Every year, Milwaukee hosts an extravaganza of new and upcoming tools known as the New Product Symposium. It’s sort of like legal porn for tool lovers, and there’s a lot of RED in evidence. Last year, they introduced the first products in an upcoming line of Milwaukee Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE): An M18 Hedge Trimmer, an M18 Blower, and an M18 String Trimmer. These first three tools hit the market earlier this year. In this post, we’ll give the Milwaukee M18 String Trimmer sent to us a whacking workout; in future posts, we’ll do some in-depth slicing and blowing with the other two products.
The Milwaukee M18 String Trimmer includes a lot of features that should make it appealing to the pro user. Powered by a powerful and efficient brushless motor, the trimmer reaches full throttle in under a second. The variable speed trigger lets you slow it down around the prize petunias, and the high/low range settings allow you conserve battery power when you’re not wading through the deep stuff.
Here’s a feature and spec list, followed by a brief, soothing promo video from Milwaukee:
• Milwaukee® POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor provides more power, more run-time, and longer life.
• The Milwaukee® REDLITHIUM™ Battery Pack is the most durable pack on the market delivering more run-time, power and longer battery life.
• REDLINK PLUS™ Electronic Intelligence enables advanced communication between your batteries and tools, allowing for unmatched levels of performance, protection, and productivity.
• The trimmer features high and low speed settings, with a variable speed trigger.
• The full sized head holds more line, and has a metal reinforced bump knob for longer life.
• Cutting Swath: 14″ – 16″
• Voltage: 18V
• Line Diameter: 0.080″ / 0.095″
• Feed System: Bump Feed
• Length: 70.6″
• Weight: 9.9 Lbs
• Height: 8.5″
• Width: 8.8″
Whack Prep 101
After the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer slides out of its shipping box, it only takes a couple of minutes to get it ready to trim. Just attach the guard around the head, and mount the lower handle. Each takes Allen bolts, and they go on snugly with the included wrench. The manual gives a recommended spot to place the handle, but it can be attached anywhere along the length of the shaft.
The lower handle has a thick layer of cushiony rubber on it. This makes it much more tolerable to hold for marathon weedwhacking sessions. Not only is it more comfortable to hold, but the rubber seems to even further reduce the vibration that gets transmitted into your arm. When I wrap up after an hour or so with my gas trimmer, my hands and arms are all tingly for several minutes – and not with excitement. The Milwaukee M18 trimmer already produces much less vibration than a gas-powered trimmer, so the only vibrations I got from it were the good vibes of a job well done.
String Me Along
As opposed to a gas trimmer, with its spark plug, oil/fuel mixing, choke and starter rope, the only maintenance the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer needs is a few yards of fresh trim line every so often. Replacing the line is simple and tool-free, as shown in the following video from Milwaukee:
The trimmer comes pre-loaded with a spool of .080” gauge string. That’s what I used for all the testing I did, and it worked pretty well. HomeFixated tip: The trimmer can use .080” or .095” line. The beefier .095” line generally holds up better, and can help you cut through the nastier stuff. The other thing you may want to do, before you put the Allen wrenches away, is to adjust the string cutter. Remove the two bolts, flip the cutter blade 180 degrees, and tighten the bolts back up. This extends your cutting swath from 14” to 16” – hey, those 2” add up when you’re out there for a couple of hours on a hot day!
At this point, you’re ready to whack! All that’s needed is an M18 battery. The Milwaukee M18 string trimmer will operate using any M18 battery, but as you might expect, higher capacity = longer run time. The string trimmer kit comes with Milwaukee’s High Demand 9.0 Ah battery, along with a Rapid Charger. Using the High Demand battery will give you about an hour of run time.
Field Testing The Milwaukee M18 String Trimmer
The first testing ground for the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer was our back yard. We have a small garden plot, and it had gotten a tad overgrown around the outside of the borders. I slid in the 9.0 Ah battery, and got ready for some slicing.
