A couple of years ago, Milwaukee introduced an innovative little battery-powered pruning chainsaw: The Milwaukee M12 Hatchet. With its 6” bar and light weight, the saw was ideal for pruning limbs up to a few inches in diameter, especially in tight spaces. We were very impressed with the power and utility of the M12 Hatchet when we evaluated it, and judging by its overwhelmingly positive reviews, we weren’t the only ones. Recently, Milwaukee branched out again, and came up with a big brother for the M12 version: The Milwaukee M18 Hatchet 8″ Pruning Saw. Milwaukee sent one to Home Fixated HQ, to encourage us to clean up our act. Or at least our yard.
Just The Facts
Out of the box, the Milwaukee M18 Hatchet has almost everything you need to get to work. Just add some oil and a battery, and you’re ready to make the chips fly. Here’s a quick rundown on features and specs, followed by 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
- Lanyard loop for tie off points in aerial applications
- Easy access chain tensioner for quick adjustments to chain tension
- Metal bucking spikes for increased control during applications
- Translucent oil reservoir for clear visibility to oil levels
- Variable speed trigger increases user control
- Automatic oiler delivers proper chain lubrication and increased productivity
- Climbing scabbard covers bucking spikes, locks on to saw, and has tie off points in aerial applications
- Onboard storage for scrench
- Part of the M18 System, featuring over 200+ solutions
- Includes: M18 FUEL HATCHET 8″ Pruning Saw (3004-20), Scrench
- Drive links: 33
- Gauge: .043
- Chain pitch: .325 in.
- Bar length: 8”
- Maximum cut depth: 7.5”
- Tool Warranty: 3 Year Limited Warranty
- Length: 19.8 in.
- Weight: 4.9 lbs.
- Height: 9.9 in.
- Width: 4.0 in.
Helpful Touches – Not Your Granddaddy’s Hatchet
To help keep your life a carefree paradise, Milwaukee wanted to make sure you’d have easy access to any tools needed for maintenance. A scrench stows securely underneath, and it can be used to motivate a stubborn oil filler cap, or to make adjustments to the chain tension.
For those who like to become attached to their tools, a lanyard hook is attached to the back. If you’re the dropsy type, folks working on the ground below you will likely be highly supportive of your using this feature. When the day’s final branch has come crashing to the ground, you can slide the included blade sleeve over the bar. This will help protect that oily chain, and keep it from cleaning itself on your truck’s carpet.
Prepping The Milwaukee M18 Hatchet
Since the saw comes fully assembled, getting it ready to go to work doesn’t take long. Step one is to add chain bar oil. Despite its compact size, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet is a chainsaw, and that chain needs lube. Assuming you’d like to use it more than once.
Adding that lube is easy. Just twist off the oil reservoir cap, slowly fill ‘er up, and snug up the cap. Once that’s done, you can easily check the oil level through the translucent window on the side of the saw.
After the tank is full, you should always check the chain’s tension. It’s always best to work with a calm, well-adjusted chain. Ideally, you should be able to pull the chain away from the bar about 1/8”. If the chain is too tight, it can bind. Too loose, it can come off the bar. Neither of these scenarios is desirable.
To make adjustments, use the scrench to loosen the nut holding the bar in place. Use the screwdriver end to turn the chain adjustment screw until the chain has the right amount of tension, then tighten up the nut.
More Power, Sc0tty
The final step is to slide in a battery. While the Milwaukee M18 Hatchet will run on any M18 battery, obviously a bigger battery will provide more run time. Milwaukee sent along one of their Milwaukee M18 High Output XC 8.0 Ah starter kits (part no. 48-59-1880) for us to use, and it was a great choice. Per Milwaukee, the High Output battery packs provide you with 50% more power, while running 50% cooler than standard M18 XC battery packs.
The battery provided excellent power and run time, and was a lot lighter to use than a 9.0 or 12.0 Ah battery would have been. Also included in the kit is a Rapid Charger, capable of charging M18 and M12 batteries up to 40% faster than a standard charger.
The Milwaukee M18 Hatchet Makes Some Sawdust
We have hundreds of trees on our property, and there’s never a shortage of trees that have blown over or need a bit of a trim. Therefore, when the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet arrived I was eager to put it to work. I did decide to wait a bit for the snow and freezing rain to abate (early March in northwest PA isn’t very balmy, and my dedication has its limits).
By late April, the weather was a bit more agreeable. We have a creek, with some wetlands, running behind our house. There’s a huge weeping willow back there, that my wife loves. Unfortunately, it was mostly obscured by a gaggle of Sumac trees that had sprung up, uninvited, over the years. “Make them go away, please,” my wife said. “No problem, dear,” I replied, and prepped the little saw for its first challenge.
