The Best Portable Band Saws of 2021

Use a portable band saw to take the saw to the workpiece. A band saw is a versatile tool that cuts different types of materials.

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The Portable Band Saw Option

Photo: homedepot.com

In the workshop, a freestanding saw, such as a miter saw, table saw, or band saw, can take on most cutting tasks. However, for large pieces that can’t go through a saw, many people use a jigsaw.

Metal pipe, rebar, HVAC conduit, plastic trunking, and 2x4s often have to be cut at or near the point of use, but jigsaws have limited capacity. For both DIY remodelers and tradespeople, whether in the yard or on the job site, the most efficient solution is often a portable band saw.

Although several different types of portable band saws are available, they aren’t particularly common tools. The following article explains their features and showcases the best portable band saws currently available.

  1. BEST OVERALL: MILWAUKEE’S 2729-20 M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw Tool
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WEN 94396 10-Amp 5-Inch Variable Speed Handheld
  3. BEST VALUE CORDLESS: RYOBI ONE+ 18V Cordless 2-1/2 in. Compact Band Saw
  4. BEST SUBCOMPACT: MILWAUKEE’S 2429-21XC M12 Cordless Sub-Compact
  5. BEST DEEP CUT: DEWALT Portable Band Saw, Deep Cut, 10 Amp, 5-Inch
  6. BEST KIT: DEWALT DCS371B 20V MAX Lithium-Ion Band Saw
  7. ALSO CONSIDER: Makita XBP02Z 18V 4-3/4″ Cordless Portable Band Saw
The Portable Band Saw Option

Photo: homedepot.com

What to Consider When Choosing Portable Band Saws

The portable band saw is one of the few tools that, when used with the right blade, is equally effective regardless of material. It can cut straight lines or curves, so it can be used for joints, precision cuts, or decorative work.

Power Source

Battery technology has made great progress as a power source, making high-performance cordless tools widespread. However, buying a corded portable band saw can mean saving as much as 50 percent over a comparable cordless model. Moreover, to use a cordless tool all day, users typically need at least one spare battery. If buying a spare, always choose the highest amp-hour (Ah) rating possible to maximize runtime.

Cords usually run around 8 feet, so an extension cable often is required with a corded model, which can be inconvenient. Many job sites have a generator for a power supply, and home users usually have a nearby outlet. Although a cordless portable band saw may be the preferred option, corded tools work well for those on a restricted budget.

Cutting Capacity

One of the most important differences in portable band saw specifications is the cutting capacity. The necessity to cut material to a particular size may narrow the choices.

Width and depth dimensions are almost always the same, but check to be sure. “Width of cut” means the length of the band saw blade available for cutting or the distance between the two sides of the body that house the band saw wheels. “Depth of cut” refers to the distance from the blade to the back of the frame.

Small models designed for one-handed use may have a maximum cut of around 1½ inch by 1½ inch, whereas the largest portable band saws typically measure 5 inches by 5 inches.

Speed and Blade Type

Portable band saw speed is described in SFPM (surface feet per minute) or, more often, simply “FPM,” sometimes written as ft/min. Portable models run anywhere from 0 to 550 FPM, which allows for cutting a wide variety of different materials.

Sometimes, variable speed is simply trigger operated. However, many machines are capable of up to six speed ranges. A handle-mounted thumb wheel adjusts the speed, making it easier to change and control the saw speed.

A portable band saw typically is considered a metal-cutting tool, and some are described as such. A general-purpose blade for metals, with 14 to 18 teeth per inch (tpi), is usually provided with the machine. However, a wide choice of wood-cutting blades, usually 8 to 10 tpi, are also available. When looking for replacements or alternatives for different materials, manufacturers’ descriptions provide guidance on performance. Always invest in quality blades; cheap band saw blades wear down quite quickly.

Size and Portability

Obviously, the key factors in choosing a portable band saw are its size and weight. DIY users may not be overly concerned, but those who use a tool all day, particularly above head height, will want to minimize bulk.

