Milwaukee Tool surprised everyone today, announcing that they have acquired Imperial Blades, a USA-based oscillating multi-tool blade and accessory manufacturer.
From Imperial Blades’ website, with their emphasis:
Imperial Blades is an American manufacturer who provides high quality, innovative products and seeks to serve customers with industry-leading service and a passion to meet their needs. We aspire to accomplish this by fostering a “people first” culture, dedicated to high values and integrity.
In my experience, Imperial Blades makes solid-performing multi-tool accessories at fair pricing. You can find their products online, and at independent hardware stores and supply houses. Imperial Blade also has a line of reciprocating saw blades.
One thing I didn’t realize is that Imperial Blades recently came out with a whole line of Bosch and Fein Starlock-compatible accessories. Their other offerings include universal-shank oscillating tool accessories that work with a multitude of brands and models of multi-tools.
I had a brief chat with a Milwaukee Tool representative today – thank you Heather! – who shared additional insights as to what this acquisition will mean for both companies.
First, Imperial Blades will remain at their present Sun Prairie, Wisconsin location, and they will remain an independent brand, similar to how Empire Level still maintains their independent identity after also being acquired by Milwaukee Tool.
Milwaukee Tool will invest in Imperial Tool, as they have done with Empire, and plans to increase the reach and breadth of their product lines.
Additionally, they will jointly develop new products.
Imperial Blades’ products will continue to be made in the USA, and current plans call for jointly developed products to also be made in the USA.
When I asked about what other possibilities this could provide for, I was told that Milwaukee Tool will continue to evaluate and pursue product plan extensions that complement core Imperial Products.
That part was in response to my questioning (it was more thinking aloud) as to whether this means we will see new Milwaukee M18 Fuel and M12 Fuel oscillating multi-tools. Milwaukee currently offers an M18 oscillating multi-tool, which earned a Best Value badge from me in a 2013 comparison, but readers have been asking about the potential for brushless M18 and M12 models for some time.
With Milwaukee Tool having acquired Imperial Blades, and now able to tap into a revenue stream from oscillating multi-tool users, I am convinced that we will see new M18 cordless multi-tools, likely brushless with M18 Fuel designation, in addition to new high-performance oscillating tool accessories.
Milwaukee already manufacturers Sawzall blades in the USA, and their Hole Dozer hole saws, and their step drill bits, and also carbide-toothed Sawzall blades.
And, to remind you, Milwaukee Tool last year promised to add USA jobs, including to “accommodate cordless power tool manufacturing.”
This new acquisition makes perfect sense for Milwaukee Tool, and will presumably increase Imperial Blades’ market presence, and prospectively, both brands’ product offerings.
But, will we see these tools at stores or would they have to b ordered online?
I went to HD yesterday, specifically to get a new scraper for my cordless Milwaukee oscillating tool. The one I was using came from my corded Porter-Cable unit and it broke. I was surprised to find that the only brand they carried was Dremel /Bosch. They are labeled as universal and fit multi brands. I like the Bosch units , but I was hoping to see other brands as well to compare.
I asked one of the store employees about it and he said they only stock one brand and that these tools are not popular. Then on my way out, I spotted a Milwaukee/Ryobi rep who was setting up a Milwaukee tool display. I asked him about it and he told me that if I wanted to compare the blades, to just order it online and have it delivered to the store. They had no intention of selling them in store.
I guess I am just venting some frustration here. I am continually surprised of how much is no longer carried in stores (even a simple Stanley scratch owl I had to special order https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stanley-6-1-16-in-Wood-Handle-Scratch-Awl-69-122/203976516. )
Last time I looked at Lowe’s, and it has been a while, they had Rockwell, Dremel, and Dewalt oscillating tool blades. I bet they only have one brand as well now. We’ll see when I go there.
I think it’s too soon to tell.
If I had to speculate, I would say that Milwaukee Tool’s relationship with Home Depot could bring some Imperial Blades assortments or accessory packs to stores. If or when Milwaukee and Imperial come out with jointly developed accessories, we might see those at Home Depot stores.
Keeping in mind that most tool brands primarily sell to retailers, I would imagine that they’ll be pushing hard to get these accessories to stores, especially if or when there are new multi-tools that might be stocked nearby.
I’ve seen Imperial Blades stocked at the local builder’s supply shop, but not at home improvement stores yet.
A friend and I were just discussing this. B&M stores seem to be increasing their reliance on “just order it online and have it shipped here.” If I’m going to do that, I’m getting it shipped to my house. I don’t know if the lack of diversity is directly responsible for the higher prices, but Amazon seems to be beating them on price and convenience.
I was thinking a wee bit differently.
I see many items at Home Depot – where the free ship to store option – beats Amazon on price. Of course you need to wait on delivery, pay local sales tax (same for me if I buy directly from Amazon) and drive to the store (not far for me – and nearby where we shop for groceries).
So Amazon is certainly more convenient – but I don’t rule out HD.
For larger items in particular – shipping to HD lets me open the carton and inspect/return the item if needed – on the spot. I also think that Amazon builds their “free shipping” into many prices – so if you are buying in multiples – you may be paying the shipping cost multiple times.
