Investing in a band saw is essential if you want to set up a woodworking shop, a metal fabrication business, or a butchery.
These simple power tools are versatile and great for many different applications. Here is everything you need to know about band saws.
What Is A Band Saw? Explained
A band saw is a cutting tool used to cut meat, bone, wood, stone, metal, and many other materials.
You can either get a vertical bandsaw or a horizontal bandsaw.
In both vertical and horizontal bandsaws, the blade is continuously running in a loop; allowing you to cut as long a piece of material as you can handle.
Moreover, the design of the bandsaw is such that it can be modified in many ways. You can get a very small bandsaw that can be used for cutting curves or you can get a very big, powerful bandsaw that can split entire tree trunks.
Most band saws are designed to cut a specific material. For instance, you can get a bandsaw to cut wood, but then you can customize the blade you use and the motor’s power to make the kinds of cuts you need through a different material.
The blade is only one of many components. All the components combined will determine what the bandsaw is best suited for.
Parts Of A Band Saw
There are many different kinds of band saws, but some of the main components that all of them have include:
Frame And Base
The overall size of the band saw, what it’s able to do, and how customizable it is, largely depends on the kind of frame and base that it has. Most band saws have a metal base and frame, but some exceptions do exist where these components are made from plastic, alloys, or a hybrid material.
With some band saws, the frame and the base are one single unit, while in others, the base can be detached/changed. In most cases, the frame and base never need to change unless they break or wear out in a way that the saw becomes unusable.
In some settings, such as in meat cutting, the frame and base need to be made of food-grade stainless steel or steel alloys to meet health and safety standards.
The motor is responsible for moving the blade in a loop. A bigger motor doesn’t always mean the blade will spin faster.
Generally, band saws have predefined speeds at which the blade spins. However, a bigger motor will be able to provide more torque at those defined speeds.
This means that a more powerful motor can handle more resistance. If you are looking for a band saw to cut hard material such as steel or bone, then a more powerful motor will make sure you don’t skip tooth blades and get a clean cut.
Band saws can have many different kinds of blades depending on what you need to cut and how you want to cut it. Having the proper blade for the job will also make using the machine a lot safer.
As a rule of thumb, widely spaced teeth on wider blades will be good for cutting larger pieces of wood and making straight cuts.
Narrower blades with more teeth per inch will be better suited for cutting hard materials and making curved cuts. You can also get specialized blades such as hook tooth blades for specific cutting needs.
It’s important to have a sharp blade to ensure the safe operation of the saw.
You will notice that on either side of the blade, there are a few small wheels. These wheels located at the top of the blade are known as blade guides and are used to keep the blade locked in place.
The resistance can cause the blade to move and wobble when you pass the material through the blade. The blade guides are there to prevent this from happening. They also give you a bit of control over the positioning of the blade if you want to make minor adjustments.
This is used to protect the operator from the blade and also from any fragments that come flying off the bandsaw as it is being used. Blade guards come in many different forms depending on what you are cutting and what kind of band saw you are using.
Along with the blade guard, operators should also wear safety glasses when using a band saw.
Upper And Lower Wheels
In the frame of the band saw, you will find two wheels. One is the upper wheel and the other is the lower wheel.
The upper wheel allows you to adjust the blade tension. This is important when you want to change blades and also helps in obtaining an evenly distributed tooth load.
The lower wheel is connected to the motor through a drive shaft. The motor powers the lower wheel, which causes the tooth blades to move. The entire blade is wrapped around these two wheels.
The table is where you place the material that you want to cut and feed it through the blade. Smaller band saws that are designed to make smaller cuts will have a smaller table, while bigger saws will have bigger tables.
The main purpose of the table is to provide a solid flat surface so the material is kept straight and balanced. Some tables also feature finer adjustments to help make the cutting process easier.
The throat is a small hole in the table of the band saw and this is where the blade passes through the table. The size of the throat determines how big of a blade you can fit on the saw and also plays a role in how the saw cuts.
3 Types Of Band Saws
Band saws can be categorized according to their purpose or their structure. For instance, you can have a vertical band saw that cuts wood, but you can also have a vertical bandsaw that cuts meat.
However, it is much easier to understand the band saw as a machine by understanding its structure.
The three basic types of band saws include:
Vertical Band Saws
In this band saw, the blade runs vertically.
You place something flat on the table horizontally and slide it into the mouth of the blade to start cutting. The blade cuts in place, and the material moves around.
Horizontal Band Saws
In this machine, the material that needs to be cut is strapped to the table with clamps or by another means, and the running blade is lowered onto the material to cut it. This looks much like an electric angle cutter, but instead of a spinning disk, you have a running blade.
These saws are used for cutting in a straight line as you have very limited movement of the blade and the material you are cutting.
Portable Band Saws
These are typically much smaller versions of a band saw. Benchtop saws or scroll saws are examples of portable bandsaws.
They have the same mechanics of a blade running on two wheels in a continuous loop but they are either very small, or they function differently so that they can be used as handheld devices.
3 Main Applications Of Band Saws
Some very customized band saws can be used for very specific applications but generally, band saws are used for these three tasks:
Whether you need to split a tree trunk into planks or you need to make irregular shapes in wooden paneling, you can use a bandsaw to do the job.
Cutting larger pieces of wood requires raker set tooth blades and wood cutting bandsaw throats are wide enough to accommodate this blade size.
A small benchtop bandsaw is great for woodwork and is often one of the first machines in which a woodworking shop will invest.
Bandsaws are commonly used for cutting ferrous metal but are just as efficient at cutting non-ferrous metal. Things like rebar, metal poles, metal sheets, and even metal objects can be sliced with a bandsaw.
The band saw blades used for cutting metal are much harder than those used for cutting wood.
The harder metal cutting blades, together with their higher teeth per inch rating, are great for making finishing cuts on wood or cutting irregular shapes.
Butchers commonly use band saws to break down large carcasses and to make smaller cuts to create the products we see on shelves. For instance, the T-bone steak is made with a bandsaw.
Since it requires the butcher to cut through a big piece of bone (the T in the center of the steak), it would be incredibly difficult to accurately do this by hand. It takes a couple of seconds to slice through the piece with a bandsaw.
Bandsaws are also used to cut other kinds of meat such as fish, veal, lamb, and others. A lot of butchers prefer to freeze the meat and then cut it using the bandsaw. When the meat is frozen solid, it’s much easier to make sharp, accurate cuts.
A band saw is a versatile tool, but knowing what you are going to be using it for can help you make a better purchase decision. The size, power, kind of blade, and even the form factor are all important things to consider.
Buying a band saw from a reputable manufacturer will make it much easier to maintain as add-ons and replacement parts will easily be available.