Although aluminum and plastic components make a saw lighter, the overuse of plastics can affect durability on a low-priced portable band saw. When checking the weight of a cordless portable band saw, remember that the battery weight may not be included in the specifications. Most batteries weigh about 1 pound.

If working in a confined space, also consider external dimensions. Some compact and subcompact portable band saws are designed for single-handed use. Larger models usually have an auxiliary handle near the front for better control, which typically can be adjusted for working at different angles.

Bumpers, Cases, Lighting, and Bare Tools

Rubber bumpers are often fitted around the exterior of the wheel shrouds. Because they absorb day-to-day impacts, they’re often valuable in protecting the tool from damage.

A storage case is also useful, but they aren’t always provided. Some portable band saws feature LED work lights to help brighten dark corners.

Cordless portable band saws are often sold as “bare tools,” which means the battery or charger is not included. With compatible equipment, this can mean sizable savings, but check compatibility if the existing tools are more than 5 years old.

Safety Tips for Using a Portable Band Saw

Following general band saw safety guidelines helps prevent some of the potential dangers of using a saw, but a portable band saw presents some challenges of its own.

  • Always wear gloves to keep a firm grip on the tool. If new to a portable band saw, make a few practice cuts on scrap material to get acquainted with the tool.
  • Keep gloves on when changing the blade. Even though the blade may be too dull to cut metal, it can still cut fingers. Ensure the tool is unplugged or the battery removed.
  • The wheels and blade can pick up and throw debris, so make sure the tool comes to a complete stop before putting it down.
  • Frequently check the blade tension. Loose blades cut poorly and, in extreme cases, could come off the wheels.
  • Always wear eye protection when using a portable band saw.
  • Be aware of where the cut piece of material will fall. Metal materials can be very hot.

Our Top Picks

Now it’s time to look at some real-world examples of the best portable band saws of 2021. The following products offer a wide choice of power and performance options.

Best Overall

The Portable Band Saw Option: MILWAUKEE’S 2729-20 M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw Tool
Photo: Homedepot.com

The Milwaukee 2729-20 is a top cordless portable band saw that can rival most corded tools. With a maximum 5-inch depth and width, the Milwaukee is a capable saw. Its speed range is 0–380 FPM. The included blade is a 14-tpi (tooth per inch) metal-cutting version.

Like many competitors, the Milwaukee is sold as a bare tool. Adding a pair of 5.0Ah batteries is recommended, which aren’t cheap, but they provide the kind of all-day running typically required.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 18V cordless
  • Cutting capacity: 5 inch by 5 inch
  • Weight: 13.6 pounds (without battery)

Pros

  • As powerful as most corded models
  • Excellent capacities
  • Appropriate batteries provide all-day performance

Cons

  • Auxiliary handle is not adjustable
  • Batteries and charger are not included


Best Bang for the Buck

The Portable Band Saw Option: WEN 94396 10-Amp 5-Inch Variable Speed Handheld
Photo: amazon.com

This WEN 94396 model contains ball bearings for the blade guides to keep things running smoothly. Its auxiliary handle is adjustable, and it can fun from 60 to 420 FPM. The included blade is a variable-tooth 10/14 tpi suitable for both metal and wood.

The WEN is heavier than some, but not excessively. Although it may contain more plastic than the best portable band saws, it’s ideal for a DIY user with a modest budget.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 10 amp corded
  • Cutting capacity: 5 inch by 5 inch
  • Weight: 14.5 pounds

Pros

  • Competitive
  • Good value

Cons

  • Potential for occasional breakdowns/durability issues


Best Value Cordless

The Portable Band Saw Option: RYOBI ONE+ 18V Cordless 2-1/2 in. Compact Band Saw
Photo: homedepot.com

Although most cordless portable band saws are 30 to 50 percent more expensive than comparable corded models, that’s not the case with the Ryobi One+. Its 2½-inch cutting capacity is enough for all kinds of pipe, rebar, conduit, etc.

