Milwaukee M18 FUEL Multi-tool 2836 vs. DeWalt 20V MAX DCS356

Multi-tools use a variety of attachments in an oscillating motion for sanding, cutting, and scraping. They are commonly used to remove grout, trim door jambs, cut nails, notch out drywall and wood, etc. A great addition to any pro kit.

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When I heard the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL multi-tool model 2836 was plunge cutting faster than the DeWalt DCS356 I had to check it out for myself. Not only did I find the FUEL tool plunged faster, it sanded faster too, a lot faster.

Quick Specs

Both tools have brushless motors, a work light, a tool-less blade change, and a top speed of 20k oscillations per minute (OPM). With a 5amp hr battery the Milwaukee weighs 4.3 lbs. vs. the DeWalt’s 3.6 lbs. The Milwaukee costs more retailing for $229 compared to the DeWalt at $129. Both can be found on sale for less.

Speed

To test the Milwaukee I ran it against the DeWalt DCS356 and my 3 amp corded Makita. I ran all three multi-tools at their shared top speed of 20K OPM, all used new blades, and both cordless tools had fully charged 5 amp hr batteries.

On nails, copper pipe, and 1×6″ wood trim they were all pretty close. It was the plunge cutting and sanding that separated the tools from the toys. The M18 plunge cut nearly 3x faster than the DeWalt and 2x the Makita. And it sanded the paint off of a section of baseboard 2x faster than the DeWalt.

How can it be that much faster?

Some say the FUEL’s speed is due to its 4.2° angle of oscillation. DeWalt lists its angle as 1.6°, which I take to mean 1.6 left or right of 0° for a total of 3.2°. I think this is too small of a difference to account for the FUEL’s huge increase in speed.

I think part of the reason the DeWalt and corded Makita plunge cut so much slower is, for whatever reason, they do not clear dust as well as the Milwaukee. The DeWalt especially, requires a lot of stop and start action to clear the dust so it can dig deeper.

The Milwaukee also has some type of shock mechanism at the blade attachment point. This probably has more to do with its higher speed. The downside is this shock system seems to allow the blade to flex and wander away from the tool under certain conditions.

For example, cutting drywall with the M18 at low speed lets the blade pull away but running it on high cuts straight.

One reason the Milwaukee sands faster may be the DeWalt sanding pad has no dust clearing holes and the Milwaukee pad does. Still, I wouldn’t chalk the Milwaukee’s double speed up to dust clearance alone. The Milwaukee’s springy blade attachment point is probably at play here too.

Vibration

worker holding dewalt multi tool

Even though the Milwaukee has a looser battery (the terminals float more than the DeWalt) it still has less vibration than the DeWalt. That said, the DeWalt’s vibration is also good, unless you hold it by the pistol grip, in which case it’s much worse than the Milwaukee and corded Makita.

Control

I normally hold the tool with one hand up front and the other on the battery as this gives me more control in most situations.

Because the DeWalt has so much vibration if held by the pistol grip I can’t use it for much anyway without my hand going numb for three minutes after a cut. And for many one handed cuts, e.g. cutting a PVC pipe, holding the upper half of the grip gives better control, but the DeWalt grip is cluttered with the trigger and blade change bar making this a challenge.

The Milwaukee grip is free of clutter. And while I still mainly hold it by the battery it’s nice to be able to hold it by the grip without any interference or increased vibration.

The Milwuakee speed dial is located in a spot where you may touch it if you hold the tool by the lower grip, which can cause the speed to change as the tool vibrates under your finger. But, having used the Milwaukee for a few months now, this hasn’t been an issue and it’s actually pretty easy to adjust your finger over to not touch it.

Blade Change

The DeWalt’s blade change is much faster when using universal (open end) accessories, which I prefer for any multi-tool because they are easier to install and adjust.

That said, the Milwaukee has a fast blade change for universal blades and is much better than the DeWalt when using regular accessories.

Reason being, the adapter that comes with the DeWalt has face pins that do not line up with the holes on regular accessories from Makita, Bosch, or Milwaukee, are the ones I’ve tested. Beyond that you need an allen wrench to install the bolt for the adapter, which is the opposite of a tool-less blade change.

The Milwaukee can take all of these brand’s accessories with no adapter needed. And, I have not found any universal sanding discs with through holes for dust clearance.

Bottom Line

The Milwuakee cuts like a reciprocating saw and sands like an orbital, which is a huge improvement over the DeWalt. I also prefer the feel and control of the Milwaukee grip. I’ve been running the M18 on DeWalt batteries through an adapter for months now and let me tell you, if you’re into remodels, it’s worth the extra spend.

Check out this review to see these tools in action.

https://youtu.be/3KrOP9DgI3Y

Hey, I'm Alex and I love tools. Having worked in carpentry and as a painting contractor I have a great appreciation for tool innovation. The freedom of cordless is amazing. These days, when not traveling with my wife Zhou, I remodel houses and write tool reviews. Enjoy the website. :)

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