The Complete Guide to Using and Buying Band Saws

Cutting precise shapes and curves from wood and metal is more comfortable now, thanks to the marvelous band saw. Its long and continuous blade has teeth designed to cut into various material like wood, metal, and meat. Many woodworkers love it as it provides, precise and accurate cuts especially when cutting sharp curves and angles. Its versatility is not a secret anymore as more and more meat dealers continue to embrace its use. If you are planning to do more than cutting wood, the band saw is one of the essential tools that you should consider.

History

The idea of a band saw dates back to 1809 when the British government gave the patent for building them to William Newberry. However, the plan did not take off immediately as he failed to produce quality blades capable of cutting hard materials. The technology at the time was not enough to sustain the idea.

4o years later, Anne Pauline (A French Woman) successfully made a blade to use with the band sawSince then, manufacturers have been researching on producing better and more powerful band saws that we know and have come to love.

Classifications of Band Saws

The band saws are versatile, and you can use them on many materials depending on their design. As a result, manufacturers have come up with designs that are ideal for working on various materials like wood, metal, and meat.

Band saws are classified under the purpose of the saw and by the shape of how their blades cut. However, the working of the saws is similar, which makes it crucial for you to understand how they work so you can choose the best for your work.

Band saws fall under three broad categories. They include:

Floor Model

The floor model band saw is big and bulky, making it ideal for someone in a workshop. Floor standing saws are the most massive type of band saws. They are suitable for contractors who have an enormous workload. If you are a DIY enthusiast, a smaller model would be perfect for you.

The saws also consume more power than your ordinary band saws, making them use three-phase control only. If you have a massive project that requires a powerful motor, go for the Floor model type as they will offer you all that.

Although they take a lot of space, they have a vast working space making it easy for you to position your working material better. Therefore, it’s easier for you to create intricate cuts cutting or ripping large materials compared to smaller models.

Benchtop Model

Bench models like the name suggest are band saws designed for mounting on a flat bench or table. They occupy less size and are more mobile compared to the floor band saws. They are also sturdy and are ideal for cutting medium to large materials. The only difference they have with the floor models is that they have their motors placed over their top, which means that they don’t need a belt to work.

Band saws come in different sizes, with some versions nearly the same size as the handheld band saws. Since they don’t take up much space, many DIY enthusiasts and those who move a lot prefer this band saw. You only need to clamp it to a tabletop to start working with it.

Portable Band Saws

If you are always on the move from one site to another. You will need a portable band saw. It’s light and compact, making it easy to pack and transport. The saw is also versatile and easily cut curved lines, edged curls or any irregular shape and circles.

Portable band saws may be small in size, but their designs allow them to undertake any work intended for the benchtops or the floor models. As a result, many professionals, DIYers, and homeowners prefer this portable saw.

With these saws, you will cut large materials that would be hard for the regular floor and benchtop types. The downside to the saws is, their light construction materials make them weaker compared to the bench and floor models.

The saw is perfect for cutting materials you can’t bring to the workshop or stuff that is too large to fit on a standard band saw. A quality band saw offers reduced vibrations and excellent end product when working on hard materials.

Metal saw fall under two major categories of vertical and horizontal band saws.

Vertical Bands Saw

The vertical band saw is the most popular band saw type. Its blade runs vertically top-down, pulling the material away from the workpiece and taking it towards the table. The saw’s electric motor powers the blade through a belt. The saw speed is adjustable for this model, making it easy for you to cut curves precisely ad accurately. You can also tilt the blade from front to back or sideways making it easy for you to make miter cuts.

The vertical saw does not make any movement when cutting any material thanks to its strength and high cutting speeds. Instead, it is the wood getting cut that moves through the blade, making it easy to create intricate cuts of all shapes. The vertical band saws are commonly used for intricate cuts, filling, polishing and cutting contours. However, you can also use the horizontal band saws to cut material to any size.

The vertical band saw makes itself a contender of a must-have tool in a workshop thanks to its versatility. Not only does it cut materials with ease, but it also has a built-in welder. You can use the welder to repair various metal parts.

Horizontal Structural Saws

Horizontal band saws are enormous and a favorite of both the professionals and amateur carpenters in equal measures. The saw is ideal for splitting larger and harder materials to smaller sizes. However, the saws struggle to make intricate cuts, especially those in tight areas.

The horizontal band saw is excellent and safe to work with regardless of whether you are a novice so long as you follow instructions well. It holds the material being cut in position while the blade swings as it cuts the lumber up. The saw automatically turns off after finishing cutting courtesy of its switch trip a process that avoids a potential accident to the saw user.

