Band saws are the undisputed champ when it comes to cutting curves and slicing through thick material. Many small band saws can slice though lumber a full four inches thick, and bigger saws handle six-inch cuts. As an added plus, all this power comes from a surprisingly compact source – most band saws are under ¾ horsepower.
Basically a long, thin looped blade that runs between two wheels, a band saw offers excellent control during the cutting process, meaning you can use it for far more delicate work than would be possible with most other types of power saws. Some band saws are built into a frame that stands on the floor, but there are also benchtop and portable models.
Other considerations when choosing a band saw include the throat size, which determines how wide a board the saw can handle, and the tool’s cutting depth, which is a measurement of how thick an board the saw can cut through. The saw’s power is also important: the biggest floor-standing tools can have as much as 2-horsepower motors, but more commonly, you’ll find that a band saw with a 1-horsepower to 1.5-horsepower motor is more than sufficient. Some lightweight benchtop tools have less than that, however. This guide will help you determine what size and capacity band saw is best for your project.
Types of Band Saws
There are two main types of band saws – stationary bandsaws and portable bandsaws. Both have their pros and cons depending on what suits you and the jobs that you are going to be completing. We have provided more details on both of these to help you decide which is right for you.
Stationary Band Saws
Stationary bandsaws are by far the larger of the two models, secured to a base and stand which means you don’t need to have a table to work on, as the tool will already be at the height that you need. Although this does also mean that you need to have a large enough workshop/garage for it to be left out all the time! They are not small tools so will take up quite a bit of space! They greatly reduce the chance of any accidents or user error, so are well worth the extra money that you will pay to purchase one!
Portable Band Saws
Portable bandsaws, also known as benchtop bandsaws, are considerably smaller than stationary bandsaws because they need to be portable. They will all have two handles that help you to control the saw enough to perform neat cuts in either straight or curved sides. These bandsaws will have less power than stationary models, due to their smaller size, so won’t be able to cut through the same numbers of materials and the same size of materials as stationary bandsaws. Portable bandsaws have a much more compact design than other models, making them more lightweight and able to be used anywhere there is a suitable table, instead of being stuck in your workshop!
Features to Consider
There are some important features that you must consider before purchasing your bandsaw. Whether a newbie to the bandsaw world or looking to upgrade your current model, it’s important to make the right purchase as they can be expensive! Some models will take advantage of people who are new to operating them, whereas others are perfect for beginners. Our buyer’s guide has listed all the main things you need to check before your purchase.
The table of your bandsaw is what you position your material on to complete the cut. Obviously this is something that is only relevant to stationary bandsaws as if you opt for a portable bandsaw then you will have to provide your own surface to complete cuts on.
Stationary bandsaw tables can be tilted to help angle the cut that you are completing – some can be tilted up to 40°, which will make curved cuts much easier to work with. It is also important to consider the size of your table, as a bigger table will mean that you are able to work with bigger pieces of wood (or metal) and will also make manoeuvrability around the blade a lot easier.
Size is everything. How big the bandsaw is determines the size of a project it can take on. We’re not just talking about how much space it takes up, though. Blade width and throat size are equally as important. The throat measures the distance between the blade and the frame. This detail determines how deep of a cut you can make and how you can maneuver the piece. The blade width also determines what kind of materials it can work with and the kind of cuts it will make. Good models allow you to use various blade widths, but it’s still a size factor that you want to consider as you shop as all of these characteristics come together to determine what the bandsaw is good for.
As with almost all power tools, horsepower matters. You need a saw that can cut through the materials you use most often without bogging down or coming to a halt. There can be a lot of friction on a saw blade, particularly with thicker materials, and an underpowered saw won’t be able to get the job done.
Most band saws have electric motors that create between .5 and 1.5 horsepower. You can accomplish lighter-duty projects with a .5-horsepower saw, but heavy-duty work requires more power. If you plan to saw hunks of hardwood into boards for woodworking projects, a saw that has between 1 and 1.5 horsepower will manage the work.
Bandsaw wheels collaborate with the motor to propel the blade. Their size and weight matter because they affect how the saw operates. Heavier wheels increase inertia, which is transmitted to the blade. This enhances the saw’s cutting capacity by sustaining a steady speed, resulting in clean cuts. Band saw wheels can either be made of aluminum or cast iron. Aluminum is sturdy but lightweight. Cast iron wheels are heavier and more stable. They are ideal for resawing machines or those that cut thick stock. They reduce vibrations and can withstand the tensioning forces produced by larger blades.
Even though band saws are an old-school power tool technology, today’s models have some safety-related updates. Features such as oversized stop buttons and adjustable blade guards help make floor-standing and benchtop models safer, while trigger safeties keep portable band saws from activating accidentally.
Floor-standing and benchtop models also can benefit from sliding bevel and tension gauges, as they’ll sit securely in a groove and allow you to make an accurate cut while keeping your hands clear from the blade.
Also, if you tend to have junior workshop partners walking around your tools, removable keys for power switches can keep children from activating a saw when you’re not looking.
Our Top Picks
Band saws are about as old-school as it gets. While they’ve been around for more than 200 years at sawmills, workshops, and furniture shops, it takes a lot of consideration to select your first band saw. This selection rounds up the best-in-class models to help cut out some of the guesswork.
