A bandsaw is one of the most versatile shop machines woodworkers use. It’s ideal for ripping rough and dimensional lumber to size, re-sawing lumber into shop-made veneer, cutting curves, circles, irregular shapes, and cutting a variety of joinery, including tenons, lap joints and tail boards for dovetails.
1. Blades – You’re probably thinking, “That’s pretty obvious.” But while every bandsaw typically comes with a blade, it might not be the right blade for the task at hand. For contour sawing, use a blade that’s narrow enough to cut the desired radius. For resawing, use the widest blade your saw will accommodate. A good general-purpose blade is a 1/2″ 3 to 4 tpi skip-tooth blade. The larger gullet between teeth provides more efficient sawdust removal.
2. Tensioning gauge – Not all bandsaws have a built-in tensioning gauge. For those that do, the gauges may be inaccurate or hard to use. To get straight cuts and prevent tracking issues you need a properly tensioned blade. Improper tension can also lead to premature wear of the tires, bearings and tensioning spring. There are a variety of tensioning gauges on the market.
3. Rip fence – A sturdy, easily adjustable fence is indispensable for accurate ripping and some light resawing. Look for a fence that’s easy to take on and off, locks securely in position, is easily aligned to compensate for blade drift, and has T-slots for mounting jigs and accessories.
4. Resaw fence – If you do any amount of resawing, a resaw fence works wonders. Most bandsaw fences are much too short to work effectively. Optimally, you want one that is about as high as the stock you’re resawing. They’re easy to make and you can find lots of free plans on the internet.
5. Mini sawmill sled – If you have access to small logs, you can resaw them using a mini sawmill sled. These sleds will securely hold logs up to the maximum resaw capacity of your bandsaw.
6. Task light – You’ll do better work at the bandsaw if you have good lighting. Articulating (gooseneck) lamps are often used, but I find that a compact battery-powered magnetic LED light works best because it can be quickly moved from one machine to another and LED bulbs don’t throw off much heat.
7. Auxiliary tabletop – You’ll be able to support and balance long or heavy stock much better on a large tabletop. Make yours out of 3/4″ plywood, Baltic birch or high-density MDF, sizing it to accommodate your rip fence. Bolt the auxiliary top to the existing table. You’ll lose 3/4″ of resaw capacity with an auxiliary top. Again, there are lots of free plans on the internet.
8. Urethane tires – Like the tires on your car, bandsaw tires wear out over time and need replacing. Blades won’t run true on torn, worn or hardened tires. Replace them with urethane tires, which are easy to install and don’t require any special adhesives, or Popeye arms to stretch them over the wheel rim.
9. Bearing guides – If you have an older bandsaw, or one with poor upper and lower bearing guides that are difficult to adjust, consider replacing the guides. Roller-bearing guides will increase cutting accuracy. Replacing the guides is straightforward.
10. Mobile base – Having your bandsaw on wheels means you can move it about when you need extra cutting clearance for longer stock. Mobile bases are available as a complete unit or as a kit (without rails; you supply a plywood base).