In my almost twenty years of working in the trades I have owned or used my fair share of power and hand tools. As a kid starting out in this industry the majority of tools on-site were of the manual, human-powered type. Now of course power tools were present; the right-angle drill, cumbersome rotary hammer and a boat anchor of a recip saw had long been in use, after all, I’m not as old as Barba or Eatherton (although I do like to ask them about the old brace and bits, dinosaurs and the invention of fire…you should ask them about it some time. Its fascinating.)
Over the years tools have changed a lot to say the least. I can remember my first cordless drill/driver. The size, weight and lack of power were truly amazing but hey, for the first time we didn’t have to manually fasten fixture backing or wall plates. Instead we could load a poorly designed drive bit and hope there was enough charge in the loathsome battery pack to drive a couple screws…small screws mind you. But there was no cord!
These were the days when cordless meant only slightly more than “portable”. The available tools were not of the high performance variety and the options were few. Looking back at the performance and capability of those tools reminds me that in this day and age I have hand tools now that are more useful.
Over the years we have seen the development of bigger, faster and longer lasting cordless offerings. Remember 24v or 36v? In an unsuccessful attempt to replace corded tools those things were akin to carrying small car batteries around with a terrible circ. saw strapped on their front side. Not at all like the tools of today.
Lithium Ion battery systems have slowly replaced the old NiCad packs making smaller, lighter tools all the rage in an industry where bigger seemed the only shot at better. Fast forward to today.
This week John and I attended the annual Milwaukee Tool New Product Symposium. Its a media event where Milwaukee hosts a hundred or more writers, editors and media personalities in their backyard showcasing all their new product additions, company values, history and visions for the future. Other tool manufacturers host similar events as well.
The products Milwaukee Tool has ready now and on the way shortly have me wondering just how far removed I was years ago from the old timers like Mark and John. I guess fire was nothing new at the time but our tools might as well have been identical when compared to the compact power-houses we saw and tried out this week. I’m talking about cordless tools engineered to remove cords from the job site altogether. Seriously, we aren’t too far away from the day when an extension cord will be of little more use than a tripping hazard entirely.
Some of the more impressive tools we experienced during the event, in my opinion, are found in both the M12 and M18 FUEL platforms. Remember when 12v tools were replaced by 14.4-18v systems? Yeah, well, 12v systems are now more powerful than some 18v tools available; they’re more compact, some of the most durable and usable tools available today!
If I hadn’t tried them myself I would have thought the M18 rotary hammer drills at the event were just another alternative to their more heavy duty corded counterparts. Once in my hand it was apparent the 3 tools Milwaukee has in this platform were built to actually perform better than any corded tool already on the jobsite. Honestly. The speed, anti-vibration and power those drills possess are not what you’d expect. Cords be damned.
Have you made the switch to 12v? My trucks have a mixture of both 18v and 12v, with the preference slowly leaning toward the smaller offerings. Maybe you read my quick review of the M12 Hackzall here, you’ll soon see one for the upcoming M12 circ. saw we tested this week. Its only in prototype status currently but with the FUEL technology on-board that thing has some serious power. This is good news for guys like me who use their circ. saws for cutting plastic waste, vent and flue piping. A more compact and lighter tool like this will be warmly welcomed as I see it.
How about a battery-powered right angle drill? Not one of those little drill/driver types but an actual workhorse modeled after, but improving upon Milwaukee’s Hole Hawg? I’m not sure I would’ve believed it if I hadn’t tried it for myself but the new M18 Hole Hawg drills faster than its corded predecessor. It’s lighter and easier to handle than the plumber and electrician’s go-to rough-in tool. You can bet this tool alone will be cause for all manufacturers in the cordless tool arena to followup with their own take on such a beast.
There were literally dozens of innovative tools on display at the event. From hand tools to lighting solutions for real work environments, we touched and tried them all. A lot of which are available now or coming very soon. As always, and with all the tool manufacturers [not just Milwaukee] you’ll see them featured here on The Hub. Milwaukee’s focus on the professional trades and providing solutions to everyday tasks and heavy duty jobs was evident at every turn during the event.
That’s it for now….I gotta go get rid of some extension cords…
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