Milwaukee Compact Band Saw
Power, variable speed and no sore arms!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 11-2-2010
Upright band saws have always been great for cutting lots of materials including metal. A band saw that you can hold in your hands and take to the job can be a real job saver, not to mention reducing arm strain. Being able to just squeeze a trigger to cut a piece off rather than pumping a hand operated hacksaw is not only easier in terms of effort but makes it easier to be accurate. And it should come as no surprise that the “Nothing But Heavy Duty” folks at Milwaukee Electric Tool make a top shelf version of the hand held band saw. In this review we look at the (#6242-6) Milwaukee Compact Band Saw.
At its largest points the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw is 16-1/4”-long by 11-1/2”-tall (tip of handle to end of fully extended material shoe) and about 5-1/4” wide. Milwaukee is no stranger to building low strain tools and the 9.5-lb weight of the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw shows that they were thinking about users working in overhead or confined areas. From the high strength polymer housings to the aluminum gear case, the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw is designed tough to be durable in your shop or on the job site for a long time.
The Milwaukee Compact Band Saw has a large primary grip that is ergonomically designed and features rubber over molds that give the operator a solid, non-slip grip. The over molds also soak up vibrations but the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw makes very few of those anyway. A trigger style ON/OFF switch is built into the handle where it is easy to reach and use. The forward handle is also ergonomically designed. Both of the handles are positioned on the tool to make cutting accurately surprisingly easy.
The stout 7-amp, 120V motor gives the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw plenty of power, tamed by the built in Variable Speed Control that lets you select blade speeds from 200 to 360 SFPM (surface feet per minute). Being able to tweak the blade speed with a dial built into the main grip makes it possible to get cleaner more accurate cuts in more material densities with the various teeth-per-inch blade variations available. The Milwaukee Compact Band Saw instruction manual has a chart showing suggested uses for blades with between 10 teeth-per-inch and 24 teeth-per-inch.
The layout of the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw gives it a large 3-1/4”-by-3-1/4” cut capacity. While that cut range is great for all users, being able to make single-pass cuts in such large stock will be important to pros in any discipline that require cutting metal.
Innovative Blade System
In addition to their typical durability Milwaukee made sure that the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw blade system is easy to use in the shop or on the job site. Two sets of full roller bearings serve as friction-free guides that keep the blade running straight and true. A two position material shoe helps keep the cut square and to prevent bucking or jumping during cuts.
The Milwaukee Compact Band Saw has a simple lever that applies and relieves tension on the blade. Milwaukee also devised an ejection button that lets you push the blade up out of its channel for easy removal. There are no aggravating tracking, guide or tension adjustments to deal with. Install the blade as described in the manual and you can get to work.
The Milwaukee Compact Band Saw uses bi-metal blades that are 35-3/8”-long by ½”-wide and 0.020” thick. Milwaukee offers a good selection of quality blades and because this is a very common blade size you can find replacements from other manufacturers wherever you happen to be.
In the Shop
Milwaukee has long had a reputation for making tools that work very well on the job and the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw is no different. This is an exceptionally easy tool to use including changing blades. The idea of a simple but very useful blade eject button shows that Milwaukee was thinking of the end user while designing this tool. Add the no-effort blade tensioning lever and the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw goes to the head of the class in the ease of changing blades.
The handles are comfortable and placed nicely to give the operator a clear view of the cut area whether that is below, in front or above the operator. Those handles along with the low weight make the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw less tiring to use during the longer jobs.
The variable speed control will be used more extensively by home or small shop metalworkers than they may think. Even if you don’t use it frequently variable speed can be very handy to have when the need arises. Combine this variable speed with the range of blades Milwaukee has available and there are few jobs and materials that the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw can’t handle with ease.
The roller guides and two-position material guide keep the blade stable while making cuts in small or large materials and that lets you focus on controlling the cut. With very little experience I was able to make full-thickness cuts that stayed on the layout line all of the way around square and round stock. That makes jobs go faster and the grinders can stay in the box much longer.
Despite the typical high-end quality and durability the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw carries a street price of just $189.99! (10-29-2010) I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by the low price of this tool. Milwaukee tools have long been a favorite of contractors, shops and even home users because Milwaukee makes tools that work now and for a very long time to come. The Milwaukee Compact Band Saw shows the quality and dependability that is important to anyone who wants and appreciates good tools. If you want the best hand-held band saw for your tool dollars, the Milwaukee Compact Band Saw just may be the only one on a realistic must-see list!
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