Switches & Speed Control
All of these portable band saws are variable-speed tools, with different blade speeds being used to optimize cutting in different hardnesses of materials and with various blades.
The cordless Milwaukee has a large two-finger switch, so it is easy to find even with gloves on, and it has a high/low button on the rear handle to change blade speed. The Porter-Cable, DeWalt, and Makita models all use a separate dial to adjust blade speed. The corded Milwaukee uses a variable-speed trigger with a stop adjustment on the trigger. I feel this is probably the handiest setup for adjusting blade speed.
It's really nice when you see that tool manufacturers have paid attention to how their tools are really used in the field, and I was pleased to find some innovations on these band saws. Three of the saws come with built-in work lights: The cordless Milwaukee uses an LED to light the cut area, and the Makita uses a small fluorescent bulb. DeWalt's work light is a very bright, easy-to-replace automotive bulb; in fact, if you ever get lost in a dark crawlspace you could probably use it to help find your way out. DeWalt and Makita protect their castings with rubber bumpers.
Handy hang hooks on the front of the Makita and the rear of the DeWalt keep the tools within reach.
Credit: Photo: David Sharpe
Another feature we were happy to see was the tool hook included on both the Makita and the DeWalt models. Having your band saw handy and keeping it clean by not setting it on the floor seems like a good idea to me. DeWalt's hook is on the rear handle, a natural location to hook the tool as you set it down. The Makita's hook is off the front of the tool, and as you set it down you have to release your primary hand to hook this tool, which is not quite as easy.
Choosing a winner out of this bunch of tools was not an easy task. The corded Milwaukee 6232-6, a descendent of the tool that has been around forever, is a solid saw and extremely well-made and powerful. The Milwaukee 0729-21 is also very powerful, and anytime you can lose the cord, you have increased your productivity; I never once missed the cord with this band saw.
Makita's 2107FK band saw incorporates great features such as the tool hook and work light. Its light weight and great ergonomics make it a pleasure to use.
But for me, the one saw that stood out just enough from the rest of the class is the DeWalt D28770K. This well-made saw was easy to use and includes welcome features like a well-placed tool hook and the extremely bright work light, a combination that could make a tough day at work just that much easier. Add to that its cutting power, light weight, and comfortable feel, and we've got ourselves a winner.
Unfortunately, the Porter-Cable 97724 was outclassed by the other four models in this test. It had less power and cut slower than the others, and it didn't handle as well during operation due to its awkward shape.
–John Myrtle owns JM Plumbing and Heating in Hotchkiss, Colo.
Sources of Supply
Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.
Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.
0729-21 (cordless): $429
Model 97724: $289–$299