Band saws don’t produce much noise compared to other saws. You will also make tons of straight, accurate cuts on wood, metal or plastic materials. The fact that you can set the machine to work on a material and auto turn itself after finishing the work makes it even better. The feature will save you time as you can be working on something and still be cutting the material at the same time.

Different Types of Band Saws and Their Work

Although the benchtop, floor models and portable band saw models come in different sizes and shapes, they work under the same mechanism. Band saws have different designs for cutting different materials. As a result, manufacturers have come up with various plans for saws with mixed-use.

Read on to learn more about different band saws and how they are adapted to perform their work.

Wood Band Saws

Band saws are very versatile, and their usefulness to any woodworker should be a force to reckon with. A band saw fitted with the right blade can do a lot of things other saws can’t.

With the saw, you will comfortably make cross cuts, miter cuts, straight cuts and freehand cuts on any piece of wood thanks to its table, angle, and fences. What this means is that if you have a large part of the wood that you need to work with, you need to cut the large one into small sizes and then design them depending on what you need from them. Its blade allows you to perform accurate and intricate cuts on the different pieces of wood.

Lumber Cutting

When the band saw was first developed in 1800, it’s primary purpose was to rip lumber. After logging, you need to cut the wood along the grain to separate workable wood from the rough outer side that holds the bark of the tree. You may refine it further depending on how you intend to use it.

The band saw comes with a large table giving the saw a large cutting capacity. Therefore, using your fence or miter guide, you can line up multiple pieces in line and feed them to the saw blade. Consequently, it’s easy to cut many pieces of wood to similar sizes and shapes in a single setting.

Meat Band Saws

Meat band saws are the butcher’s friend when it comes to cutting meat to different sizes. The saw helps the butcher cut large pieces of meat. You can reduce the size of the pieces further thanks to the cutting table. Band saws are made of stainless steel materials as they are easy to clean and maintain due to the nature of the stuff they cut.

The saw’s design allows you to dissect bones, flesh and fat with minimal loss. While meat band saws are similar to normal ones, they have a specialized blade that allows for a better cut without any wastage.

Meat band saws are readily available in the market at affordable prices. Whether you are a butcher or a DYI hunter, the band saw will be perfect for you. You should note that cutting wood or metal with this band could spoil the saw or the blade.

Statistics show that the band saw causes many meat industry accidents saw. As a result, many organizations try to reduce the same by adequately training their personnel to minimize the accident numbers.

Metal Band Saws

As earlier discussed, the versatility of the band saw makes them ideal for cutting different materials, including metal. The band saw used for metalwork is the same in appearance as the one used for wood. The main distinction between them is the nature of their blades.

The metal band saw blade has many teeth per inch compared to the wood one. Further, its speed is slower to enable it to attack metal in an accurate and precise manner. On the other hand, wood band saw blades have fewer large teeth with higher speeds. While intricate cuts may be hard to make, they are not impossible with the band saw.

Metal saws generally require more maintenance compared to wood saws as they cut hard material. I most cases they are fitted with coolants and lubrication, which helps keep the blade fresh. They also have brush wheels or brushes that clean residue metal parts on the blade.

With the specialized metal saws, you will comfortably cut thin metal sheets and metals into small pieces as per your requirement. They are also used to polish rough metal surfaces, leaving them clean and polished.

Features of a Band Saw 

A band saw that work well has different accessories and parts that work in tandem to produce the perfect finish. They include:

a) Band Saw Blades

The band saw blades vary in types and sizes depending on their use. Teeth per inch, blade thickness/gauge, and blade width are the features used to differentiate one band saw to another. Your ordinary band saw blade size ranges from to 1/8to ½ in diameter. However, large band saws have larger blades depending on their use.

The specific use of a band saw is dependent on the number, spacing and the configuration of the saw blade teeth. However, narrow blades will cut tighter curves better compared to wider ones. Also, a blade meant for cutting metal have many smaller teeth compared to the one for cutting wood which has fewer larger teeth. That is why lumber cutters prefer a blade with large and few teeth while a metal cutter likes their blade with smaller but many teeth.

Saw Blade Teeth Patterns and Their Adaptation to Work

The band saw blades just like other saw blades come in various sizes and designs for better performance. Below are some of the most common types of blade. They include: hook tooth, skip tooth, raker-set and wavy set.

  • Hook Tooth Blades

The blade comes with a closely spaced wide-set teeth for ease in cutting hardwoods, hard nonferrous metals, and plastics. The large space prevents materials from getting stuck in the blade. These blades are durable and sturdy, making it easy for you to cut the materials without the fear of breakage and damage.

Hook blades speed is supper high although they can be adjusted, especially when cutting tight spaces. The rate, coupled with the many small teeth with deeper gullets makes them superior when it comes to cutting metals.

