Band Saw – A Versatile Power Tool

A band saw is named as such because of its long and narrow strip of blade, which is stretched by two (or sometimes three) wheels and passes through a small hole in the cutting table.

Compared to blades of other powered saws, the band saw’s blade is much thinner, which enables it to cut elegant curves even on a thick timber – and that’s one of the band saw’s main strengths. Aside from curves, the band saw can also do straight and bevel cuts. It proves handy in cutting dovetails, mortise and tenons, and other forms of joinery. No wonder, the band saw is an equipment of choice especially among woodworkers, boat builders and furniture makers.

The blades used for the band saw are replaceable and come in many types. Although it primarily cuts wood, the band saw can also cut other materials such as metal and plastic, given the right choice of blades. Truly, the band saw is a versatile power tool.


Band saws are primarily stationary equipment. Some floor models can weigh as much as a ton! There are also smaller and reasonably-priced models which can be operated on a bench and are considered portable, yet these units are still heavy to carry around.

Band saws are sold in a variety of sizes, but they are mainly classified either by the diameter of the wheels that hold the blade in place, or the distance between the blade and the “throat” (the post which supports between the upper and lower wheels). Most models for home use are available in 10 to 14 feet. But some people who are looking for band saws also consider the depth of the cut that the machine could make.

The depth of the cut will be determined by how far the blade guide will be adjusted above the cutting table.

In general, the bigger the model, the more powerful it works. Larger models can hold bigger-width blades which make them ideal for certain purposes such as re-sawing.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a band saw over other powered saws is its ability to make clean, uniform cuts because the blade’s tooth load is evenly distributed.

What to look for in a Band saw?

A band saw comprises of several moving parts, most of which vary based on its brand. Some may be integrated to offer security, other assist in cutting to allow for precision, but all are crucial for making the power tool do its job well. Mentioned below are some of the most important things to analyze in a band saw.

Horsepower

Looking for a decent band saw but not sure how much power you’d need it to have? A band saw with a ¾ horsepower is considered good for most projects, if you mostly want to make cuts of up to 6 inches deep. But if you need to cut 3 inches or more of hardwood, you’ll most likely need to purchase a band saw with at least a ½-horsepower capacity. Intending to saw lots of beams? Then you’ll need a band saw with at least a 3-horsepower capacity.

Blades

A band saw’s cutting function wouldn’t have existed without blades. In case of a band saw, the blade works in a continuous loop, with its serratededge made up of tiny teeth. Blades can be interchanged, and the material in place gives the band saw its capability to offer a variety of cuts.

With that said, it’s important to keep tabs on the size and material of the blade. Here’s a brief on the different types in existence and the scenarios in which they’d come in handy.  

Blades (by size):

  • 1/8 inch – it can cut tight curves without twisting or breaking.
  • ¼ inch – it can handle both curves and straight cuts. This is the most versatile among all the other types.
  • 2 inches or more – it is primarily used for making straight cuts.

Blade material:

  • Steel – Steel is the most common and the least expensive option. It can cut regular wood, but it cannot cut glued wood, plastic and metal. Its sharpness does not stay long compared to other blades.
  • Bi-metal – Made of strong high-speed steel, bi-metal blades are specifically made to withstand the pressure of cutting metal.
  • Carbide – Made of high-performance steel and carbide, these blades are the most expensive, but its sharpness is longer-lasting. It can cut wood, but cannot cut metals.

Motor

This is the band saw part that determines the power of the machine. Though a bigger motor is able to generate greater power, it makes the power tool challenging to maneuver. In case of a portable band saw, you’re going to find it easier to control but the lack of power may prevent the machine from working at high capacity.

Dust Collector

This feature isn’t present on all band saw models, but they’re a vital essential for a power tool to have. The sawdust from projects such as woodworking and other materials can be significantly harmful for the operator’s health as there’s a risk of it entering the eyes or the respiratory system. Additionally, the sawdust lying on the floor can lead to slip and fall injuries. What a dust collector dust is that it cleans away the unwanted dust to keep your work area and clothing clean.

