A portable band saw is an invaluable tool that all professional handymen should have. The main difference between a portable band saw and the traditional tabletop or floor model band saw is that this model can be taken from site to site without having to mount it to any stationary table or workbench.
This tool is designed to tackle both wood and metal to produce accurate curves, cross cuts, bevel cut, or plainly ripping through thick wood stock or metal bars.
Before you purchase a portable band saw, there are several points that you should consider.
Unlike traditional tabletop or floor band saws, portable band saws have an extremely limited cutting capacity. Some models have a capacity of only 2-1/2 inches in width, while others can cut stock up to 5 inches. Since portable band saws are mainly used for cutting metal, the small capacity shouldn’t matter too much since most metal pieces are less than 5 x 5 inches. Just be sure to get a unit that can handle what you’ll be regularly using it for.
The best portable band saw models should give you an option to set the blade speed. Speed is measured in surface feet per minute (SPM or SFPM). Materials like cast iron, brass, and aluminum require slower quicker blade speeds to make neat, accurate cuts, whereas tougher metals and other hard-to-cut materials require a lower speed. Some models may come with a speed dial or a touch-sensitive trigger, while other models may not deliver enough SFPM to make it worth having more than one gear. Choose the one that works best for you.
Like with almost every handheld power tool, they can be either corded or cordless. Obviously, the main pro of going cordless is that the tool is portable and work is not limited by any cords, though downtime is determined by how many batteries you have and how long it takes to charge. Corded models can run constantly, provided you continue to pay your electricity bills. However, your work is limited to how long the cable is and how many extension cords you have on hand.
Although you’re holding onto the unit, the blade does all the work. Usually, blades are around 45 inches long, so don’t be surprised when you head to the hardware store to pick up a 40-plus-inch long blade for your portable band saw.
It’s important to select the correct blade for each application. For example, for making quick cuts, use a coarse blade (less teeth-per-inch, TPI). To make straight cuts through wide stock, use wide blades. To make detailed cuts or sharp-angled cuts, use narrow blades. Of course, it all depends on the material you’re cutting (plastic, wood, metal, etc.).
Portable band saws can come with a variety of additional features, including built-in LED work light, comfortable handle, rubber bumpers, and hooks for hanging the unit. Of course, these add-ons may encourage accuracy, but they don’t guarantee it. Just be sure to get the right model with the right selection of additional features to make handling the unit much more comfortable.
Which Portable Band Saw to Get
Now that we know the basics of what makes a good portable band saw, the only question left to answer is: Which model should you getWe’ll provide you with our pick of the top 5 portable band saw models, but your purchase decision should be based on your specific needs and the unit’s ability to meet your demands.
5 Milwaukee 2729-21 M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw
The fifth spot goes to the Milwaukee 2729-21 M18. It has a cutting capacity of up to 5 x 5 inches so the blade can cut through multiple metal pieces in one pass. This model features a touch-sensitive trigger that allows users to control how quickly they want the blade to move. The speed of the blade ranges from 0 to 380 SFPM and is able to cut through all sorts of materials.
This is a cordless model which uses REDLITHIUM (Milwaukee’s own creation) batteries with extended life. It comes with a 44-7/8-inch blade with 24 TPI. You may need to invest in additional blades since the stock blade isn’t exactly a blanket solution for all your cutting needs.
4 Milwaukee 2429-21XC M12 Cordless Sub-Compact Bandsaw Kit
This Milwaukee model has the smallest cutting capacity of all the units on our top 5 list. Only pieces up to 1-5/8 inches can pass between the blade, so this unit is definitely only used for single bars, pipes, or thin wood stock. Because of the unit’s compact size, the M12 REDLITHIUM battery lasts much longer – the company boasts up to 150 cuts on ¾-inch EMT in less than 5 seconds.
The compact size also means smaller blades will fit into this unit – 27-inch long blades, to be exact. The 2429-21XC M12, however, doesn’t feature a variable speed trigger or dial, and it works at a constant 280 SFPM.
3 DEWALT DCS371P1 20V MAX Lithium Ion Band Saw Kit
The DC371P1 by DEWALT is another cordless, compact, and easy-to-use portable band saw.
It’s a direct competitor with the previous model, evidenced by the limited cutting capacity (2-1/2 inches). This unit doesn’t have a speed dial or touch-sensitive trigger, and operators are left working at a constant 740 SFPM.
The high speed is better-suited for working on soft metals (e.g. aluminum) and wood to prevent burn marks, but you can also use this to slice tough objects like steel rebar. The DC3371P1 features a hook for hanging when not in use to prevent damage, and it comes with built-in LED lights with a 20-second shutdown delay.
2 DEWALT DWM120K 10 Amp 5-Inch Deep Cut Portable Band Saw Kit
The DEWALT DWM120K is the only corded handheld band saw on our list. This unit with a 5-inch cutting capacity features a variable speed dial which lets users determine how quickly they want the blade to move. The speed range is between 100 and 350 SFPM, great for both tough and delicate objects.
This model features a brushed motor, so keep in mind that there will be more frequent maintenance issues (replacing brushes) and heat-dissipation problems. Like the previous DEWALT model, the DWM120K comes with an integrated hanging hook and LED sight lights to help in poorly lit areas. It uses a 44-7/8-inch long blade, and replacement blades are readily available in many hardware stores as well as online.
1 DEWALT DCS374P2 20V Max Deep Cut Band Saw Kit
Finally, the number one spot on our list goes to DEWALT’s DCS374P2. It has a maximum cutting capacity of up to 5 inches for rectangular objects and 4-3/4 inches on round objects. It features a touch-sensitive variable speed trigger which sends the blade moving up to 490 SFPM – perfect for both tough and delicate materials.
The DCS374P2 uses a brushless motor so it uses its 5.0 amp batteries efficiently and manages heat extremely well to extend the life of both the unit and the battery. It also comes with an integrated hanging hook to keep the front handle and base well-protected, and it has built-in LED lights to illuminate dark spaces while working.
The portable band saw may not be a must-have tool for metalworkers and woodworkers, but if you need a compact saw to cut thin pieces of metal, wood, and plastic down to size, this tool is definitely worth the investment. First of all, it’s a handheld power tool so you don’t need to worry about transporting bulky band saws to and fro the workplace, despite the “portability” of bulky tabletop band saws.
Before shopping online for a worthy handheld band saw, make sure you take note of these five things: cutting capacity, speed, power source, blade, and miscellaneous features like LED lights and hanging hooks. The cutting capacity is extremely limited (as small as 1-5/8 inches and as large as 5 inches). Like many handheld power tools, you have a choice between corded or cordless.
The blades are flexible yet durable, and you can purchase blades specifically built for tearing through steel quickly or making smooth cuts in soft aluminum. Miscellaneous features refer to things like the unit’s weight, ergonomic handle, LED lights, hanging hook, and so on.
It’s clear from our pick of the top 5 handheld band saws that there are only two go-to brands – Milwaukee and DEWALT. For the largest cutting capacity, the Milwaukee 2729-21 M18 is the best option to go with (5 x 5 inches). When dealing exclusively with small objects, the 2-1/2-inch DEWALT DCS371P1 can be your best friend.
The overall best handheld band saw, in our opinion, has to be the DCS374P2 by DEWALT. Basically, it performs just as well as the other DEWALT and Milwaukee models, but the added features – integrated hook and LED lights – make it stand out. Not to mention the brushless motor which means you’ll have fewer maintenance issues in the long run.
If you need a portable band saw for cutting all sorts of bars, channels, and pipes, the DCS374P2 is definitely the model to go with.