Simple, Easy Guide for How to Use a Band Saw

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A band saw consists of a band of steel with a serrated edge that rotates around two large wheels. It is a must-have tool for any skilled woodworker. Band saws can cut curves and shapes in wood. They can even be used to cut other materials like metal.

A man uses a band saw to make an intricate and precise cut in a piece of wood

How to Use a Band Saw

1. Saw Preparation

If you’re wondering how to use band saw, it’s not as difficult as you may think it is. How you use one and the difficulty which comes with it with depends on the project.

Before you start using your band saw, make sure it is adjusted properly. You can find directions for the proper adjustment in your owner’s manual.

​Next, you need to determine the correct blade for your cut, and properly install it.

​2. ​Select the Correct Band Saw Blade

​You must select and install the correct band saw blade before making any cuts. Similar to the jigsaw, there are a whole host of blades that work for different types of materials and cuts. 

A band saw typically comes with a single blade but many different types of blades are available for different applications. The blades vary in the number of teeth per inch, and they also vary in the geometry of the teeth and gullets in between them.

These variances allow them to make different types of cuts, depending on your material and the shape of your intended cut.

To get a successful cut and meet your needs, you have to have ​the correct blade installed that corresponds to the type of cut you want to make. Different types of cuts could be ​a re-saw: a straight cut through material that’s not real thick, or a curved cut. And if it’s a curved cut, it could be with a tight curve or with a gentle curve.

band saw tire

All of these different situations require a different blade to be put on the band saw. You have to remove the blade completely in order to install a new one.

The installation process, simply stated, is to put the new blade onto the two wheels, one at the top and one at the bottom. 

  •  You then tension the blade slightly and center the blade on the wheels.
  • Once the blade is relatively centered, then you increase the tension on the blade until that tension is correct.
  • The correct tension on a band saw blade should be that using a single finger to move the blade slightly sideways without making your finger turn white. In other words, not pressing too hard.  You should be able to deflect the band saw blade to the left or to the right about 1/8″-1/4″.

If it deflects further than that, you need to increase the tension. If it deflects less, you need to decrease the tension. 

3. Make Your Measurements

There’s an old saying in construction and woodworking: “​Measure twice. Cut once.” ​You don’t want to rush through measuring your wood and cuts. ​If you do, you might have to redo the project, along with wasting valuable wood and money.

It’s easy to make the measurements, so slow down and take your time, even if it seems routine. ​Your measurements are important so that you can get the cut in the right location.

Typical band saw cuts are either a rip, which is along the length of the wood, or a cross cut, which is across the shorter dimension off the wood. Make sure you take the type of cut into consideration as you make and mark your measurements

Close up of two metallic rulers and a tape measure

4. Position the Bearings

After you have installed the blade, set the correct tension, and made your measurements, you then need to position the bearings.  There are three bearings each located above and below the table.

There are three bearings: one on the left side of the blade, one on the right side of the blade and one behind. 

You need to set these bearing so that they are very close to the blade, but not touching. The purpose of the bearing is to keep the blade from deflecting too much, either to the left, to the right, or toward the back of the bands.

​5. Set the Height of the Upper Guide Assembly

​Band saws have a guide that can be moved vertically and they surround the blade. The blade runs through this guide.

You need to position the upper guide vertically at the correct position relative to the material that you’re cutting. The idea is to get the guide assembly as close to the wood as you can without interfering with the cut. This helps the cut because it restricts the band saw blade from deflecting to the left or to the right too much.

You should put the upper guide assembly somewhere around ​1/2″-3/4″ above the height of the material that you are cutting.

A man uses a band saw to make an intricate and precise cut in a piece of wood

6. Make Your ​Rip Cut

​If you are cutting a piece of wood along the length of the material,​ it’s called a rip cut.

You rip by placing the wood (or whatever material you are using) against a fence that runs across the table of the band saw, from the front to the back. That fence moves left or right and can get locked into position a certain distance from the blade.

  1. ​Position the wood against the fence and move the fence so that your measurement mark on the end of the board lines up with the inside at the left. That will mean that the width of the blade, which will remove material from the wood, will be on the waste side of the cut.
  2. ​Once you have set the correct distance from the fence to the blade,​ lock down the fence into place. This will keep it secure as you make your cuts.
  3. Turn on the saw blade, remembering to use safety glasses and a push stick. You do not want to push the wood in a rip with your hands. You want to use a push stick or some other object that keeps your hand away from the blade. ​
  4. ​Push the material directly into the blade with moderate pressure. Cutting with a band saw is not a race. You need to do it with the correct amount of pressure. Not too little, not too much. You will learn by experience how to do this.

You do not want to deflect the blade to the rear of the band saw too much. So again, push with moderate pressure and try to keep as constant a speed as you can, pushing with a stick​.

The rip cut is complete after the material passes all the way through and past the blade, separating it into two pieces. 

