dyson DC41 upright vac that sees a lot less use now that I have hardwood floors, an older bagless upright that mainly gathers dust, two Ridgid shop vacs, and Milwaukee’s compact cordless canister vac.
What amazed me the most about this vacuum was how quiet it was. I have a decibel meter on my phone and it checked in around 71 decibels. That’s especially great if you have a shop dog who hates vacuums, a tenant or neighbor who likes to complain, or just don’t like any extra noise.
With the amount of cleaning on my plate over the next few months, the thought of a lightweight and powerful machine that will suck the filth out of the rafters, dirt out of the corners and everything else in between is appealing. Especially if its portable and doesn’t require me to drag my 16-gallon Ridgid all over the basement.
If it picks up dog hair as well as it picks up sawdust and construction debris – the brand manager got a good laugh when I asked that very question following his spiel – I’ll be in heaven.
The dog, too.
Read More: Milwaukee M18 3-in-1 Backpack Vacuum Preview
Compact Brushless Drill & Impact Driver
Milwaukee updated its already-impressive M18 Fuel drill (pictured above) and impact drivers, and they were pretty impressive. But my arsenal already includes the last-generation of M18 and M12 brushless hammer drills and impact drivers – both of which are more than capable for my needs.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself wanting to add an inexpensive yet capable third set. I keep the M12 in the house and the M18 in the garage, but I’d like something I can throw in the truck when I’m running to help someone with a project or working in the basement but not wanting (READ: too lazy) to run up the steps and out to the garage; something that will tackle a little bit of everything.
These are by far not Milwaukee’s best-in-class or highest-spec’ed, powerhouse offerings – the M18 Fuel and Brushless hammer drill fit those categories – but this little number seems like the perfect “everyday” option, falling right between the two sets I already use.
M18 Fuel Brushless Chainsaw
As soon as I saw this one, my mind immediately pictured the massive, overgrown lilac tree in my backyard, the overgrown and beyond-saving hedges outside my front window, and the 60-foot pine tree in my front yard that has been threatening to topple over into a major city arterial since I was 14.
So … a chainsaw that runs on my existing battery platform? Absolutely, I want one.
M18 Fuel Jigsaws
I spent a long time trying to come up with a colorful and entertaining way to describe my frustrating history with jigsaws, but it was fruitless… similar to my attempts at finding a good jigsaw.
I’ve tried a lot of cordless different jigsaws over the years and none have impressed me. In fact, my least favorite tool in the shop right now is Milwaukee’s M12 version. It’s underpowered, awkward, I can’t see down the cut line… it’s just not a very useful tool. I’ve used it three times and once it was because I needed to trim down some scrap so it would fit in my burn pit and it was literally the first cutting tool I saw.
I’m willing to give either the D-handle or barrel-grip options a try — if only for the blower alone.
M12 Heated Gear
This year, Milwaukee added USB-rechargable heated work gloves, which I know my friends in TV news are going to purchase in bulk, and redesigned the core offerings, featuring lighter-weight material with more insulation that’s supposed to distribute heat three times faster than previous models.
My friends like to joke that I’d buy anything that says “Milwaukee” on it, but when it comes to heated gear they’re not entirely inaccurate.
I live in Wisconsin. It’s cold in Wisconsin, even when it’s supposed to be warm. And when I’m not covering baseball, I’m usually freezing my rear end off covering high school football or soccer. I love my Milwaukee heated jacket. And my Milwaukee heated vest. And hoodie.
You get the point.
On “Seinfeld,” George Costanza said he’d drape himself in velvet “if it were socially acceptable.” I feel the same way about Milwaukee’s heated gear.
Spend a winter in Wisconsin, and you would too.
I’d been waiting forever and a day for the M18 cordless sander. In fact, it was supposed to be my 40th birthday present to myself. I finally saw it at NPS and picked one up a few weeks ago. I’m a big fan and will have a write-up soon.
Blades were always something I’d cheap out on, no matter how nice the tool, but I’ve learned my lesson and am curious to see if Milwaukee’s new circular saw blades are as good as advertised.
Milwaukee also expanded its lighting line significantly. I’ll be adding quite a few as I start rebuilding my house and work my way around the various issues I’ve already discovered in terms of lighting and wiring. My buddy lent me one of the original Rocket lights and it pained me to return it.
There was decent selection of new and updated measurement and layout offerings from Empire, which I also hope to get my hands on and for more in-depth review soon. Speaking of measuring and layout, Milwaukee’s new auto-locking tape measures were pretty impressive, too. In fact, there seems to be a pretty wide variety of new tapes coming out and as someone who owns eleventy tape measures but can never find one when he needs one, I will purchase them all.
Stuart’s Note: You might want to wait until the next Home Depot promo, where you can often buy two Milwaukee tapes for the price of one!
And, lastly, along with the new gear, consider me a big fan of the Milwaukee Trucker Hat. There’s nothing earth-shattering about it but as a guy who likes hats, Milwaukee tools. and his home town… I’ll wear that thing daily. And I’ll apologize in advance for the ridiculously-large self-portrait.
So there you have it. My top five must-haves that will actually serve a purpose, plus a few more “OK, I may not need it but I sure as heck want it” offerings.
Anything in particular you’ve got your eyes on? Let us know.