Bandsaws are one of a woodworker’s favorite tools. Most woodworkers who practice their craft for a living consider their bandsaw a necessary piece of equipment.
If you are serious about woodworking, then a bandsaw should be an early investment. Bandsaws can safely make intricate cuts that would be dangerous to make on any other saw. They can also cut through woods much thicker than any other saw is able to handle. Bandsaws cut not only wood but metals as well.
Bandsaws get a lot of love from those in the woodworking industry mostly because of their versatility. These saws have a lot of capabilities that are considered indispensable to the woodworking craft. They are so much more than a glorified jigsaw. Let’s take a closer look.
Why Do I Need A Bandsaw?
Every tool in a woodworker’s collection has a specific purpose. For the bandsaw, that purpose is four-fold:
- Ripping rough stock
- Breaking down rough lumber
- Book Matching
- Making intricate cuts
- Curves and circles
- Cutting notches
- Cutting angles
For the hobby woodworker, perhaps some of these tasks could be accomplished with the use of hand tools. But for the commercial woodworker, a bandsaw is essential for getting these things done properly.
Ripping Needs More Muscle
Yes, for thin wood pieces you can rip with a skill saw or table saw, but for thicker pieces, (more than 2”, 50.8mm) you’re going to need a bandsaw. A skill saw will choke on materials about two inches thick, and a table saw will max out at around three and a half inches.
A bandsaw can slice through chunks anywhere from three to twenty inches, depending on the size of the saw. The bandsaw does not require a straight edge or flat surface to break down stock for further processing.
The cuts made by a bandsaw will also be smoother than those made with other saws. You won’t need to plane down the edges of the cut as much. Where a skill saw tends to splinter the edges of a cut, a bandsaw will rip it cleanly so there’s less touch-up work that needs to follow.
If you’re cutting logs, only a bandsaw has the cutting depth to slice through that much wood without choking or binding. Correct blade choices are needed to successfully break down any stock.
Resawing Requires More Blade
Resawing is the act of cutting a piece of wood vertically instead of horizontally. In other words, say you have a piece of wood that has already been cut down to one inch thick and twelve inches wide. But you want slice off even thinner sections while maintaining the twelve-inch width.
You would stand the 1”x12” (25.4mm x 304.8mm) up vertically and feed it into the bandsaw. When you were finished, you would have two pieces that measured roughly ½”x12” (0.5”x12” or 12.7mm x 304.8mm). This example does not consider the blade kerf nor the cleanup that will need to be done after the cut. Realistically, resawing a 1” thick piece of timber will produce two 3/8” (0.375” or 9.5mm) thick surfaced pieces of stock.
A case in point is the solid top piece for a guitar. It must be one piece, but it needs to be no more than a quarter-inch thick while remaining up to twenty inches wide. The bandsaw is the perfect tool for this job.
For ripping veneers (very thin sheets of wood), no other saw will work. This is resawing, and no other saw can do this as effectively as a bandsaw primarily because no other saw has that much blade available. And no other saw has the stability for this kind of cut. The blade kerf is also much narrower, so less wood is wasted.
Intricate Cuts Keep It Interesting
For the woodworker who requires the ability to make detailed, intricate cuts, the bandsaw is a necessity.
A bandsaw far outshines a jig saw for making cuts such as
A jig saw’s tendency to bounce and jerk would not only ruin the cut but pose a safety risk to the operator as well. This is where a bandsaw shines.
Because the blade moves in one direction, Bandsaws can easily and smoothly make these cuts with no bouncing or jerking, so that you have a perfect cut every time.
Depending on the width of the blade used, a bandsaw can cut circles as small as one-quarter of an inch. Few other tools can turn such a tight curve, and none can do it so smoothly as a bandsaw.
Sure, some of these cuts could be made with hand tools, but at a much slower rate than a bandsaw requires.
And when the size of your paycheck depends on the number of finished pieces you can turn out within a set period, time becomes of the essence. So, it is in the woodworker’s best interest to use tools that do the job quickly and efficiently.
Angles Come in Degrees
Another use of the bandsaw is cutting forty-five-degree angles. Granted, there are several types of saws that can be used for cutting angles, such as the miter saw or the circular saw. But the only saw that can cut angles in thick pieces of wood is the bandsaw.
