Milwaukee M12 FUEL 5-3/8″ Circular Saw 2530-21XC Review

We originally posted on the Milwaukee M12 Circular Saw a while back but wanted to put it in the hands of a friend and craftsmen who would have the opportunity to really use this tool on a daily basis and see what he thought.

Milwaukee M12 2530

GUEST BLOGGER: My name is Matt Bowman, and I’m excited to have been asked to write a review for the COPTOOL blog. I work at a small fabrication shop called Griffen Hollow Studio, and our scope of projects spans from laser engraving and custom woodworking to full scale interior builds. We are located in the cultural mecca known as Columbus, Ohio.

The Milwaukee 5 ⅜” circular saw 2530-21XC ($229) is the newest addition to the M12 cordless product line. Like the other tools, it features a 12-Volt 4 amp-hour battery that integrates Milwaukee’s REDLINK internal electronic regulation system, which provides automated protection against overheating of the motor and unnecessary drain of the tool. The new brushless motor design promises extended tool life, better battery use, and superior performance on the jobsite or around your hobby shop. The tool is ergonomic, reasonably priced, and a perfect choice for both the tradesman and casual user.

M12 Circular Saw

Right out of the bag, the tool is light and fits in the hand well.  The saw weighs a mere 5 lbs 5 oz, almost exactly half of the corded 7 ¼” model and 30% less than the M18 option. On jobs where mobility and speed are key, this is the way to go. The M12 Saw comes with one battery (an extended life XC-40, larger than the standard M12) and a one-port charger, but other charging station options are available from Milwaukee. The battery took one hour to charge completely.The blade attaches in a 10mm arbor (right-handed thread) using a hex key hidden on the back of the frame by the stop adjust.

We ran it through all the typical chores (and a few extras) that we might use our old Porter Cable for, and the Milwaukee M12 handled all tasks with ease. The saw has a left-handed blade, which was a new adjustment for me. The orientation makes a world of sense, allowing the operator a full view of the blade approach to the point of contact. The trigger-activated LED aids in the clarity while watching the cutline.

Milwaukee 2530 handle

The depth guide unlocks and adjusts easily- no new tricks to this common set-up. I started by ripping and cross-cutting ¼” plywood blanks that we feed to the laser engraver. I set it at about ½” deep for the ply and the saw cut right through. Tracking was reasonable as long as I kept a consistent speed.

After cutting down the ply, I moved on to some other woods we keep around. The framing blade notwithstanding, the saw achieved nice clean cuts through ¼”  ash hardwood blanks. The same thickness, softer buckeye was smooth sailing with minimal tear in the grain.

I crosscut ¾” x 10” pine, common stock from the box stores used for shelving, and the tool handled it with no resistance. Using a speed square for a guide, I cut down six pieces quickly and finished out a small paint shelf that had been at the bottom of the to-do list for some time.

The miter on the blade guard turned smoothly, and I cross-cut some 45’s to look at the performance. Going freehand is always risky, so again, using the speed square, the cuts were accurate and clean.

The most unique material in our shop are redwood 2×4’s salvaged from the OSU stadium renovation. We use them for everything from small laser-cut earrings and ornaments to large frames and awards. After a quick wand with the metal detector I cut through several pieces in no time. I ended up with about eighteen blanks prepped for the resaw, from there they go to the laser.

At this point, I had been using the M12 Saw for almost an hour, moving from one project to the next. The portability of the saw allowed me to go to the material storage areas and make the rough cuts in place, as opposed to transporting the wood back and forth to the miter saw station. Of course, sometimes the wood has to move after it’s been cut, almost always on a job site, but not in our small specialty shop. The battery was holding up pretty well, after nearly forty cuts through various lengths, thicknesses and materials, it wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. The motor was not hot in the least bit, which was surprising; even our cordless impact guns generate a little heat after extended use.

It was time to tackle an actual project. We’ve been wanting an island that juts out from one of the work stations about four feet into the work area. I sorted out some scrap 2×4’s from a wall demo and found the most useable ones. I threw them up on a set of sawhorses and went to town.

2530-21xc Milwaukee

I laid out all the cuts, and once again using the speed square, cut the pieces quickly and let them fall. The M12 ran right through all that I needed, probably another 25 cuts.

After that, I ripped and cut a ¾” piece of OSB for the top and that finished out my list.

For grins, I went back to the scrap pile and cut down enough pieces for a set of legs and frames to the next workbench.  I logged about 80 total cuts, over half of which were dimensional building materials. The battery was showing some fatigue during the last few cuts. The Milwaukee website claims that the battery will last up to 170 cuts, but I didn’t experience this level of performance. Even with our not-ideal temperature of 55 degrees in the shop, and considering the battery had only an hour charge out of the box, a discrepancy of 90 or so cuts to the charge seems too much to disregard.

Regardless of the battery issues, the Milwaukee M12 Circular Saw is a great tool to have in your arsenal. The light-weight and comfortable design, combined with its portability make it a versatile unit on the jobsite or in the shop. The 16-tooth framing blade (included) tackles building materials with ease (finish and trim blades are available from aftermarket suppliers.) The cut capacity of 1 ⅝” is nominal for framing, decking and general construction.  It also handles hardwoods well, such as maple and ash, if you are willing to compensate for finishing after the rough cut.

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