  • Skip Tooth Blades

These types of the blade come with widely spaced teeth with enough chip clearance. They are best suited for cutting wood, soft metals or nonferrous metal like aluminum. Their deeper gullets compared to other saw blades, makes them ideal for cutting wood.

  • Wavy And Raker-Set Tooth Blades 

The blades which use the wavy and raker set teeth blades work well with horizontal band saws. Their material is durable and sturdy ideal for cutting ferrous metals. It has a curved set of teeth that face on the right, followed by another set whose teeth facing the left.

The wavy set teeth are ideal for cutting through thin metal materials.

  • Toothless Blades

Toothless blades cutting surfaces have tungsten carbide chips bonded to the teeth. As a result, these blades cut more fragile materials like ceramics, plastics, and very smooth wood or metal surfaces.

The size of the blade teeth matters as it influences the outcome of your project’s success in terms of accuracy and speed.

b) Motor size

The motor size of a band saw matters as it’s the one that provides power for cutting materials. A powerful motor is crucial for powering the band saw blade. Many smaller band saws have small engines with ¾ to 1 horsepower. Such a saw can be used at home or carried to a job site easily. Professional models are larger and have a larger and more powerful motor with variable speeds. The speed variation is crucial, especially when it comes to cutting materials like metal and when making intricate cuts.

c) Cutting Depth

The throat is the most crucial area when it comes to cutting depth. You measure the band saw depth as the distance between the table and the upper blade guides. The cutting depth determines the size of the material you will cut with the saw.

If your saw has a depth of only 6 inches, you can change this by using an optional riser which increases the blade size to 12 inches. As a result, even cheaper versions of the band saw can cut thick materials, especially when doing a re-sawing job.

The saw’s throat is the distance between the blade and the vertical frame section of the body of the saw. The throat determines the width of the material the saw can cut effortlessly. A standard band saw has a throat size of 12 to 14 inches. However, larger models like the floor models have a larger throat to accommodate bigger materials.

d) Frames

Welded sheet steel and cast iron are used for making the band saw frames. The frames are durable and sturdy to support the stress created by a tensioned blade. The frame strength prevents overloading of the saw, ensuring that the top and bottom band wheel boxes remain in place.

Many large band saws have a triangular section in their vertical spine to make it stronger. The band saw is further fortified by additional webbing boxes. That is why many industrial use band saws come with a steel gauge that is stronger compared to the indicator in small band saws.

e) Band Wheels

Band wheels work in tandem with the saw motor. The band wheels transmit power from the engine to the blade in a band saw. You need a saw with right wheel tires for the best power transmission and also to reduce vibration and increase accuracy in your cuts. Small saws come with cast alloy wheels where the user uses their hand to balance it. Many DIYers and hobbyist prefer this saw as it’s small and portable. However, many commercial band saws use dynamically balanced iron or cast steel wheels which offer better accuracy and reduced vibrations.

f) Blade Tensioning

The blade tensioning is the essential aspect of the saw. A saw blade with proper tension will produce straight, accurate cuts consistently. You use a tension spring to tension the band saw blade. A properly tensioned “stock” blade can support up to 20,000 PSI. The pressure can increase further to 30,000 psi when using bi-metal blades as they are stronger compared to the “stock” blades.

Releasing blade tension once in a while, especially after the saw has been idle for some time is highly recommended. All you need is to rotate the tensioning knob twice or thrice. Releasing the tension of a blade reduces the chances of blade breakage.

Note That: the saw frame should be strong enough to resist the pressure applied. Otherwise, the whole saw could scramble under pressure leading to inaccurate cuts and injury in the worst-case scenario.

g) Tables

Most band saw tables whether industrial or for hobbyists are made of durable material. Cast iron offers a smooth flat surface that is strong enough to absorb vibration during the cutting process. The tables come with sturdy trunnions with a tilt ability starting from -5 to +45 degrees. Therefore, you can set the blade at an angle of 90 degrees to the table surface courtesy of the trunnions ability to be tilted and set to any angle to a maximum of 45 degrees.

Many Heavy-duty band saws have a rack, and pinion table adjustment mechanism operated using handwheel. Therefore, you can easily set the angles you want to cut accurately even if you only have one hand. 

h) Blade Guides

A blade guide keeps your blade in line, preventing twist during the cutting process. Many band saws use ball bearing guides located above and below the table to guide the blades. You can easily adjust the blade guides to prevent contact with the blade. To prevent the blade and the blade guide touching, it’s always important to change the blade guides whenever you install a new blade to the saw.

i) The Band Saw Rip Fences

Properly aligning your rip fences and the blade ensures that you produce quality and accurate cuts. It’s, therefore crucial for you to look for a saw that allows you to adjust and secure the fence quickly.

