In my many years as a builder, I learned a lot of “creative” (and not always extremely safe) uses for a standard, 7 1/4” circular saw. In the old days, little cordless saws like the old Makita 9.6 volt, 3 3/8” saw were reserved for tiny trim cuts, but not much else. Finally, after years of trying out less-than-impressive cordless mini-saws, the new generation of brushless, lightweight 18 volt battery-powered circular saws are finally coming into their own, adding a lot more versatility to the cordless saw world. Now, Milwaukee has taken some of the great technological advances found in the 18V market, and introduced them into a smaller, more compact 12V, 5 3/8” saw. The M12 FUEL™ is a “boutique” specialty tool with surprising versatility.
Milwaukee’s M12 FUEL™ line of “subcompact” power tools are Milwaukee’s bold move to create what I call “boutique” power tools- smaller, more specialized, and highly designed. The 50 plus tools in the M12 line feature their Powerstate™ brushless motor, Redlithium™ battery technology, and exclusive Redlink Plus™ “Intelligent” hardware and software design, and represent Milwaukee’s attempt to do for small cordless tools what they did for corded power tools in the last century – build products that are specifically designed for tradesmen. I jokingly use the term hipster buzzword “boutique” to describe them because of their unapologetic niche marketing. “Harry Homeowner” does not need a 12V cordless caulk gun, or tubing cutter or metal shears. But if you caulk siding, cut tubing or sheet metal all day, every day, you want that tool, and you want it to be light and tough!
The 5 3/8” circular saw is one of the most recent additions in the M-12 lineup, and it really brings a lot to the table. It is amazingly light… 5.6 lbs… although not as light as the more powerful M-18 model. This is because the M-12 has an all-aluminum blade guard and shoe, unlike the M-18, which has a polycarbonate blade guard and a stainless steel shoe. It has a 1 5/8” max cutting depth and a 50º max angle adjustment. This means that it will cut 2X dimensional lumber at 90º, but not at 45º. It has a light, and one cool extra feature is the little battery level indicator near the trigger to let you know when the battery is getting low. It boasts a brushless motor, which should mean increased performance.
Milwaukee makes the claim that it will make 170 2X4 cuts on a charge, so I put that claim to the test. It had no problem passing, although the last 25 cuts were pretty slow compared to the first 25. The last few, I would have preferred to change the battery. Let’s put it this way…if I were on a roof making the last few cuts of the day, I would put up with a slower cut to avoid climbing down for a new battery.
For anyone who has chosen to buy into the M-12 system, this saw is a must have. Its compact design makes it a great addition to your cordless assortment. It’s a great saw to grab when you need to trim a couple of rafter tails or shingles, or to trim scribes when installing cabinetry. I wouldn’t want to do a lot of ripping with it, but it will rip 3/4” plywood cleanly, and even a 2X6 in a pinch.
As a long-time Milwaukee fan, I am glad to see them continuing to branch out and innovating with specialty trade-specific tools again. Although much of the core technology in these tools is shared by other cordless brands manufactured by TTI, the new Milwaukee products do cater to a niche market that few other companies still serve.