The trimmer is very intuitive to operate. To operate it, a button on top of the handle must be depressed before the trigger can be pulled. This is no hassle at all, as getting a normal grip on the tool causes the button to be depressed. Don’t worry, it will cheer up when it gets some greens…
The Milwaukee M18 string trimmer has great balance, and gets up to full speed very quickly. The first thing I noticed was how much quieter it is than my gas trimmers. It’s not silent by any means, but I didn’t feel the need for hearing protection, which I always use with the gas trimmers. Trimming the garden perimeter was fast and painless, and it looked much better afterwards.
The garden whacking was pretty tame stuff, so I moved to the lower part of our yard, which is, shall we say, somewhat less domesticated. (It served as an alternate location for the series “Lost”). I fired up the trimmer again, and worked my way through an assortment of tall grass, weeds, and various mystery plants. The Milwaukee M18 string trimmer had no trouble plowing through any of it, and never bogged down or stalled.
A neighbor with OPE problems provided another opportunity for some “field” testing. Her mower would barely run, and the lawn was starting to resemble a hay field, making it difficult to find the way to the fire pit. Enlisting one of my daughters as a photographer, I fired up the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer and waded in.
Once again, the trimmer performed well. Despite the grass being close to 2’ tall in spots, the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer steadily worked its way through the entire yard. My daughter, seeing how much fun it was, wanted to try her hand at it, so I gallantly switched with her. The trimmer is intuitive enough to operate that I didn’t have to provide any instruction, other than “keep the trimmer head out of the pea gravel.” After several minutes, the entire yard was looking much more civilized. It still needed a finishing trim with a mower, but the removal of the savannah made that a LOT easier.
My final test took place at our farm. We have 25 acres, and we mow a couple of them, and have lots of trimming to do around the house, garage, barn, deck, etc. Normally I fire up the gas trimmer for this, but I wanted to give the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer a chance to compete with the big boys. I picked a couple of overgrown areas near the garage and an old fire pit, and waded in.
The target area was a tangle of weeds, thick clumps of grass, and the occasional small tree or bush trying to emerge unnoticed. The trimmer easily went through everything, and never felt like it was in over its head, even when it was.
Final Musings On The Milwaukee M18 String Trimmer
Trimming is one of those jobs you know you should do, but often find it difficult to get motivated for. Most battery-powered homeowner-grade trimmers don’t have the oomph or staying power to do much beyond a small amount of touch-up trimming. Firing up the gas-powered trimmer is a pain in the grass, unless you enjoy dealing with two-stroke motor oil and gas, fumes from two-stroke motor oil and gas, chokes, spark plugs, and finicky starter cords.
Up until very recently, pro users like landscape maintenance teams and property management crews had no option other than gas trimmers to get the job done. The introduction of powerful, capable tools like the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer offer an option to make their jobs a lot faster and easier. Milwaukee intended the new trimmer to be a supplement to their gas-powered equipment, and I think they nailed it. Adding a Milwaukee trimmer or two to the tool corral will enable them to get to work faster, and still get the job done.
Milwaukee built this trimmer to last. Talking to lots of landscape crews helped them fine-tune the details, too. Details like a solid drive shaft, and a metal ring on the bump head to keep it from wearing out quickly. The reduced sound level – and lack of exhaust fumes – also make the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer a very attractive option for use in areas with restrictions, which seem to be getting more and more prevalent.
I was very impressed with the power and capability of the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer. While the up-front cost of the kit, with the battery and charger, may be higher than some gas-powered trimmers, the long-term savings in gas, oil, spark plugs, maintenance, and blood-pressure medication should easily make up for it. Factor in the convenience of being able to grab the trimmer, slap in a battery, and pull the trigger, and I think the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer will appeal to a lot of pros, as well as homeowners with large, sometimes less domesticated, lots to maintain.
Available both as a bare tool (2725-20) and in the kit with a High Demand battery and Rapid Charger (2725-21HD), the Milwaukee M18 String Trimmer carries a three-year warranty on both the tool and the battery. If part of your world makes you feel “lost,” get one, slap in a battery, and rediscover it.
Bare tool from the Home Depot for $199:
Kit from the Home Depot for $299:
Trimmer line, 250’ spool of .095” from the Home Depot for $20: