What is a Portable Band Saw Used For?

In a prior article, we discussed all things miter saws, and one of the beneficial features of miter saws is their portability.  They are designed to be easy to move from place to place, whether in your woodworking shop or to a job site.  Finish carpenters enjoy this feature as they move from construction site to construction site to trim out windows and doors, as well as baseboard and crown molding.

In this piece, we will discuss another portable power saw tool, but one that is not discussed as often – the portable band saw.  We’ve written about band saws in the past, and you will find that piece here.

Band saws have a long, continuous blade that rounds about two wheels, one of which is powered.  The blade constantly turns, and the material being cut is pushed through it.  Its top wheel guides the blade band, and the lower wheel is the powered one that keeps the blade moving and controls its speed.

Band saws are very adept at cutting curves in wood, cutting tenons and small rabbets, as well as ripping stock.  As with all other power saws, its blades come in a variety of tooth counts that enable it to cut wood, metal, and plastics.

Now, what’s this portable band saw all about?

Anbull Portable Band Saw with Removable Alloy Steel Base, 45°-90° Metal Cutting, 10A 1100W Motor, 5-inch Deep Cut, with .025-by-44-7/8-Inch 14 TPI Saw Blade and Led Spotlight

Everything you can cut with a benchtop stationary band saw you can cut with the portable version.  Woods, metals, plastics – these materials are all in play with the portable band saw.  It can cut straight lines and curves and, like the benchtop saw, is well-used for joints, precision cuts, and decorative work with wood.

As noted earlier, too, it is the tool you will choose for cutting metals.  With the right blade, it will cut pipe, bars, and sheets easily and smoothly and do a better job with the latter two than a plasma cutter.

Common tasks for a portable band saw include:

  • Structural Steels. Portable band saws are commonly used in metal fabrication on thin steel sheets.
  • Tenon tongues. Portable band saws are a good choice for cutting the tenon tongues that will fit into mortises. 
  • Down-sizing timber. Have a 12 x 12 that wants to become a 6 x 6?  Grab your portable band saw for that job.
  • Notching purlins when building a roof are another good use of your portable band saw.  A light version, cordless, with ample power, can go up the ladder easily for the task, or you can cut the notch and carry the purlin up.  You’ll find bringing the portable band saw easier to bring up with you, and be glad you have the tool.
  • Meat Packing Plants. While benchtop stationary band saws are common in meat-packing and meat fabrication plants, portable band saws are not uncommon, too.  Just as their big siblings, the portable saws are adept at cutting through an animal carcass and bone to break sides of beef or pig into smaller cuts.

Here’s a video showing a DEWALT portable band saw in action on steel. It is a heavy beast, but watch how easily it cuts through steel.

We mentioned DEWALT, but Milwaukee, Mikita, Ryobi, and other manufacturers also produce portable band saws, both corded and cordless.  They come in various sizes, weights, and blade sizes, and the model you choose will, of course, be determined how you are likely to use it in your shop.

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DEWALT 20V MAX* Portable Band Saw, Tool Only (DCS371B)
  • 2-1/2-inch cut capacity of the metal band saw cuts up to 2-inch SCH 40 pipe
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  • LED Work Light with 20 second delay illuminates dark work surfaces for accurate cutting of DEWALT...
  • Integrated hang hook allows user to hang the saw without damaging the front handle or base

Portable Band Saw Mouth

The amount of exposed cutting surface of a portable band saw is referred to as its mouth size.  The smaller the saw, the smaller its mouth; the larger the saw, the larger its mouth.  That’s pretty simple.

The depth of the mouth also comes into play, depending on the saw’s configuration. 

The wider and deeper the mouth of the portable band saw is, the larger diameter materials it can cut.  Imagine a 1” diameter workpiece, whether pipe or wood or plastic:  the mouth must be greater than the 1” in order to make the cut, as well as deeper. 

Standard sizes are 6-inch and 8-inch mouth sizes, although wide mouth portable band saws are also common on job sites where you’re likely to encounter wide metal pipes, for instance.

How Do You Use a Portable Band Saw?

The first answer to this question is carefully.  As with any power tool, care and safety are your first priority.  Gloves are not necessary, but safety glasses are to prevent sawdust, wood, or metal chips from injuring you.

Beyond that, though, there are other good rules to follow:

  • Know the tool. Familiarize yourself with its weight and the proper way to hold it.  After all, they are handheld power tools.   Compact models can be one-hand tools, while larger models of greater length will have both a handle and a grip for stability.

The blade will be partially encased for safety, but the blade is exposed in the undercarriage, and of course, the blade is fully exposed within the mouth for cutting.  The mouth is easily visible to you as you are making the cut, both so you can see your mark on the material being cut and see when the cut is finished.

And, read the manual. 

  • Blade tension. The saw will have a lever that assists when installing or removing the blade.  Always make sure the lever is fully turned, and the blade is taut.
  • Tooth count. Use the right blade for the job.  Higher tooth count blades are used for cutting metals and hardwoods, while lower tooth count blades are for cutting woods and plastics.
  • Speed. Portable band saws usually have either a variable speed trigger or an adjustable knob.  Start slow, and when the cut begins, you can increase speed, reducing speed as you approach the end of the cut.
  • Patience. Just as a chef lets the knife do the work, let the portable band saw’s weight do the work.  In the video we mentioned earlier featuring the DeWALT saw, you’ll hear the fellow say that the weight of the saw did the work for him.  Don’t force a cut; let the saw do the work for you.

With these rules in mind, using a portable band saw is like using any other saw.  Mark the cut carefully and accurately, move the blade through the material being cut, and turn the saw off.  It’s that simple.

What Is A Deep Cut Band Saw Used For?

BOSCH GCB10-5 Deep-Cut Band Saw, Blue

You can probably answer this question for yourself if you have followed this piece along. 

Deep cut band saws are used for making long, clean, straight cuts.  Metal shops make their living with deep cut band saws, perfect for fabricating metals, cutting metal bars of all kinds and sorts, and metal sheets.

If you’ve never seen or worked with a portable band saw, here’s an excellent video to get up to speed.  The saw in this video is a cordless model with an 18 amp battery pack, a trigger handle, and a hand grip.  It’s light in weight, has a relatively small mouth, and cuts through materials like a knife through butter.

It’s a good introduction to portable band saws.  After watching it, along with the other video we’ve referred you to, you might well decide you need one for your shop and future projects. 

Last update on 2023-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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