Knowing how to choose a band saw is essential, whether you are a professional woodworker or just a novice DIY type of guy, it can be tricky finding the best one suitable for your needs with all the options available online.
This woodworking machine can be very versatile and it is primarily used to cut irregular shapes, make smooth cuts or even cut thick wood pieces into thinner slabs. However, it is wise not to just go into a shop and buy a band saw without doing your homework.
Keep reading this article to find out more about band saws, how different they can be and what to look for when purchasing one.
Having a better understanding of band saws will help you use them at their full potential later on and you might even save some bucks in the process.
Check my top picks of the Best Band Saws For 2018
How to Choose a Band Saw?
Portable or Standalone
Most power tools are designed to be compact, lightweight and portable or as a standalone model which can be connected to a power outlet in your shop or garage. Like a jigsaw or a miter saw, a band saw is not an exception in this case.
If you usually work in your garage and you bring different materials to be processed there then you might need an upstanding band saw.
On the other hand, if you need to go to clients to cut materials such as wood or metal then a portable band saw might be more useful for you in this case. These devices work with lithium-ion batteries and are as practical as their bigger brothers. Here’s a quick guide on how to use a band saw.
The throat capacity or cutting capacity is the distance between the blade and the column situated between the two wheels.
For example, if you see a 14-inch band saw on the market, this means that the distance between the column and blade is 14 inches and it can cut wooden pieces up to 14 inches long. Various band saws come with different throat capacities.
If you are a beginner, you might want to consider getting a band saw with a smaller capacity until you learn the ropes such as a 10 or 12-inch band saw.
On the other hand, if you usually require cutting big chunks of wood or metal, you might want to look for a band saw with a throat capacity of 20 inches or more. Learn how you can increase the throat capacity of your band saw.
The frame of the band saw is important because it adds strength and stability to the whole machine. Back in the days, manufacturers made a lot of frames from cast iron and these frames are very good, but steel frames seem to be increasingly popular these days.
Steel is much stronger and tougher than cast iron, not to mention that it doesn’t facilitate the development of mold and bacteria. Steel is also virtually maintenance free.
Whether you go for a band saw with a frame made from cast iron or steel, you will definitely be able to use your machine for years to come.
The guides are an important component within a band saw and they are responsible for keeping the blades steady, so they can cut through wood accurately.
The blade itself is usually 10-12 feet long and it is spinning very fast to cut through wood. Once it gets in contact with the material, it will automatically meet some resistance and become derailed from their normal course.
To prevent this and to keep the blade steady in place, cutting at the right spot, blade guides are necessary.
There are numerous types of guides such as bearing guides, ceramic guides which are known for dissipating heat, Euro guides which are very simple to use, etc.
All of these models are very useful and they will help you cut much more accurately through different types of materials such as wood, metal, ceramics, plastics, etc.
This aspect is also very important when it comes to band saws. As mentioned earlier, portable band saws use lithium-ion batteries while upstanding band saws work with electricity coming from a 120V or 220V power outlet.
Standalone band saws usually have motors with a power rating between 2.5 and 3.5 amps. This enables the blade to spin very fast such as 1500 feet per minute or even 2500 feet per minute.
You can adjust the desired speed depending on how thick your material is, whether you are cutting through wood or metal, etc.
If you go for a portable model, you need a charger for the battery which is usually supplied in the package. Keep in mind that some band saws come as “bare tools”, meaning that they might not have a charger, battery or both.
This happens to keep the costs down and it is up to you to procure the required lithium battery and charger. On the other hand, if this is the first time when you are buying a portable band saw, you might want to look for a model which comes with all the accessories in the package.
The work table is another important component for your band saw. Its size matters mostly if you want to cut large pieces of material.
Most band saws come with a work table that is 16 by 20 inches in dimensions or something similar. This size is usually sufficient for most people and it helps you adjust and rotate your wood pieces freely.
Keep in mind that the work table also comes with a fence which can be adjusted and helps you keep the wooden piece stable while cutting. Check out this guide for more info.
Some sophisticated band saws also allow the work table to be beveled to angles up to 45 degrees which gives you the opportunity to make angled cuts. If you really love cutting through wood, you will find this feature very attractive!
Work Light and Dust Port
Even if you have a well-illuminated workshop or garage, a work light will prove to be indispensable while cutting materials, especially if you plan to make very accurate cuts.
Most band saws come with a work light which is fully flexible and can be pointed in any direction you want. This improves visibility and makes your work easier and better.
At the same time, most band saws also come with some sort of dust collection system which basically absorbs and collect the resulting dust through a hose in a special container, to be emptied later.
This simple trick has numerous benefits as it keeps your work surface clean, prevents the dust from getting into your eyes and lungs, and improves your accuracy.
This guy shows how you can DIY your own dust collection system in a inexpensive way:
You might be happy to find out that most band saws also come with a suite of useful accessories which can include a miter gauge for helping to cut at angles better, a rip fence, different types of blades, a stand for keeping your band saw elevated, battery, charger, carrying case, etc.
Although you might not get all of these accessories at once, some of them will prove to be very useful and will definitely improve your production. It is up to you to find out what each package contains before buying to ensure that you get the most value for your money.
Warranty and Price
Each power tool comes with a warranty card which can be used in the case your unit came with defective components.
The warranty offered for a band saw can range from 1 up to 5 years. Most units come with a warranty period of 2 years which is highly reassuring. The price of the band saw is also one of the most important things you need to consider.
For example, some band saws are purposely designed to be cheap, but they are great for cutting relatively thin wood.
Other band saws are much tougher, more expensive and can easily cut through wood, metal, ceramic, plastic, and other materials.
The price is therefore influenced by the power of the motor, the type of blades used, speed, size of the work table, cutting capacity, accessories included, and other factors.
To give you some numbers, most band saws are priced between $100-$120 and $250, whether we talk about a portable or standalone model.
If you are looking for a very sophisticated model which can cut large chunks of wood, metal, and have multiple beveling options, you should expect to pay something between $250 and $750.
Obviously, higher-end models can pass the $1,000 mark and they are usually utilized at full potential by professional woodworkers with many years of experience.
As you can probably see, band saws are quite interesting if you take the time to look at them carefully and learn how they work.
Using a band saw will open up so many opportunities for you as you can craft more attractive and complex wooden elements, cut through steel and shape multiple other materials.
If you are buying a band saw for the first time, play it cautiously and get an entry-level or moderately-priced band saw until you learn the ropes.
Obviously, you need to do a lot of experimenting to make use of your band saw at the fullest, but if you are really serious about your woodworking career, this type of equipment is indispensable from your workshop.