Woodworkers typically use the bandsaw to cut curved or irregular shapes. Other people use the bandsaw to re-saw thicker boards into thinner ones or to make miter cuts, crosscuts, and beveled cuts. With many uses, many people consider the bandsaw as one of the most useful tools in the shop.
Below are 11 helpful tips on band saw maintenance, operation, and safety.
1. Do not worry about buying blades for an older band saw.
Today there are many companies that create custom band saw blades. They allow you to specify the exact length (down to fractions of an inch), blade width, thickness, and teeth per inch. One such company is BandSawBladesDirect.com. So if buying a used band saw, worry about features such as the maximum capacity and horsepower of the motor. Know that you can always order blades for a used band saw.
2. Release the tension on the bandsaw blade when not in use.
Most band saw operating manuals recommend relaxing the blade tension at the end of the day. This helps extend the life of the blade, the tires, and the bearings. For this reason, many bandsaw come with a “quick release” blade tension lever. Personally, after releasing the tension, I place a Carabiner clip around the saw blade. This is my reminder that I need to tighten the blade before turning on the saw.
3. Have minimal clearance between the workpiece and the guide bearings.
You can lower the “Guide Post” by rotating the “Elevating Hand Wheel”. For safety, you should position the blade assembly no more than 3/16” (5mm) above the work piece. In addition to operator safety, this minimal clearance, also results in straighter cuts since the blade deflects less.
4. Make sure the band saw blade is stretched tight before using.
You can perform this by adjusting the “Blade Tension Hand Wheel”. (See figure below). A tight blade will allow you to consistently create straight and uniform cuts.
5. Understand how the top and bottom guide assemblies operate.
Specifically, the “Parallel Thrust Bearing” prevents the blade from being pushed back. The “Diagonal Side Bearings” or solid guides on less expensive models prevent or minimize any side deflection in the blade. When cutting is not taking place, there should be a small gap approximately 1/64” (0.4mm) between the blade and all the bearings. In this non-cutting state, the bearings should not be rotating. As cutting begins, the blade will move back and make contact with the thrust bearing causing it to spin. At the same time, one of the side bearings will also most likely make contact and start spinning. Only the flat part of the blade (not the teeth) should make contact with the guide assembly.
6. Consider using a plastic “Throat Plate”.
A plastic plate will not cause any damage to the blade if the teeth accidentally touches it.
7. Replace a damaged throat plate.
This will help reduce splintering, tear-out and to keep small pieces of wood from falling between the blade and the table.
8. Know the advantages of various band saw blades.
Some of the more common styles of band saw blades are the “regular tooth”, “skip tooth”, and “hook tooth” blades. The rake angle shown below is the angle of the cutting face relative to the work piece. The regular tooth blade typically has evenly spaced teeth and a 0 degree rake angle. The skip tooth blade also typically has a 0-degree rake angle; however, it is missing every other tooth. This larger gullet between teeth makes this blade more aggressive than the regular tooth blade – resulting in a slightly rougher finish. The hook tooth blade frequently has a 10-degree positive rake angle which results in a very aggressive cutting action.
9. Use blades with more teeth to create cleaner cuts.
Use blades with fewer teeth for faster cuts.
10. Use the widest blade possible for the task at hand.
Wider blades allow you to create straighter cuts and to feed the workpiece faster without breaking blades. If you are doing contour sawing (such as creating bowl blanks), you will want to use a blade which is narrow enough to cut the desired radius. As shown in Figure A11, with a 5/8” (16mm) blade, the smallest bowl blank you could cut would be 8” (204mm) in diameter.
11. Keep in mind a bandsaw can only create “external” cuts.
While a band saw can cut curves and irregular shapes such as the tree shown below, it cannot make “internal” cuts such as removing the inside of the ring shown shown below.
You can tilt most band saw tables as shown below. In this case, I am removing the corners on a piece of square stock.
Learn how to fold or coil a bandsaw blade into either 3 or 5 loops (rings).
A few projects where a band saw is very helpful (handy) include:
• Grand Piano
• How to Carve Wooden Spoons.
• Create your own Chess Pieces
• How to Make Wind Spinners
• Cutting Outlines of State Patterns.
A few examples of when a woodturner might use a bandsaw include:
• Ripping wood into spindle blanks.
• Creating round blanks from either wet or dry logs.
• Removing the corners off square turning stock.
Whether ripping wood, creating round blanks, or removing corners on square stock, the bandsaw can make the initial steps of turning much easier and safer. As shown below, the band saw makes it very easy to create bowl blanks.
Bandsaws come in all different sizes. On the small side are benchtop models with 1/3 HP (250 watt) motors, 3” (8cm) cutting capacity in height, 9” (23cm) cutting capacity in width, 60” (152cm) blades, and weighing under 40 lbs. (18 kg). On the large side are stand-alone models with 5 HP (3730 watt) motors, 15” (38cm) cutting capacity in height, 24” (61cm) cutting capacity in width, 183” (465cm) blades, and weighing over 1000 lbs. (454 kg).
Some common bandsaws brands include: Jet, Grizzly, Delta, Rikon, DeWalt, Laguna, Makita, and Powermatic.