Band Saw Basics
One of the most versatile power tools is the band saw, or bandsaw. Thanks to its band of toothed metal, this tool can make very uniform cuts but it is also especially useful for cutting irregular shapes. The continuous blade action allows long, smooth cuts to be made. With the correct blade for the application, craftsmen use band saws for wood, metal and even meat.
Band saw blades come in a range of materials, cuts and widths for different functions, ie. for woodcutting, scrolling and for ferrous and non-ferrous metals. It is important to select the correct blade width, especially when cutting on a radius. For straight cuts, cross cuts, ripping or re-sawing, choose the widest possible blade.
Using different tooth pitches, ie. teeth per inch (TPI), a wide variety of materials can be cut including wood, metal and plastic The blade tooth patterns include closely spaced hook teeth for hard materials, wider skip teeth for cutting softer materials and wavy set and raker set teeth for ferrous metals.
Choosing a Band Saw Model
Aside from blade selection, the first decision is whether a floor or bench top model of band saw is required, or a higher capability industrial machine.
Bench top models, or portable band saws, are great for starting out, with cutting size limited to 9 or 10 inches. They are mobile and versatile, though not ideally suited to heavy duty cutting.
A floor model is more stable, reducing the potential for vibration and allowing a longer cutting range of 14 inches. Additional features can include improved blade guides, tensioning and tracking for a better finish, and LED lights to help with visibility.
Industrial bandsaw machines can handle horizontal and vertical cutting, as well as mitre cuts, with a swivel head that is often electronically controlled. These highly flexible machines have additional features like coolant systems, hydraulic feed and stops for repetitive production.
Band Saw Tips
Blade tensioning is the key to smooth operation and good results. The blade needs to be running centrally to the wheels and correctly tensioned to maintain its tracking. Making sure the band saw is unplugged, test alignment by revolving the wheel before switching on. Then set the blade guides and side bearings accordingly, to keep everything running true.
Safety glasses are needed when operating a band saw and, of course, take precautions to keep hands clear of the cut line at all times!