When I bought my first oscillating multi-tool, the Bosch MX25, a few years back, it was one of those “Eureka!” moments. (This should give you some idea of what constitutes excitement in my life). It’s one of those tools that “fills in the gap,” great for doing jobs that nothing else is quite right for, or making them a LOT easier to do. Need to cut down some door jambs to slide flooring underneath? Cut a neat hole in a piece of trim or siding to install an outlet box? Perform some low-budget surgery? Multi-tools to the rescue! (Although using one as a surgical tool may void the warranty, and is definitely NOT a HomeFixated-recommended use!)
The original multi-tools all came with plugs attached, and there are several good corded models available today. With improved technology, though, several cordless versions have appeared, including the Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool Kit, model 2626-22ct, that recently oscillated its way into the HomeFixated Megaplex from Milwaukee for our evaluation.
It’s In The Bag
The Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool comes with everything you need to get started. Included in the kit:
- (1) M18™ Cordless LITHIUM-ION Multi-Tool (2626-20)
- (2) M18™ Compact REDLITHIUM™ Battery (48-11-1815)
- (1) M18™ & M12™ Multi-Voltage Charger (48-59-1812)
- (1) Adapter
- (5) Assorted Sanding Sheets
- (1) Contractor Bag
- (1) Sanding Pad
- (1) Wood Cutting Blade
The bag is a decent size, and has plenty of room for the tool and other included contents. There’s a good bit of space left over for additional blades, which you will want to stock up on. I always carry an assortment of straight and rounded blades, both wood and metal-cutting, a scraper blade, and some sanding sheets. Milwaukee doesn’t make replacement blades, for some reason; that’s too bad, because the one it comes with took a pretty fair amount of abuse without failing (more on that later!). The kit comes with an adapter, allowing you to use accessories from most major tool makers. The tool accepted my Bosch blades and my considerably cheaper Rockwell Universal Fit blades perfectly, with no adapter needed.
The Milwaukee’s motor delivers 11,000 to 18,000 OPM (Oscillations Per Minute). The speed is controlled by a variable-speed dial that you can crank up to 12 (for those times when 10 just ain’t enough!) It has a beefy all-metal gear case, a built-in LED light, and is set up for tool-free blade changes. The tool also features Milwaukee’s Constant Power Technology, to maintain cutting speed under load. Two optional accessory attachments will be available – the Dust Extraction Kit will, as you might suspect, extract dust, and the new Depth Stop Kit will allow you to complete plunge cuts without damaging hidden materials.
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Wrenches!
I hadn’t used a tool-free blade-changing system before, and had never really given them much thought. What’s the big deal, right? Grab the Allen wrench and twist out the bolt! Of course, this assumes you actually have the Allen wrench with you, and can find it in the jumble at the bottom of the tool bag. If, however, it’s on the floor at your previous job location, on your workbench at home, or in some undetermined location, you’re S.O.L.
Anyhow, the setup on the Milwaukee M18 Multi-Tool is sweet. Just flip the top lever 180°, twist out the retaining bolt by hand, and swap out your blade. Now twist the bolt back in by hand, flip the lever down, and fire that bad boy up. It’s quick and easy, the blade stays securely in place, and it doesn’t matter WHERE your Allen wrench is. I LIKE this tool-free blade changing!
The Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool Makes Some Holes!
Shortly after the Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool arrived, I took it on a job and used it to cut through ¾” wood siding and Insul-board to install a workbox for a new porch light. The wood-cutting blade that came with the tool cut through quickly and cleanly, and was pretty easy to control. When using any multi-tool, be aware you should always start a bit off to the side of where you want your cut to end. This is because the multi-tool oscillates from side to side, and if you start right at the end, it will cut outside the line, so to speak.
Next, I wanted to give the Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool a little workout. My goal was to find out if it was beefy enough to make repeated cuts through fairly thick wood, and to see how long the compact 1.5 amp-hour battery would hold up. A leftover piece of 5/4X6″ pressure-treated lumber served as the test material, and I used an old-work electrical device box as the template. I traced out three outlines, put in the wood-cutting blade from Milwaukee, set the dial to 12 (naturally!) and fired it up. With the 1.5 AH battery, power set to maximum and thick test material, this creates a baseline worst-case scenario in terms of run time.