Guides

Guides are another key part of a band saw. Most machines contain two guides, both of which have the responsibility to stabilize blades in order to ensure accurate cutting. Because they’re so important for a band saw’s function, most guides need constant alignment and care. There are three components in each guide, including one block on both parts of the blade, and a thrust bearing. When it comes to preventing the blade from pushing back during the cutting process, the thrust bearing plays the vital role.

Best Band Saws to Buy
Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Laguna Tools MBAND1412-175

SKIL 3386-01

WEN 3962

 

Laguna Tools MBAND1412-175

This is the higher end band saw in our guide. As you’d expect, it carries out professional-level cuts with smoothness and perfection. It’s also safe to use on any kind of plastic and wood because of its CSA certification. There’s a 1 ¾ HP motor that gives it its strength, and the model is also pre-configured with wiring to handle 230 and 115 volts.

Another standout feature is the band saw’s steel frame design which is secured with case iron wheels (these wheels can be electronically balanced and controlled). For angling and tilting the tool, there’s a cast iron trunion present on the tool.

Users of Laguna Tools MBAND1412-175 would also be left impressed by the 18-inch aluminum rip fence for precise and straight cutting. Carrying the proprietary Quick release tensioner of the blade, the tool enables the user to change blades swiftly and quickly. Moreover, the band saw features double windows for frequently tracking the machine during run time as well as gauging its tension.

What makes it stand out?

The Band saw’s 4-inch dust port eliminates the build up of wood chip and dust by making the dust go away from the blade or enter any ports.

SKIL 3386-01

This is a miniature 3 ½ band saw that is ideal for small and light cutting. It’s also one of the most affordable band saws around. The product should easily make the essential power tools list for DIYers. Its table spans to 12 * 11 ½ inches while the throat capacity spans to 9 inches. 2,800 is the SFPM rate courtesy of its 2.5-amp motor.

The SKIL 3386-01 also features “EZ View Blade Tracking” for simple and quick alignment of blades. Other features included in this band saw include a pinion and rack custom table for adjusting the angle and height.

The manufacturer is also bound to leave users impressed with the integrated LED that offers improved vision. Another feature is the dust port that keeps the power tool clean. Weighing just 36 pounds in total, this is the most portable band saw around. This also means you can easily carry it from one place tot another. An added benefit is the feature of blade adjustment – it ensures the blade’s depth can be changed according to the preference of the user.

What makes it stand out?

If you end up investing in the SKIL 3386-01, you’d love the fact that it features a rip fence to enable straight cutting, as well as a miter gauge that lets you work on projects requiring cross cuts.

WEN 3962

This band saw is not only popular for precision cutting; it offers great value for money as a mid range tool. The 10-inch, two speed band saw comes with a table that offers a 45-degree tilting function. It’s a feature that makes the entire thing highly flexible, allowing users to fit the wood or whatever material is at hand.

If you separately own a dust collector, there’s a probable chance that it’d fit with this band saw, because it has a 3-in-1 dust port. With that said, you may need to spend some time on the configuration as it’s different to configure than the other two models on the list.

If you’re going to be using the band saw for the very first time, the blade might come off as harder than other models. But if it isn’t your first experience with band saws, you’re likely to love it and find it useful.

What makes it stand out?

Though there’s a bit of a learning curve with the configuration, the straight-cutting of the band saw will leave even the most experienced of users intrigued.

Final Verdict

Now that you’re aware of what a band saw is and the most popular band saw brands, it should be more convenient for you to buy one for yourself. If you have a great deal of woodworking experience, a sturdier and powerful model should be your best bet. A DIY-er or novice, on the other hand, can exchange power for a more basic type. Ultimately, the choice depends on the difficulty of cuts and the type of project you’re going to be working on.