Milwaukee M18 7-1/4" Circular Saw Kit - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Finally, real cord-like performance and cutting capacity with a corfless circ saw.

Milwaukee M18 7-1/4" Circular Saw Kit

Milwaukee M18 7-1/4" Circular Saw Kit



The advantage of a corded circular saw over a cordless saw has a lot to do with available power and cutting capacity, and much less to do with features such as ergonomics, blade change, depth and bevel adjustments, and sight lines. Corded saws have virtually unlimited power and they typically run a 7-1/4" blade, of which there are dozens of different options available to match the type of work you're doing.

A major advantage of cordless saws is their portability. There is no power cord to deal with, and you can use them on a job site where power still hasn't been connected, or where there's only a few circuits available. And, because they're lighter than corded saws they're a lot easier to use overhead.

The new Milwaukee 2731-21 cordless circular saw has decreased the performance gap between corded and cordless circular saws, and for many renovators, finish carpenters, cabinet installers, and the like, it just might be time to cut the circ saw cord.

The 2731-21 is one of the few cordless saws to feature a 7-1/4" blade. If you use the same style of blade for all your cutting, then this doesn't matter overmuch. But for anyone who likes to match the blade to the type of material being cut, it's a welcome feature, as you can now chose any 7-1/4" blade on the market. The larger blade will also give you a tad more cutting depth, about a 1/4" for both 45° and 90° cuts.

Cordless saws will never match corded saws when it comes to power, but the 2731-21 certainly makes a valiant attempt. The 18-volt, 4.0 Ah battery, coupled with a brushless motor, provides ample power for just about any cutting job you'll likely encounter. For more information read our short primer on brushless motors.

Most high end power tools today are loaded with digital circuitry. Milwaukee's version is called REDLINK PLUS, and it ensures that the saw and battery work together to deliver optimal power under load without damaging the battery. It also interfaces with the battery charger to protect the battery from overloading, overheating, and over-discharging.

Milwaukee_2731_4
Difficult to view depth scale

The 2731-21 provides a 2-1/2" cut capacity at 90°, good enough to rip through a triple layer of 3/4" ply. The depth adjustment level works fine, but the depth scale is hard to read, particularly in bright light. On some saws the markings are calibrated to nominal stock thickness – the '2' setting extends the blade just enough to cut a 1-1/2" depth. On this saw the scale markings are exact depth of cut – at the 2" setting you're cutting a full 2".

Milwaukee_2731_3
Easy to read bevel scale

The bevel scale, on the other hand, is easier to read because the scale lines are black. Adjusting the bevel is likewise quick and easy. The saw can be beveled to 50°. Unfortunately it lacks the convenience of a bevel stop at 45°, which I think is a much more widely used bevel angle.

Milwaukee_2731_2
Decent sight line and scale

Tracking the saw is made easy because of the decent sign line. The scale is reasonably easy to read, even in fairly bright light. 

Milwaukee_2731_8
Bevel adjusting screw aligns blade to shoe

The shoe is 90° to the blade. However, if the saw gets a lot of heavy use, or if you inadvertently drop the saw, it can move out of alignment. You can easily readjust the setting by loosening the knob that you use to set the bevel angle, and then tweak the bevel adjusting set screw with an Allen key.

Milwaukee_2731_5
Durable magnesium shoe

The completely flat, totally smooth low friction shoe is made of cast magnesium, which provides a very tough, lightweight, and rigid cutting platform. The leading edge is slightly beveled, which makes the shoe less likely to get caught when it's slid along rough stock. At 6-1/2" by 13" the shoes is large enough to provide good stability.
 
Milwaukee_2731_6
Too small handle

While I found the 2731-21 quite well balanced, the front handle is fairly small, only measuring 2-1/2" wide, making it awkward to hold, particularly if you're wearing work gloves.

The rafter hook folds out of the way over the handle when not in use.


Milwaukee_2731_7
Easy peasy blade change

Blade changing is very easy. The spindle lock button is easily reached and you can depress it with the index finger of one hand while holding the blade guard with your thumb. The other hand is then free to remove the spindle nut.

The magnesium blade guards move freely and as you'll find on most circ saws, there is a chip ejection port on the back of the upper guard, which ejects a surprising amount of dust backways, away from the operator.

Milwaukee_2731_9
On-board hex key storage and folding rafter hook

The hex key for removing the blade bolt is conveniently stored on the saw, and there is a lock-off button on either side of the top of the handle that you need to hold down while pressing the trigger in order to start the saw. Once the saw blade is spinning you can release the lock-off button. It's a very good safety feature.

The 2731-21 must have an auto brake, as it stops very quickly once you release the trigger.

Milwaukee_2731_12
LED tracking light

As soon as you depress the lock-off button the LED tracking light comes on, making it easier to see, and follow, your cut line. 

Milwaukee_2731_1
136 cuts through a 2x6

Milwaukee claims 233 cross cuts through a 2x4 on one battery charge - roughly 815 linear inches of cutting. I was able to get 136 cuts off a 2x6 on a single charge - about 748 linear inches. The numbers are pretty comparable, allowing for differences in wood density and dryness.

I found that the saw cut through 2x dimensional lumber, sheet goods, and 8/4 hardwood without loosing any speed or torque.
 
Milwaukee_2731_13
A viable alternative to a corded circ saw

The Milwaukee 2731-21 has a lot going for it. It's a well balanced saw that has ample cutting power for even the toughest materials. Cutting depth and bevel adjustments are quick and easy to make, and the sight lines are excellent. Blade change is a breeze, and the magnesium base and guards will stand up to a heck of a lot of heavy duty use. And, at just nine pounds it's unbeatable for overhead cutting.

Woodworkers, avid DIYers, renovators, finish carpenters, flooring installers, and most tradespeople will likely find that the 2731-21 provides all the saw they'll need. I think that once you 
get your hands on a 2731-21 you won't be in too much of a hurry to go back to a corded saw.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Speed: 5000 RPM
  • Depth capacity: 2-1/2" at 90°; 1-13/16 at 45°
  • Bevel capacity: 50°
  • Arbor size: 5/8"
  • Magnesium blade guard and shoe
  • Integrated LED light
  • Rafter hook
  • Weight: 9 pounds
  • Warranty: 5 years (tool), 3 years (battery)
  • Includes: M
  • 18 REDLITHIUM XC 4.0 Extended Capacity Battery, Multi-Voltage Charger, Blade, Blade Wrench, Contractor Bag
 
COMPANY:Milwaukee
MODEL:2731-21
PRICE:$419
MADE IN:China
SOURCE:Where to Buy
Also available as 2731-20 (saw alone) or 2731-22 (with 2 batteries)

November, 2014
Author: 
Carl Duguay
Discover more great woodworking reviews!
Subscribe Now and get instance online access to our library filled with exciting woodworking information.
Continue to stay connected to the latest tool reviews with our bi-monthly woodworking magazines!