Milwaukee Hatchet M12 FUEL Pruning Saw Review – The Quicker Hacker Upper

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milwaukee hatchet

In recent years, Milwaukee Tool has steadily increased its lineup of battery-powered, pro-grade OPE (Outdoor Power Equipment). The array includes hedge clippers, blowers, string trimmers, a chainsaw with a 16” bar, and more. All these tools are based on Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL platform, using 18V batteries to power their brushless motors. With the addition of the Milwaukee Hatchet M12 FUEL Pruning Saw, Milwaukee is “branching out” by adding a 12V tool to the OPE arsenal. They sent one along to HomeFixated HQ, and told us to cut stuff up – and have fun!

milwaukee hatchet
The new Miiwaukee Hatchet, all clean and shiny…for the moment.

Capable of being powered by any Milwaukee M12 battery, the Milwaukee Hatchet was designed to handle most common pruning tasks. A 6” bar enables the saw to easily handle 3” hardwood limbs, and bucking spikes make it easy to control those cuts. Here’s the list of features and specs, along with a quick promo video from Milwaukee:

• POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor delivers the power to complete cuts in demanding materials
• Full House Chain minimizes vibration and delivers clean cuts
• Easy Access Chain Tensioner allows for quick adjustments to chain tension
• Automatic Oiler delivers proper chain lubrication and increased productivity
• Translucent Oil Reservoir allows for clear visibility to oil levels
• All Metal Bucking Spikes allow for increased leverage during applications
• Variable Speed Trigger increases user control
• Onboard Storage for Scrench
• Tool with battery weighs less than 5 lbs.
• Part of the M12™ System, featuring over 100 solutions.
• Length 16.56″
• Width: 3.76”
• Weight: 4.1 lbs.

Getting A Handle On The Milwaukee Hatchet

The Milwaukee Hatchet is available as a bare tool or in a kit. Milwaukee sent us the kit to evaluate, which includes an M12 XC 4.0 Ah battery. When the saw arrived, and I slid it out of the box, my first thought was “Wow – it’s little!”. It’s also very light, weighing less than five pounds with the battery installed.

The Milwaukee Hatchet is easy to get a grip on – and to use.

Milwaukee went with the tried and true when they chose components for the business end of the Milwaukee Hatchet. The saw uses an Oregon guide bar, and a full house low-kickback chain, which includes a cutting edge on every link. This minimizes vibration, and makes for smoother cutting. The saw comes with a sheath for the guide bar, to protect the chain – and anything it comes in contact with during schlepping and storage.

Rubber overmold on the handle makes it comfortable to hold, and less likely to slip, and there’s plenty of room for even large hands. A knuckle guard on top of the saw helps protect your support hand when doing two-handed cuts.

milwaukee hatchet
The saw comes with an Oregon bar and chain and rubber overmold on the handle.

Prepping To Make The Chips Fly

Out of the box, the Milwaukee Hatchet is almost ready to get to work. Keep in mind, even though it’s small, it’s still a chainsaw. As with any chainsaw you’d like to use more than once or twice, it needs a supply of oil to keep the chain spinning smoothly in its groove.

Your saw will perform much better if you heed this warning tag…

Filling the reservoir on the Milwaukee Hatchet is similar to oiling up most full-sized chainsaws. Spin off the cap, fill the reservoir with good-quality chain bar oil, and replace the cap.

Glug, glug, glug…

In our use, the saw’s self-oiling mechanism worked well to keep the chain lubed, and we got a good bit of cutting done before it needed another drink. A little translucent window in the oil reservoir helps you keep track of the saw’s vital fluids level.

A translucent window lets you know when it’s time for a refill.

Once the saw is lubed up, it’s good practice to make sure the chain is properly tensioned, and the nut holding the guide bar in place is good and tight. The saw comes with a scrench that stows away onboard, to make this task simple. If the chain has any slack, loosen the guide bar nut, adjust the tensioning screw until it’s snug on the guide, then re-tighten the nut.

The scrench stows away securely on-board…
milwaukee hatchet
Ready to bring the tension.

Before you start cutting, we want to once again emphasize that despite its size, this is a serious cutting tool. If you treat it as such, using common sense and appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when you’re working with it, you should be fine. If not, keep someone on standby to haul you to the E.R…

At a minimum, you need Z87.1 eye protection, and a pair of heavy gloves couldn’t hurt. The owner’s manual that accompanies the Milwaukee Hatchet has other suggestions for protective gear. It also includes a good bit of other useful information, with tips on cutting stance, limbing techniques, and other advice to help you work safely and maintain the saw. They even tell you how to sharpen the chain.

The Milwaukee Hatchet Gets To Work

When the Milwaukee Hatchet arrived, I was at our farm. It was late fall, and I didn’t really have many chores left where I could use it. I wanted to fire it up, though, so I used it to cut some bushes down. It was serious overkill, given the small size of the branches, but you work with what you’ve got, right?!

The bushes were in the path of a future deck expansion. And mostly pretty ugly, anyway.

Some of the bushes were thorny, and most had to be held back, so I could make the cuts at the base. The Hatchet was very easy to use one-handed, and I like the fact that the chain stops spinning immediately when you release the trigger; that’s a great safety feature.

The saw’s light weight made it easy to maneuver…

After decimating the bushes, I also downsized a couple of pieces of firewood, to see how the little saw would do (we’ll see more on the saw’s capabilities shortly). The Hatchet ripped right through it all, and I quickly had a big pile of bush brush. Along with some shorter firewood.

After the easy-peasy bushes, trying something a bit more challenging.

