As a remodeler, I love cordless tools. Not only do they save
me set-up time, but I don't have to drag dusty extension cords
through somebody's clean house. Plus, the cordless kits allow
me to carry three or four tools in a single case.
For those reasons and more, I adopted DeWalt's 18-volt platform
a few years back. At the time, DeWalt offered the greatest
variety of 18-volt tools, and sticking with one platform meant
I could share batteries and chargers. Generally, I've been
quite happy with the reliability and performance of my DeWalts.
Nevertheless, when Milwaukee came out with its V28 tools last
year — promising enough runtime to last all day — I
couldn't wait to try them out.
The big innovation with V28 tools is that they use rechargeable
lithium-ion cells. Lithium-ion battery chemistry is common with
electronic devices like digital cameras and cellular phones,
but only recently have toolmakers figured out how to adapt this
technology to the high-drain electric motors in cordless
According to Milwaukee, the V28 tools offer the performance of
corded tools along with double the runtime of 18-volt
nicad-powered tools. Another advantage is weight: Whereas
conventional cordless-tool battery packs get heavier with
increases in voltage, the four-cell V28 packs weigh about the
same as conventional 18-volt nicad or NiMH battery packs.
Conveniently enough, Milwaukee includes a "fuel gauge" on the
pack to let you know the battery's status before you go into a
crawlspace or up on the roof (see photo, below).
Roughly the same size and weight as an
18-volt nicad pack, Milwaukee's V28 lithium-ion battery pack
uses four 7-volt cells and includes an LED fuel gauge that
shows the pack's remaining life when a small button is
Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.
Since I'm not one to take tool manufacturers at their word, I
did a number of quantitative runtime and performance tests to
check the veracity of Milwaukee's claims. To ensure a level
playing field, I used brand-new DeWalt batteries for all of the
testing, as well as brand-new blades and bits.
In addition, I used the V28 tools on the job every day for
about six months, which gave me a good sense of their
real-world performance and durability.
Here's what I learned.
0730-22 Circular Saw
Blade diameter: 6 1/2 inches
Depth of cut at 90 degrees: 2 1/8 inches
Depth of cut at 45 degrees: 1 5/8 inches
Bevel capacity: 50 degrees
Weight: 9.4 pounds
The V28 circular saw performs very well. I found I could use it
the same way I'd use a corded saw. Compound cuts aren't a
problem, and the saw spins at 4,300 rpm — double the
speed of most cordless circular saws. It has a comfortable
handle and feels sturdier than any other cordless saw I've
To test runtime, I matched it against my 18-volt DeWalt to see
how many 2x4s I could crosscut on a single charge. I was able
to make 268 cuts with the V28 vs. 122 with the DeWalt. I
stopped cutting when I noticed a decrease in performance.
0724-24 Cordless Drill
Maximum torque: 600 inch-pounds
Chuck type: metal keyless
Clutch settings: 20
Capacity in steel: 1/2 inch
Capacity in wood: 2 9/16 inches
Weight: 6.7 pounds
A good test of any cordless drill's stamina is drilling with a
hole saw, so I drilled holes through a 2x4 with a 21/8-inch
hole saw — the same size used for cylindrical locksets. I
drilled 13 holes with the Milwaukee and four holes with my
DeWalt. I also tried a 1-inch spade bit to simulate roughing in
pipe or wire. The Milwaukee managed 141 holes, the DeWalt 47.
Both drills had hammer-drill settings, so I tested drilling in
concrete, too. With the V28, I drilled 65 5/8-inch holes
through a solid 4-inch concrete block; with the DeWalt,
The V28 cordless drill boasts Milwaukee's innovative "Clip Lok"
holster, which allows you to hang the tool on your tool belt;
the thumb-actuated release is made for both right- and
left-handed users. The drill has a two-speed gearbox and rubber
inserts on the handle.
8719-22 Reciprocating Saw
Strokes per minute: 0-2,000/0-3,000
Stroke length: 1 1/8 inches
Length: 16 inches
Weight: 9 1/2 pounds
I tested the V28 recip saw by cutting a 2x4 into slivers. I was
able to make 89 cuts with the Milwaukee vs. 39 with the DeWalt.
The V28 saw has a good feel and balance and operates very
smoothly. It has a keyless blade clamp, an adjustable shoe, and
two speeds; it doesn't have orbital cutting action.
0799-22 Cordless Impact
Maximum torque: 3,900 inch-pounds/325
Weight: 9 pounds
Milwaukee's V28 1/2-inch impact driver is not one of the
compact drivers used for running deck and drywall screws, but a
heavy-duty version similar to the air-powered tools used by
auto technicians. I use my DeWalt impact wrench to drive lag
bolts for structural connections like ledgers. The DeWalt and
the Milwaukee, I found, are pretty evenly matched in terms of
maximum torque — the DeWalt puts out 300 foot-pounds and
the Milwaukee 325 — but the DeWalt is the smaller of the
two tools, which could be an advantage in some
I thought a good test would be driving 1/2-inch-by-4-inch lags
into a well-seasoned piece of pressure-treated 4x6. Because I
didn't predrill, and because the wood was quite dry, it was a
tough run. Still, I was able to sink 24 lags with the Milwaukee
and 12 with the DeWalt.
