Your Guide to the Different Types of Band Saws
Band saws come in many different shapes and sizes, each with their own unique selling points and purpose. The band saw is regarded as one of the most versatile power tools on the market according to Popular Woodworking Magazine, renowned for its ability to cut through just about any material, however, it is not often the first machine purchased for a workshop.
The material you’re working with any type of project you’re completing will determine which of the different types of band saws to use. Vertical or horizontal, meat, timber, and metal cover just some of the band saws available.
This article will take you through some of the different types of band saws and some of their common uses, as well as a general guide to band, saw safety that can apply to any type of this powerful tool.
Metal Band Saw / Metal Cutting Bandsaw
Of all the different types of band saw, a metal band saw is the ideal power tool for jobs that require you to cut through tough metal.
Metal cutting band saws generally fall into two categories, the vertical band saw and the horizontal band saw. The horizontal metal band saw is generally used to cut stock down to size, whereas the vertical one can be used for more intricate jobs such as filing, polishing, and contour cutting.
They do require some extra maintenance though and generally have some additional features built in. A coolant that keeps the blades lubricated and cool, as well as brushes or brush wheels that prevent metal chips from being caught in the blade, are both common to find on these types of band saws.
Unlike other saws, band saws have the unique ability to cut through a range of materials other than just wood, making them a popular tool in most workshops. Metal band saws are ideal for projects that involve:
- Creating new blades for use in different types of band saw;
- Cutting metal stock down to smaller, more manageable sizes;
- Filing and polishing metal to finish the product;
- Cutting pipes and bar stock to length.
Wood Band Saw / Band Saws for Woodworking
A wood band saw is a popular choice among amateur and professional woodworkers. Often compared with the table saw as one of the most important power tools in carpentry, the wood band saw is a truly versatile machine.
While smaller stationary band saws are used in workshops, timber mills also operate large scale band saws for ripping lumber. The band saw has the unique ability to work with timber that’s of a larger diameter, and because they have a smaller kerf, or cut size, there is less of the quality timber wasted.
Wood band saws operate the same as any band saw, with the blades located on a continuous loop of metal teeth which perform succinct cuts through the timber. Inside the wood band saw category lies another subcategory, with saws of varying sizes and blades, each designed for a specific use:
- Head saw: These are quite a large band saw responsible for making the first cut in a log. With 2 – 3 inches of tooth space, they’re capable of making a deep impact on timber. They also feature silver teeth which allow the blade to back out from a cut without becoming stuck.
- Resaws: Another large type of bandsaw, a resaw’s main duty is to cut stock into smaller sections, generally going against the timber’s grain.
- Double cut saws: Unlike regular band saws, a double cut saw gets its name by having cutting teeth on both sides. They’re normally as big as a head saw, and their opposite turning teeth make this tool ideal for cutting through material without getting stuck.
Meat Band Saw
A meat band saw is used for cutting and carving various types of meat. They’re generally made from stainless steel and are constructed so that they’re easy to clean and maintain, due to the sensitive material they work with.
Meat band saws are a butcher’s best friend, but not only reserved for the professionals. Many passionate meat lovers have their own meat band saw at home to create perfect cuts of steak and lamb. They also have the added ability of extra features, such as sausage making spout or mincer.
Professional butchers and farmers use a meat band saw to divide their meat for sale, as they provide a precision cut that’s tough enough to slice easily through thick bonesas well.
Meat band saws are responsible for a large percentage of the injuries obtained from the different types of band saws, so new technologies have been introduced that can detect appendages that have come in contact with the blade.
In New Zealand, where meat production is particularly high, the Meat Worker’s Union recorded 18 serious injuries within 12 months due to accidents with a band saw, making them quite a risky machine to use.
Horizontal Band Saw
The horizontal band saw is one of the broader categories of the band saw, favored by both amateur and professional carpenters. These types of band saws are useful for cutting longer materials down to size, however, not so ideal for producing complicated shapes or curved lines.
A horizontal band saw works by holding the material stationary while the band saw blade swings down through the cut. Once the cut is complete, the saw will automatically turn off with a switch trip to avoid potential injuries to the operator.
