Rebar, threaded rod, unistrut, hanging pipe, steel stock – we could go at it with a hacksaw or recip saw, but the handheld band saw is king in these applications. Getting an effective cordless model was great. However, a cordless deep cut band saw that can keep up with, and even outperform, corded models is surely proof that there are some talented individuals in the engineering end of our industry. This was obvious when I first laid eyes on the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Deep Cut Band Saw at a 2014 Milwaukee annual media event.
There are a host of features to talk about with this, but let’s start with those engineers. Apparently, someone had the brilliant idea to take Milwaukee’s corded deep cut band saw and rewire it for battery use. That’s pretty much what happened as more than 90% of the corded model’s DNA is found in the M18 Fuel.
As you’d expect since it’s in the Fuel family, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw benefits from Milwaukee’s Powerstate Brushless Motor and Redlink Plus electronic controls. Those electronic controls lead into what Milwaukee calls Constant Power Technology. Essentially, this allows the tool to draw additional power in order to maintain cutting speed while running more efficiently in lower-stress applications.
The design team took durability to the next level with reinforced impact zones that tend to be at greater risk in a fall. They combine this with a proprietary composite material to come up with Jobsite Armor. While we don’t do destructive testing (unless David C. Smith and his Safety Third team are hanging around – accidents happen), Milwaukee employees were happy to demonstrate the ability of the band saw to keep running despite repeated drops on concrete from chest height.
Coming directly over from the corded model, you’ll find the all-metal direct drive in place. This is a huge advantage over a belt-driven system in that there’s no loss of power over time as a belt stretches and eventually begins to slip.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference and you’ll find several of those here. First up is the integrated rafter hook. It’s one of those things that you may not realize how much you need until you’re forced to use a saw that doesn’t have one. Like we’re seeing in most cordless tools, there’s an LED light built-in for low light applications. There’s also a tool-free shoe that allows you to go from an extended shoe to shoeless in seconds.
Blade installation and changes are made easy with a tool-free tension release. It took only a minute or two to properly seat and ready the blade for work.
The variable speed trigger is further supported with a speed selection switch that will allow you to dial in speeds from 0 – 380 feet per second. A trigger lockout is in place, which has already come in handy. The weight and balance of the tool lend themselves to having your finger on the trigger while carrying it around.
Milwaukee originally kitted the 2729 M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw with 4.0 amp hour batteries. Ours came with 5.0 amp hour batteries and that’s how they are all going to be shipped moving forward.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw Specifications
- Model: 2729-20/21/22
- Power Source: Milwaukee 18V RedLithium Battery Pack
- Weight: 15 pounds
- Length: 21″
- Blade Length: 44-7/8″ x 1/2″ x 0.020″
- Cut Capacity: 5″ x 5″
- No Load Speed: 0 – 380 feet per minute
- Price: $329 (bare), $499 (1 battery kit), $599 (2 battery kit)
- Warranty: 5 years
I put the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw in the hands of Mark Garcia and his crew. These guys travel around the Tampa Bay area doing contract work for the Florida Department of Transportation. One of the most common applications they handle on a day-to-day basis is railing repair. Their rig is pretty impressive with integrated solar panels and generators set up for power. Between their corded and pneumatic tools, we decided to see if we could impress them with Milwaukee’s cordless power.
These guys know what they’re doing and do it well. As you can imagine, there was a bit of skepticism when I asked them to ditch their trusted corded pipe cutter for the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw. It was pretty clear they were happy to be free of the cord, but they weren’t entirely sure that the cutting speed and run time were going to be enough to keep up with the demand.
Repairing Hand Railing
The guys took it to repair some hand railing that had recently been damaged in a car accident. With hundreds of miles of railing in their service area, it’s an all too common repair. Their normal setup is to drag a generator out with a corded pipe cutter to remove the damaged section of the railing. They cut the replacement lengths and reinstall it, good as new. Mark told me they did try to go with a cordless cutter once, but they could only get about 10 minutes of run time out of it before returning to the generator setup.
While they didn’t count the number of cuts, that first battery lasted for several hours, and the crew was extremely impressed by M18 Fuel’s cutting power. The build quality was up to their standards and no one seemed to have any concerns over its durability.
Ergonomically, well, it’s a 15-pound handheld tool, not a 3-pound impact driver. Despite the weight (which by nature has to be there), the design lends itself to a comfortable grip. Milwaukee’s rubber overmold and oversize support handle help in that regard.
After discussing the results with their supervisor, he immediately placed an order for several more units to cover the other crews. We don’t receive any compensation for a sale like that, but I’d say that kind of response is a pretty solid recommendation.
Being immersed in the world of power tools, I get to be around the cutting edge of technology. I often forget how much skepticism and hesitation there is when moving away from corded models and into the cordless realm. This was an eye-opening experience for me to see professionals that rely on corded power begin to realize the potential that cordless tools now offer.
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw is definitely a winner for this road crew. The power exceeded their expectations and made cutting hand railing easier than the powered pipe cutter they were used to. By removing the generator and extension cords from the equation, it saved them a ton of setup and take downtime, making them more productive. The 5.0 batteries packed enough capacity to get them through their workday using just the two in the kit. Unsurprisingly, they offered to test anything else from Milwaukee that might help them get rid of the generators and cords.