As a final test, I turned on the V28 and DeWalt flashlights and
let them burn until the batteries were spent. The Milwaukee
lasted five hours and 18 minutes, and the DeWalt four hours
— a noticeable difference, but not the 100 percent
increase found with the high-drain tools.
In general, my runtime tests exceeded the claims made by
Milwaukee's advertising. Still, I wanted to get other points of
view, so I asked several guys to try the V28s on the job. They
all quickly fell in love. They were surprised the tools had
enough power to do the tasks usually reserved for corded
versions, and were astonished at their runtimes.
One problem we did notice with the lithium-ion batteries is
that they give little warning when they are about to go dead.
They don't bog down; they just stop. This might explain why
Milwaukee added the LED fuel gauge — which is a great
idea anyway. I can't believe it took a manufacturer so long to
think of this perk.
But probably the biggest shortcoming with V28 technology is the
price. Milwaukee says the new tools cost about 40 percent more
than the company's 18-volt nicad tools. Online at Toolbarn.com,
I found Milwaukee's four-tool combo kit (recip saw, circular
saw, drill, and flashlight with two batteries) for $729, plus
$3 shipping; the 18-volt DeWalt kit with the same tools cost
For the $730 I would pay for the Milwaukee kit, I could buy
DeWalt's kit and still have enough money left over to buy three
or four extra batteries (between $70 and $80 each) and an
additional charger (about $50). This could easily offset
Milwaukee's runtime advantage.
Just the same, I really like the new tools, and I'd consider
the additional money well-spent. Besides their great
performance, these tools feel solid and well-made. I'd like to
see a jigsaw added to the lineup — and while they're at
it, maybe a cordless planer and a cordless miter saw.David Hainesis a remodeler in Doylestown,
For those times when
there's just not enough room on top of a stepladder, a Flip
Tray can double the available real estate. Its maker says this
folding tool tray holds up to 40 pounds of tools and supplies,
and mounts easily on most ladders. Square notches on the front
manage electrical cords; rounded ones on the side harbor
fluorescent bulbs and other round objects. The tray packs a
lifetime warranty and sells for about $25. Kintz
Mercantile Products, 800/909-4453,
Horse of a Different Color.
I'm cutting in a top coat at the ceiling, sometimes it seems
like I spend more time moving the ladder than painting. This
little scaffold-stepladder hybrid could be just what I need.
With its 12-inch-by-38-inch walk surface and integral tool
tray, the 20-inch-high Work Horse Scaffold Platform minimizes
the up-and-downs of painting and drywall finishing. The rig
folds for storage and transport and sells for about $50.
Many serious fall-related
injuries involve heights most carpenters wouldn't consider
dangerous. Some result from setting up stepladders on uneven
surfaces, others from excessive reaching. Both types of
accidents could be prevented with a Fiberglass Tripod
Stepladder. According to the maker, the three-legged design is
more stable on uneven surfaces and allows users to get closer
to the work for less reaching. The ladder has a 300-pound
capacity, built-in paint-can and drill holders, and deeply
textured treads. A 6-foot version sells for about $150.
When I first heard
about titanium hammers, I couldn't imagine that such a
lightweight material could really pound nails effectively.
However, after talking to carpenters who use them, I've changed
my mind. At about half the weight of their conventional framing
counterparts, Stiletto Titanium hammers significantly decrease
user susceptibility to carpal-tunnel syndrome and other
repetitive-motion, stress-related injuries, says the maker.
They come in trim and framing styles with curved and straight
handles. Prices start at about $100 for the 14-ounce
wood-handled Titan and peak at about $190 for the 14-ounce
titanium-handled TiBone. Stiletto Tools,
With Norwolf's Glide
Hammer, you can make swinging a sledge easier on your body.
Designed with a unique sliding grip that eliminates the need to
change hand position midswing, the aluminum-handled hammer is
virtually indestructible, says the manufacturer. It costs $166.
Norwolf makes some other cool tools for carpenters, too,
including the A-Hammer ($44), an aluminum-handled rip hammer;
the Unibar (starting at $99; not shown), a high-tech pry bar
with an adjustable head; and the Pro Nailer ($33; not shown), a
nail set for framing nails. All look sturdy enough to become
family heirlooms. Norwolf, 888/667-9653,
It's no secret that
pounding nails day after day can take a toll on your wrist,
elbow, and shoulder. Fuller's new Wavex Hammers promise to
minimize the shock waves that go through your arm every time
you strike a nail. According to the company, the hammers use an
impact-reducing technology first developed for tennis rackets.
They come in 16- and 20-ounce claw, 20-ounce rip, and 22- and
28-ounce framing styles; prices range from about $13 to about
$20. Fuller Tool, 262/242-1161,