The battery sits in front of the main handle, allowing no room for an auxiliary. Instead, Ryobi offers an offset pommel, which the company claims improves both comfort and cut-line visibility. It includes an 18-tpi metal-cutting blade, which makes short work of plastics. Its speed range is an impressive 0 to 560 FMP.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 18V cordless
  • Cutting capacity: 2½ inch by 2½ inch
  • Weight: 9.3 pounds (without battery)

Pros

  • Compact and maneuverable
  • Affordable
  • Can share batteries with 225 tools in the One+ line

Cons

  • No battery or charger
  • Not designed for heavy-use job site environments


Best Subcompact

The Portable Band Saw Option: MILWAUKEE’S 2429-21XC M12 Cordless Sub-Compact
Photo: amazon.com

At just 12 inches long and less than 7 pounds, the subcompact Milwaukee 2429-21XC cordless portable band saw is the smallest tool of its kind. Yet a 1⅝-inch cut is enough for many plumbers and electricians, and it’s built to the same standards as all Milwaukee tools.

Unlike many cordless models, it comes with a full kit: charger, battery, and case, along with an LED work light. An 18-tpi metal-cutting blade is provided, and it’s capable of speeds from 0 to 280 FPM.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 12V cordless
  • Cutting capacity: 1⅝ inch by 1⅝ inch
  • Weight: 6.7 pounds

Pros

  • One-handed operation
  • Ideal for use in confined spaces
  • 3.0Ah battery and charger included

Cons

  • Blade choice is a bit limited
  • Modest cutting capacity


Best Deep Cut

The Portable Band Saw Option: DEWALT Portable Band Saw, Deep Cut, 10 Amp, 5-Inch
Photo: amazon.com

A portable band saw can be a versatile tool, but accurate cutting typically depends on user control and skill. For many jobs, a couple of degrees here or there makes little difference, but sometimes, precision is required.

The Anbull portable band saw solves this problem with its own durable steel base. It has enough weight to be stable, plus its nonslip feet don’t move around. Use a clamp to hold the workpiece. As well as accurate straight cutting, it features presets for 45 and 25 degrees. The supplied blade is 14 tpi for metal, and it possesses a variable speed between 100 and 350 FRM.

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Like many DeWalt tools, this portable band saw offers quality and durability. Although primarily aimed at the pro market, it’s also popular with DIY users.

Corded power means consistent performance: all day if necessary. Tough metal shrouds with thick rubber bumpers offer protection in tough job site environments, yet this tool weighs no more than its rivals. Precise blade tracking and dual roller bearings help maximize cutting accuracy and extend blade life.

An LED work light focuses on the cutline, and its auxiliary handle is adjustable for comfort. It also contains an integrated hanging hook. The supplied blade is rated 14 tpi to cut metal, and its speed range is 100–350 FPM. While not a budget portable band saw, it’s competitively priced.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 10 amp corded
  • Cutting capacity: 5 inch by 5 inch
  • Weight: 15 pounds

Pros

  • Large cutting capacity
  • Renowned reliability
  • Built tough

Cons

  • Modest speed range


Best Kit

The Portable Band Saw Option: DEWALT DCS371B 20V MAX Lithium-Ion Band Saw Bare-Tool
Photo: amazon.com

Most portable band saws are sold with a single metal-cutting blade, which means buying at least one other blade. Moreover, most band saws are sold as bare tools, so purchasing a battery often is required.

The high-quality DeWalt DCS371B kit includes a 10/14-tpi combination blade for metal and wood. Additional 3- by 24-tpi fine finish blades are included. The batteries provided are high-capacity 5Ah batteries, which should run the tool all day.

