Things to Consider Before Buying A Bandsaw

May 14, 2021 1:32 pm

A metal cutting bandsaw is a machine tool or hand tool that functions by using a thin, continuous flexible band of teeth. In this article, we will review some considerations when selecting a bandsaw for your shop. Additionally, we will cover how to operate a bandsaw safely and efficiently.

Types of bandsaws

Bandsaws come in several different forms. Vertical and horizontal bandsaws are machine tools, but you will often find a bandsaw hand tool in a machine shop as well. It is even common for a shop to have all three, since the functions of each are so different. All options cut through metal, but the execution looks a bit different from one method to the other. 

With machine tools, you will choose between a horizontal or vertical bandsaw. These days, there are even combinations of horizontal/vertical bandsaws. The terms horizontal and vertical refer to the positions of the blades. 

Horizontal bandsaws have a blade that is positioned, as the name suggests, horizontally. Horizontal bandsaws are typically more accurate than vertical bandsaws when executing straight cuts. However, they lack the ability to execute cuts in fine detail and are unable to execute curved or complicated shapes. 

Horizontal bandsaws are used for larger stock, so they can get pretty massive in size. They are also known for completing jobs at a faster rate. 

Vertical bandsaws have a blade positioned vertically, and it is up to the operator to move the workpiece through the blade. Vertical bandsaws perform best with metals on the softer side and are fantastic for producing more intricate shapes and details, therefore they are more flexible. They also happen to be the more affordable option. 

Vertical bandsaws require a machinist to manually feed the workpiece through the blade, so they are inherently less safe than horizontal bandsaws. 

Portable bandsaws are either cordless or corded. These handheld options have more limited capabilities as they cannot tolerate the extreme strength that a machine tool can, so they are ideal for quick sheet metal cutting. 

Choosing a bandsaw and blade

Assuming you have determined whether a vertical, horizontal, or portable bandsaw is appropriate for your needs, material selection is up next. The material of your workpiece will greatly determine the accessories you’ll need and the specifications of your saw. Bandsaws come with a variety of minimum horsepower and speeds. For example, the horsepower you are using for steel may not be the same as for titanium. Additionally, you will want to consider the material type of the bandsaw blade you are going to use as they too come in a variety of styles that perform differently. 

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Blade care and maintenance

Blades don’t last forever. They will dull from use so you will have to replace them at some point. You can however take precautions to increase their lifespan. Make sure that you are only using the necessary speed   as cutting at a higher speed than needed will wear out the blade. Similarly, ensure that the metal is not too hard for the blade, that too will cause abnormal wear. 

Check out this chart to learn how to choose the correct saw blade for your metal of choice. There are several factors to consider, like blade material, thickness and of course, the number of teeth. 

Always consider using coolant with your metalworking bandsaw operations, like for any other metal cutting operation, as it will help extend the blade life and allow you to optimize speeds. The cutting fluid removes swarf from the cutting zone and helps manage the heat created. 

Bandsaw safety

Bandsaw safety is pretty similar to machine shop safety in general. Ensure you are wearing the correct clothing so that nothing can get caught in the equipment. Additionally, it is imperative you wear safety goggles when using a bandsaw. Scraps of metal will fly off the workpiece at high speeds so protect your eyes. 

Because the application is so exposed, it wouldn’t hurt to do a quick check to make sure everything is correctly in place. Ensure that the blade, machine and involved pieces are functioning properly. That way if anything needs to be replaced, you know sooner rather than later.

Bandsaw and blade models 

When it comes to buying a bandsaw, you can choose from large, small and everything in between. Therefore it can cost from a few hundred dollars all the way into the thousands. Check out the different options in each category to see what’s on the market and most suited for your project needs. 

Blades 

Starrett Thick Welded Bandsaw Blade

 

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Made of carbon steel,this blade is ideal for abrasive materials and non-ferrous metals. This bandsaw blade has 24 TPI and features a wavy pattern.

Lenox Thick, Welded Bandsaw Blade

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This blade features a toothed-edge made from high speed steel (HSS) attached to a flexible steel backing through an electron-beam welding process. This configuration results in a blade that makes precise cuts while resisting breakage.

Milwaukee 48-39-0572 18 TPI Sub-Compact Portable Bandsaw Blade

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Obviously for a portable bandsaw, this blade features an alloy backing steel design which provides extended blade life. The precision formed teeth allow for fast and clean cuts. 

Machine tools

Vectrax 7 x 12″ Max Capacity, Manual Geared Head Horizontal Bandsaw

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Geared head drive systems are similar to step pulleys, but are driven by a geared transmission. They offer rapid speed changes by turning a hand dial and feature 3 to 4 fixed speeds. This machine includes a coolant system.

Jet 13-1/2 Inch Throat Capacity, Step Pulley Vertical Bandsaw

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This machine has a solid, one-piece steel base for extra stability. Featuring an adjustable table, this vertical bandsaw can support, SFPMs of 39, 57, 78, 107, 142, 196, 278 for metal cutting. 

Portable tools

Milwaukee Tool 380 SFPM Cordless Portable Bandsaw

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This Milwaukee bandsaw takes lithium-ion batteries (series M18) which come with the tool.  The bandsaw can operate at up to 380 RPM. The maximum depth of cut with this tool is 5 inches.  

DeWALT 120 Volt, Electric Handheld Bandsaw

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The DWM120 Deep Cut Bandsaw has a powerful 10 amp motor for operating various jobsite applications and cutting rectangular stock up to 5 inches deep. The variable speed dial allows users to adjust the speed for specific materials and various applications.

 

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