Metal Cutting Bandsaw

Photo: Metal Cutting Bandsaw 1
For many years I dreamed of owning a metal cutting bandsaw. I just could not justify the cost. They cost a lot more than wood cutting bandsaws.

Then one day I came across this “Portaband Table” made by “Swag Offroad”. It allows you to mount a portable bandsaw in a table.

I purchased one several years ago and I love it. I thought it would be a luxury item. It is. But, I actually use it a lot, to make my own tools, etc.

On 5/9/2020 the Swag table is $125. The Milwaukee 6232-20 Portaband is $280. Total is $405. I payed less for mine a few years back.

I love being able to cut out all kinds of shapes with this saw in metal, like I can in wood. I have cut teeth into things, etc. It cuts 1/4″ thick steel. No problem. I have even cut up to 1″ thick steel bar that is 1-1/2″ wide. I also use it to cut blanks for my metal lathe.

The only very minor problem, I have found is that the saw climb cuts a little at the start of every cut. i.e. the saw flexes backward a little at the start of every cut. I have gotten use to it. It really does not create any problems.

Oh, and one more thing. When the saw is mounted in the table. The motor is at just the right height to make a loud annoying sound. Thus, I always wear a set of power tool noise reduction ear muffs.

Note: There are lots of good “Swag Portaband” reviews on YouTube.

Milwaukee Portaband

Photo: Metal Cutting Bandsaw 2I decided to purchase a Milwaukee model # 6232-20 Deep Cut Variable Speed Band Saw.

Milwaukee tools in general have always been to expensive for me. However, they have been making “Portaband”s for ever. There really was only brand I considered. I wanted a saw that was well known for good solid performance. I did not want to waste time dorking with a saw that would not track, etc.

Note: All the saws (Milwaukee, Dewalt, etc) are in the same $275 price range.

It turns out I never use the variable speed feature of this saw. Otherwise I am very happy with this saw. It cuts great. I NEVER have to adjust the tracking. It tracks perfectly. No problems.

You want to get a “Deep Cut” model of band saw (not one of the standard or shallow cut models) to maximize your depth of cut. You can only get about 5″, even with a deep cut model. If you are familiar with wood cutting bandsaws, then even 5″ seems way to shallow. I have not really found it to be a problem. It works fine for cutting bar stock, pipe, etc.

Note: The depth of cut is limited to 5″ BEHIND the blade! It is not 5″ to the left of the blade like on a wood cutting bandsaw.

SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table

Photo: Metal Cutting Bandsaw 3Swag Offroad ( makes several versions of their Portaband Table. You want to go with V4.0 if you have a Milwaukee Deep Cut Portaband.

The table has cutouts and tabs that stick out and percisely match the slots in the saw. i.e. that hold the saw in position. Thus you need to match the table to your saw. You can use the pull down menus on the Swag Offroad site to look up your Portaband model.

Note: When I purchased my swag table. They did not offer the black powered coated paint for an extra $20. They also did not offer a really expensive Incra V27 Miter Gauge. I have that Incra miter gauge for my table saw. It is a great miter gauge but huge overkill for a metal cutting band saw. I just use one of the many miter gauges from the other tools in my studio. Any miter gauge that fits in a standard 3/4″ wide table slot will do.

I added my own switch under the table. See photo below. The Foot Switch option offered by the Swag people would not be good in my studio. I hate foot switches. You always have to go looking for them under a pile of wood shavings.

Metal Cutting Bandsaw Blades

Photo: Metal Cutting Bandsaw 4I use and like the 18 teeth per inch Milwaukee Model # 48-39-0561 “44-7/8 in. 14/18 TPI Bi-Metal Deep Cut Portable Band Saw Blade (3-Pack)” saw blades. Around $20 for 3 blades from Home Depot on 5/9/20.

They last for a long time. If you have a spare then you will never break one.

Can You Cut Wood?

You can cut wood with a metal blade. It works ok. But, it is SLOW. I do it when I want a fine cut.

You can get blades made for cutting wood that fit on a Portaband. I have never tried them. The saw runs slow. Even when you crank the variable speed all the way up. Thus the saw would be to slow for me to really cut a lot of wood. A piece here or there is ok. But the 5″ depth of cut is really going to be a problem. This saw is DEFINITELY not a good substitute for a small wood cutting bandsaw.

Note: The depth of cut is limited to 5″ BEHIND the blade! It is not 5″ to the left of the blade like on a wood cutting bandsaw.

If you are looking for a small wood cutting bandsaw see my “Small Wood Bandsaw” blog entry.

Can You Cut Plastic?

The slow speed and fine blade make this saw a real champ when it comes to cutting plastic. However, the 5″ depth of cut can be a problem.

I often use this saw to cut off all the stupid plastic clamshell packaging that things come in these days. It works great.

Add a Light Switch to Table

Photo: Metal Cutting Bandsaw 5Using the trigger switch on the saw to turn it on/off is a real pain. For many years I just used a plug in outlet power switch. It worked fine. But, then I moved the saw to a place where an outlet switch was not convenient to use.

Recently I added a light switch to the table. I should have done this long ago! See photos. I just used a good quality light switch from local hardware store.

The “handy” outlet box in the front holds the switch. See photo. The “handy” outlet box in the back holds a receptacle outlet that the saw plugs into. I cut the existing saw cord off about 2 feet long. Installed a new plug on the end. Then used the rest of the cord to wire up the switch and outlet. A plywood spacer between the table and boxes allows room for the “handy” cover plates.