That’s right, another year, another New Product Symposium with Milwaukee. It’s the company’s big show where they roll out all the new products they’ve been developing. Having attended every single NPS to date, I can serve as your experienced guide to the highlights of this year’s event. As always, cordless expansion, or rather cordless domination, was the theme, along with many new rollouts in PPE, storage, and more. But one new premium corded product was introduced. Follow along with me to find out what it is.
During the annual tour of Milwaukee’s rapidly-expanding HQ campus, one of the highlights is seeing a timeline of old tools displayed in what I call the “hall of history” (turns out the name “Old Milwaukee” was already taken). This year, to my dismay, the exhibit was completely redone! But I paused the group anyway, long enough to present to our hosts a working 50-year old circ saw with all the original hardware, case, and even the original paperwork. Looks like I was a year too late with my bequest, but I’d like to think it’s the thought that counts. D’Oh!
Also during the tour, a few interesting brand strategies were revealed to us by one of the higher-ups in the product team. He stated that at Milwaukee, they don’t talk about perfection, they make the next generation of tool and move on. As a long-time tool tester, I know that despite the strength of a brand, no one wins every time so this statement makes perfect sense to me. I’m just not sure I’ve ever heard that sentiment expressed to the media by a tool manufacturer before, versus the typical ”ours are all the best” type declaration. This development fluidity allows for next-gen tools to benefit from latest technologies in battery cells and motors and their control electronics, which come pretty fast in this industry. This also explains how Milwaukee’s lithium ion tool batteries are in their 7th generation already.
The other notable quotable (but only paraphrased here) was how the company views specialty “niche” tools as a sales opportunity. Whereas some brands aren’t interested in making a product unless they know it will move high unit sales at retail, Milwaukee realizes that specialized tools might actually be core tools for certain user groups. And as such, getting users to buy into their cordless system through hard-to-find specialty tools will probably lock them in place for other purchases of more common tools. This approach is kind of an incremental sales model taken to the extreme. Once users have invested in a cordless system there are financial reasons for them to remain in it, and that, along with quality tools builds brand loyalty. Regardless of the sales numbers realized with such a tactic, it seems like a progressive idea that many other tool brands are not embracing to expand their reach into the power tool market.
M18 Cordless Tools
When asked by Milwaukee employees what the most anticipated new releases should or would be this year to the existing 180+ M18 tools already available, my first thoughts were 1.) M18 framing nailer, 2.) M18 lawn mower, and 3.) M18 trim router, and maybe 4.) a 15 or 18 amp-hour battery pack.
Two of my predictions proved correct, and I guess I should have seen the rear-handle circ saw and 12” cordless miter saw coming since they are logical progressions in the M18 product line. In fact, all of the additions to the product line were well aimed to fill holes in the line, or to upgrade an existing tool. However, I still want a battery-powered Milwaukee lawn mower, and perhaps a big 18 Ah battery pack to power it with. Perhaps two battery packs so it can be four-wheel drive and have an integrated boombox, no…three battery packs so I can ride on it too…maybe power steering… We’ll see next year.
Milwaukee M18 Framing Nailers
The most excitement I witnessed at the NPS was surrounding the new M18 framing nailers. Many Milwaukee tool users have been looking forward to this release and what we saw didn’t disappoint. Both common framer formats were covered with 21- and 30-degree angle models, (we can’t just call them Full Round Head vs. Clipped Head nailers anymore due to the advent of offset round head nails, and we can’t really call them Paper Tape vs. Plastic Collated nailers either with the availability of rigid paper tape collation on 21-degree nails).
Like other hoseless framing nailers on the market, both tools come with compact magazines, but unlike other hoseless framing nailers, optional full-length magazines are available for both Milwaukee models to allow them to rival the capacity of typical pneumatic framers. With a motor and battery pack onboard, the weight really adds up on battery-powered nailers, so the compact magazine helps lighten the load while improving maneuverability. Both great features when using the framer as a punchlist tool, but keep in mind that Milwaukee didn’t design it to be just a punchlist tool, it has too much punch for that.