The Milwaukee Hatchet Goes South

After that soft introduction, playtime was over. Around the end of November, we headed down to my daughter’s in Georgia, and I took the Milwaukee Hatchet along. She and her family had moved there about a year ago, and sometime prior to that, a fair-sized chunk of a neighbor’s tree had made its home in their back yard. It was still there when they bought the house, and they had thoughtfully waited for me to arrive to help right-size it.

milwaukee hatchet
Little red saw vs. big trespassing tree…

Many of the branches were only 2 – 3” or smaller in diameter, and the little saw was perfect for removing them, and cutting them into firewood length. The saw was very easy to handle, and again I made many of the cuts one-handed.

As with all the tools in its FUEL lineup, Milwaukee equipped the little saw with a brushless motor. For the uninitiated, brushless motors are more efficient and powerful than a brushed motor of the same size, with the added advantage of being maintenance-free. The spec sheet for the Milwaukee Hatchet says it has the power to cut 3” hardwood, and it easily accomplished that.

To give that brushless motor a more challenging meal, I next used the saw to cut through many of the bigger downed limbs, including some up to around 8” in diameter. This is definitely NOT in the Hatchet’s job description, but I was curious to see what the little saw could handle.

After trimming off the narrower limbs, I started in on the thicker stuff…
And much of it was far beyond what the Hatchet was designed for.

Naturally, with a 6” bar, the limbs had to be rotated to complete the cuts. I had the guide bar fully buried in the wood much of the time, and although the saw bogged down and stopped a few times, it always started right back up. As long as I took my time with the cuts, the Milwaukee Hatchet was able to finish every cut I started.

The chain spent a fair bit of time fully buried…
milwaukee hatchet
Although it bogged down a few times, it came right back, and made all these cuts.

I wouldn’t make this my go-to saw for cutting up big stuff like this, but I was very impressed that the little 12-volt beast could do it.

Down On The Farm, Part Deux: It’s A Jungle Out There

My brother Steve also lives on a piece of farm property that he and his wife bought a couple of years ago. (Buying a large piece of property that requires a lot of maintenance is a familial genetic failing, apparently). And on his farm he has some brush, E-I-E-I-O. Lots of brush, actually, in the form of Multi-flora rose, very mature grape vines, and Hawthorn trees, among other aberrations of nature.

All this vegetation had sprouted up enthusiastically over the years in random places, and is well on its way to taking over the world. When Steve learned I had the Milwaukee Hatchet, he promptly borrowed it, to help do battle with the overgrown tangle.

This is the kind of stuff the Hatchet was designed to deal with…

Many of the trees had multiple trunks, 2 or 3” in diameter, and the grape vines were similar in size. The Milwaukee Hatchet was the ideal size to get into some of those awkward spaces, to start clearing them out. Steve was also impressed with the saw’s performance, and we were both surprised at the battery life, which is excellent.

Plenty of right-sizing to do…note the PPE.

Another of the saw’s features he appreciated was its light weight. They have a LOT of trees, vines and brush to clear, and wielding a sub-five-pound saw beats the heck out of using a full-size chainsaw all day. Its small size also made it easy to strap onto the rack of the ATV to get to the killing field.

milwaukee hatchet
One limb at a time…

Steve had only one minor complaint with the saw. Before the trigger can be pulled, the lock-off button must be depressed, and it can be a little awkward to do so. Actually, I think he probably just has little weak T-Rex thumbs; it didn’t bother me while I was using the saw, and I told him if it was too distressing, to give it back. He declined.

Brother Steve (and a few others) found it awkward to engage the lock-off button; I had no issues.

Does The Milwaukee Hatchet Make The Final Cut?

When I got the Milwaukee Hatchet, I briefly wondered why they hadn’t made it an M18 tool. While an M18 version might join the lineup at some point, there may not be a real need for it; the M12 version is a VERY capable tool, and does an excellent job of what it was designed for: pruning. It will be the tool I’ll most likely grab for quick pruning and cleanup jobs. Assuming I ever get it back from Steve.

The Hatchet is fast and easy to get into action, has plenty of power, and is easy to maneuver and control. And – dare I say it – it makes pruning almost…fun! Almost. Maintenance is simple: Add oil and check the chain tension. And once in a while, clean out the buildup of soggy sawdust. Any landscaping or tree service crew would likely be very happy to have the saw along. Anyone who prunes their own trees would probably love to add one to their tool collection at home. Or at their farm.

milwaukee hatchet

If you’re already on the M12 platform, you can pick up the Milwaukee Hatchet as a bare tool. It’s also available in a kit that includes the saw, an M12 XC 4.0 battery pack, and an M12 charger. Both versions come with an Oregon 6″ bar & chain, a scabbard, and a scrench. Milwaukee backs the saw, and the battery, with a three-year limited warranty. Try one out, and see how much fun it is to do a hatchet job on YOUR next pruning chore.

Buy The Milwaukee Hatchet Kit Now - via Ohio Power Tool

Buy The Milwaukee Hatchet Bare Tool Now - via Ohio Power Tool

Buy The Milwaukee Hatchet Kit Now - via The Home Depot

Buy The Milwaukee Hatchet Bare Tool Now - via The Home Depot

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About Phil

Phil’s path to the pinnacle of success as HomeFixated’s Senior Writer was long and twisted. At various stages of his life, he worked as a framing carpenter, attended motorcycle mechanics school, served as an Army MP, did a hot and itchy stint installing insulation in Phoenix, owned and operated a small contracting firm doing residential renovations, and worked as an employee of a major airline (Motto: We’re not happy ‘til YOU’RE not happy). He is currently semi-retired, but continues to take on little projects, such as the total renovation of an old farmhouse. Yes, he is a slow learner. Future projects include a teardown restoration of his 1965 BMW motorcycle, and designing and building a kick-ass playhouse for his grandsons. Phil loves spending time outdoors, hanging out with family and friends, cool tools, and a cold IPA when beer o'clock rolls around.

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