James Bond movies always had fun villains. Rember Oddjob? He was that tough-as-steel henchman that used a bowler hat lined with razor blades as a lethal weapon. What does Oddjob have to do with the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Circular Saw review we just wrapped up? Well, nothing really, other than the very loose analogy of a portable, circular tool that’s convenient, fast, surgical and highly effective. With that said, our legal team strongly discourages the use of bowler hats OR circular saws as weapons, OK? Read on for potentially more bad analogies, as well as both written and video renditions of our Milwaukee M18 Fuel Circular Saw Review.
Before we dive into our written review, here’s a quick Milwaukee Fuel Circular Saw overview in which we, unfortunately, do not demonstrate Oddjob’s blade throwing technique:
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Circular Saw Essential Spec’s
- 6.5″ Blade
- Magnesium Shoe
- Rafter Hook
- Left Blade Location
- 50 Degree Bevel Capacity
- Max Cut Depth at 90 Degrees: 2.188″
- Max Cut Depth at 45 Degrees: 1.625″
- Max RPM: 5000
- 8 lbs
I was treated to an early look at the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Circular Saw at a Milwuakee media event in 2013. There were a lot of great tools at this event, but the two that most impressed me were the M18 Fuel Sawzall and the M18 Fuel Circular Saw. Both really changed my perspective of what’s currently possible with cordless technology on higher-draw tools like reciprocating and circular saws. Since I had cut through sheets of OSB and even tackled some very thick engineered material at the event, I knew just tasking the M18 Fuel Circular Saw with cutting a sheet of plywood would be child’s play.
A “Quick” Test of Basic Cutting and Runtime
I recently demolished an old workbench in the shop and still had some long 3/4″ boards lying around. I wouldn’t describe the wood as rock-hard, but the timber was likely old growth and it was hard enough to stand up to decades of abuse as the surface of the workbench. Since cutting a mere 3/4″ board wasn’t really fair to the board, I double-stacked the boards to present a 1.5″ workpiece for the saw to gnaw on.
Luckily I had a respectable night’s sleep because I was cutting those boards for a long time. In fact, I made 46 cuts through the 11″ wide boards. Calculated in terms of 3/4″ material cut (if I had unstacked the boards), the M18 Fuel Circular Saw devoured through 1012″ of material, or over 84 feet. That’s the equivalent of doing a full 4′ cross cut on 21 sheets of 4′x8′ 3/4″ wood. If we had actually been cutting 4×8′ sheets there would have been much less stopping and starting, so I suspect the battery would have lasted even longer in those conditions. Regardless, that’s a lot of cutting for one saw and one 4.0 AH Lithium battery. Since most people don’t stand around cutting double-stacked sheet goods all day, mileage will vary depending on the blade and types of materials being cut. We used Milwaukee’s included framing blade for our cuts.
Features and Function
The M18′s Fuel’s safety is easy to activate whether you’re left or right handed. The tool also features a nicely-shaped front handle, allowing for a very secure grip. The handle is also where you’ll find a rafter hook. Often times a rafter hook with a corded tool can be a pain since the power cord inevitably gets in the way. With the cordless design of the Fuel saw, the rafter hook is even more handy and easy to use. If you’re doing cuts off the ground and have a 2×4″ handy, the rafter hook can shave a lot of pain and strain off your day by minimizing having to bend over to pick up your tool off the ground. And, if you’re actually in the rafters making cuts, the hook is worth its weight in gold.
Although most circ saws don’t have a rafter hook, just about all of them have a blade guard (hopefully)! The design of the blade guard on the Fuel circ saw is about more than just protecting your digits and the rest of you from a sharp blade whirring by your body like a hat-tip from Oddjob. It’s also designed as a mini dust blower to clear dust from in front of the tool. While the wind from this port on the front of the guard isn’t likely to trigger any hurricane warnings, it does do a respectable job clearing the immediate cut line of debris. This little detail makes precise cutting with the tool that much easier.
One feature we didn’t have much use for was the built-in LED. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t tend to wield a circular saw in poor lighting. That’d be like Oddjob trying to toss his bowler onto a coat rack with the lights off. Bad things can happen. In the well-lit environments I used the tool in, the built-in LED just wasn’t noticeable. If you do much circular sawing in low-light scenarios (not something we’d typically recommend), then you might find the LED useful. But I’d suggest lighting up your work area before relying on an LED from a circ saw.
Blade changes were easy thanks not only to a push-button spindle lock, but also an onboard hex key to loosen and tighten the arbor nut. With the offset wrenches we normally use on our other saws inevitably floating around in a tool bag or somewhere other than where they are supposed to be, we welcome the inclusion of the hex key right on the tool. Despite its convenience, the little wrench stays out of your way until you need it. We’re still waiting on a manufacturer to make a tool-free blade change possible on a circular saw. Oh, and bevel adjustments are via a simple thumb screw. We were glad to see engraved markings rather than degrees printed on the tool, just waiting to be scuffed off.
As with the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Sawzall, I think a lot of people’s corded circular saws will start gathering dust after a Fuel Circular saw purchase. Just to clarify, that’s dust from sitting around, not sawdust from being used. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Circular Saw is one of the most impressive uses of cordless tool tech we’ve seen to date. The tool seems to almost magically pull extra power from some unknown energy source. Wood just doesn’t stand a chance against this agile beast of a tool.
Where to Buy
With street pricing from about $170 for the bare tool, to $375 for the full meal-deal (including bag, charger and two 4.0 AH batteries), the M18 Fuel Circular Saw isn’t the cheapest option out there. As is often the case, you pay for quality here. See below for links to purchase directly from Amazon.