Like all of Milwaukee’s battery-powered nailers, a captive volume of air is compressed within the tool right after it is fired so it’s always ready to fire with no delay when the trigger is pulled. The framing nailers have bump-fire and single-shot modes, and in bump-fire, the tool was capable of firing as fast as my drummer’s hands could bounce it. The speed was impressive enough, but the power was also seemingly unbounded as all of our test firing was done in multiple layers of engineered lumber with the longest (3 1/2″) nails that fit the tools. This closed drive design has no power adjustment so it’s always set to maximum output which you can really feel in your bones after a while, but it sure gets the job done.
Milwaukee M18 Narrow Crown Stapler
Also brand new to Milwaukee is their battery-powered narrow crown stapler. It shoots 1/4” crown staples from 3/8” to 1 1/2″ long, and is claimed to be able to fire up to 1,200 staples on a single 2.0 Ah battery pack. Talk about FUEL efficiency!
2nd Gen. Milwaukee M18 Brad Nailer
Milwaukee’s redesigned 18-ga. brad nailer is the answer to those disappointed with the performance of the first version, which in tech terms, could be described as “buggy”. In contractor terms, it wasn’t up to what you expected a Milwaukee tool to be, so everyone’s glad about the rollout of version 2.0. The nailer shoots brads from 5/8” to 2 1/8”, in single-shot or bump-fire modes, and comes with different tips to better fit various trimwork profiles. It’s a half-pound lighter than the previous model, and though seemingly not a big deal, it sits upright on its battery pack. Having used many of these battery-powered brad nailers in a recent tool test, I can say that it is really nice to set the tool down upright versus having to lay it down on its side. Sometimes it’s the little things.
Milwaukee Rear Handle Circular Saw
What was missing from Milwaukee’s heavy duty cordless construction tool line? A rear handle circ saw of course! Last year we got the monster sidewinder model, followed up this year with this blade-left beast. Like last year’s saw, this rear handle model works best with the 12.0 Ah battery packs, and it features an LED headlight, a motor brake, and it doesn’t need oil changes like some rear handle saws. Rounding out the specs, its no-load speed is a zippy 5,800 rpm, it bevel cuts as low as 53 degrees, and it weighs in at 13.5 pounds with the battery. We all took turns racing the saw through multiple sheets of OSB and I’m not sure anyone could outpace the saw’s ability to cut. In reality, more careful cuts are needed for accuracy so it’s doubtful anyone needs to rip at jogging speed, but it’s nice to know that you can.
9” Demo/Cutoff Saw and Water Feed Pump
For cutting concrete and masonry with OSHA’s crystalline silica regs in mind, wet cutting (vs. dry) is easier to do within Table 1 compliance when using cutting wheels over 6” in diameter. Milwaukee’s new demo/cutoff saw has an integrated water feed for such uses, and a watertight battery compartment to guard against water intrusion. The large 12.0 Ah battery is mounted amidships, and like all of the new generation of high output tools optimized for Milwaukee’s largest battery pack, you’ll notice a fair amount of space in the battery compartment to allow for packs constructed with more cells or bigger cells in the future.
Besides its concrete and masonry duties, the saw can also be used dry for metal cutoff purposes. And like many other commercial tools from Milwaukee, this one is compatible with their One Key programming and tracking app. To complement the wet cutting abilities of the new saw, Milwaukee’s battery-powered four-gallon backpack water pump connects directly to the saw’s water intake, whether you are actually wearing it or just have it set down nearby. And it’s not only a water supply for the saw, it’s also a sprayer with interchangeable tanks for swapping out different liquids. Five settings on the pump’s pressure regulator adjust the output from 20 to 60 psi.
Milwaukee 12” Sliding Miter Saw
To add to their 7 1/4″ and 10” cordless miter saw lineup, Milwaukee is introducing the big boy of the bunch. This full size 12” saw is a slider with dual bevel cutting capability and all the bells and whistles, including One Key compatibility.