The JET JWBS-14DXPRO band saw is a high-end professional-style machine for cutting wood, metal, and much more. It sports a two-speed poly-v belt drive system to cut at 1,500 or 3,000 surface feet per minute (sfpm). This two-tier speed function allows for extra precision when you’re making your cuts, allowing you to customize your approach based on your materials and project.
This bench-top band saw has a 5-inch by 15-inch cutting surface and can slice into material as wide as 13.5 inches and as high as 12 inches. It has a resawing function and a full cast iron frame. This machine also has ball bearing guides, an adjustable table angle and numerous safety features, such as a blade tracking window. This is a great band saw that can do just about anything, but it is designed more for experienced and professional users.
You’ll get a lot of premium features in the reasonably priced WEN 3962 Two-Speed Band Saw. This 10-inch model uses a 3.5-amp motor and a 72-inch blade, and has up to 6 inches of cutting capacity. It adjusts from 1,520 to 2,620 RPM, which proves helpful for cutting different types of wood. The saw table also bevels up to 45 degrees for making cuts at challenging angles.
The three-in-one dust collection port accommodates three different sizes of hose—1¾-inch, 2¾-inch, and 4-inch—ensuring that you can hook it up to your system. Just be sure to use the dust collection system when running this saw, as the bearings are susceptible to damage from dust.
Designed for speed, this Skil bandsaw operates at 2,800 SFPM. It has a 9-inch throat capacity and is capable of cutting materials that are 3.5 inches thick. It’s an electric-powered model with a 2.5-amp motor that runs on 120V. The device has a built-in LED work light for increased visibility of your cutting line and the material you’re cutting. EZ View Blade Tracking allows you to align the saw’s blade swiftly, ensuring uninterrupted work.
This 9-inch band saw comes with a rack and pinion adjustable table that helps you choose the right height and change angles quickly. Its 6-TPI blade is ideal for slicing wood into thinner pieces and cutting irregular shapes. The rip fence guides your work piece, helping you to make straight, accurate cuts. You’ll also like the convenient miter gauge that helps you make crosscuts.
You can attach a vacuum hose to the 1 ½-inch dust port to eliminate dust and debris as you work. This makes for a cleaner working space. Skil offers a three-year warranty for this saw to make you feel confident about your purchase.
The main drawback, however, is that it only has a one-speed motor and can’t be used for professional work in industrial workshops. Additionally, the machine tends to heat up quickly.
Maintaining a good grip on your bandsaw is very important, especially when you’re using it continuously for long periods. This DEWALT saw is equipped with a centered handle that offers superior balance and ergonomics. Its premium XR 5.0Ah lithium-ion battery charges quickly and lasts longer, improving your productivity. The integrated LED light improves your visibility by clearly displaying the cut line.
You’ll find it easy to work even in poorly-lit areas and complete projects on time. This band saw is designed to be portable and is cordless, lightweight, and compact. Its centered, ergonomic handle prevents hand fatigue, enhancing your comfort. This results in more accurate cuts. The saw has a 2½-inch cut capacity and can cut a 2-inch SCH 40 pipe. We love the blade tracking adjustment feature that enhances blade alignment, minimizing wear and increasing the blade’s lifespan.
However, this saw has one major downside: It is not very durable and may stop functioning after a short while. Also, DEWALT rarely stocks its replacement blades, which is very inconveniencing.
Buying a great metal-cutting band saw can be a little more difficult than finding a reliable, affordable woodworking band saw. However, the Shop Fox W1715 Metal-Cutting Bandsaw is an excellent option that works well on everything from steel and aluminum to copper or brass, as well as wood and plastics.
This Shop Fox band saw comes on its own wheeled stand, so you can easily move it right where you want it. The blade easily adjusts for either horizontal or vertical cutting, allowing you to tackle more complicated designs or cuts. The saw has three speeds— 78-, 108- and 180- feet per minute—for a range of options when you’re slicing through metal. Additionally, the band saw allows for cuts anywhere from 0 to 60 degrees and has a beveling vice for a sturdy grip. With this Fox Shop band saw, you get ball bearing blade guides, onboard blade tension and tilt knobs, automatic safety shut-off features, and a feed rate adjustment handle. The saw is powered by a ¾-horsepower motor and features a two-year warranty.
Band Saws vs. Scroll Saws
Although they can both produce curved cuts, a band saw and a scroll saw are distinctly different. While a band saw’s endless blade produces a continuous cutting motion, a scroll saw oscillates up and down, so it’s cutting only half of the time.
A scroll saw can produce glassy-smooth cuts right from the blade, but a band saw leaves a relatively rough surface. When you need a curve that will stand up to close scrutiny, the usual procedure is to band saw just to the waste side of the line, then sand to the line.
With a fine blade, a scroll saw can virtually turn on a point. By comparison, a band saw takes very wide turns. Remember that your blade’s width limits how quickly it can turn. Scroll saws excel at internal cutouts, making them ideal for ornate work.
Accessories such as dust collection systems, stands and tilt tables help make your work with band saws easy and clean.
- Dust collection: Some band saw models incorporate a plastic turbine blade to its lower wheel to create a suction that pulls dust into a bag. Other saws build in a port that you can connect with a hose to a shop vac or a dust-collection system.
- Stands: Stands are an absolute must for big saws, and helpful even for small models. When shopping for a stand, also consider the advantages of adding a mobile base beneath it.
- Tilt table: A tilted table helps you make angled cuts easily.