This is because the cutting depth can be adjusted on a bandsaw so that it can slice through virtually any thickness to produce a perfect thirty, forty-five, or ninety-degree angle.
The angle of the saw can also be adjusted so that the operator’s fingers are not too close to the blade when cutting the angles; a feature other saws do not have.
Bandsaws Cut More Than Wood
One mark of a bandsaw’s versatility is its ability to cut other materials besides wood. This makes the bandsaw a valuable tool not just to the woodworker but also to
- The carpenter
- The plumber
- The metalworker (with a metal working bandsaw and proper blade)
- The butcher
By just changing the type of blade on the bandsaw, it can be used to cut
Of course, this requires different configurations for the saw settings, but these changes are relatively easy to make. The ability to cut anything anywhere makes the bandsaw a preferred tool indeed.
(As should be obvious, the meat bandsaw is intended for meat only and should not be put to any other use.)
Types of Bandsaws Differ
Different styles and sizes of bandsaws exist and each one functions in a slightly different way from the rest. Which saw you will need depends on what you’re intending to do with it.
Bandsaws come in five different versions:
- Floor standing
Each of these are designed for specific uses and have specific capabilities and limitations.
Vertical Is What is Most Familiar
This design is the most common one. It is used primarily for cutting wood. The blade moves in a vertical direction, looping over the drive wheels. Usually this saw has a blade guard that can be adjusted up or down depending on the thickness of the material being cut.
This controls how much flex there is in the blade during the cut. The less flex there is, the smoother the cut. The guard also provides an extra measure of protection for the operator by exposing less of the blade.
Horizontal Is Unique to Metal
This design is used mostly for cutting metals. The drive wheels are mounted horizontally on the frame, and the blade moves back and forth in a horizontal direction while cutting down into the material.
A vise is built onto the machine bed and this holds the material in place for a hands-free cut. When the cut is finished the saw stops the blade automatically.
Floor Standing Is the Largest
This is the granddaddy of all bandsaws! By far the largest and most powerful, there is almost nothing that this saw cannot handle.
This model stands free and takes up more than its fair share of floor space, but it gives back in terms of workspace. The worktable is larger so there is more room for maneuvering large pieces of material. These models make intricate cuts much easier because you aren’t working on a cramped worktable.
Most every professional woodworker owns this model, and even some non-professionals prefer them despite their hefty price tag.
These machines are the gold standard of bandsaws, and every woodworker dreams of owning one.
Benchtop Is Most Convenient
The benchtop bandsaw is a smaller version of the floor-standing model. These vary greatly in size and horsepower. Some are hardly bigger than a handheld saw while others are nearly as big as their floor-standing peer.
These saws are designed to be attached to a tabletop or workbench either by vise or clamp. This provides greater mobility while reducing the saw’s footprint.
Their capabilities match those of the floor standing model. The only limitation they have is cutting depth. Because of their smaller size they don’t have the headroom to cut through twenty inches of wood like a floor model can.
Most benchtop bandsaws will max out at about six inches, although some can accommodate a riser that extends their cutting depth to twelve inches.
Because of this, these models are not always a good option if your work requires a lot of resawing.
Hand-Held Are A Different Breed
These are the baby bandsaws. They claim their bandsaw status only because of the way their blade operates. Otherwise, they bear almost no resemblance to the bandsaws we know and love.
Their main advantage is their portability. Small enough to be used on job sites, this is the bandsaw preferred by
- Cement workers
These saws have an extremely small workspace, but they are useful for on-the-job precision cuts. Mostly, they are used for trimming the excess off pieces of
They offer far less versatility and power than their larger siblings; yet for specific purposes, they are quite handy tools to have around.
Bandsaw Blades Cover A Lot of Styles
Bandsaw blades are as varied as the saws themselves. Blades mostly range from one-eighth to a half-inch wide. The width of your blade will be determined by the size of your wheels.
The type of blade you use will depend on the materials you are planning to cut with it. Each type of blade is designed differently depending on its intended purpose.
