While a portable band saw isn’t likely to see much use for domestic gardeners, it’s almost essential for commercial landscapers. Portable band saws slice through pipe, branches and awkward obstructions in the garden with ease.
In this article we’ll explore how and when to use a portable band saw, and we’ve scoured the internet for the best portable band saws to buy in the US today.
With the ever growing competition in the power tool market, it can be really difficult to find the best tools so don’t sweat. Sit back, relax, read, and then buy your new band saw with confidence.
Best Portable Band Saws for 2023
Portable Band Saw Buyer's Guide
What is a Portable Band Saw?
A portable band saw is a tool used for difficult to reach precision cutting, usually used in the construction industry for cutting pipework and brackets after installation to avoid time consuming and often dangerous cuts using manual hacksaws.
Portable band saws are adaptable tools with interchangeable blades, so can be used for timber or metal (particularly sheet metal). Importantly though, they have ribbon blades, which are supplied in rings.
These rings are fitted by opening the casing (we’ll cover that later), and spin quickly between a motor and guide. There is one big difference between band saws and portable band saws though; precision.
If you’re doing precise cuts in the workshop, you need to buy well-built budget friendly bandsaws that stand steady on a workshop floor and allow you to use cutting guides to create clean, accurate, straight cuts.
Because of the ribbon blades, band saws have a tendency to stray from their lines, so they need steady hands, especially portable band saws.
Because they are hand held power tools they are only as steady as their operator, so in the guide below we’ll talk more about how to use them, as well as what to look for when buying portable band saws.
What to Look For When Buying a Portable Band Saw
Safety features are the most important thing to look for when buying a portable band saw, and any electric cutting tools for that matter. Rotating saws, from angle grinders, chainsaws, miter saws or just a basic jigsaw, you can never underestimate the importance of safety when buying power tools.
But you’re also looking for versatility. Are there multiple blades that work with different band saws? Are there different speed settings to control cutting accuracy?
If there is, you’ll be paying a higher price for your tool, but you’ll be getting a better product. The basic thing though is to remember that this is a portable tool, so buying a portable band saw with a long cable is surprisingly important.
The longer the cable, the less you need to move your generator, or extension cords around the garden with you. These tools are all about efficiency, and there’s nothing more frustrating than buying a tool for speed and accuracy but constantly having to get up and down from a ladder to move cables.
Size and Weight
Most portable band saws are around 15lbs, give or take a few pounds for more powerful engines. It’s important to consider how heavy you’re willing to lift, especially if you’re likely to be using these tools on a ladder, or out in the garden.
In comparison, an average handheld hacksaw (which will do similar jobs less efficiently) weighs under 1lb. It might be slower, but if you’re worried about controlling heavy power tools, it’s a safer option.
To maximize the cutting efficiency of this tool, you do need to regularly replace the blade. Their thin blades are made to be used as spinning belts, so have flexibility. The tradeoff for flexibility is usually durability, so the blades don’t last as long as thicker more rigid blades.
The benefit of the thinner blades, and the speed of cutting is that they will cut through objects at least twice as fast as a jigsaw, and at least 10x as fast as a manual blade.
Check each product listing for detailed guidance on blade adjustment. While every saw blade should be adjusted manually for complete safety, and checked, different materials need different blade tensions, so you want a saw that is easy to fit, and easy to adjust.
- Note: Flick the fitted blade, it should slightly ring if it is tight enough, but if it rings for too long or continues to resonate, the tension is too high.
The durability is as much about its internal components as it is about the blade itself, and you should always base your decision on the tool, not the blade.
You can buy a new blade, but you can’t just buy a new motor. Check reviews online, and buy from recognized brands (they’re recognized because they’re reliable!) to avoid disappointment.
Also, always check if you’re buying a portable band saw with warranty, and how long the warranty lasts. That’s always a great guide to quality.
Most big brands have extra features on their band saws that let you adjust the cutting speed. This tool are no different. Faster speeds mean faster cuts, but can quickly clog up the motor if you’re trying to cut wet timber, and overheat if you’re cutting metal.
Different blades and different band saws have their own guidance, so there’s no one size fits all guide to cutting speeds.
You can pick up a reasonable quality portable band saw for around $150, but the best portable band saws sell for over $1000. For domestic gardeners, the low end is fine, and will do most jobs, but if you plan on using your band saw regularly, buy something at the top end.
It’s the only way to be sure you’re buying quality, and that your band saw will last.
Different Types of Portable Band Saw
With standard band saws, you can buy either a vertical band saw or a horizontal band saw, but there’s no choice with portable band saws.
Because they rely on your own steady hand, and need even pressure on the blade between motor and guide, portable band saws must always be used to make horizontal cuts (i.e. through the object, not along it).