After filling the tank with chain bar oil and sliding in the freshly-charged 8.0 Ah battery, I grabbed the saw and headed for the edge of the woods. Most of the Sumacs were over 15’ tall, with trunks ranging from around 3-5” in diameter. It took the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet about three to five seconds to fell each one.
Since the trees were heavier than I expected, and there were a lot more of them than I had anticipated, I broke off the fun after felling about 2/3 of them. The next day I finished them off.
Once they were down, I did a bit of limbing to make them easier to handle, then dragged ‘em all off to the burn pile a bit later. With the Sumacs gone, my wife’s view of the willow tree was much improved. Unfortunately, so was the view of all the scrubby undergrowth that had been beneath them. “Make it go away, please,” my lovely wife requested. And someday I will.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet Goes On A Field Trip
As a bonus feature to accompany the snow and freezing rain, we often get high winds up here in NW Pennsylvania. During the winter, these balmy breezes had toppled a few trees into the field. The trunks weren’t huge, ranging from about 4” to 8” in diameter. They’d make good firewood, but first there was some limbing to be done.
Shortly after finishing up my Sumac fun, I topped off the oil reservoir and headed into the field. There was a tangle of branches at what had been the tops of the trees, making it a little awkward to get at the limbs. The light weight and small size of the Milwaukee M18 Hatchet made it much easier to maneuver in and work my way through that tangle.
Once the Hatchet had finished off all those pesky limbs, I gave it a taste of bigger game, by attacking the trunks. The little saw had plenty of power to chew its way through, even with the bar fully buried. Cutting through wood that thick isn’t really in the Hatchet’s job description, and after making several cuts I switched to its big brother, the Milwaukee M18 chain saw.
Still, the Hatchet turned in a very impressive performance for such a small saw, and it’s nice to know it can step up and take care of business if you’re too
lazy busy to go fetch the big saw.
And On To Some Tasty Pruning
With the windfall trees cleared up, it was time for the little saw to taste some apple wood. We have a well-established apple tree that was in dire need of thinning. It hadn’t been done in many years; a couple of limbs were split, and many of the branches were an overgrown, tangled mess.
Once again, the Hatchet’s small footprint made it easier – and safer – to squeeze in amongst the tangle of branches, and take out the dead stuff.
Once the apple tree was tamed, I took a stroll across the lawn to our two black walnut trees. Some of the lower branches had gotten too long, and were hanging low.
This wasn’t a huge deal, until you tried to mow under them, after which a half-gallon of iodine would be needed to clean up all the scratches. After a couple of minutes of precision pruning with the Hatchet, mowing was no longer a contact sport.
Impressions And Observations On The Milwaukee M18 Hatchet
Like its smaller sibling, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet was a joy to use. Since there’s no 2-stroke engine sputtering and spewing fumes, the saw is very quiet, so no hearing protection is needed. Unless you’re hoping to avoid hearing further spousal requests.
The saw was very easy to control, even one-handed. During all the cutting, it never kicked back at all. The bucking spikes worked well for getting a grip on the limbs being cut, helping the chain to dig in, and the chain stayed right where it belonged. It did require a minor tightening after about 45 minutes of use, as it had stretched a bit, which is normal.
The 8 Ah battery was a beast; it lasted all through the cutting and limbing of the Sumacs, and got a good start on the windfall trees in the field, making several cuts in portions of the trunk up to 6” in diameter before abruptly deciding enough was enough.
Cutting To The Chase
When they designed the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet, the folks at Milwaukee’s R&D took note of complaints some users had about the safety mechanism on the M12 Hatchet. The M12 has a safety switch that has to be pushed into the handle to release the trigger, which was awkward for some users. On the M18 version, you just have to push down on the edge of the switch, so it’s a bit more ergonomically friendly.
I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be VERY happy to have the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hatchet in their arboreal arsenal. It has plenty of power to tackle all your limbing and trimming, whether you’re a pro landscaper, or just a property owner with a gaggle of unruly trees. The Hatchet is quiet, lightweight, and easy to get into action. What more could you ask for?!
Milwaukee offers the Hatchet as a bare tool, and you might find it available in a combo kit with another tool or two. If you’re already on the M18 platform, just pick up the bare tool, and you’re good to go. If you don’t have an M18 battery, the High Output 8.0 Ah starter kit would be a great way to rectify that. And once you finish up your trimming chores, if you feel an overwhelming urge to help yank out 40 or so Sumac trunks, I know a guy (and his wife) who’ll happily provide pizza and cold beverages…