One of the more surprising tools introduced at the recent Milwaukee media event was the M18 Fuel 1 1/2-inch Magnetic Drill. The tool is essentially a cordless drill press for drilling big holes in thick metal—the type of work performed by iron workers, maintenance techs, and contractors and remodelers who do commercial work. The magnetic base is used to hold the drill in place and is necessary because the work needs to be done in the field or on steel that has already been erected. Corded magnetic drills have been around for decades. Their only real shortcoming is that they require AC power, which is not always easy to bring to the places holes need to be drilled. Cordless magnetic drills make it possible to do away with generators and long runs of electrical cord.

Milwaukee is not the first company to make cordless magnetic drills; Metabo introduced a 25.2-volt model a few years back—the only tool on that battery platform so it can’t share packs with anything else. Given the high cost of magnetic drills and their specialized nature, this may not be a serious drawback, though in a pinch it’s nice to be able to share packs with other, more common, tools.

The Milwaukee mag drill takes M18 batteries and can be powered any XC (10-cell) pack or the new 9.0 Ah (15-cell) pack that is scheduled for release in early 2016. The new pack was designed with power-hungry tools such as this magnetic drill, the Super Hawg, and SDS Max rotary hammers in mind.

According to Milwaukee, the M18 mag drill delivers the strongest magnetic hold on 1/4-inch steel and can drill up to 40 13/16-inch holes per charge. Through the use of the magnetic base and safety strap the tool can be used to drill vertically, overhead, and sideways through any steel you can attach it to. The base contains permanent magnets and will not deactivate when the battery drains. The tool is equipped with Auto-Stop lift-off detection and will automatically power down if the base begins to slip while drilling.

Cutting accessories are typically fastened in place by using a wrench to tighten a pair of set screws. It’s best to carry spares because you’re out of luck if a screw gets stripped or dropped and lost. The M18 drill is equipped with a 3/4-inch Weldon quick-change chuck so lost screws and wrenches are not an issue. The height of the head adjusts without tools, allowing for quick changes between short annular bits and long twist bits. The tool is equipped with a two-speed gearbox and accepts up to a 1 1/2-inch annular (hollow, like a hole saw) cutters and up to a 1/2-inch twist drill bit.

The M18 magnetic drill is also available in a Lineman version (2788-22), which among other things, has a lifting ring and comes with a 12-volt DC (vehicle) charger instead of the usual 120-volt AC charger.

M18 Fuel 1-1/2” Magnetic Drill (2787-22)
Max bit size: 1 1/2” annular; 1/2” twist bit
Speeds: 400/690 RPM
Stroke: 5 3/4”
Weight: 29.5 lbs. (w. battery)
Size: (LxWxH): 13-3/4” x 7-1/2” x 15-1/2”
Max Magnetic Holding Force: 2,000 pounds
Includes: tool; two 5.0 Ah XC batteries; multi-voltage charger; magnetic lubrication tank; 1/2” chuck adapter; chuck key; two retractable pilot pins; safety strap; carry case
COO: China
Price: $2,300
Available: July 2015