Compared with table saws, band saws are underrated machines. They are nearly as versatile, generally quieter, and much safer to operate. A hand saw can make rip cuts, crosscuts, and angle cuts, but it excels at curve-cutting. Some woodworkers use their hand saws for resawing, a technique that involves slicing thin sheets of veneer from the face of a board. A band saw can even he set up w cut dovetail joints.
Band saws are so named because instead of using a circular shaped blade, they have a thin, flexible baud-style blade that spins around two large flywheels. All the cutting forces are directed toward the band saw table as the blade passes through it, which eliminates the kickback hazards of circular-bladed tools like table saws. Band saws cut a thin kerf, which makes them cleaner to use than other saw styles and allows you to save more wood and produce less sawdust.
Common band saw features.
On most hand saws, the table pivots for making angled cuts while the blade angle remains the same. A protractor-style scale beneath the table establishes the table angle. Many band saws conic with rip fences, just like table saws, and the hand saw table has a miter gauge slot to assist in crosscutting or cutting angles.
As the blade spins, guides above and below the saw table keep the blade tracking properly on the flywheels. Both sets of guides can be adjusted to suit blades of different widths, and the upper guides also move up and down along with a solid blade guard to minimize blade exposure during cutting. The typical blade-guide configuration has three parts: a bearing behind the blade that keeps it from drilling backward and two blocks or bearings on each side to minimize flexing. The upper flywheel is spring-loaded to maintain tension on the blade. A hand wheel or knob adjusts tension on the upper wheel. Both flywheels and most of the blade are enclosed behind doors to help contain the dust.
Band saws that are made for frequent or heavy- duty use will have frames made of cast iron or welded steel. Some benchtop band saws have cast—aluminum frames, but iron or steel frames offer better rigidity and dampen more vibration.
Choosing a band saw.
Band saws are manufactured in both benchtop and floor-standing models in a variety of sizes. To pick the right one models in a variety of sizes. To pick the right one for you, you’ll have to consider each of the following factors.
Regarding sizing, hand saws are categorized by the diameter of their flywheels. Benchtop band saws have the smallest flywheels, which range from 8 to 12 inches. Band saws with larger flywheels arc all floor-standing machines, with wheel sizes range from 14 to 24 inches or more. The larger the wheels, the greater the distance between the blade and rear housing of the tool. This distance is called throat depth. Large throat depths are an asset, because the saw can cut wider work pieces or deeper curves before the housing gets in the way.
Another factor of saw sizing is the distance between the table and the upper blade guide when the guide is raised to its highest point. This measurement determines the maximum work piece thickness the saw can handle as well as the widest wood it can resaw. Floor-standing band saws will provide at least 6 inches of clearance here, and as much as 15 inches, depending on the machine.
For years, the band saw of choice among woodworkers has been the 14-inch size with a cast-iron frame and table. These machines offer a good pairing of resaw and throat capacity at a reasonable price. Most 14-inch saws come with ½ to 1½ horsepower motors that offer enough power for general cutting. The popularity of this saw makes it easy in find a wide range of blades that don’t cost a fortune. You can also upgrade a 14-inch saw with precision blade guides, rolling bases, quick-release blade tensioners, and even kits that extend the length of the column for resawing wider boards.
Benchtop hand saws are light-duty tools. Some are made in a three-wheel, triangulated design that provides greater throat capacity than a two-wheel saw, but the blades tend to break more quickly. Unless you’re certain that you’ll only need a band saw occasionally. It’s better to buy a lull-size hand saw instead of a bench top model.