There's more than one way to cut wood or metal. In fact, the best saw to use when working on a woodworking or metalworking project depends on the type of cuts you need to make.
A table saw is great for long, straight cuts. But if you want to cut curves, you'll need to find the best band saw. We've put together this comprehensive buying guide to help you find the right model for your needs.
It might surprise you to learn that a band saw is a controversial piece of equipment. Plenty of woodworkers, particularly those who are all about doing things purely by hand, claim that it's an unnecessary piece of equipment.
But then there are those who love their band saws. These folks would argue that not only should you invest in a top band saw, but that a band saw should be one of the first tools to buy when you're getting into woodworking.
Who to believe? Well, it helps to understand what a band saw can do. What sets a band saw apart from other cutting saws like a table saw, is that it allows you to make freehand cuts, according to Bob Vila.
Beyond making freehand cuts, a band saw lets you do a lot of neat woodworking tricks, according to Craftsy. You can use the saw to create veneer, to re-saw a board to get two thinner, matching panels, and to reset the edge of an uneven piece of wood. You can also use this type of saw to cut shaped legs and arms, and round tabletops.
Most notably, a band saw doesn't have to be used to cut wood. Some styles are designed to cut through metal, for example. You can also swap out the blade on a woodworking saw with a blade designed to cut easily into metal.
You can group band saws into several distinct categories. First, there are tabletop or benchtop saws. These are on the small side and need to rest on a bench or table.
Next, there are floor-model band saws. These are larger, usually about the height of an average person. They are self-supporting and don't need a work table or bench. Floor-model band saws tend to cost a lot more than benchtop models.
Size isn't the only factor that determines band saw type. The position of the blade also matters.
Usually, band saws used to cut wood feature a vertical blade. When cutting, you guide the wood around the band saw blade, turning and positioning it depends on the shape and size of the cut you make.
If you are looking for the best metal band saw, you might be in the market for a horizontal band saw. While the material moves when you use a vertical band saw, when you use a horizontal saw, the material stays stationary.
Related: How to Use a Band Saw
Instead, the horizontal blade works over top of it, slicing its way down. You might compare the action of the best horizontal band saw to a hand saw. The blades move back and forth over the top of the material, eventually slicing all the way through the pipe.
Typically, horizontal band saws cut more substantial pieces of metal, such as big pipes, while vertical saws are reserved for small, more pliable materials. You can find horizontal band saws that are designed for home or shop use, though.
It's not just the type of cutting it performs that makes a band saw different from other cutting tools out there. It's also the design of the equipment.
While circular saws and table saws often feature a round blade which has a sharp edge or teeth all around its circumference, a band saw's blade is more like a metal ribbon. The blade gets wrapped around two or three wheels, which guide it up and down (or side to side, in the case of a horizontal band saw).
If you're having trouble picturing how that works, think of a film reel or classic reel to reel tape player. Except, replace the tape with a blade. The blade spins around the wheels, moving up and down or side to side, so that it can cut through metal or wood.
Along with deciding between a tabletop or floor-model and a horizontal or vertical band saw, there are a few other features you want to consider.
You're likely to see band saws available at a range of different price points. Whether it's worth it or not to shell out the big bucks for a pricier saw depends on your needs and how you'll use the saw.
If you're a hobbyist, who wants to make freehand cuts in wood, a lower-priced, benchtop model will most likely be perfectly adequate for your needs. But if you're looking for the best metal band saw, you might find yourself shelling out a bit more than a woodworking hobbyist.
The best band saw for a professional woodworker or for a hobbyist who's hoping to improve his or her woodworking game is going to come at a higher cost. It's up to you to weigh the features and benefits of each saw to determine which is the best bandsaw for the money.
We put together a list of the top band saws, from least expensive to most expensive. As you might guess, you get more features and benefits at the top end of the price range. But those pricier models aren't always the best pick for every woodworker.
The SKIL 9" Band Saw is the ideal starter band saw. It's been designed specifically with the needs of beginner woodworkers in mind. That means it has several features that allow you to make smooth, accurate cuts, even if it's the first time you've ever used a band saw.
One of those features is the EZ View blade tracker, which helps you keep the blade aligned. The work table of the band saw is also easy to adjust as needed, from 0 to 45 degrees.
To help guide you as you cut, the SKIL band saw has a rip fence as well as a miter gauge.
The SKIL band saw also includes several nice-to-have features, such as an LED light that illuminates the workspace. The LED isn't a must-have unless you regularly work in very dark or poorly lit areas.
Another nice feature is a 4-inch dust port that suctions away sawdust as you work, helping to keep the workspace neat and tidy. Again, that feature shouldn't make or break your decision to get the SKIL saw but can tip the scales in its favor.
The band saw works with blades measuring from 1/8-Inch to 3/8-Inch in thickness and from 59 1/4 to 59 1/2 inches long. It comes with a blade, but you might find that you want to install your own, better blade right out of the box.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about the SKIL band saw is that it is an entry-level product. If you're looking for a high-powered saw or if you want something that will slice through hardwoods or metals like they are butter, you are going to be disappointed with this one.
But if you're in the market for your first band saw and have a few small projects you want to try out, this is the saw for you.