Among the lightest in its class, this portable band saw is compact. While an adjustable auxiliary handle would make an attractive addition, it’s not really needed on a tool this manageable. Speed is an impressive 0–570 FPM, but it’s trigger-controlled, with no preset ranges.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 20V cordless
  • Cutting capacity: 2½ inch by 2½ inch
  • Weight: 8 pounds (without battery)

Pros

  • Kit includes blades and batteries
  • Compact and easy to maneuver
  • Well made

Cons

  • Fixed auxiliary handle
  • No speed ranges; trigger control only


Also Consider

The Portable Band Saw Option: Makita XBP02Z 18V 4-3/4" Lithium-Ion Cordless Portable Band
Photo: walmart.com

Though it doesn’t rank as a “best” portable band saw in any particular category, this Makita XBP02Z is a versatile all-round tool.

Durable metal wheel shrouds are protected by rubber bumpers, so it can withstand the inevitable hard knocks. An adjustable auxiliary handle and soft grips make it ergonomic. Safety features include overload protection and a lock-off safety switch to prevent accidental starting. It includes a LED work light.

The Makita portable band saw comes with an 18-tpi metal-cutting blade. The tool runs at a very fast 275–530 FPM, so this blade is more suitable than the standard 14-tpi type. Pricing might put it beyond most DIY users, but it’s a quality option for tradespeople, particularly those who cut a lot of metals.

Product Specs

  • Power supply: 18V cordless
  • Cutting capacity: 4¾ inch by 4¾ inch
  • Weight: 14.3 pounds (with battery)

Pros

  • High-quality, reliable tool
  • Fast cutting speed for tough materials
  • Trigger-lock safety

Cons

  • Slowest speed is 275 FPM
  • Battery and charger not included


The Advantages of Owning the Best Portable Band Saw

Portable band saws have no real competitors. Jigsaws don’t have the capacity and are not designed for cutting round material. The vibration of a reciprocating saw means it’s not a tool for precision work.

Portable band saws come in a range of sizes for one- or two-handed use.
If properly set up, they run smoothly, allowing for precise cuts.
Portable band saws can make straight, angled, or curved cuts.
With the correct blade, they can cut steel and nonferrous metals, wood, plastic, PVC, composites, etc.
Affordable models are available for the DIY user.

Our Verdict

Our top pick, the MILWAUKEE 2729-20, exemplifies the performance available from the best modern cordless tools. The WEN 94396 has similar capacities for around a third of the price. It may not have the same build quality, but its portable band saws are within almost everyone’s reach.

How We Chose the Best Portable Band Saw

Research for Bob Vila tool articles occurs in two stages. First, we look into what potential buyers’ expectations are for each purchase. Next, writers with experience with the products thoroughly investigate the models available and make recommendations that will suit a variety of users.

I am an engineer by profession and have owned several band saws, both stationary and portable models. I know how they’re used, and also how they’re sometimes misused in workshops and job site environments. As a portable tool, the key aspects in a portable band saw are durability and reliability. Brand reputation, usually well deserved, is also considered in the research. However, less well-known models were also considered if they offered comparable performance and value.

FAQs

Reading through this information should provide valuable insight into how to find the best portable band saw for specific tasks. However, potential buyers regularly ask some questions, which appear below along with their answers.

Q. How long do portable band saws last?

So much depends on the amount of use the portable band saw gets and the working environment that it’s difficult to say how long it will last. Professionals can expect at least several years of use, while DIY users may get much longer.

Q. How do I clean my portable band saw?

Each manufacturer provides a guide to cleaning and general maintenance. Follow the instructions to maximize performance and tool life. In general, waste gathers around the band saw wheels, which can be cleaned with either an air gun or shop vac. If spots of rust appear on the blade, wipe with a noncorrosive liquid rust remover.

Q. How deep can a portable band saw cut?

It varies, so check the specifications. These top picks demonstrate the wide variety available, but the maximum is usually around 5 inches.

Q. Are portable band saws worth it?

If you have sufficient use to justify the investment, absolutely. No other portable saw offers the same combination of power and material-cutting versatility.