Of the many tools in my collection, there are a few I take to just about every job. A tape measure is one; an impact driver is another. An oscillating multi-tool, or OMT, almost always makes the cut. So to speak. It’s one of the most versatile tools out there, and Milwaukee recently upped the ante by adding FUEL versions of its OMT offerings, in both M12 and M18 versions. A Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT arrived at HomeFixated headquarters a while back, and I put it right to work. Read on, and find out how we think it stacks up against its predecessor.
We tested the original cordless Milwaukee M18 OMT back in 2014 and liked it a lot. I did comment toward the end of the review that while it was a sweet tool, and much more convenient than a corded OMT, its forte was light-to-medium duty jobs. We hoped a brushless version would be forthcoming, capable of prolonged use, and of taking on the big boy jobs.
Our wish came true, in the form of the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT. Milwaukee touts the new OMT as having the power to tackle demo, including everything from relatively easy materials like vinyl, drywall, grout and PVC to tougher stuff like copper, nail-embedded wood, and even oak. (Alas, brain surgery is still missing from the list of approved uses…). Check out the specs and a short promo video from Milwaukee, and then we’ll dig down into the features on this new red beast:
• POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor: Purposely built for the M18 FUEL™ Oscillating Multi-Tool combined with 10,000 to 20,000 OPM delivers fastest speed of cut
• REDLINK PLUS™ Intelligence: Most advanced system of electronics in the industry, enabling communication between batteries and tools, allowing for unmatched levels of performance, protection, and compatibility.
• REDLITHIUM™ Battery Pack: Superior pack construction, electronics, and performance deliver more work per charge and more work over pack lifespan than any battery on the market.
• Variable Speed Dial to Allow Users to Adjust the Speed to the Application
• Auto-Load Feature to allow the user to start slowly when making precise cuts, and automatically ramp up to the highest speed once under load, to provide unmatched productivity
• 180 Degree Span LED Light for better Visibility in Low-Light Situations
• Oscillation Angle: 4.2 Degrees for Fastest Cutting, Vibration Dampening Technology for Lowest Full Tool Vibration
• Tool Free Blade Change for Faster Accessory Changes
Bringing The Power, Ditching The Brushes
We’ll start our look at the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT by highlighting some of the improvements over the original tool. The most obvious upgrade is actually a subtraction: As with all the tools in its FUEL line, the new OMT uses a brushless motor to swing its blade. This makes the tool more powerful and efficient, providing better run time using any Milwaukee REDLITHIUM M18 battery. It also runs cooler, and the absence of brushes cuts down on maintenance.
With this extra power, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT can crank out over 10% more oscillations per minute (OPM) than its predecessor, with a top speed of 20,000 OPM vs. the older tool’s 18,000. To provide even faster cuts, it also has a wider, more aggressive cut angle of 4.2 degrees.
Speaking of speed, the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT gets an “A” for its speed dial. Literally. The older model had an adjustable speed dial that went all the way up to 12. The FUEL version only goes to 10, followed by an “A”.
Think that means it’s slower? No A, Jose! The “A” on the new model stands for Auto-Load. When the tool is set to A, it starts out at a slow OPM rate, to give you better control for making precision cuts. Once the cut is started, and more pressure is applied to the blade, it cranks up the OPM rate to provide the optimum speed to make the cut.
Another area where the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT improves on the original model is in the area of vibration dampening. Strangely enough, a tool with a blade that swings back and forth 20,000 times a minute produces a pretty substantial amount of vibration. Milwaukee has formulated a way to isolate the motor and greatly reduce the amount of felt vibration. Alternately using the older model and the new FUEL version, there’s a very noticeable decrease in vibration in the newer model.
Looking at the two versions together, they appear very similar. They’re roughly the same size, and the FUEL model is actually a couple of ounces lighter, weighing in at 42.1 oz. vs. 44.5 for the older model. The handle on the FUEL version is also a touch narrower, and comfortable to hold.
Both models use the same tool-free blade change system, which is easy to use and works well. Just flip up the blade change lever, loosen the bolt, slide in a blade, hand tighten the bolt, and close the lever. A magnet holds the blade in place while you tighten the bolt, a helpful touch.
One more useful upgrade, especially for those of us who seem to spend way too much time in dark, scary spaces, is a bigger LED work light. And when I say bigger, I don’t mean just a skootch bigger; I’m talking penlight vs. Jeep Wrangler off-road light bar bigger. Approximately.
Firing Up The Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT
When the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT arrived, I was in the process of prepping an old house to go on the market. Being an old house, it was loaded with “character,” meaning there was a pretty extensive to-do list. The new multi-tool got to participate in checking off quite a few items from that list. Following are just a few examples of how the little red tool earned its keep over the past few months.
First up on the chore list was helping repair an old plaster wall beneath a bank of casement windows. The old wooden windows had been replaced, but not before water had infiltrated, and made a mess of the plaster walls. Using a Milwaukee Titanium multi-material blade, I cut through the nails holding the apron to the wall and window sill, and liberated the baseboard.
