When it comes to jigsaws, I'm an avowed barrel-grip guy, so even though many of my other tools are cordless, I've been stuck using a corded jigsaw. But with Milwaukee's recent introduction of the model 2445 saw (which takes M12 batteries), I've been able to add a cordless model to my tool kit. This new saw is unusual for a couple of reasons: It's the first subcompact lithium-ion on the market, and its grip is different from any other jigsaw's.
Milwaukee refers to the 2445's handle as a "Hybrid Grip" design, because it combines the grip of a barrel-grip model with the variable-speed trigger of a top-handle model.
A barrel grip's handle is low and close to the work, making this type of saw very stable. It's easy to guide and comfortable to use because you don't have to bend your wrist as much as you would with a top-handle machine. If there's a downside to the design, it's that the on/off switch is separate from the speed-control dial, so changing speed is a two-handed operation. And in most cases, the switch is on the left side of the barrel – a poor location for left-handed use.
Top-handle models typically have variable-speed triggers, so it's easy to plunge-cut and change speed on the fly. And since the trigger is centered, the saw works equally well in either hand. However, many carpenters find top-handle machines harder to guide and less comfortable to use than barrel-grips.
Speed: 0-2,800 strokes per minute
Milwaukee Electric Tool
So why didn't Milwaukee call the M12 jigsaw a barrel-grip model with a variable-speed trigger? Most likely because the tool doesn't have a barrel, the part of the saw that normally contains the motor. On most saws, the motor projects horizontally from the rear of the gear housing, but on this one it stands vertically under the gears and is contained within the same housing.
The grip, which is located where the barrel normally would be, contains nothing more than the trigger and the battery. Its heavily contoured shape is almost identical to the grip on the M12 drill/driver – and, as such, is more comfortable to grasp than a barrel.
Using the Tool
When the tool showed up, I was nearing the end of a remodeling project, and I found it very convenient to be able to notch trim and siding without having to deal with a cord. This saw is smaller and lighter than other cordless and corded models, so it fit easily into whatever bag or bucket I was carrying tools in. I found myself using it more often than my corded saw because I didn't need to plug it in and could leave it out without worrying that a cord would be in the way.
The saw has a very solid feel to it and cuts quickly and powerfully, though with its short 3/4-inch stroke (most saws have a 1-inch stroke) and lack of orbital action it is not as fast as many other saws.
The standard battery fits almost entirely inside the grip, so it's more or less invisible. The optional XC high-capacity battery is larger and hangs out the back – but it's still far less obtrusive than the 14.4- and 18-volt batteries in other cordless saws.
The M12's base tilts 45 degrees in either direction and has a stop at 0 degrees. It's held in position by a locking lever. The first time I used the saw for heavy cutting, the lever worked loose; I tightened the tensioning screw in the base and it has held fine ever since.
Installing blades is very easy: You press the spring-loaded lever on the lower housing, fit the shaft into the clamp, then release the lever. When it's time to remove the blade, you press the lever and the blade pops out on its own. There's no need to risk burning your fingers by grabbing a hot blade.
|Putting the motor up front with the gears allowed the manufacturer to use a barrel-like grip sized to fit the human hand. The battery is tucked into the spot normally occupied by the motor.|
|The tool comes with a standard three-cell lithium-ion battery (left). For greater runtime, it can be equipped with an optional six-cell high capacity XC battery (right).|
|An LED light projects down from the saw to illuminate the cut, though it's partially blocked by the forward housing.|
The kit version of the tool comes with one M12 Compact Red Lithium battery that Milwaukee says has enough runtime to make two-plus sink cutouts in a laminate countertop. That claim seems reasonable, given my experience using this saw on other materials.
To get a better sense of runtime, I made test cuts in 3/4-inch maple plywood with new 9-tpi fast-cut plywood blades. I performed the test twice and averaged the results, which came to just under 18 feet. This was with the supplied three-cell battery; I also tried out the optional six-cell XC high-capacity batteries. As expected, they had about twice the runtime of the standard packs.
The standard battery is sufficient for the cuts one would expect to make with a cordless jigsaw: notches, scribes, and holes through cabinets for ducts, pipes, and electrical outlets. The kit includes a 30-minute charger – though if the battery is hot, it has to cool for a while before charging can begin. Although it would be nice if the tool came with a spare battery, I can understand why it doesn't: With two batteries, the saw would cost more, and the manufacturer probably assumes buyers already own other M12 tools. If you buy this jigsaw and it's the only M12 tool you own, I recommend springing for a spare battery – preferably an XC battery, which has greater runtime and will allow you to stand the tool on end.
This new machine has nearly every feature one could hope to find on a jigsaw: battery gauge, light, toolless blade-changing, and a nonmarring plastic cover that fits over the shoe. It does not, however, have orbital cutting action or a blower. I don't particularly miss the orbital action, but it would be nice to have a blower to clear dust from the cut line.
The beam from the built-in LED light projects down from in front of the blade; it comes on when you squeeze the trigger and stays on for about 10 seconds after the motor stops. It's a nice feature, though it doesn't project that far in front of the tool and there's a shadow where the housing blocks part of the beam. Still, it's a whole lot better than having no light at all.
The battery gauge consists of four red LED diodes built into the side of the housing. When you squeeze the trigger, the diodes light up to indicate the level of charge: Four lights means the battery is full, two lights means it's half-full, and so on. The gauge is an excellent feature, and I would guess that it's just a matter of time before people will refuse to buy tools (or batteries) that don't have one.
The Bottom Line
If you make heavy use of a jigsaw, this is probably not the tool for you. But it would be a great choice for users who want a second saw, or who cut intermittently and don't want to deal with a cord. It's light and compact and has reasonable runtime and power for a tool of its kind. And because it's part of the M12 system, its batteries will work with more than 30 different tools.
David Frane is the editor of Tools of the Trade.