Blades for cutting metal have smaller teeth; wood-cutting blades have larger, coarser teeth. There are four major variations of tooth designs in bandsaw blades. These varieties include:
- Hook tooth
- Skip tooth
- Wavy and Raker tooth
Hook Tooth Blades Are Hard Workers
These blades with their wide, closely set teeth are designed for cutting
They work best on long cuts or aggressive feeding of material. Cutting speed can be increased with these blades because the tooth is larger, and the gullet is deeper.
Skip Tooth Blades Keep It Clean
These blades do the best job of clearing waste while cutting. Their widely spaced teeth are good for cutting softer metals. These are the blades most often used for general woodwork since they scoop out most of the chips while still cutting.
Wavy and Raker Teeth Blades Break Down the Iron
These blades are meant to cut metals that are made up primarily of iron. These metals tend to be stronger and sometimes brittle. These are the best blades for high-speed cutting.
This blade has sections of teeth going left separated by sections of teeth going right. It’s an interesting design that is perfect for cutting thin sheets of metal.
Toothless Blades Cut the Delicates
These unusual-looking blades are used to cut ceramics and delicate plastics. They can also be used for making extremely smooth cuts in several different materials.
They cut using a coating of tungsten carbide instead of metal teeth. This prevents chipping the delicate materials that they are designed to cut.
Choosing A Bandsaw Can Be Tough
So, now that you’re convinced that you really do need a bandsaw, maybe you’re wondering which bandsaw is the best choice.
The only way to answer that question is to first determine what kind of work you want to do with the saw.
- Are you going to be cutting curves and shapes?
- Will you be resawing on a day-to-day basis?
- Are you cutting only wood?
- Is this a hobby or your livelihood?
If you want a bandsaw for only cutting designs, then the smallest, least expensive saw is probably the best option for you. If you plan to do a lot of resawing, you’re going to need a saw with a good cutting depth and a strong motor.
If you’re cutting other materials besides wood, you may need to decide between a vertical or horizontal saw. If woodworking is your hobby, you won’t need much in terms of horsepower or size. Generally speaking, vertical bandsaws are used for metal while horizontal bandsaws easily handle softer materials like wood and plastics.
But if you do woodworking for a living, you’re going to need a machine that can keep up with the demands of consistently producing heavy cuts.
Here are a few saws to consider before you make your purchase.
This bandsaw is a good starter if you’re wanting to do light woodwork. With its five-and-a-half-amp motor, it won’t do a lot of resawing. But if your purpose is cutting designs and angles, or even resizing lumber this machine will get you started.
The adjustments are simple to make and when properly set, this saw tracks amazingly well. You may need to reduce speed when feeding thicker pieces through because the motor can bog down easily.
The fence seems to be a bit flimsy, and the included blade is of poor quality. This machine won’t do anything like heavy-duty commercial woodwork, but overall, for less than $500, this is a pretty good saw.
This machine is a good inexpensive saw. It comes with
- A diecast metal frame
- Upper and lower ball bearing blade guides
- Tilting table
- Laser Guide
- Aluminum fence
Its 1/3HP motor will be adequate for most cutting needs within its three and five-eighths inch capacity. You won’t do any resawing with this machine, but for the hobby woodworker or those who make small items, it’s a good deal for the price.
At less than four hundred dollars, you can get a lot of use from this machine without overloading its capabilities.
If you’re ready to take the leap and go for a commercial-grade machine, the Powermatic PM 1500 deserves a look. For a pretty hefty price, this machine can resaw fourteen inches of hardwood without ever once bogging down.
The cast iron table and trunnion assembly provide maximum stability and durability no matter the amount of weight this saw is asked to handle.
Running at 230 volts, this monster hasn’t seen the project it cannot execute to perfection. This is five hundred and two pounds of raw power that will take your woodworking experience to the next level.
The fence is adjustable and accurate. While the included blade isn’t much, the machine itself is a thing of beauty!
Very much worth the asking price.
So, Do You Really Need A Bandsaw?
Yes! Yes, you do. For the hobbyist or the commercial manufacturer, the bandsaw is the one indispensable tool that helps create masterpieces.
From benchtop to floor models, there is a bandsaw for every level of woodworking experience. Choose yours and get started today.