Locking a fence in place makes it easy for you to make straight, accurate cuts. Make sure that its square to the table and the blade to get the desired cut.

Considerations for Buying a Band Saw

A band saw is an expensive investment. Whether you are a professional or a DIYer, it’s essential to research on the type of saw that you need. Don’t be swayed by the various adverts being flaunted to you. Instead, gather the information that will help you make an advised decision. The below information will help you make up your mind on the type of band saw you need.

They include:

a) Cleaning and maintaining a band saw

You need to take proper care of your band saw for it to last for long and maintain perfect condition. When it comes to cleaning a band saw, most people concentrate on the blade and the table alone forgetting other vital parts like the miter gauges as well.

So, What Is The Step By Step Method Of Cleaning A Band Saw? 

  1. Take care of your safety- Lock the band saw knob in the off position and unplug it from the power source. Then use your blower or air compressor to remove sawdust and other debris from the saw.
  2. Remove rust and wood chips-Rub the rusted area with a ball of steel wool containing rust removal liquids. Then, dry the parts with a dry piece of clothing. Never use water to clean any part of a saw or a table as it could remain and cause short-circuiting.
  3. When cleaning the blade, wear protective gloves to detach the blade from the saw. After that, clean the blade thoroughly using a ball of steel wool and rust removal solvent. Where you are unable to use steel wool, you can use a stiff brush, and it will give you the same result.
  4. Before returning the blade in place, clean other blade areas such as the wheels and the pitch of the band saw. After that, you can use resin remover to complete the cleaning process.

Now your saw is ready for storage.

b) Cost

Most of the time, many potential buyers fall into the trap of rushing to buy a tool just because it’s pricey and is from a renowned manufacturer. As a result, they end up buying a machine that doesn’t meet their needs. With proper online research, you will realize that there are so many products that will serve you the same or better but at a lower price. In short, before buying a tool, choose one that gives you the best value for your money.

c) Power and Performance

When it comes to power, you look at the size of the motor. Many portable band saws have a small engine compared to the commercial ones. Choose a saw whose power will suit your working needs. This article has explained further on the band saw engines.

The performance of a band saw depends on the type of blade used and the material you are cutting. Many wood saws blades have fewer teeth with a bigger gullet to easily cut wood. On the other hand, metal cutting blades have many teeth and a shallow gullet.

d) The blade speed is 

Speed is also crucial to the saw’s performance. Many wood blades have a higher speed compared to the metal blades. Many band saws designs allow you to adjust the speed of the blade while working on any material.

e) Areas Best Suited

If you don’t have a workshop and your job requires you to be on the move, go for a portable band saw as its light in weight. However, if you have a workshop, a stationary band saw is what you need as its ideal for commercial use. You may also get a portable band saw even if you have a workshop as they are ideal for cutting tight angles where the stationery ones may struggle.

f) Availability of Spares 

It’s easier to get parts and accessories online for the new generation tools. However, if you are planning to buy a second-hand tool, it’s prudent to consider how easily you can get spare parts should you need to repair the saw. Purchasing a machine with no additional parts available online would be a disaster in waiting, considering this is an expensive investment.

g) Ease of Use

There is no harm in buying a saw that is easy to use. You will realize that in most cases, you may end up never using some of the features in a complicated tool. An easy to use saw is not only secure to use but will also last longer as you have little chance to damage it compared to a complicated one.

h) Safety

Choose a band saw that has all the necessary security features like blade guard, also ensure you read the manual and understand it. Observe other woodworking safety measures to ensure you are protected while working with the saw.

i) Construction Materials

Always choose a saw made of sturdy structures like steel and cast iron. Such a saw will handle heavy loads and is long-lasting. The blade metal material is also crucial for longevity and in preventing blade breakage.

j) Cutting Depth and Throat

The cutting depth of a band saw is the distance between the blade and the vertical column separating the throat and the table. A saw with a bigger column will cut larger materials compared to one with a small vertical column.

 Conclusion

As you have found out from the article, a band saw is a very versatile tool capable of cutting through metal, wood and meat. Its precision, ease of cutting, ability to cut tight areas and cut curved surfaces make it one of the must-have saws.

All band saws operate under the same principles whether it’s a portable, benchtop or a floor model. With a band saw, the risk of having a kickback is minimal, making it safer to use compared to other saws like the table saws.

The band saw blade determines what the saw cuts. Different blades are specialized for various tasks like chopping wood, metal or meat. Proper care and maintenance ensure that the saw remains rust-free for durability and ease of use. You can read about Common Band saw problems to keep your band saw in excellent working condition.

 

 

Tom

I am a woodwork enthusiast who is in the Financial Industry. I come from a woodworking family and started handling woodwork tools from a young age. For me, it's not a hobby. its a way of life.

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