Milwaukee Compact Trim Router
For light-to-medium duty routing or full-scale cut-out jobs, cordless trim routers provide an obvious benefit having no cord to drag around. Being able to control a router with one hand is another great attribute, especially when using it for cutting out window and door openings. After trying it out and determining it has plenty of power for both jobs, I deem this cordless job site router a Win/Win. I also really like the quick-action motor brake so you don’t have to stand still and wait for the router to wind down. Now it just needs a hand strap like their corded router for a surer grip with one hand, especially when cutting in a pulling (rather than pushing) direction, which can be half of your cutting time in sheathing cut-outs. Whenever I’ve been asked what the best router is to use for cutting out openings in sheathing, I have always recommended the corded Milwaukee model with the hand strap for its extra margin of control, and therefore safety. Accessory plunge and offset bases will also be offered for the new compact router, and the Home Fixated team already has a hands-on review in the works, stay tuned!
M12 Cordless Tools
Milwaukee M12 Hydraulic Impact Driver
There are two different types of premium impact drivers. One is the biggest-and-strongest type if you need tons of driving power, and the other type is a quieter hydraulic-drive model with enough power for the fasteners you drive. Hydraulic impact drivers use oil pressure to develop impact force versus a clattery steel hammer and anvil.
Milwaukee has had their SURGE hydraulic M18 driver out for a while (it even topped one of my tool tests), and now they are releasing an M12 version with the same head size and power. Besides the battery platform difference, both models are very similar, with the same head size and power output of 450 in-lbs. Multiple maximum speed/power settings and self-tapping screw mode let you dial in the driving power and performance you need.
Milwaukee M12 Installer’s Drill/Driver
Multi-use tools are seen as a very “Euro” idea, and most have had traditionally low adoption rates by professionals in the states. But in some cases, a tool with versatility relevant to the contractor can make a lot of sense. Instead of “it slices, it dices”, how about “it drills, it drives, pilot holes and fasteners in just about any position you find yourself in”. The compact size of this tool and the included heads make it a natural for cabinet installers and other tradesman who often find themselves working in an impossibly tight space, often while contorted headfirst into a cabinet carcass like they’re auditioning to be a magician’s assistant.
The new M12 installer’s drill/driver has a drill chuck, a 1/4” bit holder, an offset driving head, and a right-angle head that clicks onto the chuck or bit holder. For the shortest overall length, a 1/4″ bit will fit into the drive end of the tool or right-angle attachment with no head needed. Check out full review of the Milwaukee Installation Driver here.
Milwaukee Packout Dolly
Packout storage boxes have always been mobile, if you have the rolling tool box base that serves as a hand truck. Now there’s another mobility option if your job sites offer the luxury of paved paths and uncluttered floors, the Packout dolly. The dolly lets you move up to 250 pounds of gear flat and level via four swivel casters. Two of the casters have locks, but to hold the cart steady with less fuss there is a “loading lever” you can step on to anchor the dolly to the floor instantly. Besides fitting all of the Packout boxes, Milwaukee suggests that the dolly also can be used to roll anything else within its load limit around the job.
Milwaukee Packout Radio/Charger
Envisioned as the hub of the job site, this corded/cordless radio charges tool batteries when plugged in, and charges USB-connected devices as long as a live battery pack is in it. Oh, and the radio also plays music, via Bluetooth 4.2, an 1/8” stereo jack, or the tuner, with either power source in place. With a bunch of speakers facing in all directions, active and passive subs, and a volume knob that goes all the way to 11, your crew has a better chance of drowning out the music from roofers overhead or the plumbers down the hall. I can see the hub idea working in two ways, as a centralized power source (after all, it’s the only thing that needs to be plugged in on Milwaukee’s contemporary job site, right?), and as a gathering place. All the workers will likely crowd around to charge their phones, and argue over the musical selection. Hmm, lacking a prerecorded PSA saying “Get back to work!” at regular intervals, this may be the power tool banned by the boss.
We’ve all been there before, you’re loading up at the end of a long day, and no matter how you stuff and re-stuff your stuff, the tool bin won’t quite close. Milwaukee has addressed this need with a less organized organizer, the Packout crate. Made with a stronger polymer than many similar-sized totes and bins, the crates are great for cords, hoses, and other unstructured gear, and they lock right into the Packout system. Whenever you want to bug out but lack the patience to pack up neatly, you can snap a Packout crate to the top of your stack and “let it all hang out” as you beat a hasty exit. For the truly organizationally averse, you can drill a few holes around the rim and crisscross a pair of bungee cords for an even higher stack-out for your Packout.
