A band saw is a versatile tool that cuts a wide range of materials, including wood, conduit and galvanized pipe, steel, plastics, copper, glass, and PVC pipe.
Saws range from manual to automatic to numerically controlled and carry a wide-ranging price tag. Several factors determine the appropriate band saw to buy:
- How often the saw is used.
- Material to be cut.
- Cutting capacity needed.
Uses for a Band Saw
The band saw is used in several industries. Band saws are used by metalworkers to cut conduit and galvanized pipe to specific lengths; they are used in the restaurant and retail settings to slice meat. The forestry industry utilizes band saws to make initial cuts and for ripping timber.
In woodworking, a band saw can be used for crosscutting and ripping, but it is best suited for cutting curves and meticulous scroll-work.
It is not suited for making cuts inside a piece of stock, such as a cutout for a handle. A quality band saw will cut thin strips of veneer as smooth and accurately as a table saw or radial arm saw. It is also well suited for cutting tenons and rabbets.
A band saw consists of two large pulleys that hold a serrated steel band, also referred to as a blade, in place. The pulleys allow the blade to move in a continuous circular motion. The blade position can be horizontal or vertical. A casing covers the motor, pulleys, and other internal mechanisms.
On a band saw with a horizontal blade position, the material remains stationary, and the blade moves down to make the cut. Horizontal blades are well-suited for a machine shop where lengths of pipe or conduit are cut to lengths; they are not good for cutting curves or intricate shapes.
A band saw with a vertical blade is often referred to as a contour saw. The blade remains stationary, and the material being cut is fed underneath the blade. This configuration is well-suited for woodworking because the material can be manipulated to accommodate complex shapes and angles.
Band saws can be mounted on a table or bench, or come as a free-standing cabinet model. The shorter table- or bench-top models work well for the home-based metalworker or woodworker. The taller cabinet models feature a larger frame, more features, and are built for professional use.
Portable band saws can be powered by air, electricity, battery pack, or hydraulic. They are capable of cutting material ranging from 4 inches to 9 inches. Lighter and smaller than bench-top and cabinet models, portable band saws still can handle a variety of materials including steel, pipe, plastics, and wood.
Band saws are offered in a range of sizes. The size of a band saw is represented by the diameter of the pulleys. The width of material that can be cut is limited to the distance between the blade and the frame; this distance is usually 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch less than the pulley size. A 10-inch band saw can handle material up to 9 5/8 inches wide; a 14-inch saw can handle material up to 13 3/4 inches wide.
Blade widths range from 1/8 inch to 1 inch. The number of teeth per inch ranges from 5 to 15. The thinner blades and finer teeth are for cutting a sharp curve and a tight radius; the larger ones are for straight cutting and a slight curve. A 1/8-inch blade is used for a 3/16-inch radius cut; a 1-inch blade is used for a 7-inch radius cut. As a rule of thumb, use the largest size blade that will do the job.
The material being cut also determines the appropriate saw blade to use. A regular tooth is suitable for many wood cuts; however, a skip tooth blade works better for soft woods and a hooked tooth blade works well for hard woods. A diamond blade is available for cutting glass and a hardened blade is available for cutting metal.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Band Saw
When shopping for a band saw, there are several factors to consider: depth of cut, throat, size of the motor, and accessories.
Depth of Cut
The depth of cut is the amount of material removed by one pass of the band saw. It is determined by the distance from the table to the upper blade guides. The depth of cut on band saws ranges from 6 inches to 36 inches, depending on the size of the saw.
The throat refers to the width of a cut. Bench-top band saws have a throat ranging from 12 inches to 14 inches; cabinet models are wider.
Size of the Motor
Stationary band saws are powered by an electric motor. Many of the smaller, bench-top band saws have a 3/4- to 1-horsepower motor; professional cabinet models have a larger motor. Some band saws have variable speeds, which allow for precision cutting on smaller pieces of material. A slower motor speed is also used when cutting hard plastics or metals.
Band saw accessories include miter gauges and ripping fences. These features are useful for crosscutting, resawing, and ripping operations. Keep in mind, however, that the band saw will not make these cuts as accurately as a bench saw or a radial arm saw.
Band saw tables are made of steel, cast-iron, or aluminum; a common size is 16 inches by 16 inches. Tables should tilt up to 45 degrees to accommodate angled cuts.
Features to Look For
When buying a band saw, consumers should look for several convenience and safety features:
- A tension control device to adjust the blade tension.
- A brake on one or more of the pulleys; this minimizes the potential for gliding after the saw is turned off.
- A built-in dust collection port.
- Band wheels that have tires with cleaning brushes.
Maintenance for a band saw is not complicated, but it does involve more care than what is required for other saws. Periodic cleaning ensures that the band saw is in excellent working order, increases the safety of the operator, and ensures smooth, quality cuts. Preventive maintenance minimizes down time, reduces unexpected and unnecessary repair costs, and extends the life of the saw. A routine inspection takes roughly 30 to 60 minutes. Maintenance tasks are performed at various intervals.
Each Time the Saw is Used
|Clear wood chips from the blade guide, band wheels, and vise jaws.
Examine and adjust saw blades and replace if necessary.
Examine the chip brush, blade, blade guides, and blade wipers for wear and tear.
Check the hydraulic system.
Every Three Months
|Wash the sawing fluid tank and screen.|
Twice a Year
|Grease the saw column pivot point.
Check the band wheel bearings.
Check the band guides.
Wash the hydraulic fluid tank and change the hydraulic filters.
Inspect the drive belt and chip brush belt.
|Drain and change the fluid in the hydraulic fluid reservoir.
Wash the hydraulic fluid strainer and filter.
Replace the transmission oil.
Finding Band Saws on Amazon
A variety of band saws are offered on Amazon. Buyers can also find band saw accessories such as saw blades, saw blade sharpeners, miter guides, and band saw tables.
A band saw is a multipurpose saw that is utilized for a variety of reasons. With the range of sizes, models, and options available, there is a band saw to fit each consumer’s needs. Understanding the configuration of blades and the different models available will ensure that the band saw purchased will do the job for which it intended.