Electrical Tool Options

OK so I’m a service tech. Mostly I work industrial / commercial locations so I rarely if ever work in wood, sheetrock, etc. It’s mostly metal cabinets. I have a need quite frequently to cut sections of strut, DIN rail, conduit, as well as make openings in panels. Right now my tools include a cordless Milwaukee 4-5" grinder that I can load with grinder wheels or cutoff wheels, a corded Hitachi (Metabo) reciprocating saw from last decade (I forgot how old it is!) but still going strong, a HF sheet metal shear that works OK in straight lines and with lighter grade sheet metal but is otherwise a pain since it does not corner at all and can’t handle thicker cabinets at all, and you honestly can’t start it in a very small hole like you’d get from a drill so it’s pretty much only good for shaping bigger pieces, not inside cuts. drills both good quality machine shop grade jobber bits and a few step drills, and stainless knockout set with the hydraulic pump for perfectly round burr free holes.

While all this stuff works pretty well overall for what I do, it would be nice to get cleaner corners and straighter cuts, and the corded reciprocating saw just plain has to go at some point because I’m not always guaranteed to be anywhere near a power supply and especially in demo work invariably I end up in a position where the cord keeps wanting to line up with the blade. Up to this point I avoided sabre saws because frankly the ones I used and this was back in the 90’s were trash and the demo reciprocating saw does just about as neat a job. I’ve tried for instance cutting strut with both the reciprocating saw and the grinder. The grinder certainly does it faster and easier but the result is often jagged because I have to turn the strut a couple times where at least the demo saw goes all the way through.

I’ve been thinking about adding to this. I’ve heard wonders about good quality nibblers but all the ones that can take decent sheet metal (up to 11 gauge) are pneumatic and the last thing I want to do is haul around an air compressor although they look definitely like a great solution for panel cutouts. I’ve seen the ads for the oscillating multi-tools and they look very interesting but the only thing I see them used on is sheet rock and wood. Are they worth trying to use on metal or slow or wear out bits too fast? You can do this work with a Dremel but I would never do that in a production environment and it looks kind of like that. I have a spiral saw too and although it works awesome in sheet rock and SOME wood (not thicker than 1/2" plywood) I would never consider it for metal, and control is so-so. Looking over on electriciantalk a recent discussion about multi-tools made it clear to me that those things are strictly for drywall and wood and you can forget about metal. It will still work but it’s like a Dremel…wrong tool for the job, but it would be nice to confirm this with other sources.

Also is there such a thing as a good sabre saw and should I get one for say doing panel cutouts in sheet metal? And finally, Milwaukee has several different reciprocating saws. Any particular models better than others?

I’m kind of partial to Milwaukee simply because I already own that battery system and I really don’t want to get into the situation I got into with Hitachi/Metabo where I end up with 2 or 3 different batteries, chargers, etc., or have one tool that I use so little that half the time the battery is just about dead anyways.

Although not in an industrial environment at all, I do some metal cutting mostly in aluminum sheet, but also the occasional threaded rod, unistrut, conduit and similar. I have found a cordless band saw invaluable for several of those tasks, cutting threaded rod and metal conduit especially. I have Milwaukee’s metal cutting circular saw as well, which they advertise for cutting unistrut and conduit and other things, but I mostly use it for long straight cuts in sheet when I’m away from a brake. It sounds like the wailing of a thousand banshees cutting metal. I just never got used to using it on round conduit or rod or similar either, and thus haven’t learned to do those cuts very well, so they come out kind of nasty. Whereas the band saw I like better, and I like the cuts I can make with it. But for larger straight cuts in panels, depending on clearance, it could fit the ticket for making nice clean straight cuts.

Milwaukee’s cordless sawzalls are very decent, definitely go for the fuel model since it has noticeably more power and runtime, even to a layperson like me. Deciding between the regular fuel sawzall and new super sawzall will really depend on your use. I use the hackzall more than the full size sawzall just because of the size and convenience, but my usage again is a lot less and less demanding than yours. The regular fuel sawzall can still be just a bit of a battery hog though, not as bad as the cordless fuel angle grinder, but up there nonetheless.

Milwaukee does have other metal tools, a shear that hasn’t been updated in quite a while, a cordless knockout kit, a threaded rod cutter coming soon, but I can’t speak to any of them. I know some folks in the industry and they mostly prefer Makita for metalwork tools, They have a few tools Milwaukee doesn’t, but they’re more specialty items.

We had good luck with Kett nibblers (corded -not cordless) - they might be worth a look.
We had some that were up to the task of cutting cup old oil storage tanks.

Makita makes a cordless nibbler - but I know nothing about it.


I forgot all about the band saw but meant to have it on my list. Sounds like I just need to pick one and add them all over time. Problem with my line of work is tool addiction. I try to limit myself to either a tool a month or $100 A month whichever comes first, not including consumables. Once you go from DIY to professional you just look at everything differently. Things like how fast does it go, how fast will it wear me out, how roached will it look, and how long will it last matter more than will my wife let me buy it, and how many times will I ever use it.