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Review: Milwaukee’s M12 Bandfile Is a No-Brainer

Yet another M12 tool after my heart.

byHank O'Hop|
Milwaukee M12 Cordless Bandfile Review
Hank O'Hop
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Making assumptions is a great way to get yourself in trouble. Anyone who's spent enough time working on cars knows that. However, you do learn that there are times when you can lean on experience to make educated guesses, and you’ll often guess right. Just like how I knew that, based on my prior experience with Milwaukee's M12 tools, the cordless M12 Bandfile was awesome well before I ever got my hands on one. 

Milwaukee recently set me up with an M12 Bandfile for review and confirmed my theory. It is indeed an awesome tool. I used it to get through a pretty hardcore project, and it did everything as well as I'd expected it to. I will say right now that if you're doing a lot of metal work and welding in your shop, adding one to your toolbox is almost a no-brainer. That said, I'll give you an in-depth review to explain exactly how I came to that conclusion. 

The M12 Bandfile may be a near-perfect tool, but it's far from free. Just like any other time you're considering dropping a couple-hundred bucks, you should know where your hard-earned money's going. Let's get into exactly what this cordless spot weld buster brings to the table.  

Hank O'Hop

The Breakdown 

The Milwaukee M12 Bandfile is a member of Milwaukee's M12 cordless tool lineup. Much like the M12 right angle die grinder that I never shut up about, it's a kind of tool that's traditionally run with a compressor. Only instead of air hoses and regulators to contend with, you've got a 12-volt battery pumping life into this bad boy.  

As for the specs, the M12 Bandfile is packing Milwaukee's brushless Powerstate motor. It has two speed settings and is capable of working at 3,600 SFM in the high setting, and 1,800 SFM in low. Further control is provided by the variable speed trigger and the reversible direction of operation. 

Hank O'Hop

This cordless band file is primarily advertised to cut through spot welds with a 1/2-inch by 18-inch belt. With the XC4.0 M12 battery, Milwaukee claims that the M12 bandfile can cut through up to 50 welds on a single charge. 360-degree rotation of the belt arm and tool-free belt swaps help bolster workflow, while a built-in LED light and trigger lock further improve user experience. 

Trial By Fire 

Right now, I'm working on a pretty massive suspension project on my 1969 Dodge Charger. The job involves Heidts Suspension's 4-link conversion at the rear and its Pro-G IFS at the front. Right as the M12 Bandfile arrived, I was tearing into the 4-link conversion, which immediately presented an opportunity to put it to work. 

In order to put the new shock crossmember in for the QA1 coilovers, I had to remove the factory one. It's held in place with some spot welds securing it to the trunk floor. The M12 Bandfile made quick work of this step, which would have been a total pain in the neck had I gone with the spot weld cutters I'm used to. 

Everything about this situation played to the strengths of the M12 Bandfile. For starters, we're dealing with spot welds, which is precisely what this tool is meant for, and it cuts through them with ease. The size of the belt arm was long enough to reach down into the cross member and hit the spot welds without being so long that it was awkward to handle in the cramped space I was forced to work in. 

Hank O'Hop

Speaking of being in a tight spot, the lack of an air hose or power cord goes a long way in this situation. Not getting all wrapped up in one and not having to deal with it working against the positioning of the M12 Bandfile while you work is a huge plus. This thing also only weighs just over 2 pounds with the Red Lithium 2.0 battery. I didn't have a hint of fatigue while I worked. Being able to reposition the belt and swap rotation on the fly also really helped move things along, and the LED light definitely reduced the awfulness of this job. 

Like some cheesy trade show demonstration, this was a one-and-done deal that made me a fan of the tool. However, I did continue to use it to clean up and even remove some tack welds while setting up link brackets on my differential, which further cemented my love for it. 

The only notable issue I ran into with the M12 Bandfile is how quickly it eats up batteries. I actually don't have any of the XC4.0 batteries on hand, and I did burn through the little 2.0Ah and 2.5Ah batteries I do have rapidly. While it didn't hold up the job significantly, having to stop and swap batteries frequently does get annoying. If you want the most out of this tool, you will want to get a couple of XC4.0 batteries to help you work seamlessly through bigger projects.

Hank O'Hop

Obviously, this is the tradeoff you make when picking the M12 Bandfile over a pneumatic variant. Not having to worry about charging batteries is a huge point in favor of air tools, especially if you're dealing with a ton of spot welds in one go. However, I'd still say this is the superior tool because not having to deal with an air hose in the awkward, tight spots working on cars puts you in makes such a massive difference. The lack of frustration allowis you to put more focus into the task at hand. Besides, situations that call for one to deal with hundreds of spot welds at once are few and far between, and you will be taking plenty of breaks throughout that kind of project anyway. 

Before this, I used the cheap spot weld cutters you put into a drill. While they will get the job done, this is works so much better. It might not cut through the welds as quickly in perfect conditions, but you never have to worry about the tool suddenly binding and breaking off a tooth, nor is it as likely to blow through both layers of sheet metal, leaving you with a giant hole to plug. The M12 Bandfile is obviously more expensive off the hop; however, between the cost of a drill and the many spot weld cutters I've burnt up over the years, I'd say the M12 Bandfile is the more economical choice in the long run, especially with replacement belts being so cheap. 

Hank O'Hop

The Verdict

I won't call this a must-have tool for everyone. If you're just doing sheet metal work here and there, I recommend sticking to a drill and spot weld cutters or a pneumatic band file if you've already got an air compressor. After all, the tool-only retail of $249.00 isn't exactly pocket change.

Milwaukee M12 Bandfile
Value7/10
Quality9/10
Ease Of Use10/10
Durability8/10
Overall9/10

That said, the M12 Bandfile is an absolute no-brainer if you work with sheet metal on a regular basis. It's a well-made, easy-to-use tool that works quickly through spot welds. It's also lightweight and packed with features that really simplify the user experience, which is really all you can ask for from a tool. Sharing batteries with more awesome M12 tools, like my beloved die grinder and cordless ratchets makes it an excellent investment all around.

I'm saying this all as a DIYer, though. I might get into really hardcore stuff in my free time, but I'm still not using these tools day in and day out to make a living. Still, I think it'd be hard to find anything much to complain about the package Milwuakees put together in any case. 

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