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 and type of project you’re completing will determine which of the different types of band saws to use. Vertical, horizontal, 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
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 brushwheels 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.
Wood Band Saw
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.
Horizontal Band Saw
The horizontal band saw is one of the broader categories of 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.
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 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.
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.
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