Like everything else we buy – its worth shopping around and weighing the options.
You can find the IB at your local small private owned hardware stores or Ace, True or Do It Best Hardware chain stores. These are your mom and pop private owned stores and not chains. Give that a try, if that doesn’t work, try WalMart online. IB tools are awesome.
You will likely find these blades at your local lumber yard. Almost all the yards carry them in my area.
I found a shop that is cheaper than Home Depot, you can search for Jetcloudlive on Google.I’ve only had to use one blade a few times but I’ve been really impressed. I don’t know how I lived without a cordless oscillating saw up until now. These blades seem to go through plywood, OSB, and dimensional lumber easily. Not sure about durability, but so far so good.
well. Sawzall blades are brutal. Hole dozer are very good. I am also of the opinion that now TTI will likely use this acquisition to introduce a proprietary system akin to Starlock .
Probably a good buy for TTI. I wonder if it does mean a bunch of work for people in China though
I disagree, Milwaukee likes to keep things the same so not to piss off people, like staying with M18 battery for so long. Creating a new standard that doubtfully any other manufacturer will pick up, it would limit the sales of both the tools & blades, aside from die-hard red fans.
I predict brushless M12 & M18 multi-tools next year. Almost seems like a guarantee with this announcement.
Well ,that’s good news for American jobs. Thank you Milwaukee. Love companies investing in America. It’s a different atmosphere in America now for buissness.
All good stuff…
Milwaukee TTI is owned by China. This is not good news. Just another case of China buying good American companies.
TTI is a publicly-traded company. They might be HQed in China, but anyone and everyone can own a piece of the company.
Milwaukee keeps expanding and adding jobs HERE, and that’s far more important.
“Imperial Blades’ products will continue to be made in the USA, and current plans call for jointly developed products to also be made in the USA.”
If this were 3-4 years ago, this would be another headline. Thank you very much TTI Industries for not offshoring American manufacturing. Deeply proud of the Imperial Blades products I own as they are the best blades I’ve ever used. Takes real leadership and business knowledge how to efficiently manage companies well.
Because of the exceptional economy and brilliant structural force that has created this, I only see more great news.
I’m actually really excited to hear this. Milwaukee has some of the best cutting accessories on the market. But they don’t have a big market for oscillating multi tool blades. I could see Milwaukee adding some of their current technology to these blades and we could see a massive improvement in the already excellent cutting performance of multitools. Only drawback might be the price. Because as they are, the blades are already expensive. Can’t wait to see how this turns out.
Sounds interesting. I’ve not tried any of their stuff but I planed on it with my next OMT blade purchase.
But this makes me wonder – will they continue to make products that will work with the Dewalt/PC retention system? I guess the universal ones will work but I wonder.
I would think that they’d continue with their One Fit and Starlock accessories, because there’s still a lot of money to be made there, especially with increased market presence.
Milwaukee’s oscillating tool has Bosch OIS compatibility, and I would hope that they’d continue the same with any new tools. One Fit and Starlock blade compatibility will allow for users of other tool brands to use Milwaukee/Imperial blades. Milwaukee’s hypothetical upcoming tools would likely have a modern standard too, possibly Starlock, perhaps slotted universal style like Dewalt’s. A proprietary standard would be limiting. They didn’t go with one when they debuted the M18 multi-tool, presumably because at the time they lacked the will and/or ability to build and sustain an entire line of multi-tool blades and accessories. But it would be wise for them to adopt a current standard that fits their product manager’s needs, wants, and vision for future tool oscillating multi-tool directions.
In other words, while things are uncertain, I personally believe that there’s no cause for concern or hesitation. I cannot foresee any business decisions that would result in current lines being cut, or future tools being limited.
Fein and Bosch claim that Starlock blades will fit all existing machines from other manufacturers albeit with an adapter, the twist is that Starlock machines currently only produced by Bosch and Fein will only take Starlock blades which is one reason that I have not yet purchased one. Imperial blades are widely available in the UK and are perceived as good value for money however I expect they will raise their prices now they are owned by TTI. Regardless of any “promises” to maintain manufacturing in the USA such commitments by foreign owned companies are often worth the paper they are written on (Kraft Foods and Cadburys for example) and unless the shareholder base is mostly external, operations are always more vulnerable to relocation when the headquarters are in a different country. The publicity being Milwaukee buys Imperial and references to an American company buying an American company while understandable are misleading if not dishonest.
Milwaukee bought Empire level a few years back. You should look to see where they were relocated to, but you will have a hard time as Milwaukee kept them here in the USA.
For now. People who visit websites like this will know that TTI a Chinese company purchased Empire and now Imperial the vast majority of the public continue to believe Milwaukee is an American company which it is not for all practical purposes to believe anything else is naive. Like all non German Europeans I have no dog in this fight and no particular axe to grind with TTI I just do not like “spin”.
As far as I am concerned, for all practical purposes, Milwaukee Tool is an American company, even if their parent company is not.
Their headquarters is here, their leadership is here, their product managers are here, their service centers are here, their R&D is here, and they keep expanding their USA facilities.
