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Band saws are a staple tool of any workshop, with a unique use for woodworking, lumbering, and metalworking. These versatile tools come in different shapes and sizes, with different types of blades and attachments. Know how to use each blade and attachment and get the most out of your machine.
- Bandsaw Blade Guide
- Band Saw Blade Terminology
- Picking the Right Band Saw
- The Best Bandsaw Blade Tooth
- How to Measure Bandsaw Blade Sizes
- Why do my Band Saw Blades Keep Breaking?
- Bandsaw Blade Advice
Bandsaw Blade Guide
If you decide to bring a bandsaw into your tool collection, there are a few key things you’ll want to know first:
- Blade guide terminology and project instructions for your bandsaw
- The types of bandsaw blades that are available
- Which bandsaw blade to use for each project
- How to measure bandsaw blade sizes
Before diving into the best blades, we’ll review the terminology that is used to describe blades.
Then, we’ll review the right type of band saw for your needs, before finally getting into the various blade tooths available to this specialized power saw.
Even if you’re already familiar with the saw, you may be surprised at what you can learn from this bandsaw blade guide.
After all, a good DIY worker never stops learning their tools! Are you ready to discover all there is to know about your bandsaw?
Band Saw Blade Terminology
Before getting started with your bandsaw, there are few pieces of terminology that can help you read project instructions and operate your machine. Knowing the language is an important way to understand instructions on improving your ability to use the machine.
The blade of your bandsaw has a back, which is the side with no teeth. It has a tooth face, the side with teeth. You measure your blade in thickness or the dimension of the blade from side to side. Also measure the blade width, which is the dimension from the front of the blade to the back.
This is the arch or bend of the cutting edge of your bandsaw blade.
This is the speed at which the material is cut, which is measured in square inches per minute.
Measured in inches per minute, the feed rate is the speed that the material is pushed through the blade.
Your bandsaw blade’s gullet is the curved area at the base of the blade tooth. Gullets are measured in ‘gullet depth,’ which refers to the distance from the tooth tip to the bottom of the gullet.
This is the amount of material (side to side) removed by the blade. For example, the sawdust or plastic dust created when the cut is made.
On a bandsaw, the distance from the tip of one tooth to the next is called the pitch. This is equivalent to the TPI or teeth per inch. The larger the tooth, the greater ability to move large amounts of sawdust throughout the job, and therefore the faster the cut. Likewise, a smaller TPI will have a slower cut, as it won’t be able to clear as much sawdust.
Generally, with a larger tooth, you’ll have a diminished quality in the surface finish of the cut, because the blade can be a bit unwieldy. It’s generally recommended that you have 6 to 8 teeth engaged at one time during a cut. If you have fewer teeth engaged, there is a possibility that shaking or vibrating will result and alter your final product.
Picking the Right Band Saw
There are several different types of bandsaw machines you can use, each with their own specialty. Bandsaws can be found in vertical or horizontal formation. Both of these can be fitted with blades that have specific capacities for different materials, such as metal, wood, plastic, and meat.
Horizontal Band Saw
The horizontal band saw is a tool for cutting wood and piping down in length. It is not as common as the vertical variety. It is generally an addition to the workplace after a vertical bandsaw is acquired. Horizontal bandsaws are able to keep a stable workstation while the blade swings through the cut. Although, they aren’t as useful in cutting curves or complicated shapes in the way that a vertical bandsaw can.
Vertical Band Saw
Vertical band saws feature a quickly moving blade that is used for a wide range of jobs such as resawing, polishing, filing, and contour cutting. Vertical blades are by far the most common type of bandsaw. They are ideal for cutting a wide range of materials.
Little additional maintenance beyond regular upkeep is required. Vertical bandsaws are common mechanisms that can be found in most workshops, although they can be a bit expensive.
Metal-cutting Band Saw
To make either a vertical or horizontal band saw perfect for cutting metal, you’ll need to outfit it with a blade that can:
- Cut metal stock down to smaller, more manageable sizes
- File and polish metal to finish the product
- Cut pipes and bar stock to length
Metal-cutting band saw blades are usually found in the form of a carbon tool steel, or bimetal blades, and come with a range of tooth sizes. Carbon tool blades are generally more economical to purchase and can cut through mild steel at speeds under 200 mph. Bimetal bandsaw blades, on the other hand, can outlast carbon blades and are capable of cutting harder materials like stainless steel.
Wood-cutting Band Saw
Wood-cutting bandsaw blades are one of the most important tools in any carpentry shop, as wood is a common material for DIY users. Vertical bandsaws are particularly good at working with timber and can be outfitted with different blades depending on the cut you need for your project.
