The Best Band Saws for Precise and Smooth Cut
After table saws, band saws are the most common type of shop saw you'll encounter. They are used extensively everywhere from cabinet making shops to induistrial manufacturing plants. The band saw provides the thinnest kerf of any type of saw around which makes it excellent for use with expensive or rare materials like wood burls.
There are two things that a band saw can do which a table saw can’t. They're excellent for cutting curves and the only saw which can properly resaw wood. For curve cutting they provide a much smoother cut than either a jigsaw or a scroll saw with the blade exactly perpendicular to the workpiece. Although scroll saws will cut a tighter curve, they can’t cut as smooth as one as band saws can.
Resawing wood consists of splitting the thickness of it, typically taking a 3/4” thick board and making it into two 3/8” thick pieces or three 1/4” thick pieces. With the narrow kerf of the band saw blade, very little material is lost. This is important for book matching pieces. Consider taking a taking a look at our list of the best band saws in 2021 and the buyer's guide below for more information about band saws and how to make the best possible selection for your needs.
Craftsman 14" Band Saw
Central Machinery 14 Inch Woodworking Band Saw
Makita Portable Band Saw
DeWalt Heavy Duty Deep Cut Portable Band Saw
General International 90-125 M1 14-Inch Wood Bandsaw 1 HP
Compare The Best Band Saws Of 2021
Craftsman 14" Band Saw
If you're looking for value, this saw not only offers the famous Craftsman quality and warranty, but it's a very good power tool as well. I can't find the motor horsepower specification, but it draws 9 amps. That leads me to think that it's about 1/2 HP, perhaps 3/4 HP.
It can be run at two speeds, 1620 and 3340 feet per minute and can be powered by either 120 or 240 VAC to save power, if you have it available in your workshop. The table on this saw is 15.75 long by 20.375 wide, and T-slotted on both sides for use with a miter gauge. The max resaw capacity on this saw is 8 inches, which means you could actually resaw a 1-inch by 8-inch piece of wood on it. That's truly impressive.
Since we’re talking budget tools we’ve got to check in with our friends at Harbor Freight. They have a 14-inch, four speed band saw, which is probably the lowest price 14-inch unit on the market. Like many of their tools, this isn’t designed for heavy use by a professional, but for the do-it-yourselfer, it provides enough power and life to make it worthwhile. It even has ball-bearing blade guides.
The unit comes with an enclosed stand and a miter gauge for crosscutting material and it’s designed with a 6-inch resaw capability, which is a lot for its 3/4 HP motor. As long as you don’t try to cut too fast, it will work fine. For the handyman who needs a low-cost saw, this one is worth taking a close look.
Makita Portable Band Saw
Makita's saw is a touch smaller than the Milwaukee, with a maximum capacity of 4-3/4-inches square with built-in LED protection circuit with over-torque controls which helps prevent damage to the motor. Six settings on the variable speed control allow you to dial in the speed you need for the material and blade you are using.
An LED work light, helps improve cut line visibility and the curved rear handle makes this saw very comfortable to work with. There’s also variable speed along with built-in over-torque protection on the motor. Rubber padding around the blade guard allows you to put it down anytime, without waiting for the motor to stop.
The other thing that Makita has going for them is that they have the fastest Li-Ion recharger on the market, allowing you to return to work in just 30 minutes; if you have two batteries, you’d probably never have to stop. This model is just the saw only without batteries, charger or case included.
This corded band saw by DeWalt has been the standard a lot of other portable band saws have been compared to. This saw cuts material up to 5-inches deep, just like the Milwaukee we talked about earlier. The rear handle is perpendicular to the blade, while the front one is adjustable. I find this a bit less comfortable than some of the other saws I’ve looked at but of course a lot would depend upon the cutting angle.
One thing that DeWalt has done, which isn’t common is to make the motor brushes externally serviceable, a nice feature to have when it’s time to maintain the tool. Additionally, the saw has all the little extras we expect, including tool-free blade changing, the rubber pad around the blade shroud keeps the tool protected protects the tool, there’s an LED work light, and even a hang hook.
General International 90-125 M1 14-Inch Wood Bandsaw 1 HP
General Internationals saw is the last in our list and is a strong contender for moving farther up the list. Although the saw can only resaw 6-inch material out of the box, it comes with a really nice two-position fence, which flips up for resawing and flat for ripping thin stock. The fence has a guide rail, same as our numbers 1 and 2. With the optional riser kit, this saw can be extended to resaw material up to 12 inches wide, like our No. 2 pick. Ball bearing blade guides are included. It has a 1 horsepower motor.
While the table saw is useful for cutting sheet goods and ripping boards, it's limited in ability. There is no problem ripping a board to make it thinner if you want to cut down the width of the board, but if you want to rip the board to reduce it's thickness, you need a band saw.
