The band saw is the undisputed champ when it comes to cutting curves and slicing through thick stock. Many small band saws can slice though lumber a full four inches thick, and bigger saws handle six-inch cuts.
For this much cutting capacity, you'd probably expect to see a motor that looks like it came out of a tugboat. But the band saw's efficient cutting action means it can get its muscle from a surprisingly compact source. Even on the biggest band saw in our stores, you'll rarely see a motor larger than 3/4 horsepower.
How It Works
The blade guide system is a key component of a band saw. The upper and lower guides minimize sideways movement of the blade and also prevent the blade from deflecting backward when you feed wood for a cut.
Carefully check this system before you buy. You want guides that are easy to adjust but will hold a setting despite vibration. They should be substantial enough to resist force but small enough so that they don't obstruct your view of the cutline.
More Items to Check
• Dust collection. At least one small model incorporates 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
• A stand. An absolute must for a big saw, but helpful for even a small model. When buying the stand, also
consider the advantages of adding a mobile base beneath it.
• Tilt table. A tilted table helps you make angled cuts. Make certain that your new saw's table tilts easily and locks
positively. Also check that it doesn't flex out of square when locked in its 90-degree normal position.
Measuring and Bookmatching
The most common way to measure a band saw is to mark the distance from the sawblade to the column. That means a 10-inch band saw measures 10 inches from blade to column.
Resawing refers to the process of slicing a board through its width. Take a 2 x 4, for example, which really measures about 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. Resawing involves standing the board on its 1 1/2-inch edge and sawing through the 3 1/2-inch dimension.
At the end of a resaw cut, you can open the board like a book. Placing the two freshly sawn surfaces side by side gives a nearly perfectly matched mirror image of the grain pattern on both sides of the seam. Veneers or solid lumber panels with this symmetry are called bookmatched.
Band saws are generally packaged with a rip fence (for resaw cuts) and miter gauge (for accurate cuts across the grain).
Once you see how bookmatching works, you'll probably want to try it on wider boards. Some saws let you increase a saw's resaw capacity by adding an accessory riser block. The cast-iron block bolts into the middle of the saw's column. Depending on your saw, you may be able to add 4 to 6 inches of capacity.
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 turns like a seagoing supertanker. The blade's width limits how quickly it can turn. Scroll saws excel at internal cutouts – some crafts projects have hundreds of them.