A band saw is a much sought after machine tool if you find yourself cutting a lot of curvatures with your woodwork. It is a much needed upgrade to a jigsaw if you happen to use one. Although that depends on what you are using the jigsaw for. A jig saw is a handheld portable saw which means you can takes places where a band saw won’t go.
A band saw is capable of making intricate cuts as well as cutting various shapes and curves that are just not possible with any other woodworking power tool, with the exception of a router. In this post we will talk about the various qualities of the a band saw, its working, features, variations and getting the best usage out of this versatile saw.
Structure of A Band Saw
A band saw has a very think blade. It varies in width amongst different models but the most common size is 1/8 in. wide. This blade is run over two wheels mounted vertically on top of each other with some space separating them, much like a pulley system. When the wheels are run by a motor, the blade moves.
The size of the wheels is about 14 inch which also the maximum depth you can saw. You get a 16 inch variation but it’s so much more expensive than the 14 inch model that it’s not worth the buy except in very specific circumstances.
If you have never seen a band saw and want to see what it looks like, it’s a great idea to type in ‘band saw’ in a search engine and then go to the image results. You will at once understand the description we have given above. In fact, this tip applies to all wood working tools.
A band saw is really a very versatile tool and perhaps the most sought after saw after a table saw. It does not only make cutting curves a fast process, but can also cut tensions, rip, crosscut and slice boards into veneers.
Just because we have mentioned veneers we would like to add that making veneers, which is the practice of slicing a wood board into thin sheets, is not only a very effective money and material saving practice, but an entire kind of wood working business on it’s own.
Right, with that out of the way lets talk about a few important components of a band saw. Knowing more about them will help you make a better decision while buying one.
Components Of A Band Saw
Band Saw Blades
It’s important to have a wide variety of blades if you intend to put your band saw to different kinds of tasks. Since you want to be able to change the blades easily, this is something you should look into before buying.
Different makes and companies will have different mechanisms. You can choose the best one by trying it out yourself in the store (if possible), asking the sales rep and by reading a few tools reviews before buying.
Pick up an assortment of blades when buying the band saw because having the right blade for the right job will make the job faster and easier.
Here are a few common blades you should have.
- 1/8 inch, 14 TPI (standard blade). This is the standard blade in a band saw and good for many kinds of cuts. But since it’s very thin with high-density teeth, it’s best for cutting curves. It’s accurate, makes neat cuts, but perhaps not ideally suited for ripping and cross cutting boards because it’s not the not quiet the fastest blade owning to it’s fine and dense teeth placement.
- ¼ inch, 6 TPI (Hook Tooth Blade). This is the ideal blade to use for ripping and cross cutting board since it’s much faster than the standard blade. You can cut curves as well with this blade but not as closely and finely as with the standard 1/8 inch blade.
- 3/8 inch, 4 TPI (Skip Tooth Blade). This is a rather wide blade and good for cutting veneers. A wider blade like a half inch wide will be even better. You should know that wider blades are better for making veneers from wood boards. So if you expect to do a lot of this work, check the maximum width a band saw model will take before buying. The wider the better.
Like the table saw a band saw also uses a fence. And like the table saw the quality of the fence matters.
A 14 inch band saw will have a 1-1 ½ horsepower motor. This is sufficient for most jobs. The higher 16 inch models come with up to a 3 horse power motor. This kind of power is required for doing faster jobs.
The fence of the saw should allow you to move the wood smoothly and accurately. Accuracy in the cuts is a very important function of the fence. It comes in specially handy when you cutting veneers.
Size of The Saw
The size of the saw is determined by the size of it’s 2 wheels. The most common size is 14 inches and costs $450-$1000, depending on the brand. This is also usually the maximum width of the board you can saw.
Higher models come in 16 inches and 20 inches, and are much more expensive. For most purpose and use you do not need to consider anything above the 14 inch model.
Believe it or not, the table is an entirely separate component of any power saw. You must ensure that’s it absolutely flat. Higher and more expensive model will have a better and flatter table through not necessarily. Read our post on the table saw to learn more about saw tables.
The table of a band saw is adjustable at different angles and this is what allows you to cut, well, angles!
Tips For Using The Band Saw
There are some helpful points to make a better use of the band saw.
- Install and adjust the blade according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Your first set up can involve taking time to understand the whole process. Soon you will be able to change and adjust blades with ease.
- Use the fence whenever making straight cuts. You will realize yourself that because the blade is so narrow and long it tends to move about a when the saw is switched on. Using the fence will give you more stability and accurate cut.
- When cutting curves, do not attempt to directly cut along the marking. For inside curves, cut very close to the line and let the waste wood fall away, the bulk of it.
When you finally cut along the mark the waste wood will come of in peels and layers, making the entire wood piece much easier to handle. Similarly, for outside cuts, cut in straight lines till the edge and let the waste fall off.
Come back on the mark and repeat the process. This will give you cleaner curves and make the job easier.
- The blade of a band saw is a narrow one. And it runs on two wheels on motors. So the result is it can sometimes feel like it’s getting bogged down. What’s happening is that you are pushing the wood too fast, specially if it’s a very hard wood. If this happens, pull back on the wood and feed it more slowly.
- When pulling the wood back from the blade, always switch off the band saw first. If the blade snags on the wood, you might pull it, spoil it’s alignment and even pull it off the wheels. If the blade curves off the wheels or breaks, ever, stand back from the saw. Since the blade is a thin one, it can whip lash.
- Remember to use push sticks to feed in the wood when doing straight cuts.
- As with any kind of wood working, be very aware of where your hands are in relation to the blade. This is very important and you should make it a point to pay special attention to this.
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Great article – really appreciate the advice. I’m a long time framer/general contractor, but just getting into what I WANT to do rather than what I have to do. I’m looking into purchasing a band saw. Any recommendations? I have quite a bit of 6/4 slab wood that needs reason for tables, cabinets, etc. Thanks!
Blade tension techniques and measurement would be helpful. There are so many blade size and thickness differences that a discussion of these could be very helpful to many. What about the three wheeled band saw? Does this require a very thin blade because of the small diameter wheels? A discussion of the crown angle on the wheels would be of help to many. My 20″ heavy duty saw has a slope angle (at right angles to the plane of the wheels is 3 degrees on each side. It seems to hold the blades in good alignment, but is it appropriate, for all blade sizes ? Does the measurement of the blade width include the teeth or not ?