The way a bandsaw works is it has an upper and lower wheel the blade goes around. The wheels are generally cast and balanced with the edge covered with rubber to grip the blade. The lower wheel is driven by a motor and the upper is the adjustable tension wheel. A table provides a place for the workpiece with the blade passing through the middle of the table and traveling downwards. Band saws come in a variety of sizes, with prices up into several thousand dollars. Industrial ones are typically multi-speed for cutting metals as well as wood.
Band Saw Uses
Band saws are very versatile and can be used in a wide variety of applications as well as being one of the few power tools suitable for both woodworking and metal cutting. While band saws intended for cutting metal are slightly different than those designed for cutting wood, the basic tool remains the same. The major difference between the two is the machines designed for cutting metal are variable speed, as a slower blade speed is needed for said materials
Band saws are also useful for cutting curves, although they won't cut as tight a curve as a scroll saw will. On the flip side of the coin, they will usually cut a smoother curve than a scroll saw. Blade width makes a big difference in this regards as even the narrowest band saw blades are wider than those used on scroll saws. From there, they vary up to 1/2" in width.
The blades used on band saws are the thinnest around, rivaling those used for a scroll saw. This makes them ideal for resawing boards (ripping then to split the thickness). Little material is used as the saw kerf is minimal.
Types of Band Saws
Band saws break down into four basic categories, more based upon their use than anything else. Although we're only looking at band saws for woodworking and portable band saws, even within the realm of woodworking there is quite a variety in size and cost.
Wood Cutting Band Saws
These are units that are designed for woodworking. They are typically single-speed units used for resawing boards and cutting curves.
Metal Cutting Band Saws
These units are larger than those used for wood cutting, have larger motors, and are variable speed. The harder the metal being cut, the slower the saw's speed needs to be.
Horizontal Band Saws
Horizontal band saws aren't as common as vertical ones areas they're used solely for cutting metal pipe and tubing as well as extrusions. These band saws are typically variable speed with a clamp to hold the workpiece in place. The weight of the saw itself provides the pressure to move the blade through the material as it is being cut.
Portable Band Saws
Like the horizontal band saws, these too are used for cutting metal pipe, tubing and extrusions as well as cutting rebar for concrete work. Mostly they're used by welders, electricians, masons, and plumbers.
Choosing a Band Saw
Before looking for a band saw, you have to have an idea of what you are going to use it for, most specifically the largest material size that you will use in the saw. That will determine the size saw that you need which establishes a starting point for your search.
The saw's stated size is the diameter of the saw's drive wheels. The throat depth is generally about 1/2 inch less than the wheel diameter which limits the width of the boards that can be cut on the saw. For most users, the throat depth isn't a major consideration although if you are cutting shapes out of the middle of a board it can be a problem.
If the saw is going to be used for resawing boards, it will need a larger motor than one that is only going to be used for cutting curves. The act of resawing creates a lot of friction which is why the larger motor size is required.
The limiting factor for resawing is the space between the saw’s table and the highest point the blade guide can be adjusted to. For a 14” saw, this means the maximum size which can be resawn is usually a 1”x6” board. By comparison, a 20” saw can resaw a 1”x12” board. However, this maked for a much more expensive saw.
A fence is usually needed for resawing although very few band saws come with a fence and most woodworkers make their own before clamping it to the table. The saws which provide a fence typically have the same style fence found on a table saw. For resawing anything over a 1"x 4" board, it's recommended to attach a piece permanently to the fence in order to make it higher.
The other important factor is the bearings, especially the bearings used for blade guides. Quality band saws will have ball bearings for the wheels and the blade guides, while cheaper units may not. If the saw only has sleeve bearings for the wheels, make sure they're replaceable and you lube them regularly. The bearings on the blade guides are important for ensuring the blade stays straight, especially for resawing operations.
Other Features to Consider
While all band saws come with a table, the size of the table can vary considerably. Like with any other power tool that uses a table, the size and smoothness of the table will affect your work. Most band saws only come with small tables which increases the chance of you wobbling the workpiece while cutting.
A few of the bandsawsI've looked at have a T-slot cut into the table for using a miter gauge. If you're going to use the band saw for cutting pipe and tubing, this can assist you in keeping the blade perpendicuar to the workpiece and make your cut cleaner.
The larger the teeth on the blade, the faster it will cut. However, you should always ensure you have enough teeth on the blade so there will be at least three teeth for the thickness of the material you're cutting. Any less than this risks having the teeth catch on the edge of the workpiece and jam the saw.
A work light to illuminate the cut line can be very useful, especially on portable bandsaws. Often, workshops don't have enough overhead light or there might be something shadowing your cut. The light can make it much easier to see where you're cutting, ensuring an accurate cut.