I had my doubts going into this review but the Masterforce 18V Portable Band Saw works very well!
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Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw

Hacksaw capability without the cord

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-28-2010

On its own the hacksaw was a great invention. Now, you can apply that metal-cutting technology wherever you need it and without wearing out your arms in the process. The Masterforce 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Portable Band Saw (#241-0440) reviewed here makes that possible.

The Basics

At 7-lbs 11-oz (with battery) the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw is a true handheld tool. It uses a Masterforce 18-volt Lithium-Ion battery and charger (sold separately) to eliminate being tied to an electrical outlet. And it sports an 18-volt DC motor to generate a blade speed of 550 FPM (feet per minute).

The blade is 28-13/16”-long by ½”-wide and 0.020”-thick. This blade and the opening in the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw that it crosses give you a cutting capacity of 2-1/2” in both round and rectangular stock. Incidentally, this blade size is common to several other manufacturers’ saws so you will never be far from a replacement should you need one.

Controls

The main grip and trigger-style ON/OFF switch (left) are comfortable and easy to use. Being a cordless tool, there is no Lock-On button. The front grip (right) is also comfortable and has to be removed to operate the blade tension lever. this is not a frequent operation and removing the handle is tool free so it is not a big issue.
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The Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw has a grip mounted trigger style ON/OFF switch. To start the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw you must push a lock out button on top of the handle forward to release the ON/OFF switch. This virtually eliminates accidental startups including when you transport the tool with a battery installed which you know you should not do but I know many will anyway.

The grip itself, along with the forward outboard handle make using the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw surprisingly comfortable. It looks sort of ungainly lying on a bench but the balance during use is pretty good and that is what counts.

The forward handle screws into the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw without tools which turns out to be a good thing. This forward handle must come off before the blade tension lever can be fully operated. I know that sounds like a dumb engineering mistake but when you look at the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw, there really isn’t anywhere else to put this handle and still have it be effective. You need the handle every time you use the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw and only have to take it off when removing the blade so this will not be an everyday occurrence.

Blade System

The Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw uses a very simple blade system that needs virtually no input from the operator. Everything from blade tracking to tension is automatically regulated with no user adjustments necessary or possible.

Changing blades is as simple as flipping the tension lever, removing the old blade, slipping the new one in place and flipping the lever again to apply tension. To operate the tension lever you must remove the forward handle which is simply screwed into the housing without the need for tools. The instructions say to start and stop the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw a couple times after installing the blade to be sure that it is tracking correctly. Since there are no adjustments, this check seems to be more for getting the blade set on the wheels. Every time I removed the blade and re-installed it this ON-OFF cycle quickly drew the blade to the center of the wheels and it stayed there.

The blade tracking system (left) is all pre-set and requires no user input. Full sets of roller bearing guides (right) at the front and rear of the blade opening keep it very stable and cutting true.
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The Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw has full roller bearing blade guides that are also preset and have no adjustments. Because these are sealed, permanently lubricated bearings all the operator has to do is keep them brushed clean to avoid major buildups of dust.

Battery & Charger

For this review I used a Masterforce Flexpower 18-volt, 3.0 Ah battery pack (#252-8032) and the Masterforce 110-volt Flexpower charger (#252-8036), both of which are purchased separately. Both of these are from the Masterforce Flexpower battery line and are compatible with many other Masterforce tools.

The charger and battery have keyed mounts that prevent crossing connections. The charger has a pair of LED lights and a legend next to them that explain what the combinations of lights mean during the charging cycle. The charge time varies from 45 to 75-minutes depending on the state of the pack when it goes on the charger. When the battery pack reaches full charge the charger shuts itself down. The charger will not damage the battery pack if you do not remove it immediately.

The battery pack has a pushbutton test feature that uses a row of LED lights to indicate its charge status. Throughout the evaluation the pack maintained its charge very well. The first time I used the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw the pack had a small charge but as long as one LED remained lit, the saw worked fine.

The charger and battery pack (left) are extra but work with many other Masterforce cordless tools. The battery pack has a pushbutton gauge that shows the current state of its charge.
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In the Shop

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical of a cordless metal cutting band saw but all that went away when I made the first cut. The square tubing cut in the Video Tour actually is that first try. The Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw really does work!

Probably the hardest part of using the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw is getting used to where the blade is and how to follow a cut line. The handles do put the blade at the right attitude and you just need a little experience to get used to that. Before long you will be cutting right down layout lines without a lot of consternation.

The twist in the blade between the wheels also takes a little getting used to when changing the blade. I found it easiest to fit the blade into the guide bearings and then push it down over the wheels. Get it as close as you can and then flip the tension lever. Start and stop the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw a couple times as specified in the instructions and the blade almost instantly settles onto the wheels where it belongs. Once again, changing blades is not an issue once you do it a couple times.

Conclusions

The Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw may not be popular in industrial settings because it lacks a cord but for just about everyone else this could be a good choice. Considering that it is almost as easy to carry the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw to the job as it is a plain hand-powered hacksaw the choice should be obvious.

Video Tour

I have not pushed the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw to its extreme limits of the battery pack but I did make a bunch of cuts in one afternoon, several of those showing friends that it really does work. They also were immediately convinced that a cordless metal-cutting band saw was a good idea.

Currently the street price for the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw (tool only) is $99.99 (10-27-2010). The battery charger shown in this review has a street price of $39.99 (10-27-2010) and the Lithium-Ion, 3.0 Ah battery packs sells for $99.99 each. Remember that the charger and battery pack can also be used with several other Masterforce cordless tools. You can only get the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw at Menards Home Centers or through their web site at the link below.

See the Masterforce 18-Volt Portable Band Saw on the Menards web site – Click Here

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