Buying Guide for Band Saws

If you are in the market for a band saw, you already know that a band saw can cut thicker stock than most table saws or radial arm saws, thin veneers effectively, and make tight curved cuts when equipped with narrow blades. But do you know what to consider when it comes down to making your choice?

When shopping for band saws, you’ll have to decide between have two basic model variations: Bench Top Floor-Model Band Saw

Bench-Top saws can be mounted directly on a workbench or on their own stands. Their compact size makes it the perfect choice for small shops and light scroll cutting.

Floor-Model Band Saw Floor-Model saws are usually more stable and more powerful than bench top saws. The combination of increased stability and power make these saws excellent for heavy rip sawing and decorative work on thick stock.

Major Considerations Once you’ve decided on the model, compare the following:

Horsepower is the maximum power produced by the motor. Saws with high horsepower ratings are good for pattern cutting and cutting down thick stock. Higher horsepower also allows the saw to cut through thick stock without bogging down or burning the wood.

Throat Capacity is the distance between the saw’s blade and frame. The throat determines the maximum width of the saw’s cutting capacity. Saws with wide throats allow you to make wider straight cuts and scroll larger pieces without obstruction from the frame.

Blade Width is important when purchasing a band saw. Most saws accept narrow 1/8" blades for cutting detailed designs and tight curves. Better saws also accept wider blades. Wide blades don't flex as much as narrow ones, but they make accurate straight cuts in thick stock quicker. There are also some wide blades available that can cut metal. Accessories

When purchasing a band saw, check to see what accessories are standard and find out what other accessories the saw accepts. If you are just starting out, the bells and whistles may seem extravagant, but as your skill level rises, you will appreciate the added capabilities provided by the right accessories. Some common accessories include:

  • Height Extensions raise the guide on the saw and allow it to cut thicker stock. Height extensions are especially useful for thick stock.

  • Rip Fences provide a stable guide for straight rip cuts.

  • Mitre Gauges are used to make accurate angled cuts.

  • A Tilting Table allows the operator to make bevelled cuts. When the tilt is used in conjunction with a mitre gauge, compound miters can be produced on the band saw.

  • Circle Cutting Attachments help the operator cut perfect circles ranging from 1 1/2" to 32" in diameter.

  • Sanding Loops installed in place of the blade are used for sanding irregular surfaces.

Blades Width, number of teeth per inch (tpi), and material composition classify band saw blades. When making your blade selection, remember to match the blade width to the type of cutting you are doing. Also keep in mind:

  • Narrow Blades can make much tighter radius cuts, but tend to twist and wander when making long straight cuts.

  • Wide Blades can’t make the tight turns that narrow ones can, but they hold a straighter line than their narrow counterparts.

  • The tpi determines the speed with which the blade cuts through stock. Blades with high tpi cut slower but leave a very smooth edge. They are best for detail work on thin stock. Blades with low tpi cut quickly and leave a slightly rough edge. They are great for resawing or long rip cuts.

  • Steel Blades are inexpensive and work well for cutting softwood. Steel blades, however, dull quickly in hardwood.

  • Bimetal Blades are made of high-speed steel and can cut thin metal or wood.

  • Carbide Blades are for wood cutting only. They are more expensive than other blades but stay sharper longer than steel or high-speed steel.

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