The Milwaukee M12 Cordless Sub-Compact Bandsaw is a handy little saw. It sells at a great price, not just for what it does, but for what it does that no other tool can do. It’s not rocket science that Milwaukee came up with this tool. And, it’s no surprise that everyone and their dog has one. Is it the best budget bandsaw out there? For contractors and other folks in the industry, yes it is.
I’m a jack of all trades contractor. In my spare time I also enjoy hobbies involving metal work, and classic film. That’s why I think of the M12 as both; as close to the handsaw weapon from Predator 2 and as a tool that can even come in handy for the home-based hobbyist. Let me start with how this tool helps me at work.
My business mainly involves HVAC, but I also do a fair bit of plumbing work on contract and on the side. We used to call sub-compact handsaws “portabands”, which is short for “portable bandsaw”. Since I was a lad working at my town’s public works department, the portaband was the go-to tool for cutting rebar quick and easy on site.
As far as I can recall, the city paid a fair bit of coin on these saws. I remember we had just two for a large crew and sometimes had to wait for another job to be done before we could access it. They were also corded. Damned if I can remember who made them, but they were very handy.
Today, the tool fits the same niche, only now it costs less and does more. The reason folks get one of these, when they already have a decent cutting tool, is it can fit into spots the big ones, like the Milwaukee M18, can’t. Because it’s small and doesn’t have a cord, I can get into cramped spots and cut little bolts and such with greater ease. On top of that, the M12 doesn’t kick up as much sparks. Spark control is a thing if you’re cutting close to combustibles.
I own four M12s. Each of my fleet vehicles has one in its tool crib. I purchased all four for less than a grand. And, they’re worth every penny. Each one comes with a case, charger, and the redlithium XC battery.
I don’t know how it compares to others in terms of charge, but this tool charges for about 30 minutes to get to full power and the charge lasts about a day and change. I can’t say how much longer the battery profile stays like this, but I bought mine 2 years ago.
One neat feature I read about is how the M12 is approved by OSHA for “single handed use”. While that just reminds me of its similarity to the one Danny Glover uses to terminate aliens in hand-to-hand combat, it also strikes me as a rating the tool earns. I do use it with one hand when reaching into tight spots. It is very convenient.
The tool’s blade mouth is 1” ⅝ wide, so that means 1 ⅝ inches of cutting capacity. If you’re cutting anything wider, you need the larger tool. In terms of power, I think it cuts faster than my sawzall, and the cut is also as clean or cleaner. It is not as powerful as the corded tools, but I have yet to run into a cut the M12 could not handle. We’ve cut rebar, pipe, guard rail and conduit with this tool.
The M12 is also a solid little beast. I dropped it (the M12, not the Sawzall) from a two-story house onto a paved driveway and it did not break. I might throw my sawzall over next just to see how it does.
So, from the perspective of a jack-of-all-trades / plumber, the M12 is a great tool for cutting various metals and getting into cramped spots. It’s reliable, powerful, long-lasting and super handy. Also, the LED light makes cutting in less than perfect light a sinch!
Most of the review videos I have watched on YouTube focus on small saws being useful for people in the trades, but not for home. I can see that perspective. Yes, the one in my garage would see less use, and maybe get a bit dusty from time to time. Really, how much metal pipe do you cut at home? Everything is PVC nowadays. Like with anything, it all depends on what you are doing.
Most people do not do enough plumbing and electrical work at home to warrant buying a metal-cutting band saw. But, for hobbyists who use their garage as a creative space to create sculptures or have fun making things out of metal, an M12 is useful to have around.
Now, here is where you can stop reading if you’re just looking for someone else’s opinion on this tool. Skip ahead to the pros and cons list for my assessment of the Milwaukee 2429-21XC M12.
Still with me? Alright, have you seen Predator 2? If not, go to YouTube and search up the final fight scene. Basically we now have this alien weapon. It exists as a tool we use for completely safe and non-threatening tasks. It’s made by Milwaukee and would look awesome when not used, hung in the hand of an alien, like the one pictured in these photos. Just saying.
Voltage: 12V –
Length: 12 Inches –
Weight: 6.75 lbs –
SFPM: 280 –
Blade length: 27” x ½” x .020” –
Tool warranty: 5 years –
Battery: M12™ REDLITHIUM™ XC High Capacity –
Charge time: 30 minutes
|Powerful. Cuts almost like corded tool
Compact. Fits into tight spaces
Changing the blade is super simple
5 year tool warranty and 3 year battery warranty
Priced to sell
Looks like alien hand weapon
LED light to highlight cuts
|Cuts almost like corded tool
Lithium batteries can go downhill after a certain amount of use (see: every cell phone ever)
That’s why the M12 is the best budget bandsaw, in my opinion. Not just because it looks badass when you wield it in one hand but because it is versatile, and extremely handy to have in a bunch of situations at work. As I said, it can also be useful to an artistic nerd-hobbyist such as myself, but that is just a bonus. There are lots of reasons to give this tool a spot in your tool crib, and the price is right.