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The band saw is one of the most useful and versatile pieces of equipment in any DIYer’s arsenal. It is capable of ripping planks into smaller widths, but also suitable for fine, detailed, and curved cuts. They can be used to cut metal, wood, or plastic and are highly versatile.
If you’ve invested in a band saw for your shop and want to make the most of it, keep reading. We’ll teach you the many functions a band saw can perform.
- Band Saw Uses by Blade Type
- Skip Tooth Blade
- Hook Tooth Blade
- Raker-set Blade
- Wavy-Set Blade
Band Saw Uses by Blade Type
There are four main types of band saw blade; standard or raker-set, hook tooth, skip tooth, and wavy-set. The height and spacing of the teeth, as well as their shape, determines how the blade interacts with your material. Take a look at the difference between the blade types, and learn what tasks can be completed with each.
Skip Tooth Blade
The teeth on this kind of blade are set far apart. Each tooth forms a 90 degree angle that meets the wood head on, and the resulting chips come out cleanly due to the large space between teeth. The teeth themselves are usually fairly small, making this one of the slowest blades to cut with.
Skip tooth blades are best for use on plastics, thin material with a fine finish, or softwood.
Cutting Gradual Curves
One advantage of a skip tooth blade is the slow feed rate. Because there are fewer teeth per inch and they are set further apart than other kinds of blades, a skip tooth blade is great for cutting gradual curves. Need to cut a circle? A skip tooth blade and a bandsaw are the answer to your problem. For tighter corners, a raker-set blade is best.
A skip tooth blade can cut through thick material, but it will take a considerably longer time than using a hook tooth blade. If you have the time and the patience, it is worth it to use a skip tooth blade when you want a finely finished edge.
Believe it or not, the same blade you use to cut softwood can also be used to cut plexiglass, PVC, and other plastics. As long as the plastic is firm and lays flat, a skip tooth blade will cut through it with very little difficulty, leaving a fine finish. For tubes or pipes that can’t lay flat, a raker-set blade will give you better control.
Hook Tooth Blade
This kind of blade has taller teeth than a skip tooth blade, and they are placed more closely together. It cuts more aggressively and more quickly than other types of blades due to it’s hooked shape and large ‘bite’. Hook tooth blades are best for making long cuts in metal, wood, or plastic. The finish of the cut will be quite coarse, so it’s not well-suited for detailed work.
If you’ve been working with wood for a while, you probably know that ripping means cutting along the grain to reduce the width of a board, while crosscutting reduces the length of a board by cutting across it. Resawing with a bandsaw helps you get more use out of your stock by reducing the thickness of the board without discarding the waste. Unlike planing, which takes several passes as it reduces the waste wood to chips or shavings, resawing will give you two usable boards.
When you have a wide board and you need it to be narrower, turn to your band saw. A hook tooth blade can handle both thin and thick pieces of wood. It can rip thin softwood and hardwood of any thickness. For ripping thick softwood, you’re better off with a skip tooth blade, as the shavings are less likely to clog the blade.
Cutting Cast Iron
Most ferrous metals should be cut with a raker-set blade. Cast iron is the exception to the rule. Hook tooth blades will make short work of cutting through cast iron, although the finish of the cut will be very coarse.
Cutting Non-ferrous Metals
Non-ferrous metals commonly cut on a band saw include; aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and tin. The hook teeth easily bite into the metal, and the aggressive feed speed gives you the power you need to finish the cut.
Hardwood is, appropriately, harder to cut through than softwood. Your band saw can be used to cut either kind of material. Softwoods are best cut on a raker-cut blade, while a hook tooth blade is needed to tear through harder woods such as beech, hickory, mahogany, oak, maple, teak, or walnut.
While skip tooth and hook tooth blades have all the teeth in one line, raker-set blades have staggered teeth. If you look down the blade, you’ll see a repeating pattern: first a tooth that leans right, then one that leans left, and finally a tooth in the exact center. They are also sometimes called ‘standard’ blades, because they can be used to do many different kinds of tasks.
Ripping Round Wood
If you need to cut a dowel, table leg, or other cylindrical workpiece down the middle, look no further than your trusty band saw. A raker-set blade helps control the stock as it moves through the saw, giving you a straight cut with a fairly fine finish.
Crosscutting Thin Wood
As previously discussed, crosscutting wood means shortening the length of a plank or board. The cut goes across the grain. Raker-set blades can cross cut thin wood. To cross cut thicker wood, a hook tooth blade will do a better job.
Crosscutting Round Wood
If you have a dowel or table leg that needs to be cut down to size, your band saw should be your first stop. Cylindrical pieces of wood can be crosscut using a raker-set blade.
Making Mitre Cuts
You could use a table saw to make mitre cuts, or a mitre saw, if you have one. If not, the band saw will do a great job. On a table saw, you adjust the angle of the blade. With a band saw, you’ll need to adjust the angle of your workpiece.
One of the most underutilized features of the band saw is its ability to quickly cut precise tenons. You’ll need to use a router table or another tool in order to cut the mortises, unfortunately. Band saw can do lots of things, but they can’t do everything.
Cutting Sharp Curves
Scroll saws are often the tool of choice for fine, detailed, and sharp curves, but a band saw will work almost as well. The main difference is the thickness of the blade — scroll saws have a very thin blade and can easily make inside cuts, while a band saw blade is thicker, which limits maneuverability. However, scroll saws can only handle materials of about two inches or less.
A band saw will cut anything that can fit between the table and the saw housing.
Cutting Ferrous Metal
Ferrous metals include: alloy steel, carbonized steel, and wrought iron. Cast iron is also ferrous, but responds better to a hook tooth saw. If you’re cutting a lot of metal, consider purchasing a band saw made specifically for that purpose.
These run at slower speeds, which help keep the metal from overheating. A blade tipped with carbide will also help disperse heat.
Similar to a raker-set blade, a wavy-set blade has teeth set to the left and right, as well as teeth in dead center. Instead of single teeth cycling through the pattern of left-right-center, wavy-set blades group several teeth together. A few teeth in a row will be right-set, the next grouping will be left-set, and the third grouping is in the center of the blade.
Wavy-set blades usually have small teeth that make them an ideal choice for cutting through metal. They reduce the amount of sound and vibration during cutting. Pipes, thin sheet metal, and tubes are all generally cut using a wavy-set blade.
Cutting Sheet Metal
For a smooth finish when cutting sheet metal, choose a wavy-set blade with high TPI (teeth per inch). To cut more quickly and aggressively use a blade with fewer teeth. Plan to spend some time finishing the metal afterwards to remove burrs.
Cutting Thin Pipes
Thin metal or PVC pipes can also be cut on a band saw, using a wavy-set blade. The next time you need to do a plumbing repair, turn to your band saw!
The number of uses for your band saw are virtually limitless. Metal, wood, plastic, cross cuts, rip cuts, curved cuts and resawing; there’s almost nothing a band saw can’t do. A hook tooth blade is used to make coarse, aggressive cuts.
Finer finishes are generally achieved with a skip tooth blade. For detailed scroll work and tight curves, use a raker-set blade. If you need to cut through thin pipe or sheet metal, a wavy-set blade is the best choice.