A Guide to Bandsaw Features
Woodworkers looking to purchase great bandsaw for their shop don’t have to look hard as there are dozens of sizes and a price point for everyone.
When stuck between models, simply looking at the bandsaw features can quickly break a tie.
With that in mind, we are going to give you a quick breakdown of what to look for when shopping for the best bandsaw.
Like all woodworking equipment, bandsaws use replaceable parts, so you can upgrade wheels or change out a malfunctioning part with relative ease.
The one thing you can’t change, however, is the frame which makes it the first area to consider. Whether you use your bandsaw on a daily basis or only on a rare occasion, it needs to have a solid frame.
This helps with stability, and the most common options are steel and cast iron.
This is what we refer to as a traditional type of bandsaw frame, and they generally consist of a “casting” for the lower and upper part of the machine.
They are heavy, stable and less prone to frame issues as the minimal design keeps things simple. On the downside, it is difficult to find a large cast iron bandsaw over 14”.
Usually made from sheet steel, this style of frame is lighter but still has more than enough strength to handle hardwoods and heavy loads.
Saws with a steel frame are easy to identify and come in larger sizes than cast frames which have helped increase their popularity in recent years.
A sharp blade is a must when you’re using a bandsaw, but it’s all for naught if you don’t have enough horsepower behind the blade. That means you need to take the size of the motor seriously or you could find yourself trying to use an underpowered tool on your next project.
If you need a bandsaw for light-duty usage around the house or DIY projects you can dip under 1HP. There are some excellent options rated at between 1/3 to 3/4 HP in this range. Saws of this size can still handle light re-sawing and won’t take up too much space in your workshop which makes them ideal for home use.
On the other hand, you won’t get far trying to cut through hardwoods with a weak motor…
Consider the types of wood you will work with the most along with how often you plan on using the saw. When in doubt, bigger is better so look for a bandsaw with a motor between 1 – 2 HP.
You can always upgrade at a later date, but that’s not ideal unless you are mechanically inclined as you may have to change out the gears and pulleys as well.
Bandwheels work in conjunction with the motor to drive the blade, and it’s another area of great importance.
The size and weight of those wheels matter, so pay close attention to whether they are made of aluminum or cast iron.
Aluminum is a fantastic material that’s sturdy, but light which is great for products where weight is a concern. Unless you need a lightweight tabletop model or plan on moving your saw around the shop frequently, weight shouldn’t be an issue.
While aluminum wheels will certainly work, there’s something to be said for cast iron.
Cast iron wheels are heavier, but worth their weight if you want stability and speed when cutting through thick stock or when you are re-sawing.
Heavier wheels add stability and inertia due to their weight which results in smoother cuts. It can also mean the difference between your saw bogging down or cutting through a heavy board if your motor is under 2 HP.
While not quite as important as some of the other key areas, the table is one bandsaw feature that you should never overlook.
It’s where your wood rests before it meets the blade and is usually made from cast iron, steel or aluminum. While it should be roomy and sturdy enough to suit your needs, you should also consider what lies beneath.
Quality adjustable bandsaw tables use trunnions which allow you to adjust the table by up to 45°. Trunnions are made from several different types of metal, but this is an area where quality counts so cast iron or stainless steel are the best way to go.
They can handle more weight and are less likely to experience mechanical failures due to stress. A cracked trunnion can quickly turn your DIY project into a nightmare.
Depth of cut and the throat
For a newcomer, bandsaw sizes can be a little tricky to figure out, but the “throat” is tied directly to the size of the saw. It is the distance from the blade to the vertical column which determines how wide of a cut you can make.
Basically, if the saw is 10-inches, you should have the same amount of distance between the blade and frame.
The depth of cut or your re-saw capacity is measured in a similar fashion but deals with the distance between the upper blade guides and the table. This determines the thickness of the stock you can cut with the saw although a riser can help extend that distance considerably.
Other Bandsaw Features to consider…
Every bandsaw has a tensioning system, and most are extremely simple to use.
There are two main styles with tension knobs or wheels although the latter is generally found on more expensive machines
More often than not, those fancy tensioning systems are inaccurate, so you don’t necessarily have to spend up on this bandsaw feature when you’ll measure and set your tension manually.
A quick-release system for the blade is a nice luxury to have on hand and rip fences are an add-on you’ll find included with some bandsaws.
Other options to consider include dust collection ports, a miter gauge and high-quality bearing guides which help reduce friction and extend the life of your blade.
Buying a new piece of equipment for your shop can be quite the undertaking, so it pays to do your homework ahead of time and consider which bandsaw features you should focus on.
Areas like the frame and motor should always be at the forefront while your budget may dictate things like the depth of cut or dust ports.
In the end, it all comes down to your needs so simply consider what you want in your wood shop beforehand, and you’ll have the perfect saw picked out in no time!