Your Band Saw Selection Guide

Posted on Aug 12, 2020

Band Saw

The versatility of a band saw is indisputable. It is a popular cutting tool used by professional metalworkers and woodworkers, as well as DIY enthusiasts. There are many options to choose from, each of which is characterized by a set of features you should look out for when choosing one. In this buying guide, we’ll help you make the right decision.

A band saw features a long, sharp blade consisting of a series of toothed metal sheets. The primary purpose of a band saw, surprise, surprise, is to cut. Its blade is designed to allow operators to slice through workpieces quickly and effectively. In fact, a band saw is all about its blade configuration, more specifically the TPI (teeth per inch), often the most important selection factor. But before we dive into this, let's talk about the different types of band saws first.

→Read More: What Are the Applications of Band Sawing Machine?.

Types of Band Saws

There are many types of band saws you can choose from depending on your applications.

  • Vertical Band Saws: This type of saw is primarily used for cutting metal. Its vertical design allows workers to cut through tough and complex materials. The workpiece may be fed into the blade manually or automatically.

Figure 1. Vertical Bandsaw, Behringer

  • Horizontal Band Saws: A horizontal band saw excels in cutting large metal parts into workable sizes. While not used as frequently, the immense cutting power compensates for the lack of versatility. 

Figure 2. Light-duty Vertical Bandsaw, Way Train

  • Benchtop Band Saws: These are powerful saws used by both professional craftsmen and hobbyists. They have a relatively smaller workspace and shorter blades, but can produce adequate power to perform intricate cutting. 

Figure 3. Benchtop Bandsaw

Band Saw Blades 

Band saws are often characterized by their tooth configuration, which are classified into three types: regular, hook, and skip. Regular blade teeth are used for standard applications. The teeth are sharp enough to cut through both wood and metal. Hook blade teeth feature larger spaces between the teeth, and much deeper gullets. They are ideal for thick pieces of plastic, wood, and metal. Skip is a rare configuration that is primarily used to cut nonferrous metals and softwood. Here are a few variations of blade tooth:

Figure 4. Variations of Blade Tooth

With the types covered, what variables do you need to take into consideration when choosing the desired band saw blade?
  • Blade Width: The width of the blade really means the maximum capacity and the minimum radius the saw can cut. If you are performing re-sawing or cut-off sawing, you want to ensure maximum blade width on your saw. This will allow cuts to be nice and straight, while retaining a good feed rate without breaking the blade. But if you are only to perform contour sawing, you want to ensure that blade is narrow enough to cut the desired radius. 
  • Blade Thickness: A blade that isn’t thick enough to slice through the metal will cause fatigue or even lead to failure. The thickness depends on the diameters of the wheel and the project requirements. For a nice straight cut, you want the blade to be as thick as possible. But in applications where you’ll be twisting or bending your blade, you’ll want a thinner blade for the flexibility.  
  • Number of Teeth: Determining the TPI is all about finding the fine line between feed and finish rate. Blades with fewer teeth cut fast, but produce a rougher finish. Blades with more teeth cut slower but smoother. The general rule of thumb is to always keep at least three teeth in the material for any type of precision cutting. This will ensure accuracy and stability no matter what material you cut into.
  • Surface Feed Per Minute (SFM): The SFM ratings will always be included in the product specification provided by your manufacturer. And knowing the desired SFM of your application requires knowing the RPM and diameter of your drive wheel.

Other Selection Factors Explained

In this section we’ll talk about other components that you should pay particular attention to when buying a band saw.
  • Motor: Besides the blade, the motor decides what type of materials you’ll be able to cut. Since band saws are electric, they are specified in horsepower. Anything lower than 1.0 horsepower is categorized as small band saws, ideal for less demanding jobs. If you’ll be performing large stoccutting regularly, you’ll want something in the 1.0 to 2.5 range. 
  • Frame: Band saw frames may seem obsolete, but are in fact important for providing rigidity to the band saw. Drive wheels spinning at high speeds can create a lot of vibration and wiggle the saw, so you want to make sure the frame is strong enough to withstand it. You’ll typically have a choice among three types of frames: cast iron, die-cast, and welded steel. For maximum rigidity and weight, choose the cast iron frame.
  • Band Saw Wheels: The weight of the wheel will influence how your saw cuts and behaves. Wheels are typically made of aluminum or cast iron, and aluminum is significantly lighter than cast iron. The heavier the wheel, the more inertia it provides. 
  • Tension Indicator: Not all band saws come with a tension indicator, but it’s a plus. It helps you set the required PSI (point per square inch) tension for the blade. Note that the tension adjustment should be performed by a professional because setting the tension too high will lead to quicker wear or even breakage; setting it too low may deflect the blade off the track.

Final Words

As we continue to iterate, do not let the price alone cloud your judgment as to what you should or shouldn’t buy. Always take your application requirements into account before deciding what features you want for your saw. For instance, you may get your hands on a small benchtop saw for a fairly cheap price, but it is by no means suitable for heavy-duty cutting. What materials you are going to cut, and how efficient and precise you want the cutting to be, are all important questions you need to ask yourself before browsing through the wide selection of band saws. 


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