How to Use a Band Saw: 11 Essential Bandsaw Tips for the Beginner

Band saw TIPS for the beginner – including pointers on band saw SAFETY, maintenance, blade TENSION, bearings, blades, and minimum cutting radius. Do you know how to create clean cuts on a bandsaw? Do you know why should release the tension on the blade at the end of the day?


Learn how to fold or coil a bandsaw blade into either 3 or 5 loops (rings).

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. Make sure the band saw blade is stretched tight before using.

A tight blade will allow you to consistently create straight and uniform cuts.

3. 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.

Bandsaw Tips for the beginner - a Carabiner clip around the bandsaw blade reminds me to tighten the blade before using.

4. 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.

Band saw parts labeled.
Band saw parts labeled. (Photo courtesy of JPW Industries.)

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.

Top guide assembly for bandsaw. Includes parallel thrust and side bearings.
Top guide assembly. (Photo courtesy of JPW Industries.)

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.

Regular, skip, and hook tooth band saw blades.

Rake angle on a bandsaw blade.

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 below, with a 5/8” (16mm) blade, the smallest bowl blank you could cut would be 8” (204mm) in diameter.

Minimum cutting radius for a bandsaw blade.

11. Keep in mind a bandsaw can only create “external” cuts.

While a band saw can cut curves and irregular shapes, it cannot make “internal” cuts such as removing the inside of the ring shown shown below.

Rings cannot be cut on a bandsaw.

Band saw table tilt

You can tilt most band saw tables as shown below. In this case, I am removing the corners on a piece of square stock.

Tilting the bandsaw table.
Tilting the bandsaw table.

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.

Woodworkers typically use the bandsaw to cut curved or irregular shapes or to re-saw thicker boards into thinner ones. With many uses, many people consider the bandsaw as one of the most useful tools in the shop.

 

WoodTurners

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.

Cutting out a bowl blank on a band saw.
Cutting out a bowl blank on a band saw.

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.

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Bandsaw Tips for the beginner - including tips on band saw SAFETY, maintenance, blade TENSION, bearings, blades, and minimum cutting radius.

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8 thoughts on “How to Use a Band Saw: 11 Essential Bandsaw Tips for the Beginner

  • January 21, 2018 at
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    Great article – really appreciate the advice. I’m a long time framer/general contractor, but just getting into what I WANT to do rather than what I have to do. I’m looking into purchasing a band saw. Any recommendations? I have quite a bit of 6/4 slab wood that needs reason for tables, cabinets, etc. Thanks!

    Reply
    • January 22, 2018 at
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      Scott, my first band saw was a benchtop model with a 1/2 HP (373 watt) motor. Several times when cutting large green pieces of wood, the motor would stall out in the middle of a cut. Believe me, getting a partially cut piece of green wood out of a bandsaw is not easy. For this reason, I upgraded to a 2 HP (1490 watt) band saw. My recommendation – get the biggest band saw you can afford which fits in your shop. If space is a premium, looking into making it mobile. The video (currently under Tip #5) at the following URL shows my mobile band saw. Thanks, Bill
      https://suncatcherstudio.com/workshop-design-layout-tips/

      Reply
    • February 4, 2018 at
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      Good article with good reminders. The most important item I found was the blade and guide adjustment note. I ruined a new one inch blade by allowing the teeth to come in contact with the wheel guides.

      Reply
  • January 22, 2018 at
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    Thank you for your article. I learned a lot. I have a 14″ Craftsman and cut bowl blanks between 4″ and 6″.
    I’m always apprehensive about blade tension. I had a 9″ Rikon bandsaw and the blades snapped often.
    Thanks for the heads up on blade width. Who knew? I need a 3/8″ or 1/2″ width, 3 TPI. How do I know if I need skip, regular or hook and what rake for cutting tree logs that are 12″ long with 10″ diameter cut in half the long way. I guess I need 1/2″ width if I don’t cut a 4″ blank. BTW the length of the blade is 99 3/4″.
    Gene Sanders, Woodmere, Long Island, NY, ehs21@verizon.net, (516) 776-0705 cell.

    Reply
    • January 22, 2018 at
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      Gene, if I was into production work, I would make sure to install the optimal blade. However, personally, one day I might be cutting bowl blanks on the band saw and the next day I might be cutting out a chess piece. Even though, I can probably change blades in under 2 minutes, I usually just leave a 1/4″ x 6 TPI blade on the saw. This allows me to cut very tight curves, but still does an “okay” job on straight cuts. Thanks, Bill

      Reply
  • April 15, 2018 at
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    Good tips on using a bandsaw. I admit to not following many of these in the past. Until recently I was using an old bandsaw that used to belong to my uncle. Long story short, it’s no longer usable, and so I’m looking for a good bandsaw to get that’s beginner-friendly and delivers good performance. I have my eye on a few models from WEN and Grizzly, many of which are apparently very popular. I had checked out some other sites – Carve Your Creation, for example, features some interesting models. Eh, I still have some research to do. Anyways, a bit off topic… thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  • July 1, 2018 at
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    Excellent and decent post. I found this much informative.
    I’m impressed by the details that you have on this website. Thank you for this post

    Reply
  • July 15, 2018 at
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    I ruined a new blade while cutting a blank with the curved side on the bottom and the blade kinked up. Also happened once while cutting dowels. Never again!

    Reply

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