- Safety Note: There are some vertical portable band saws online, but they aren’t safe. Please stick to horizontal portable band saws, which are far safer, and can be used for cuts in most directions.
A common google search is “portable band saws for wood”, and there are a few band saws that claim to be built for timber cutting, but for the most part they are all designed for metal.
Whatever band saw you buy, you can lower the cutting speed to have more control when cutting through timber, and make it faster for metal. So yes, there are some for wood, but buying a decent quality general purpose model is a much better choice.
How to Use a Portable Band Saw
Another point I mentioned at the start of this article was that these are tools designed for trade landscapers, and commercial gardeners. Because they are so lightweight, and reasonably compact, they are perfect for landscapers and a safer alternative to chainsaws for small-scale scrub clearance.
If you ever find yourself in that position though, you’re probably not near a power source, so you might be in need of a generator. The best dual fuel generator for commercial landscapers is portable, lightweight, and fuel efficient, and means you can run tools like this wherever you are.
Safety Guidance for Portable Band Saws
- Depending on the material, adjust the blade tension and cutting speed before starting any task.
- Set up your work area. This might mean getting ladders on steady footing, and clearing trip hazards.
- Wear safety goggles. This is essential for any rotary saw, not just portable band saws.
- Ensure the object is held firm (for portable saws this is harder as the objects are usually attached to other parts of a structure, so ensure the object is reasonably still).
- Plug the band saw in, and turn the mains power on (do not plug it in until you’re ready to cut).
- Keep firm hold of the main handle, and keep one finger on the trigger (the triggers on these saws don’t lock, so if you fall it will shut off immediately), then make your cut.
- After you’ve finished, switch off the main power source.
- Do not touch the blade with bare hands, as it can be extremely hot and leave burns.
Best Portable Band Saw Reviews
We’ve reviewed and rated the best portable band saws you can buy online right now below, with build quality, ease of use, precision and value at the top of our agenda to make sure you get the most for your money.
Portable Band Saw Top Picks for 2023
Portable Band Saw - Our Top Pick
For a pretty average price, I’m amazed at the quality of portable band saw you can buy from DeWalt. It used to be that Amazon only sold dodgy tools from dodgy manufacturers, but you can get some amazing products these days, including some of the best portable band saws on the market.
With a cutting width of 2.5” it’s enough to tackle most garden jobs and versatile for contractors too. The shorter cutting width makes it safer for domestic use if you’re not confident using band saws as well.
Best Value Portable Band Saw
OK, so WEN makes budget tools, and for contractors that might not quite make the cut (no pun intended), but for domestic users who don’t want to break the bank on new tools that they might only use a few times, this is a really good option.
For me, if I was going to buy a portable band saw to use in the garden at home, I’d be investing in this today. It’s not powerful enough, or durable enough for professional landscaping duties, for personal use it’s more than enough, and a fraction of the cost of some of the top end band saws.
Premium Choice Portable Band Saw
Milwaukee’s corded band saw comes in at 15lbs, so it’s pretty heavyweight to carry up ladders, but with 120V of cutting power behind you, you won’t be there for long.
It’s blade can even handle thick branches and drain pipes, with a massive 5” cutting capacity that gives you full control of your task.
The safety features, adaptable speeds and fully adjustable blade tension make it incredibly durable too. If you’re a contractor, this is the best portable band saw for you.
Portable Band Saws FAQs
What is a portable band saw used for?
A portable band saw can cut straight lines or curves in almost any material. Portable band saws give you slightly less control than static band saws, but they also give you the option to move around away from the workshop, and cut objects after installation.
Why does my band saw cut crooked lines?
If your band saw is cutting crooked lines it’s usually caused by a dull blade or poor tension. First, try to adjust the tension on your band saw.
If the problem persists, replace the blade. Band saw blades never last very long, and should be regularly replaced.
How do portable band saws work?
Portable band saws have a motor on one side, powered either by main electricity or rechargeable batteries. On the other side, they have a feeding wheel which guides the circular blade evenly back around to the motor.
The gap between these wheels limits the width of the object you can cut. Wider gaps cut thicker objects but have less tension.
Get the Best Portable Band Saw For Your Needs
Since we're already talking about saws, check out our table saw and bow saw reviews too. Safety really is key with these tools, and it’s all on you to ensure you’re being sensible when using these tools.
Remember, there’s a big difference between a band saw and a chainsaw. They might both work in similar ways, but they’re built for different uses.
Portable band saws are absolutely essential for your safety when cutting challenging timber or metal objects in the garden, but their blades are less durable than chainsaws or rotary saws, so choose your tool wisely.