Ergonomics

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DeWalt's bright work light allows for straight cutting in even the darkest space on the job.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Being able to handle these tools comfortably and follow your cut line is critical. For the most part, the tools in this test were easy to use. The DeWalt band saw is light at 15.5 pounds and was very comfortable to use. Instead of a standard knob grip, it has a large D-handle in front that allows you to really get a good grip, even with gloves on. This front handle also doubles as a stand, allowing you to balance the saw on its back while changing the blade, or just keep the blade and saw motor out of the dirt. The soft grip material on the rear handle adds to its comfort level.

The Makita saw is the lightest at just 13.8 pounds. It features a curved rear handle that places your grip closer to the top of the tool–which was great when working directly over the piece being cut, like you would at a standup vise. The Makita also has a large, comfortable D-ring front handle. All-in-all I felt this was the most comfortable saw to use.

The Porter-Cable weighed in at 14 pounds, the corded Milwaukee at 17 pounds, and the cordless Milwaukee at 19.6 pounds.

The DeWalt, Makita, and both Milwaukee saws have rear handles parallel to the blade, which made them more comfortable to operate and provided a more accurate line-of-sight on the cut than the Porter-Cable. This saw was uncomfortable in my hands, and because the handle tilts to the left I could never get a good feel for blade position. In addition, the front handle is mounted toward the side of the saw (in relation to the cut), not on top like the other tools. Since I am left-handed, I found myself reaching over the top of the Porter-Cable in an awkward position or cutting with my non-dominant hand. A righty might have an easier time with this saw, though.

Cutting Capacity

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The speed-limiting dial on the trigger of the corded Milwaukee provides the surest control.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

One of the limitations of a band saw is the capacity of the cut, which is limited by both the width and depth of the throat. Both Milwaukee models, the DeWalt, and the Makita max out at 4-3/4 inches in round or square stock. The Porter-Cable, while able to cut 4-3/4-inch round stock, is limited to a rectangular cut of 4-1/2 inches by 4-3/4 inches. For most work in the field, that is plenty big.

Blade Change

All five of these saws have a lever to release the blade tension before you slip the blade off the tires and out from the guides. They all worked fine and were ready to run without messing around after changing blades.

Porter-Cable has an extra feature: a blade-tracking adjustment screw. This adjustment might come in handy down the road if a blade stretches or the pulley bearings wear down, but during our test we didn't encounter any problems with blade tracking on any of the saws.

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All the saws have similar blade-release levers; the Porter-Cable also has tracking adjustment.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe