When was the last time you attempted to cut tough curves in thick lumber? Did you ever happen to need a cabriole leg or short crosscut pieces? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, the band saw and its uses might not be new to you. On the flip side, you may never have laid your hands on this common power tool because you have never really been a DIY and home improvement project enthusiast. Either way, you can use some help from this buying guide that shares genuine insights and suggestions based on my years of experience and the coordinated efforts of an avid DIY team.
At the outset, I’ll be trying to talk about the basics and functional aspects of a band saw so you can proceed every bit with proper knowledge and awareness. We believe that this will help you get the best band saw from a myriad of options out there.
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The Band Saw & Its Different Types
Consider this as a beginner class as I will explain the different types of band saws for you. They come in different sizes and shapes but it is even more important to know as to what it does. The band saw is a tool which is used for cutting wood in different shapes. It is made of a metal band which can turn around, and allow you to cut the wood smoothly.
In fact, it is even used for cutting metal and other materials. It consists of a long and highly sharp blade which is stretched between wheels. There could be two or more wheels in this tool. How does it work? The metal goes round and cuts the metal or wood. You will find a number of portable and stationary bandsaws in today's market, and that is precisely why you need an expert opinion here.
Now that you are aware of the uses, let us understand the types which are available.
- Horizontal - Both professional and amateur carpenters choose this variant because it has the ability to cut longer materials with different utilities. However, it does not have the ability to cut unusual, interesting and complicated shapes. For this purpose, the vertical variant is used.
- Vertical - This is a versatile type of band saw which has the power to cut unusual and interesting shapes. This powerful tool can cut straight lines like a PRO and is considered to be the right choice for those who wish to cut through the material fast enough. This variant is also known as contour saw. The highlight of this variant is that it has a built-in welder. We would suggest this variant for contour cutting or intricate detailing.
After the cut is complete, the machine turns off for the safety of the operator. The benefits include:
- This one is quieter in comparison with the other variants
- Precision is ON-POINT
- Turns off automatically
- It can cut plastic, metal, and wood easily
- The risk of injuries is less
- Metal - If you are cutting tough metal, then this variant can be put to good use. Of course, they require maintenance but come with added benefits. These fall into two categories - vertical and horizontal.
- Wood - This one is a versatile pick and both amateur and professional carpenters use this. There is a subcategory under this which includes:
- Head Saw
- Double Cut Saw
Each of these is designed for a particular use.
- Meat - Typically made of stainless steel, the meat saw is easy to maintain. The meat saws are great buddies of a butcher! You can find most of the butchers possessing this tool in their shop. It creates a perfect cut for steaks and lambs!
- Portable/Hand-held - The portable ones have become a popular pick! If you want something on the go, then this option is right for you. These are used for cutting irregular shapes, curved lines and even cuts straight edges. There can be some workplaces where you cannot transport the heavy machine and that's where the hand held/portable saw comes into play.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Band Saw
Here are the essential factors that you must go through before to find the best unit for the money.
1. Intended Use: What do you plan to do with the new band saw? Firstly, you need to figure out as to why you are purchasing this power tool. If you are buying a versatile band saw, it opens up a world of possibilities. The most common use of a band saw is resawing, cutting unusual shapes, and even ripping lumber. One can cut many materials with this machine. It is up to you as to what purpose you need it for! If the work requires complicated cuts, then a vertical saw will be your pick. Choose a band saw as per your need, and do not go by what others have to say.
2. Frame & Construction: The frame holds all the constituents of the band saw together. That's precisely why you need to invest in something which is sturdy and durable. While the wooden or plastic frame is inexpensive, there are some decent and reasonable band saws which come in a better quality frame. You must choose a frame made of welded steel or cast iron.
Although the cast iron frame was much more popular in smaller shops, professionals have started using a band saw with a heavy welded steel. The rectangular frame makes the latter look elegant and does not take up much space. You need to choose the frame as per the weight and even the height of your store/shop. Always choose a sturdy material for the frame because it will not wobble while the saw is doing its work.
3. Motor & Power: Regardless of the type of saw you use, the size of the motor matters here. If you are buying a professional or industrial model, it will be larger with different speed settings. For home models, you will find 3/4 to 1 HP motor. HP refers to horsepower here. If you are a woodworker who takes it as a hobby, the different speed settings should not matter much to you because you would require a slow speed to cut hard plastic and rigid metals.
If you have a setup at home, then a band saw with 0.5 or 0.75 HP will meet your requirements.
a) Variable speed control - Look for an electric motor which offers variable speed setting. However, this may not be of much use for the woodworkers as they can make good use of a slow speed for harder cuts.
b) Bevel capacity - This refers to the utmost bevel cut the band saw can actually make.
c) Blade guides - The blade guides keep the blade on track while making a cut. This will give you a cleaner and precise cut.
5. Safety: When you buy a band saw, look for a rip fence which allows you to cut safely, neatly, and evenly. It is a metal bar in the machine which runs parallel to the band saw blade.
6. Throat: The throat is basically the distance from the vertical frame of the body and the blade. In simple terms, the distance can find out the thickness of the cut that can be done on the saw. In a nutshell, the manufacturers sell their model by referring to the 18-inch band saw as the throat measurement of the model.
7. Table: Consider buying a band saw with steel, aluminum allow or cast-iron table. It should tilt approximately 45 degrees! This will help you get a perfect angled cut. As for the length and width, it should be 16-inches approx. Look for a table with a miter track.
8. Blade Width: When you are choosing a blade, you need to consider the blade width. Since there are two major types of saw - horizontal and vertical, the width will differ. For vertical band saws, it can range from 1/8 or even 1. For the horizontal ones, you would need to ask your manufacturer because most of them can only support a fixed blade width. Measuring your bandsaw blade correctly will help you make the most of it.
9. Weight: This really depends on the frame you are choosing. If you opt for a plastic or wooden frame, the saw will be lighter. However, there are chances that it will wobble while cutting a wood log. When you are buying a plastic frame, the pulley size should not be more than 12 inches. This is because the plastic cannot carry heavy weight!
10. Dust Port: When you are cutting wood, a dust collection port is necessary. Most of the band saws for woodworking actually have this feature. You can look for a model which has a built-in dust port which can be easily connected to the vacuum you own.
11. Availability of Parts: When a blade breaks or any other important part gets damaged, an efficient customer care service can help. Ideally, look for a brand that provides spare parts for replacement. If there is difficulty in finding a replacement or new parts for the machine, give it a skip.
12. Price-to-Quality Ratio - You paid a hefty price for a heavier material frame, but the product does work as efficiently. This totally depends on the usage and how well you maintain it. It is not full-proof that you buy a power saw for a high price and the quality will be excellent. It is always necessary to consider your requirements, budget, and even check the reviews before investing in a such type of saw.
How Did We Pick These Band Saws?
It has been have over 7 years that I've been in the furniture business and I was born in a family of carpenters who were/are well-conversant with various tools. The personal experience counts, but I have done extensive research on different types of saws and have used most of them. Most of the bandsaws listed in this post have been personally used by me and my staff.
After discussing the pros and cons of each of the products, my team and I came up with a list of the top band saws out there. As a prospective buyer, you may be wondering whether these tools are just meant for woodworking or one can cut metal as well. I have mentioned tools which can be used for both of these purposes! My belief is that versatility counts because you do not have to buy different band saws for different uses.
We spent a considerable amount of time on web research. The products have been picked from Amazon itself so that the prospective buyers could find them easily. After going through the ratings and reviews on different platforms, I have made a list and double-checked whether my colleagues and I have used them or not. Also, we have checked whether the products meet the check-list of features or not.
It took a lot of time to narrow down the choices because there are thousands of products out there but not each one of them can give you the perfect cut or the precision that you require. In fact, we even got the chance to speak to the existing users and their valuable feedback helped us to narrow down the choices.
Finally, we came up with this list that contained tools from different brands. Before we start with the reviews, it is advisable to take a quick look at the 'things to consider' section for better understanding. This will help you to become a wise buyer and identify who makes the best band saw; and not have half-baked knowledge about band saws.
Our Top 10 List
Since we have carefully curated the list for you, you will never have to ask the question - what is the best band saw? It covers the detailed review, pros, cons and the basic specifications of the tool. We made sure that the list contains bandsaws which have the necessary features which a band saw must possess. Let us take a look at the much-awaited list now!
There are some basic safety tips that you need to follow in order to be safe from injuries. An injury caused by the band saw can be brutal! I am not here to scare you, but you must take care of certain things before you deal with this mean yet efficient machine. How do you handle your band saw and stay safe?
- Always wear short sleeves. Loose clothing is a big no! It is possible that the band saw will pull the loose attire towards it and the rest, we do not have mention to you.
- Wear safety glasses, please. Whenever the carpenter or worker is handling a machine, they must wear safety glasses because you are cutting wood and metal. The debris tends to fly everywhere and it can go inside your eyes.
- Keep your station clean, my friend! Remove all the scraps, wires, garbage or tools from your station and keep the area as clean as possible.