Some of the benefits of using a horizontal band saw include:
- A quieter cut than most saws, making for a calmer workspace;
- Extreme precision and accuracy when cutting straight lines;
- The ability to set up your cut and then leave the machine to complete it, even turning off automatically once done;
- Ability to cut wood, metal and plastics with ease;
- No heat-affected zone after use, meaning safer operation with less risk of injury
Vertical Band Saw
A vertical band saw varies from its horizontal counterpart in how it cuts through the material. The saw itself doesn’t move, but rather the workpiece moves through the blade to create intricate cuts.
A vertical band saw is so versatile it can be used to create complicated shapes and lines that other types of band saws can’t compete with. As well as being adept at cutting complicated shapes, the vertical band saw can also perform precision cut straight lines, making it a great all-rounder power tool.
These saws have a superb cutting capacity and the ability to cut through materials fast, and with brush wheels installed they have safety measures in place to ensure chips don’t become stuck in its metal teeth.
Not only is the vertical band saw capable of cutting with ease, it also usually features a built in welder. The welder is useful for creating new blades or repairing old ones, and can even route the blade through the center of a part so that it can make interior cuts to the material.
Portable Band Saw/Handheld Band Saw
For people who need to use their tool on the go, or have many different jobs in different locations, a portable band saw would be a wise investment.
Portable band saws can be used to cut straight edge cuts, curved lines, or irregular shapes, so they show real versatility. A handheld band saw works with the same technology as other types of band saws, with a continuous band of serrated metal pulled along two wheels to perform its cuts.
Not just ideal for those who work on the move, the portable band saw can be helpful in cutting stock that’s too large for a regular band saw, or even on those projects where you can’t physically bring the workpiece to your machine.
These machines have so many uses that they’re a popular choice for amateur carpenters as well as larger scale workshops to have on hand. Portable band saws can:
- Perform cuts on material that isn’t accessible to your workshop, such as metal sign posts or railroad ties;
- Work with materials that are simply too large to fit on the table of a regular band saw, allowing you to work around the object;
- Cut pipes and metal with reduced vibration and a cleaner cut, thanks to its consistent pressure
Although they’re often touted as one of the safest power tools around, you still need to be aware of the safety precautions for operating a band saw. A stationary band saw poses less of a threat than machines with a movable blade or saw which lowers their risk for injuries.
According to the Fine Woodworking Magazine, there are 12 cardinal rules for band saw safety that should be followed. These rules apply to all types of band saws and apply to working with any type of material, however, some styles may have extra rules regarding their safe operation.
- First and foremost, you should always consult the individual guidelines for your band saw as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Always ensure that fingers and other body parts are kept out of the path of the blade.
- When approaching the end of the cut, be sure to decrease the feed pressure.
- While the saw is in use always keep the wheel covers closed.
- Adjust the upper guide roughly a quarter of an inch above your material before use.
- Always utilize the blade guard and keep it in place.
- Before changing blades, disconnect the band saw completely from its power source to avoid any accidental starts.
- As with any power tools, always wear eye protection while in the workshop.
- In the case of a broken or errant blade, ensure the machine has come to a complete stop before opening the wheel covers.
- If you have chips stuck in the throat, make sure you stop the saw before clearing the obstruction.
- To keep your fingers away from the blade, use push sticks that are stored in your miter slot.
- Always keep your workpiece in contact with the table at the exit point of the blade.
Not only is the band saw adept at making curvaceous cuts, but they can also perform precision cross cuts and rip lumber. If you have a quality band saw in your workshop you’ll already know how smooth their cuts can be, and performed with minimal effort.
Band saws all operate on the same system, regardless of their intended use, using a pulley system and wheel to move the blade around. It’s this system that allows for a safer cut due to the reduced risk of kickback, making this power tool a lot securer than a table saw.
If you’re looking for a band saw for your workshop, you’ll need to determine how much space you have available. There are some amazingly powerful and smaller bench top models that can still get the job done without taking up too much room.
If it’s your first time using one, don’t just assume you’ll be able to get it right the first try. Like any powerful tool, it takes skill and practices acquired over time, so begin with some test materials first.
Learning the tension of the blade is crucial to perfecting the use of this machine, but this amount will differ depending on your workpiece, blade, and the model of the band saw you use.
Although they can be a little tricky to maneuver at first, once you’ve gotten the hang of your band saw you’ll wonder how you lived without it in your workshop. With all of the different types of band saw available, it’s amazing to see how many advancements this power tool has made since its humble beginnings in the 19th century.