The Masterforce 18V cordless band saw was something that intrigued me. It looked light and portable and it was compatible with the Masterforce 18V 4-tool combo kit we had reviewed earlier, so I knew there were batteries, chargers, and other tools that could work off the same system. That alone made it expandable and attractive and, besides that, I had been looking forward to trying out a cordless version of this type of tool for quite a while now. Now, many DIY-types may have difficulty finding an application for a cordless band saw, but if you are an electrician or a plumber, it will almost undoubtedly be one of the greatest power tools in your bag. I happen to work for a commercial electrical company and so the ideas that were running through my head while pondering the use of this type of tool in my daily job, were beginning to overwhelm me. This was going to be a review I could really dive into.
Masterforce 18V Cordless Band Saw Features
I have to admit that when I got this product, I was giddy like a little school girl. I absolutely could not wait to use this tool. Of course, with an attitude like that, it would also be easy to drench my rose-colored glasses in the sticky, brown sap of disappointment. I had a lot of work to do – and the result of my testing and practical use of the tool would determine whether I’d invite the Masterforce Cordless Band Saw to the prom, or avoid it like some outgoing but awkward girl who tried a little too hard to over-impress me. The very first thing I noticed about it was the weight of the saw. It is as light as a feather compared to many of my other power tools. This makes cutting over your head, something I have to do frequently in commercial electric work, so much easier than having to cut with a hacksaw or a bulkier corded band saw. Plus, it is compact. This makes it even easier to cut overhead where, frankly, there isn’t much room to position the saw. I almost wish they had put a hook on this tool so I could carry it around on my tool belt… almost. After using the tool for several different applications, including slicing through some EMT and shortening up some rigid conduit, about the only thing I didn’t like about it was there weren’t any onboard LED lights to illuminate the area where you were cutting. LED lights are becoming so common now, I just may be getting spoiled, but it is nice to have those tight spaces lit up.
Masterforce 18V Cordless Band Saw Build Quality
When we first picked up the Masterforce Cordless Band Saw it was like picking up a tool that should really weigh far more than it does. While the saw attempts to keep itself light by limiting the cutting width and depth, its overall feel is that of a truly compact tool. Since it can handle cuts of up to 2-1/2″ in diameter, that’s a lot of cutting flexibility in a small package that will work for a majority of electricians and plumbers – at least the ones involved in residential and smaller commercial projects. The saw uses steel planetary gears and has sealed bearings to keep everything clean and to provide lots of torque for cutting thick EMT and other metal conduit. The handle, which you attach yourself, is covered in a rubberized grip and is positioned perfectly to give you the right leverage for positioning and using the tool, be it overhead or at eye-level.
The tool operates at 550 sfpm (surface feet per minute) which is a calculation of the motor speed, pulley diameters and, in the case of a portable bandsaw, the circular blade diameter. That’s not a number you’ll see a lot apart from a band saw or cutting mill, but the concept is that this tool can output a lot of work based on the speed of the motor and the way the blade passes through the cutting area.
The tool ships with a single bi-metal blade which you must put on yourself. We found that the blade was pretty simple to slide into place, but you need to remove the handle to do so (it actually ships with the handle removed). Using the quick-change blade release lever, which is a little tough to activate, you get the blade inserted into the sealed roller guides and then slide it over the wheels. The thing is, after getting the blade in place, activating the saw for a couple of quick blasts was all it took to properly seat the blade. Everything else seemed to function automatically to keep it lined up and positioned properly.
The Green accent color and rubber overmold on the white-ish frame of the tool looks, well, like every other Masterforce tool we’ve ever seen. It certainly stands out. Everything was properly coated for a good grip and we liked the positioning of the handle in relation to the handle and trigger. The Flexpower system Masterforce uses is nice in that you can use any of their 18V sled batteries, including the NiCad, Li-ion compact and 3.0 Ah Li-ion batteries. The new Li-ion batteries also come with 4-LED light bar that quickly lets you know how much charge remains on the battery.
In the Field Testing
When I actually got to use this saw it was quite impressive, particularly for $100. It will cut through EMT and rigid conduit in seconds. When I was demolishing old EMT on a rooftop, it made it super easy to cut them into 6 foot sticks to get them off the roof and into the dumpster. It will cut a piece of unistrut in approximately 10 seconds, and it did it without breaking a sweat. This type of tool completes cutting jobs so much faster than even someone skilled with a hack saw. We handed the tool around quite a bit and found that the blade seemed to line up well, giving you excellent visibility of the cutting area when using the tool (at least, if you’re right-handed). The only other trade-off, which is really a design parameter, is that it will only cut material up to 2-1/2″ in diameter. But, if it were to cut any larger than 2-1/2“, it would not be very compact. While we could whine about this, we also had to remind ourselves that this tool was just $100 and extremely portable. Plus, the vast majority of the stuff we work on is 1/2″ to 1-1/2″ conduit.
Editor’s Note on Use: There is one thing you must remember when you are cutting anything with any band saw. You have to let the blade do the work. Do not press or rank on the band saw to make it work faster. All that will do is bind, warp, and break the blade. This is a powerful tool and it seems to be one that will provide many years of excellent use if you take care of it.
One of the few negatives of this tool was the difficulty in obtaining replacement blades. When one got kinked on us due to a co-worker abusing the tool a bit, we went online to search out a source for the 28-13/16″ length by 1/2″ .020″ thickness blades. Turns out nobody, including Menards) sells them online – at least not in a way that you can easily track down and order. However, while we were out of town on a trip, the local Menards told us we could call them anytime and they would take a phone order and ship them to us. We bought 5 blades (all they had in stock at the time) and took down the number. That’s great customer service!
We felt the Masterforce 18V Cordless Band Saw earned solid marks for performance. It’s a great tool that should work hard for you and get the job done quickly. You can come by the blades if you’re determined and the lightweight nature of the Cordless Band Saw, coupled with its compatibility with all of Masterforce’s 18V sled-style batteries makes it a very attractive product. In a nutshell – this tool kicks butt. Any electrician would do well to have something like this in their collection and it’s super-easy for us to recommend. Since Menards is selling this tool without the battery for $100, it’s nearly impossible for us not to say that it’s also an incredible value. If you aren’t already plugged into Masterforce, a new 18V 3.0 Ah Li-ion battery and Flexpower charger will run you an additional $130. If you cut a lot of conduit, EMT or rigid pipe, get this tool, or at least pick it up and give it a try.