It is a fact of life that profits, intellectual property (( a company that did not ensure it maintained control of patents, etc no matter where the research is conducted would be poorly mamaged by definition) and ultimate decision making rest with head office even when a company gives formal undertakings to maintain “independence” which is not so far as I am aware the case with TTI and it’s USA located subsidiaries but was the case with Kraft Foods and Cadburys right up until Kraft changed its mind. To believe anything else is disingenuous, and if I understand the expression correctly you are drinking the Koolaid. TTI is fully aware of the strong “buy American” contingent (and there is nothing wrong with that) and plays to it accordingly aided and abetted by persons such as yourself. The USA has a national champion in this industry and you should not detract from them by providing false flag competition. I own and I have no issue with Milwaukee and Empire tools.
It is a fact of life that profits, intellectual property (( a company that did not ensure it maintained control of patents, etc no matter where the research is conducted would be poorly managed by definition) and ultimate decision making rest with head office even when a company gives formal undertakings to maintain “independence” which is not so far as I am aware the case with TTI and it’s USA located subsidiaries but was the case with Kraft Foods and Cadburys right up until Kraft changed its mind. To believe anything else is disingenuous, and if I understand the expression correctly you are drinking the Koolaid. TTI is fully aware of the strong “buy American” contingent (and there is nothing wrong with that) and plays to it accordingly aided and abetted by persons such as yourself. The USA has a national champion in this industry and you should not detract from them by providing false flag competition. I own and I have no issue with Milwaukee and Empire tools.
When I was looking at Imperial Blades on Amazon – I came across another brand – Norske – this one that I had never heard about:
This brand has been popping up in a couple of places, but I’d never heard of them before either.
Either it’s a new brand that launched a range of accessories, or an international brand that recently made footfall in the USA, or a brand that we simply never knew about.
Their website is young, and their Amazon listings are only a few months old.
Based in Canada, selling Asian (most likely Chinese) made products
Yep. Been around for ages.
From the link you provide:
“The Norske parent company is a PTA manufacturer”
Interesting that they do not say who their parent company is.
Their choice of name “Norske” also reminds me of some of the brand names that Central Purchasing LLC. (aka Harbor Freight) choose possibly to obfuscate their COO.
I guess if they and their offerings survive over an extended period – we may start to see what users think. I think that your link also indicated that they are a very small endeavor (17 employees) at this time – but maybe they will grow if they can deliver the goods.
Looking just at the prices of a few of their circular saw blades on Amazon – I don’t see a price advantage compared to better known Italian-made blades from Freud or CMT
Here’s an example:
I think that the implied benefit is more for smaller hardware stores, where they might not order enough to get any price breaks from Freud and other brands.
I wish I saw that a few hours ago.
After seeing Fred’s post and replying, I set upon a path to figure out anything and everything I can about Norske, writing up a post for tomorrow as anything came up. Only now did I first check my inbox for new comments.
After everything I read, and all the details that are still hidden, I think there’s more to the brand than is at the surface. It took a lot of dead-ends until I found a PDF of that article, and things started to make a little more sense.
I can’t figure out if the parent company identity is left out intentionally, or if it’s because they think nobody cares.
Some other different designs too:
I’ve got a local hardware store that carries Imperial. I’ve bought them a few times and they were crap. The cardboard they came in would cut better. Hopefully quality goes up because they wore like mild steel when I was using them.
There is a high quality multi tool blade available on Amazon that few know about and their pricing is outstanding. I have used hundreds of them. The brand is Oshlun, and they are superior to Imperial at a substantial savings. I have yet to try their circular saw blades. I think I may purchase one soon though, as they have Festool compatible blades.
Does empire make blades for Festool. Or is Festool using a proprietary system?
Very disappointed another great American company gobbled up buy horrible Chinese corporation hiding behind a lost brand name . We need too stop buying this crap . I loved the imperial blades l will never buy another blade from them again . As well as Milwaukee. Default and every other American company that moves off shore . I’ll buy Makita at least you know there name means something.
I’m Milwaukee user and TTI shareholder (you can buy it in the US: TTNDY) – I’ve been to the Milwaukee HQ in Milwaukee. They are expanding greatly in Milwaukee! The innovation center there is amazing. TTI has six plants in the US (including their floor care division). I wouldn’t sleep on Milwaukee/TTI’s investment in America as they are in the midst of adding capacity to the Milwaukee HQ for another 500-1000 American jobs.
They did NOT close Empire’s US manufacturing after they purchased it several years ago.
Also worth noting, the entire battery supply chain is based out of Asia. So at the current juncture, if you buy DeWalt, Black & Decker, Ryobi, Makita, Bosch, Milwaukee or anything cordless, that battery is being made in China. It remains to be seen whether this will change over the next few years (Milwaukee is contemplating a change in its supply chain) but at the moment it is nearly impossible to purchase a cordless power tool that doesn’t have some component of Chinese manufacturing.
Any Carton Staplers (Battery Operated) yet? Also called Carton Box Closer. Bostitch used to make them, but stopped.
Ryobi would be a good candidate to make them.