The Best Bandsaw Blade Tooth
Selecting the teeth of your bandsaw blades is just as important as picking out the right machine for the job. Bandsaw blades come in many varieties of teeth size and direction, and each can be used for a different cut, material, and finish.
The three main types are skipped, hook, and regular. But, you’ll notice there are many others that can be purchased for specialized jobs.
Regular tooth bandsaw blades have teeth that are spaced proportionally along the saw and are ideal for a general-use blade. Regular tooth blades are excellent for contour and cut-off sawing, as well as cutting thin materials properly, so a professional finish is left on the cut.
Skip tooth blades, on the other hand, are spaced farther apart than the regular blades, and have a rake angle of 0 degrees. This angle prevents clogging of dust when cutting soft materials, like plastics, softwood, and non-ferrous materials.
Hook tooth blades have a large tooth and a rake angle of 10 degrees. This helps the blade feed material more aggressively, which results in faster cutting rates. Hook tooth blades are ideal for long cuts in thick wood, metal, hard plastics, and hardwood.
Variable patch blades have an alternating set of teeth that are different sizes. This provides a smooth and fast finish on a cut and is best for cutting curves and joinery.
Raker Tooth Blades
A Raker tooth blade has one tooth going one way, the next tooth pointing in the opposite direction, and a third tooth pointing straight up. The straight tooth is known as a ‘raker,’ hence the name of the blade. There are several ways that raker blades can be used, but they are generally useful for a quieter machine.
Alternative tooth blades are similar to the raker cut, but they just have teeth pointing in alternate directions, with no raker tooth in between them.
Wavy tooth blades have groups of teeth that are set right and left, with an unset raker tooth between. These blades are usually made with fine, small blades, and are used for cutting tubes, thin metal, thin pipes, etc.
How to Measure Bandsaw Blade Sizes
When it comes time to replace your old bandsaw blade, you may have forgotten the precise measurements of the initial blade. Luckily, measuring a bandsaw blade is a lot easier than most people think, and you can do it yourself at home!
With an Existing Bandsaw Blade
If you have an old blade that fits the saw, simply measure the length. Make a small mark on the blade and align the mark with a measuring tape that’s laid on the floor. Roll the blade along the tape until it reaches the mark and write down the number it lands on. That’s your measurement!
You don’t have to order the exact length of the saw. For example, if your saw is 113 ¾, you can buy a 113″ or 114″ blade, and it’s likely that either will fit. Most bandsaws will accept a range of lengths, sometimes with as much as 2″ difference between the longest and shortest blades that the saw can use.
Without an Existing Bandsaw Blade
If you don’t have a blade on your bandsaw, a different technique is required.
- Lower the upper wheel of the bandsaw as far as it can go. You can do this by turning the tension knob counterclockwise until the wheel moves no lower.
- Then, measure the distance from the center of the lower wheel shaft to the center of the upper wheel shaft.
- Now, raise the upper wheel as high as it will go. Measure the same center-to-center distance between the lower and the upper shafts.
- Multiple the shorter shaft-to-shaft figure by two. This is the distance that the blade covers twice in a completed circuit. Since the blade travels around half of the upper wheel and half of the lower, add one full wheel circumference to the total (circumference is wheel diameter times 3.14).
The sum that you get is the bandsaw’s shortest blade length. To find the bandsaw’s theoretical longest length, do the same calculations with the longer shaft-to-shaft number.
The bandsaw blade length is usually the average of these two numbers. As noted above, you can usually round your bandsaw length to a convenient whole number around 2″ of your total, which will make for an easier way to order the new saw.
Why do my Band Saw Blades Keep Breaking?
If you find that your band saw blades are snapping and breaking, you may have the tension set too high. The owner’s manual for your bandsaw will outline the correct tension settings.
Another possible reason your blades are breaking is worn or uneven blocks and wheels in your bandsaw. It’s a good idea to inspect your bandsaw for wear or needed adjustments regularly.
Keep a good maintenance and repair routine and you’ll get the best life out of your band saw and blades.
Bandsaw Blade Advice
Feeling confident in your bandsaw blade? The bandsaw can be an intimidating tool if you don’t know how to use it properly, but once you master it, your DIY projects will be revolutionized.
With this bandsaw blade guide, you’ll now know how to:
- Use key terms for reading band saw blade guides and project instructions
- Know which type of band saw blades to use
- Identify the type of band saw blade to use for each project
- Learn how to measure band saw blade sizes
In short, you have all the tools you need to make the most out of your bandsaw. For every material and every project, there is a bandsaw machine and blade to get the job done. You’ve just upped your DIY game.