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.
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 (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.
- 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.