Since the blade oscillates, it can be a little tricky to get it started on the line. I took it in slowly, at a steep angle, and stayed mostly on target. Once the cut was started, I got it closer to a 90° angle, and let ‘er rip, working the tool up and down slowly. The 1- 1/8″ wide blade made good progress through the first cutout, and the tool was going strong.
Partway through the second hole, little clouds of smoke were wafting from the cut; apparently, that little blade was getting a tad hot. Here at HomeFixated, though, we show no mercy; when we start a test, we forge through ‘til the dust settles, the smoke clears, and the batteries can’t take it any more. I brought the fire extinguisher a little closer, blew the smoke out of my face, and plunged on.
I finished up the second cutout, and began the third. After finishing one side, the Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool seemed to be slowing marginally, but it managed to finish the second side before abruptly quitting. This is normal; the circuitry in the Milwaukee RedLithium batteries is designed to cut out before the battery is completely drained, to optimize battery life. The tool was warm, but not overly so; the blade on the other hand, had to rest a while. A note: when cutting, the Milwaukee, like most multi-tools, gets pretty loud; grab some hearing protection.
It may not seem like 2-½ holes is much work to get out of one charged battery. Normally I’d agree; in this instance, though, there are extenuating circumstances. The wood was a full inch thick, and being fairly new pressure-treated lumber, was still pretty dense, with a high moisture content. With each hole measuring 3-¾” X 2¼”, the Milwaukee made it through a bit over 30” before the compact battery crapped out. The tool was much happier cutting through the ¾” siding and Insul-board, which is more in line with what it’s intended to do. I would guess it would be able to trim the ¾” casings on several doors, or make numerous cuts in drywall or any softer material, before nodding off.
You also have to take into account the intended use of this type of tool. Even though the Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool can deal with occasional heavy use, it’s designed for medium-duty or intermittent use. It’s great for jobs where using a corded tool may be difficult or impossible, or where you just have a few cuts to make, especially when using the compact battery. There is an extra-capacity 4.0-Ah battery available for the M18 tool line, which should greatly extend the amount of work the tool could handle. Better still would be a brushless version, we’ll have to wait and see on that.
For my final trial, I attached the sanding pad. It fits onto the head, and the securing bolt fits into the recessed area and is covered up by the sandpaper. I slapped on a sheet of the provided sandpaper, which attaches like a piece of Velcro, and attacked my piece of pressure-treated wood. The triangular shape of the head, common to most multi-tools, allows you to get into corners or right up against a wall. This is typically the sort of sanding job you grab your multi-tool for; if you have a whole floor or table top to do, you’ll want a somewhat larger sander, unless you have a LOT of time on your hands. The Milwaukee did a nice job of smoothing things over.
Does It Make The Cut?
The multi-tool is one of the most versatile tools out there. I’ve used mine countless times: on door jambs, to scrape old mastic and tile remnants off a floor, cutting through old BX cable in a crawl space, cutting off old corroded toilet hold-down bolts, cutting a hole in an aluminum gutter for a new downspout, on all kinds of trim work, and whenever a decent-looking plunge or flush cut is needed. My corded Bosch MX25 is one tool I always have in my truck, just in case, and there have been several times it saved the day.
If you’re a flooring contractor with a whole day’s worth of cuts to make, you’ll probably be breaking out the corded multi-tool. For the average remodeler, electrical contractor, plumber, HVAC tech, or DIYer, though, the Milwaukee should easily handle most day-to-day tasks. The Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool comes with a five-year warranty on the tool, and two years on the batteries. It’s available from Home Depot for $229, or in a kit with two extended-capacity batteries for $299. The Milwaukee M18 Cordless Multi-Tool will likely be the one I throw in the truck now, unless I know I have a LOT of trimming to do, just because it’s so much easier not to have to mess with the power cord. (And the tool-free feature doesn’t hurt, either). What is YOUR favorite use for your multi-tool? Let us know in the comments below and you’re automatically entered into this month’s Giveaway!