September 29, 2008

Milwaukee Hackzall - Review

Hackzall.jpgThe most interesting tool in Milwaukee's newly expanded 12-volt line of tools is, without question, the Hackzall. The easiest way to describe it is to say it's a 'one-handed Sawzall,' but we think that's like calling a sports car a 'mini-tractor trailer.' Sure, they've got some a few functional similarities, but beyond that, they are two entirely different creatures. The Hackzall doesn't just do what the Sawzall does but less of it, but by virtue of its size and reduced power, it creates its own to-do list and excels at tasks that you wouldn't even think of using a Sawzall for.

Hackzall_led_light.jpgThe Hackzall is roughly the size of a screw gun, but with an angle in the body that causes the blade to stick out at an odd angle in relationship to the handle. The unique shape of the Hackzall creates a whole lot of ways to hold the tool, from the standard pistol-style, to our favorite, with the tool upside down, pinky on the trigger, jigsaw-style that we used while scribing an arc into 1/2" plywood. The chuck is just what you would expect and can accept any standard Sawzall blade even though the tool comes with two mini blades, especially made for the tool. Other features include a little LED that lights up the workpiece (which is great because the tool is perfect for working in cramped unlit locations), and a series of lights which indicate the remaining charge on the battery. This is a nice feature and something that we've been noticing is becoming standard on li-ion tools. Because the battery runs at full strength until it stops dead, it's a necessary feature to have.

Hackzall_battery_lights.jpgSo what is the Hackzall good for? The answer is, "a whole lot more than we initially thought." At first, we used it for things like small, rough plywood cuts (using it as a mini-Sawzall), but then, as we got used to the tool, we started using it for everything from dicing up rigid insulation to making precise scribes, things we would never dream of using a 15 amp Sawzall for. We also ended up cutting pipes (ones that we wouldn't have been able to get to with a larger tool) and trimming off excess spray foam. Functionally, the tool ended up landing somewhere between a Sawzall and a super-powered utility knife. Particularly with the rigid insulation, we were able to make very clean, very precise cuts that would have taken twice as long with a knife or with a handsaw.

Hackzall_chuck.jpgThe one thing that bothered us about the tool is its case. it's one of those over-molded plastic jobbies that leaves no room for anything other than the tool, the batteries, the charger and a few blades. What drives us crazy about this is that there is all sorts of wasted room here, storage space squandered. Why not trim back some of that plastic and give us a place to put more blades, maybe an extra battery, who knows what, but at least give us the option. There's only a limited amount of room in the Job Box, so we like to utilize as much of it as we can. Take the Makita 15 amp recip saw case for example. It's a metal box and that's it. There's room for the tool and the cord and the blades and there's plenty left over for whatever else you want. Want to throw in another tool? If it'll fit, go ahead, the space is available. Over-molded cases are a huge pet-peeve of ours and we have yet to find a single carpenter who likes them.


But we're just being a fussy pain in the ass on that topic and it takes nothing away from the glory of the Hackzall. It's a fantastic tool and, like we said, the more we used it, the more we used it for. As the days went on, we kept discovering different things we could do with it. Whether it's for around the house or on the job site, this thing will get a workout.

The Hackzall comes with a case, two batteries, and a charger. It costs between $150 and $200. this may seem like a lot, but it's not when compared to other li-ion tools, which, by nature, are more expensive than older battery tools. After using the Hackzall for a while, we'd happily pay over $200 for it. It'll make it's value back in no time, there's no question about it.

The Hackzall isn't released yet, but the following suppliers are taking pre-orders. It will also be available as part of a combo kit with Milwaukee's 12-Volt Driver for around $250. Another kit that Amazon is carrying includes the Hackzall, the Driver, Milwaukee's new Pipe Cutter, and a work light. This one goes for about $350 and would be perfect for a plumber.

At, Tool King, and Ohio Power Tools

Combo kit with 12-Volt Driver at, Tool King, and Ohio Power Tools

Combo kit with 12-Volt Driver, Work Light, Pipe Cutter, and Hackzall at

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at September 29, 2008 5:20 AM
Recent Comments

Brand new, it has very poor blade control and loose bushings compared to my 18v Sawzall. Almost 1/8" side slop in the plunger. Blade twist slop is just shy of 10 degrees. Compare it to any other recip.saw on the market and you'll see what I mean. This is what makes it inaccurate with the longer blades. One has to use tiny blades to avoid wander and whip. For shame, Milwaukee! It's only suitable for demo or gardening. I might just void the warranty and install a tighter plunger bushing myself.

Posted by: dave at February 20, 2012 4:26 AM

I love mine I use it all the time. It's tempting to treat it like a full size saw. Be fair it's not. Need a ball peen hammer use a ball peen hammer. Need a maul use a maul. The early batteries were weak. They replaced mine free after I called them. This tool is great and it's always on my truck. It got lost on a job I went and bought a new one few days later. Get afew extra batteries if you'll be hacking roots and tree limbs like I do with it.

Posted by: Chert at January 6, 2011 2:39 PM

Don't bother buying the Hackzall for professional use. The batteries don't hold a charge. If you use it right after you charge it they don't last very long. If you charge the batteries and then go to use them let's say two days later they will be dead. One of my batteries went bad in less than two months after casual use.
Now the tool will not function, acts like it's seized up, now started smoking too.
Don't waste your time with this toy, it's not worth it.

Posted by: Brian at September 23, 2009 6:20 PM

So... it's a tool that's ideal for cutting all the crud out of over-moulded plastic cases... but you didn't test that feature? Surely you have enough tools lying around that you could find the combination of tools that's just right for turning those plastic cases into useful toolboxes?

Posted by: moz at December 21, 2008 3:48 AM
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