The 14″ bandsaw has remained basically unchanged since it was first produced back in the 1930s. It quickly became as much of a woodshop staple as the table saw, lathe, drill press and scroll saw. The tool featured two rubber-tired wheels stacked vertically with the lower one being the drive wheel. The drive wheel was powered by a belt and pulley connected to the electric motor. A flexible steel band with teeth of various configurations cut into it was the cutting blade. The blade fit tightly over the two wheels rotating in a clock-wise motion. The blade was kept in line through the use of guide blocks that kept the blade vertical and laterally stable.
The wheel housing was made of sheet steel with removable covers. The base of the saw was also made of sheet steel sitting on four steel legs. The motor was mounted externally on top of the base. In some band saws this configuration has not changed, which proves the worth of the original designs from 70 years ago.
The tool is called a 14″ bandsaw because of the diameter of the wheels, although there are many other sizes available (some as large as six feet or more). The 14″ has proven to be the standard and most flexible for both the professional woodworker and amateur alike.
The bandsaw has the flexibility to be able to cut circles, arcs and other odd shapes due to the varying widths of blades available for the machine. A 1/8″ blade is about the narrowest that the 14″ bandsaw will handle, and this blade will cut very intricate designs. In fact, the 1/8″ blade can safely cut a ¼” radius.
Through the use of a rip fence, the bandsaw can also rip boards but the width of these boards will be limited to the throat capacity of the saw and, in the case of a 14″ tool, that would be around the 13″ mark depending on the manufacturer. The bandsaw, however, won’t give as smooth a cut as a circular saw.
The bandsaw may also be used to resaw thick lumber into thinner boards. Some saws offer a riser block to extend the height of the saw throat to 12″ or more. This allows wider stock to be resawn.
Some 14″ band saws offer a choice of FpM speeds (feet per minute). The lower speeds are used for the cutting of non-ferrous metal such as aluminum and mild steel. Craftex and King offer the user a choice of three speeds, while the Delta and General International offer two speeds.
The 14″ bandsaw is less intimidating than a table saw and therefore the woodworker is able to cut smaller projects on it. This does not mean, however, that the operator should be blasé about its use. The bandsaw can still cause serious harm if misused.
With over seven decades under its belt the bandsaw has received some subtle changes, mostly in the area of convenience, although changes have been made in the materials being used to manufacture them. Notably, Steel City Tool Works makes the table of their 14″ bandsaw as well as the drive wheel from granite. Steel City says that granite pretty much guarantees that there will be no warping or twisting and the drive wheel will be perfectly balanced.
One of the best improvements over the years has been the addition of the quick blade tension release, a lever on top of the bandsaw wheel housing. This allows the user to find the correct blade tension for the blade type they are using and then quickly release that tension when they are through using the saw. This releases the stress on the blade and extends its life and prevents flat spots on the wheel’s rubber tires.
The standard type of blade guides used are ball bearing wheels and they are found in most of the listed machines. Laguna uses a specially designed 10-point ceramic block system, as noted on the comparison chart.
Rip fences are now a standard on most of the models that we compared and that addition has the advantage of being able to rip a straight line over the length of a long board. The fences are also removable to allow maximum space for curved cuts. King Canada includes a resaw guide that has a short dowel-like tube attached to one side of the fence. These rip fences may be used on either side of the blade. Laguna’s rip fence may be used in a high or low position. The high position is for re-sawing, while the lower position is used for cutting finer materials.
All of the listed band saws have a ¾” slot on the table top to facilitate a mitre gauge, although the gauge itself is an optional extra on two of them. The standard slot size allows you to use a mitre gauge from a table saw.
Three of the manufacturers use a larger paddle-type on/off switch that may be preferred. All but Craftex and Laguna have dual voltage motors that provide users with the option of using 110/120V or 220/240V circuitry. The manufacturers wire their tools at 110/120volts and provide schematics for the voltage change if preferred. Laguna offers the choice of a 110v or 220v motor at the same price.
All but Ridgid and Laguna have the motors mounted within the stand. The Craftex, General International and Laguna have partially open stands. Delta, King, and Steel City have fully enclosed cabinet type stands, while Ridgid has a fully open steel stand.
Band saws have, in the past, been notorious for their vibration that may affect the cutting accuracy. All of the listed band saws seem to be heavy enough to prevent this problem. The Steel City bandsaw is the heaviest on our list. Delta and Steel City have the largest table size at 16″ x 16″.
Some of the listed band saws have additional features, such as lower drive wheel brushes that help clean the tires of sawdust to prevent the dust from compacting on the tires. General International is the only bandsaw in this category to offer a cut line laser to help straight-line ripping.
Warranties on the listed band saws vary from 12 months to five years. Ridgid is the only manufacturer that offers a lifetime service contract. In all cases the tool must be taken to your nearest service depot for warranty service.
There is slightly more than a $1,000 spread between the lowest and highest priced tools, but it should be noted that companies like Craftex and Laguna do not have a dealer network. Craftex is a store brand for Busy Bee Tools and Laguna sells their products directly to the end user. Ridgid sells their products exclusively through The Home Depot. Delta, General International and Steel City have exclusive retail dealer networks.