- You must never turn on the band saw and leave it unattended. When you are done with the work or you wish to take a break, turn off the machine and get back to it later.
- Paying attention is necessary. When you are handling a machine with sharp blades, avoid multi-tasking like talking to someone next to you, dancing, singing or even eating. If your colleagues are working with a band saw, do not divert their attention because an accident is waiting to happen.
- Maintain distance and be at least 3 inches away from the machine. If the switchboard is towards your left, then make sure you use your left hand to switch off the equipment.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Now that you know how to safely operate a band saw, you can put your focus on band saw maintenance. If you own a carpentry shop or you are working at someone's home and creating furniture pieces, it is important to clean the band saw properly.
Since there are blades involved, you need to be careful about handling it. I have mentioned the things you would need and the steps to follow.
Cleaning such a power saw requires the following tools:
- Steel wool
- Wire brush
- Liquid Remover (rust remover)
Step 1 - Firstly, you need to unplug the saw machine. Make sure the knob is tied up and it is unplugged.
Step 2 - Use an air compressor blower to clear up the debris inside the machine. The blower will remove any debris or sawdust which is accumulated inside.
Step 3 - Dip the steel wool in a liquid remover to clean up the rust formed on the band saw. You must never use a cleaning solvent as that could damage the machine. Use the steel wool for removing rust and use a clean cloth to wipe off the dust on the table.
Step 4 - Carefully remove the blade from the saw. You would need to apply car wax to the table. Take some liquid remover and clean the blades with steel wool. You can even use a wire brush for cleaning the blades.
Step 5 - Use resin remover to clean all the other areas such as the pitch and the wheels. The wire brush can help you do so.
# Note: Top-quality band saws are easy to clean and usually come with a cleaning guide.
Do you wish to costs, stress and downtime? If the answer is a resounding YES, then take good care of the machine. A well-maintained band saw will give you quality cuts and would increase the durability too.
Here are some tips for preventive maintenance -
- Check the oil level from time to time
- Whenever you change the blade, check out the blade tension
- The wheel bearings should be monitored every six months
- Inspection of belts is necessary. If there is any wear or tear, change it immediately
- Monitor the saw fluids. Free fluid should be flowing in all the nozzles
- You need to make sure that there is proper alignment, wear, and tension of the pulleys. If it is damaged, you would need to replace it
- Check the band speed on a weekly basis
- Check the guide alignment on a daily basis
- Wear down the new blades before using them
First, you need to ensure that the right size/measurement of the blade is in use. Then, you need to ensure that the entire band saw is properly maintained. The blades are important, but the whole machine needs work to keep it kicking and functional for a long period of time.
- Firstly, wear down the new blades by reducing the extra sharpness. A new blade has sharp teeth which need to wear down before anybody can use it.
- Secondly, use a lubricant to oil up the blades from both sides. Lubrication is a MUST! Water should never be used as a lubricant because that could damage the blade.
- Thirdly, the blade tends to heat up after using it. If it heats up, it will stretch which will ultimately shrink after cooling down. This will lead to cracks on the blades which is a big NO! Remove the tension from the blades after using it.
- The last step is to keep your blades sharpened! You can use a sharpening stone to do it.
We hope that you found the effort made by Drillly team very helpful. We believe our attempt of preparing this list and buyer's guide will help many carpenters to choose the best one for their workshop for different uses. Carpentry, lumbering and metal cutting are not easy tasks because they require the perfect technical skills and the right tools. A good band saw can be a game changer and god-sent machine for a woodworker. If you use it to its full potential, it is possible to create unusual and beautiful pieces of furniture.
My father passed me an old-school band-saw but I cherish it, and will always keep it for inspiration. However, there are too many advanced products on the market. Make sure you compare each tool before buying the best!
WEN 3962 tops our list because it works well for a number of purposes. When you have a versatile band saw, it makes work easier. I have mentioned tools which can fit everyone's budget, requirements, and even weight. As for the best small handsaw, you will find many portable options in the above-mentioned list. Milwaukee 2429-21XC is known for its portability while the DEWALT variants have their own set of pros and cons. Figure out what your requirement is and then choose the right tool. This will give you clarity, and you will be able to compare the products with a clear mind.
However, aside from these choices, many reputed manufactures like Porter Cable, Craftsman, Walker Turner, Laguna, Rockwell, Black and Decker, Wilton, StartRite, Mafell, and Mastercraft do also offer some excellent band saw machines that you can consider. However, their products could not take a place in this shortlist because they were not good enough when we compared their features, performances, and utilities.
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