Switching to a carbide-grit blade, we were able to make a smooth, clean cut through the plaster, so we could remove the crumbling part and leave a good edge for a repair. The OMT easily tore through it all. (While we had the wall open, we added insulation below the windows, meaning the first floor is now approximately 0.4% insulated!)
Next, it was off to the kitchen, where I was removing the old laminate countertop, prepping for a sporty new quartz one. It was a large U-shaped unit, with some inaccessible fasteners holding it together, and it would have been impossible to get it out in one piece.
Using the OMT, I performed a little right-sizing surgery, and was easily able to get the pieces off of the base cabinets and out of the kitchen.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT Gets Some Fresh Air
Moving outside, there were several areas where some of the Dutch-lap siding and house trim had minor water damage. Using the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT made it fast and easy to make straight, clean cuts, to remove the damaged material, so it could be replaced.
I also used it to cut out some rotted 2×4 cross bracing on the shed doors; the tool quickly yawned its way through what was left of the solid portion, again leaving nice, clean edges to butt new material up against. There was also some rot near the bottom of the 1×4 corner trim on the shed. The FUEL OMT made quick work of providing a nice, clean edge in the solid portion, to splice new material onto.
There were numerous other projects outside to keep the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT occupied. We used it to make nice, clean cuts in the banding trim, to install new vertical trim to mount the railing for a new deck.
Using the metal blade, we cut the aluminum railings to length, rather than bugger up the new finish blade on the miter saw. And there were a LOT of other projects where it saw action.
On another project in another old house (which, being a slow learner, is all I seem to work on), the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT got another workout. Fun tasks on this job included cutting down the steel piano hinge on a cupboard door that was being resized, cutting a hole in old pine subflooring for some new plumbing, and making a nice, clean cut in a tall baseboard to trim out a doorway that was being widened.
The Oddjob of OMTs: The Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT Gets Some Titanium Teeth
Another comment I made during our 2014 test of the original Milwaukee OMT was that I wished they offered Milwaukee-branded OMT blades for sale. The Milwaukee blade that came with the tool was great, very robust, and held up well despite a fair bit of abuse. At that time, though, the blades weren’t available separately.
Thankfully, that has changed. Milwaukee now offers a wide assortment of blades, for various applications, and all the ones I’ve tried have been excellent.
The kit we got came with one wood blade, and I liked it so much, I went out and bought a few multi-packs, with various types of blades. I’ve since used the metal-cutting blade, the multi-material blade, and the hardwood blade.
Thanks to their Universal Fit OPEN-LOK™ anchor design, with an open back end, Milwaukee’s OMT blades can be quickly installed without having to remove the retaining bolt. The blades’ universal fit system means that if you (Gasp!) don’t have a Milwaukee OMT, they’ll also work on OMTs from DeWalt, Rockwell, Ryobi, Makita, Bosch, Dremel, Fein, Bosch, Ridgid, and Craftsman.
Many of the Milwaukee OMT blades make use of titanium or carbide, making for a very robust cutting edge. They’re a little pricier than budget OMT blades, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. I’ve had cheap blades that were shot after just a few cuts, and the Milwaukee blades held up very well through all of our projects, even after getting a lot of use. And the clincher that puts them at the top of my OMT blade shopping list: They’re made in the USA!
Final Oscillation Ruminations
After using the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT extensively over the past several months, I’m still impressed every time I use it. I have yet to come across anything it won’t power through, and I particularly like using the “A” setting. It helps me start the cut exactly where I want, and it’s always a treat to hear and feel the power ramp up when the blade meets resistance. Yes, maybe I need to set the bar higher for what constitutes excitement in my life…. The reduction in vibration is a nice bonus.
Although I haven’t had any recent projects that called for cutting hardwood, I wanted to test the new OMT’s ability to gnaw its way through. I clamped a piece of 1×4 oak to a work bench, slapped in a wood blade, and dialed it up to A. The blade dug right in, ramped up to turbo speed, and severed a chunk off the end in about three seconds. Wow! I have roughly 400 lineal feet of oak trim to install shortly; I hope my little red friend likes the taste of red oak.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT is available as a bare tool, or in kit form. Included with the bare tool version, aka Milwaukee 2836-20, is a wood-cutting blade, a triangular sanding pad, and four pieces of triangular sandpaper in various grits.
Spring for the kit, Milwaukee 2836-21, and along with the Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT you’ll get one M18 XC5.0 Ah battery, an M18 charger, 1 wood cutting blade, 1 sanding pad, 5 sanding sheets, and a contractor bag.
For those who don’t need the brute power of the M18 version, there’s also a 12V version: The Milwaukee M12 FUEL OMT (2526-20). Like its big brother, the M12 version is available as a bare tool and in kit form. While we haven’t had a chance to try out the M12 FUEL version, its specs are just as impressive as the bigger model, and both tools have hundreds of excellent customer reviews.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL OMT is backed by a five-year warranty, with three years of coverage on the battery if you buy the kit version. With plenty of power to easily handle the mundane stuff, and the added ability to tackle the big jobs, the tool is likely to earn a place in the go-bag of any pro or hard-core DIYer who owns it. So quit hesitating, and get oscillating!