Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 tips for using a band saw

We know setting up a band saw properly is critical to getting good results from this shop workhorse, but that means nothing without getting into the details. Consider these band saw setup basics, as well as a few simple tips, that might not fall into the standard “setting up your band saw” list.

Photos by Steve Der-Garabedian

1. Collecting Dust

Dust gets in the way of a lot of things, including blade tracking, clean cutting, power transfer and clean air. Do your best to remove dust from your saw as it’s made and clean it on a regular basis.

2. Adjust the Tension

From “nice and low is the best approach” to “when in doubt, crank it up to 11,” band saw blade tension sometimes seems like a black art. Every situation is different. One thing you can do is play around with the tension of the blade you’re using in a specific situation in order to get more familiar with the results.

3. Use a Sharp Blade

Any tool works better when it’s sharp and a band saw is no exception. I bet some woodworkers neglect the “finer points” of band saw blade sharpness, but because of the amount of wood a band saw blade is removing and how fast it’s asked to do it, a sharp blade is not to be underestimated.

4. Clean Your Band Saw

Though I might have mentioned it before, a clean-running band saw will be able to expend its energy solely on cleanly cutting wood. Dust, sap, etc. only impede cutting, so keeping your saw clean is a good habit to get into.

5. Add an Auxiliary Table

Small- to medium-sized work­pieces don’t need a third hand for support, but anything longer than a few feet will extend well off a standard band saw’s outfeed table, and could benefit from some added support. A simple plywood outfeed table that can be easily removed if the table needs to be tilted is a great idea.

6. Adjust Your Throat Depth

We’re all trying to be as productive as possible in the shop, but taking just a few seconds to adjust the height of the upper rollers on your band saw before mak­ing a cut will go a long way to stabilizing your band saw blade and making more accurate cuts.

7. Switch Blades

Depending on the cut you’re making, swapping in a different blade might be the difference between a great cut and an impossible cut. If you’re cutting a fairly tight curve, a 1/4″ blade will likely work best, but that same 1/4″ blade isn’t going to track very well while making straight or slightly curved cuts.

8. Understand TPI

A blade with a low TPI (teeth per inch) will cut quickly but leave a rougher surface. A blade with a high TPI will cut much smoother yet slower. Most blades range from about 2 TPI to about 15 TPI, with a middle ground of about 6 TPI.

9. Keep the Area Clear

If you’re cutting long pieces, make sure the area around your band saw is clear. Getting 3/4 of the way through a cut only to realize a cabinet door is in the way is going to make for a tricky situation.

10. Add a Light

The importance of see­ing what you’re cutting can’t be overstated. If your saw has a light, turn it on. If not, magnetic lights can be purchased and will bring a smile to any woodworker’s face.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches


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