If you're ready to take your woodworking to the next level, but still want an affordable saw option, the WEN 2 Speed Band Saw with Stand and Work Light, 10" might be just the thing for you.
A sort of hybrid between a benchtop model and a floor model, the Wen comes with a stand. It's more compact than the average floor model, with a throat of 10 inches. It offers a depth to cut of 6 inches and works with blades from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch in width and 72 inches long.
While the SKIL saw is an option for complete beginners, the WEN Band Saw has features that will delight both newbies and more experienced woodworkers. It has a somewhat powerful, 3.5 amp motor, a miter gauge and rip fence, a dust port, and a work light.
The WEN also comes with a 3/8 inch blade with 6 TPI (teeth per inch). You also have the option of choosing between two blade speeds when running the saw, 1520 feet per minute or 2620 feet per minute.
One of the features that make the WEN not so great for absolute beginners is that it's a bit picky when it comes to blade installation and adjustment. If you don't get the tension on the blade just right when you put it in the saw, you're not going to be happy with the results
It might take a bit of trial and error to get the tension right. That means it can be worth your while to do a few test runs and to adjust the blade after each test cut if you aren't satisfied with the power or the quality of the cut.
The Grizzly Deluxe Bandsaw might be the band saw for you if you're looking for more power, more durability, and a large cutting size. It has a 14-inch throat and a 6-inch cutting depth. The cutting table measures 14 by 14 inches and tilts 45 degrees one way and 10 degrees the other.
This Grizzly band saw has a 1 HP motor that works at two speeds, 1800 FPMand 3100 FPM. This translates to an 11 amp motor when you plug the saw in to a 100 outlet, or a 5.5 amp motor when you plug it into a 220 outlet. The blade size for the saw is 93 1/2 inches and anywhere from 1/8 to 3/4 inch wide.
Size aside, what sets the Grizzly apart from the others is its construction. While lower priced band saws might have some or mostly plastic components, you're going to find sturdy and strong cast iron table and parts in this particular saw.
Its frame, table, and wheels are all made from cast iron. Plus, those cast iron wheels are computer balanced. The durable construction means you're going to get the best cuts possible from the band saw, without irregularities or unevenness.
Like other band saw models, the Grizzly does include a dust collection port to keep your workspace clean. But the port might not be as deep as you'd expect, so you might find yourself having to reattach the hose more frequently than you'd like.
All in all, the Grizzly is a good pick if you're looking to up your band saw game and are looking for a vertical saw that cuts a range of different types of wood.
While vertical band saws can be great for woodworkers, if you're looking to cut metal, a horizontal model might better meet your needs. The WEN 3970 Metal-Cutting Band Saw can cut through pipes of up to 4.5 inches in diameter. It also cuts rectangles measuring up to 4 by 6 inches.
It works on steel, copper, aluminum and brass pipes and has three blade speed options: 80, 120, or 200 FPM.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the WEN horizontal band saw can easily convert into a vertical band saw, giving you the most range and flexibility, not to mention, the best bang for your buck.
To convert the saw to a vertical band saw, you need to lift the saw head up and reposition the blade. There's also an attached work table you can use to position the material you're cutting.
In the horizontal position, the saw features a beveling vise that lets you cut through metal at an angle from 0 to 60 degrees. If you're cutting a pipe, you can make 45-degree cuts in materials as thick as 3.5 inches. When cutting square materials, you can cut through 3.5 by 3.5-inch materials at 45 degrees.
If you're considering the WEN horizontal band saw, it's important to note that it's best for smaller jobs. If you've got lots of big, thick metal pipes to cut through, you're not going to be happy with this one.
You might feel some heart palpitations when you take a look at the price of the JET 14" Pro Band Saw. With so many acceptable, considerably less expensive options out there, why would anyone sink more than a grand into a band saw?
Well, for starters, the JET bandsaw is bigger than any of our other recommended products. It has a 15 by 15-inch cutting table and a offers really deep cutting of 12 inches. It has quick release tension and blade adjustments, so you aren't left spending hours fine-tuning or fiddling with the saw.
This JET saw has a blade tracking window that makes it easy to see where you're cutting. It also has ball bearing guides on the upper and lower work area, which help to ease friction and ensure a smoother cut.
The JET 14" saw is powerful, containing a 1 1/4 HP motor. This is the most powerful motor in our reviews of the best bandsaws.
Like other floor models, the JET is made of durable and strong cast iron table, which means it will withstand years of regular use in a workshop. The machine takes a range of blade sizes, from 1/8 to 3/4 inch wide.
Although it can cut up to 12 inches in height, the saw is fully adjustable. That makes it a good pick for both larger cutting projects and smaller, more delicate ones too.
If you're just a hobbyist, you're probably not going to shell out for the JET. But if you're running a full-on woodworking shop or are looking to take your furniture making or another woodworking hobby to the next level, this can be the band saw that helps you get there.
No bandsaw is going to meet every person's needs. In fact, depending on your projects and hobbies, you might find that two band saws are better than one. With that being said, we've tried to represent every need with a solid recommendation in this buying guide.
Whether you're looking for a tool for woodworking or metal projects, knowing which saws offer the greatest cutting power and flexibility and which ones are worth the high price tag can help you make the right choice for your shop.