Illustration by Len Churchill; Photos by Rob Brown
Bandsaws are versatile shop machines that don’t take up much floor space, and are both easy and reasonably safe to use. They lack the cross-cutting accuracy of a table saw, but are superb for ripping rough and dimensional lumber to size, re-sawing lumber into shop-made veneer, cutting curves, circles, and irregular shapes, and cutting a variety of joinery, including tenons, lap joints, and tail boards for dovetails.
A 14″ saw with a 1-1/2 to 2 HP motor is ideal for most small and hobbyist shops. A larger throat capacity is preferable. However, if you won’t be milling your own veneer, a large re-saw capacity may not be important. Look for a welded steel frame, dynamically balanced cast iron flywheels, cast iron trunnion, flat table, tall sturdy fence, rack-and-pinion guide post with easy-to-adjust guide blocks and a 4″ dust port.
Price: $375 – $8,000
Ripping capacity: 10″ – 24″
Re-saw capacity: 6″ – 24″
Motor: 1 HP – 7.5 HP
Guides: Blocks (steel/ceramic/ phenolic); Rollers/bearings (steel)
Frame: Cast iron; welded steel
Flywheel: Aluminum; cast iron
Blade capacity: 1/4″ – 1-3/8″
Select a blade width to match the stock you are cutting – around 1/4″ for cutting tight curves and thin stock; 1/2″ for general sawing; and 3/4″ for re-sawing. Don’t be a miser – replace worn blades.
Each time you change blades, check the alignment of your upper and lower guides and thrust bearings. Position the guides just behind the gullets on the blade.
To help reduce blade drift, track the blade in the center of the upper wheel. Replace damaged tires, and ensure you clean them whenever you change blades.
Blade tension scales on bandsaws sometimes don’t take into account blade size. Instead, move the guidepost all the way up, then push sideways on the middle of the blade with your finger – adjust the tension so that it deflects no more than 1/4″.
Especially when freehand sawing or cutting close to a cutline, you need to see your work clearly. Task lighting shines the light exactly where you need it.