A portable band saw works just like their full-sized counterparts – a long blade moves in a continuous motion to slice through whatever object you need cut. Even the cordless models deliver enough power and accuracy to cut metal pipes, channels, bars, and many more. This handheld power tool is often considered to be a dynamic solution to on-site projects when you can’t lug around a band or table saw.
In this article, we’re going to compare two extremely popular handheld band saw models by two of the largest manufacturers – the DEWALT DWM120K and the Milwaukee 2429-21XC. Both of these models have made an impression on the market but for different reasons which we’ll go over. If you’re in the market for a reliable handheld band saw, either of these models might be the perfect fit, though their different cutting capacities should be your biggest concern. Let’s dive right into our comparison.
The cutting capacity refers to the size of the object the unit can cut. All handheld band saws are extremely limited in this regard, but for cutting metal objects like rebar and framing stock, this power tool is a godsend. The DEWALT has a large cutting capacity of 5 x 4-3/4 inches (rectangular). This is large enough to let users cut through multiple metal objects in a single pass without having to repeat the process for each piece.
The Milwaukee belongs to the other side of the cutting-capacity spectrum. It has a capacity of only 1-5/8 inches. However, the small size doesn’t mean it doesn’t perform well. It means that you’re limited to how many pieces the unit can cut simultaneously.
Between the DEWALT and the Milwaukee’s respective cutting capacities, bigger is better. We favor the DEWALT’s 5-inch capacity simply because it makes life a bit easier. Users don’t need to spend extra time on slicing metal or wood objects one at a time.
Like the traditional band saw, the speed of the blade is measured by SFPMs (surface-feet-per-minute). Generally speaking, cutting through soft metals like aluminum require quicker speeds, while tough metals like stainless steel need a slower speed to prevent damage to the blade. The DEWALT comes with a variable speed dial which lets users select their blade seed. It ranges from 100 to 350 SFPM, making it great for working on all types of materials.
The Milwaukee’s motor is a single-gear model that works at a constant 280 SFPM. There’s no variable speed dial or touch-sensitive trigger so you’re left working at a constant speed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the blade can cut through practically anything you want.
We tend to favor the DEWALT’s variable speed (100 to 350 SFPM) mainly because it gives the user more control over how quickly they want to cut through metal, wood, or plastic. If you want to make quick rips, you can use coarser blades (less teeth-per-inch, TPI) working at a higher speed. If you need to make curved cuts, you can use slower speeds with the appropriate blade.
Like with any power tool, you have two options – corded or cordless. They each have their own pros and cons, mostly in terms of portability. The DEWALT is a corded-electric model, meaning that your range of movement is limited by its 8-foot cord. However, with the help of additional extension cable cords, you could solve the problem easily. The only downside is that more cables equal a greater tripping hazard.
The Milwaukee is a cordless handheld band saw. You’re free to take this unit wherever you’d like without having to worry about cables and power outlets. The XC battery can last a long time as well – up to 150 cuts on ¾-inch EMT according to the manufacturer.
Both corded and corded power tools have their own pros and cons. We like corded power tools because there’s no reduced power when the batteries are running low, and you don’t need to worry about downtime due to empty batteries. However, we personally favor the Milwaukee’s cordless unit since it has a long battery life and can be taken anywhere you please. You might need to consider purchasing additional XC batteries to reduce downtime when it’s out of juice.
Weight and Controllability
When it comes to handheld power tools, weight has a direct effect on maneuverability. This unit weighs only 15 pounds (fully assembled) so there’s no trouble moving the unit around and making straight cuts and even detailed curved ones.
This compact unit is a little bit lighter than the DEWALT. It weighs in at only 12.4 pounds and can be controlled using a single hand. Single-handed operations are the best power tools since they free up our other hand to keep a grip on whatever object we’re cutting.
Control-wise, both of these models are extremely easy and comfortable to use. The only question is whether you like single-handed or dual-handed operation more. The DEWALT’s larger build is meant to be held with both hands while cutting down on clamped objects, whereas the Milwaukee can be held in one hand.
If you’d like to treat your handheld band saw like a tabletop band saw, then you’ll either need to purchase or build your own stand. Basically, a stand keeps the unit held sideways and the blade vertical. The 5-inch cutting capacity allows you to easily guide wood stock into the blade without obstructed vision or maneuverability.
The limited cutting capacity of the Milwaukee makes this unit unmountable. Basically, because you only get 1-5/8 inches of room to cut, it’s not the best tool to mount sideways to make intricate curve designs, rendering a stand useless.
The winner here is the DEWALT since it can be mound sideways and treated like a tabletop band saw. The Milwaukee can’t be mounted sideways so users are left working in a downwards plunging motion. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not as versatile as the DEWALT.
Even though the Milwaukee 2429-21XC is one of the best handheld band saws available on the market, we favor the DWM120K by DEWALT simply because its larger cutting capacity makes user-friendly, versatile, and time-efficient.
If you need a more portable large-sized handheld band saw, there are cordless models that have a cutting capacity of 5 inches or more, but as a corded unit, you’ll have a difficult time finding one that works as well as the DEWALT DWM120K. Even though it requires both hands to operate, it’s a lightweight model that’s easy to control and slices through multiple rebars, framing stocks, and metal channels with ease.