Packout Seat Prototype
To give weary journalists a place to get off our feet midday, our thoughtful hosts at Milwaukee cobbled together some padded upholstered covers for a few of the Packout box stacks. These saw constant use, and while these “prototypes” likely won’t make it to production, a good idea is a good idea. (Here’s my Etsy recipe: foam pad, fabric, hot glue, and some adhesive Velcro strips.) Especially with the new dolly underneath I could see scooting along seated while installing wainscot, painting chair rail, or maybe racing coworkers down long commercial hallways.
Canvas Utility Bucket Bag
Half storage product and half safety product is Milwaukee’s canvas utility bucket bag with a swivel carabiner clip. It’s the type used by linesman and other tradesman who spend time working off the ground and need to haul and suspend tools or gear. What benefit does it have over a tool bag or 5-gallon bucket you may ask? One huge one: it’s weight rated (up to 75 pounds) and approved for overhead use. Using rated gear is essential for any overhead uses. Milwaukee also has heavier-bodied tool bags with multiple pockets made for hanging off the side of a lift bucket with special clips, but this humble canvas bucket is the go-to for hauling items up and down.
Really constructed like a bucket, it features a practical plastic bottom (versus some traditional models still being made with a leather bottom), and it only has two small sewn pockets in the inside, suitable perhaps for a smart phone and a small tape measure. If my advice is taken, the next version out will have a simple rain/debris cover and a few weight-rated gear loops on the outside.
Measuring and Layout
Milwaukee STUD Tape Measure
Milwaukee claims to be the second largest manufacturer of measuring tapes in the world, and that’s just for their own Milwaukee brand, they don’t make any OEM tapes for any other brands. The Milwaukee STUD tape measure, already on its 2nd generation within a year, is the 5th or 6th iteration of Milwaukee tapes as far as I can remember.
With their sights set to win the standout-distance war with 14’ as their established metric, I should tell you that this Milwaukee tape will actually measure shorter and longer distances as well. Features such as markings on the back (for circumferential measurements) and a super-tough wear-resistant coating also make this tape ready for the rigors of the job site. STUD tapes are being offered in standard, magnetic-tip, wide-blade, and compact versions.
Milwaukee Aluminum Squares
Pipe and Conduit Levels
EMPIRE Adjustable Levels
In their quest to be able to supply nearly everything a tradesperson needs on the job, Milwaukee is deepening their reach into the category of personal protective equipment (PPE). And instead of just adding me-too products, Milwaukee is striving to add truly useful features and options that workers will appreciate and come to prefer.
Hard hats are a good example. Besides offering the standard and full-brim models, Milwaukee is offering their BOLT accessory system with add-ons such as pencil holders, headlamps, and even a 360-degree LED strip light to enhance a worker’s visibility by others. And hard hats can also be ordered with company logos printed on, or if you don’t have a logo, a picture of your cat.
And to add to their existing selection of work gloves, Milwaukee is coming out with more cut-resistant and leather models, and also impact resistant gloves. And as a user of lanyards, I was impressed with the growing selection of tool restraint lanyards, now available in strengths to tether tools weighing up to 35 pounds. One cool feature is that the webbing is coated with a rubbery compound that helps the inner elastic absorb shock loads, while also protecting the webbing from embedded grit which robs strength from the material.
Hard Hats and Accessories
Safety Glasses and Sunglasses
Impact Resistant Work Gloves
Milwaukee Corded Tools?!
You made it all the way to the end so I’ll tell you about the Supercharger. That’s right, this year’s ultra-rare corded tool release is a super charger. What’s so super about it? Well, not only does it charge both M12 and M18 packs, it can charge them in an hour or less. And that includes the biggest 12.0Ah battery packs. Going forward, it looks like high output tools optimized for the 12.0 pack will come with the Supercharger in their kit forms.