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Bandsaws – Priceless Specialty Instruments

Bandsaws - Valuable Specialty Tools

Bandsaws – Valuable Specialty Tools

A bandsaw is more versatile than it appears at first glance. The bandsaw is one of those specialty power tools that does a job that no other tool can do as well. In the case of the bandsaw, that job happens to be cutting detailed and accurate curves in wood or metal.

The fact of the matter is, a good bandsaw has more uses than simply cutting curves. In a home shop, it can be used for:

  • resawing thin strips from larger pieces of wood
  • ripping small pieces of stock
  • even cutting tenons and some rabbets

However, once you start looking at the options, you realize that there are a variety of styles and sizes available. So… how to choose the best model for your needs?

Bandsaw Type

These saws fall into two main categories: floor stand models (also called cabinet models), and bench top models.

The floor stand models, generally larger in size, are what you would probably find in professional shops. The bench mounted units, being smaller, are something a woodworking hobbiest is more likely to have. The floor stand models, with larger motors, and more options, are also generally better built, much heavier and sturdier. With bandsaws, the heavier and sturdier frame will definitely lead to more accurate, consistent cuts.

Believe me, with a bandsaw, vibration is NOT your friend.

Cutting Capability

In reference to cutting size, the two issues to consider with a specific model are:

  • The DEPTH of the cut (the distance from the table to the upper blade guides)
  • The Saw’s THROAT depth (distance from the blade itself to the vertical frame section of the body of the saw)

The DEPTH of the cut determines the thickness of stock that can be cut using that bandsaw. Do keep in mind that some models offer an optional attachment — a riser which will extend the depth of the cut from six inches to twelve. This means that some less expensive saws can be easily modified to be able to cut thicker stock. This would be a valuable options in the case of resawing.

The Saw’s THROAT depth is the determining factor for the maximum width of a cut that can be completed on that bandsaw. Typically, a free-standing cabinet or floorstand model will have a throat depth that exceeds the 12 to 14-inch standard throat depths of the smaller bench-top models.

Motor Size

The size motor is another consideration. Typically, a non-professional bandsaw will offer a 3/4 to 1 horsepower motor. Professional shop models offer larger models and sometimes variable speed options.

In the case of woodworking bandsaws, variable speed is not usually an issue. However, when cutting hard plastic or metal, having a lower speed available can be a good feature.

Additional Features

All bandsaws have tables. The table is the large flat surface that supports the wood when you are using the saw.

The table should be cast-iron, steel or aluminum alloy, and ideally, should be capable of tilting, generally up to 45-degrees for angled cuts.

In many instances, the table will measure about 16″ square, and in the best of all possible worlds, would have a miter track as part of its standard equipment.

Maintenance Issues

Because there are so many moving parts in a bandsaw, it is important to keep those parts as clean as possible for smooth movement and accuracy.

The fine dust that this type of saw discharges adds to this issue.

A bandsaw that has a cleaning brush will stay cleaner with less effort on your part. Placing a bandsaw brush onto your saw’s lower wheel tire is an easy way to prolong the tire’s life. Without the brush, the saw dust, metal shavings, or debris will build up on the saw’s tire. Eventually, this can result in wear as a result of compression and can significantly shorten the life of the tire.

Another worthwhile feature is a built-in dust collection port, allowing it to be connected to your shop vacuum.

Additional Functionality

Finally, having a miter gauge, as well as a rip fence, will greatly increase a bandsaw’ s functionality. These two features are especially effective for ripping, cross cutting, and resawing.

Bandsaw Set up

This is one of those tools that must be carefully set up and adjusted before using.

Read the manual carefully and follow them closely. This is a job that can take time (even a couple of hours) but it is worth it in the long run.

There are many fine adjustments that need to be made in order for a bandsaw to operate smoothly and properly.

These tasks include setting the blade tension properly, as well as setting the blade guides, the thrust bearing and the side bearings. Failure to make these adjustments may result in decreased performance, as well as making it more likely that the blades will break.

Take the time to do it right!

All in all, a bandsaw is a specialty tool that can justify the investment, even in a home workshop.


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