Back almost a year ago we provided a hands-on Dremel 8200 Cordless Rotary Tool review. Spoiler alert – we liked it. We’ve alway liked Dremel rotary tools for that small but still vital niche of projects that would take ten years with hand tools and 1 minute with a rotary tool. While there are other rotary tools out there, the Dremel is to rotary tools what Kleenex is to tissues. So who’s coming out slugging at the Dremel cordless rotary? That’s right, Milwaukee Tools!
A couple months ago I heard Milwaukee was putting out a new cordless M12 rotary tool, and I knew I needed to check it out. Milwaukee sent us one to put through the tool test “rotation.” Since then, we’ve been playing with it whenever rotary tool tasks pop up. We also devised one of our usual highly unscientific tests to put the new Milwaukee M12 Cordless Rotary in a fierce head-to-head battle with the Dremel 8200 Cordless. First, I’ll cover a few observations on the M12, followed by the spin-taculous results of the rotary cut-off competition.
Embroidery isn’t something we typically focus on here at HomeFixated. . . ever. But there’s a first time for everything. Let me start my coverage of the M12 rotary with an informal award: HomeFixated’s “Best Embroidery on a Tool Case.” Yup, it’s true. Milwaukee just won our first ever Embroidered tool case award. Sure, Dremel’s 8200 has a nice plastic case that’s less likely to be crushed by something. But Dremel just doesn’t have any embroidery. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, this award comes with nothing other than bragging rights. Bloggers can’t afford trophies, sorry.
Inside that finely embroidered Milwaukee case you’ll find an M12 Charger, M12 RedLithium battery and a few accessories. It’s those accessories, or lack there-of, that first caught my eye. Accustomed to Dremel’s rotary kits, which tend to come with a little birthday party’s worth of rotary accessories, I was a little disappointed to only see a mandrel and cutoff wheels with Milwaukee’s kit. I was pleased to see the five cutoff wheels they did include were full 1.5″ diameter wheels, and not the fragile, penny-sized cutoffs that have previously tormented me in other kits.
I asked Milwaukee about the omission of other non-cutting accessories and they replied:
Milwaukee will always relentlessly focus on our core trades, who have little or no use for carving, sanding and polishing accessories. The discs included are reinforced and designed for cutting metal. This accessory package will be far more satisfying to our customer because it has more of what they need, and less of what they don’t want.
So there you have it. More metal cutting, no fluffy stuff like carving and polishing. If I had to guess, I’d say about 50% of my use of rotary tools involved a mini cut-off wheel. With the remainder being mostly metal grinding, wood carving and sanding. I think I once polished something metal too. Of course, since both these tools use a standard 1/8″ collet, you can always swap in Dremel accessories, even if you’re using the Milwaukee M12 rotary.
The Milwaukee kit also includes a handy-dandy wrench/flathead screwdriver, which I promptly lost to the chaos of my workbench, and then later found. I actually used the screwdriver end more than the wrench (the screwdriver comes in handy for unscrewing the mandrel/cutting wheels). I do have to hand it to Dremel for their tool-free EZ-Lock spindles and cutting wheels. That system is far easier than monkeying around with nearly microscopic washers and a screw every time you need to change the cutting wheel. Although accessory changes on a rotary tool can often be done hand-tight, it’d be nice to see some innovation with the 1/8″ collet (such as button operated quick-change mechanism). Using your hand or a wrench to tighten accessories is so early 2000’s! Even so, Milwaukee has a nice rubberized spindle lock button to help ease accessory changes.
So what about this epic, unscientific cut-off battle? Wait no more, here come all the rotariffic details! First, I grabbed a couple random metal scraps in the shop. One hollow 3/8″ steel tube, another 5/16″ solid aluminum rod. The goal was simple: to time cuts on both materials using both the Milwaukee M12 and the Dremel 8200. Both tools were setup with freshly charged batteries for each cut, and each also got a fresh cutoff wheel (all wheels were Milwaukee, for uniformity). Both tools we’re set at their max RPM. “Six” which equates to 32,000 rpm for the Milwaukee and “30” which equates to 30,000 for the Dremel. Like the Bosch MX25 Oscillating MultiTool, we were disappointed to see the M12 only go to “Six” instead of Spinal Tap’s and HomeFixated’s recommended “11.” We’re still waiting for the first tool company to come out with the HomeFixated edition cordless that goes all the way up to “11.” C’mon tool companies. . . eleven is a way cooler max setting than six!
I clamped the bars in my bench vise and timed each cut, in each material. I’d like to tell you that I cut through each bar with the perfect precision of a CNC machine. Instead, I slipped off each cut briefly, in each material, once with each tool. On the solid aluminum using the Dremel 8200, I actually slipped three times. Impressive, I know. Keeping a rotary tool on track for a round piece cut-off task isn’t as easy as you might think. When cutting the solid rod, the Milwaukee seemed to power through more smoothly than the Dremel. I don’t know whether to attribute that to the extra 2,000 rpm Milwaukee boasts, or the mysterious torque stat that neither Dremel nor Milwaukee seem to broadcast. Or maybe just my unscientific setup. While I couldn’t detect any real difference on the hollow tube, I have to give the edge to to Milwaukee on the solid aluminum rod. But keep in mind this test was at max speed, on limited material types and at max battery charge. Both the Dremel and Milwaukee scored 10 seconds on the hollow tube. Dremel scored 16 seconds (with slips) on the solid rod, vs just 11 seconds for Milwaukee.
Despite the differences I felt on the solid rod cutoff, I think the Milwaukee M12 Cordless Rotary Tool and the Dremel 8200 Cordless Rotary Tool are both excellent choices. We didn’t do a runtime test on these, but battery preference may also play a role in your decision (although it’s often more about what battery line you’re already using than the exact stats of a competing battery in the same voltage). If you’re already using other Milaukee M12 products, then the decision to go with the M12 rotary is a no-brainer. Other minor differences include Dremel’s speed adjustment slide was easier to adjust on the fly. And, Milwaukee’s slightly more slender profile felt better to me in terms of ergonomics.
You can pick up the Milwaukee M12 Rotary Tool 2460-21 for a bargain $100 from our sponsor Ohio Power Tool (about the same as the Dremel 8200, by the way, although minus the extra Dremel accessories). Just don’t expect to polish your silverware with it, unless you pony up for some non-Milwaukee accessories!