A woodworker makes precise cuts with a bandsaw

7. Make Your ​Cross Cut

​Cross cutting​ is cutting the material across the narrower side, or short side. ​

These cuts can be controlled on the band saw in one of two ways. First, often times its simple and safe enough to use your hands. In this case, you visually push the wood through the blade, keeping the blade on your measurement line and keeping your hands well away from the moving blade-on either side.

A more precise and common method is to use a miter gauge. Band saws have a miter gauge dado on the table for a standard sized miter gauge, like one you might have on a table saw. 

Your material will fit into that gauge, resting against the surface that is perpendicular to the blade. Put the wood or material against that perpendicular miter face, lining up the measurement mark on the wood with the blade. Do this alignment with the saw NOT running. Turn the saw on.  With the miter gauge, push the wood through the cut on, separate the wood into two pieces

​Band Saw Use​s

You can use a band saw for a number of different woodworking projects. It is a very versatile tool which is a great addition to anyone’s woodworking shop. You can use band saws to complete the following tasks:

​Band saws are run by electric motors​, and are great for residential projects ranging from metal cutting, wood cutting, construction, meat cutting, and more.

  • Re-sawing wood
  • Cutting circles in wood
  • Cutting pieces of wood simultaneously
  • Making straight cuts

​A top rated band saw will allow you to make a variety of cuts with ease and convenience. Lets look at each of the​ situations that a band saw is used for:

Re-sawing

Re-sawing involves cutting a board across its thickness.

This is a very challenging cut to make for most saws (and quite dangerous, in some cases). However, the band saw was built to handle it with ease.

To re-saw a piece of wood (cut it into a smaller piece), lower the saw to the material’s height.

After starting the blade, feed the material into it, applying a little bit of pressure onto the wood.

Using a bandsaw to cut plexiglass

Rip Cuts

Band saws are also used to rip lumber into strips as it provides a thin cutting edge that does not splinter the wood. The wood then can be cut to varying dimensions with ease.

Rip cuts are similar to re-sawing. The difference is that rip cuts are any cuts across grain, whereas re-sawing is the specific process of cutting a board across its thickness.

Often you would use a table saw for rip cuts, as they are perfectly designed for this. But, if you don’t own this type of saw, a band saw makes a very ample substitute. 

Metal Cuts

You can also use a band saw in metalworking applications if you have the right blade for the application. Here, your band saw will seamlessly cut through dense metals, providing you an accurate cut exactly where you need it. 

Cutting Circles

If you’re looking to cut a circle with the band saw, adjust the foot of the saw to the appropriate height and cut the wood around the circumference of the circle.

Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether to use the band saw or the jigsaw for cutting circles. The band saw is more accurate, the jigsaw is more convenient.

Cutting Multiple Pieces

If you’re wondering how to use a band saw to cut through multiple pieces of wood at the same time, it’s actually quite simple. First, stack the pieces you are cutting together and secure them with tape.

After adjusting the band to the appropriate height, feed the wood through the blade just as if you were cutting a single piece.

bandsaw for woodworking

Benefits of a Band Saw

While there are a lot of benefits that come from owning a band saw, here are the top three:

  • The main benefit of using a band saw is its ability to cut to the exact template you have designed for your woodworking piece. This will allow you to create a personalized wood project that has an individualized look to it.
  • The curving ability of the blade makes it possible to create virtually any type of cut you would need to create cabinetry pieces, molding, craft items, and furniture. You are able to cut according to the guide you have created for your band saw to follow. This leaves very little waste or roughness as you work.
  • Your band saw will increase your capabilities in your workshop as you will find you can build a variety of wood pieces with little to no hassle. By simply moving your wood piece along the guided line you have created, you can cut savvy designs and cutouts. These can easily be repeated to create complementary wood projects.

Safety Measures

You should also always remember that safety comes first in any type of DIY project. Working with blades can be dangerous, so always take proper precautions. Always be sure to wear safety goggles and safety gloves.

Cutting a straight line with a band saw isn’t always easy. This is why you always have to make sure the band saw blade is tuned so it doesn’t swerve.

You also need to make sure the blade doesn’t touch the guide. There should be a tiny amount of space between the blade and the guide, small enough to fix a small index card.

Make sure the band saw’s table is lubricated so the blade can cut smoothly through the wood.

what is a band saw and when to use it

9 Different Band Saw Uses

​1. ​Moving the Edge of a Board

​In order to better align the grain figure of a board with another board that might adjoin it, you often want to move the edge of a board.

This can be done easily, first with the band saw to get the edge in the correct location, then with another method to refine the edge for joinery.

For example, lets say you’re building a table top out of multiple boards. The boards you are using might have different grain patterns.

​If you want to adjust the grain patterns of the boards to better match, you can use a band saw to move the board edge.

In order to reset the edges of the boards, you simply use a marker to draw a line in the place where you prefer to cut. Make sure the line is straight to enable you to make a smooth cut. Once you create the line, use the band saw and make the cut.

2. Resetting the Face of the Board

Similar to moving the edge of a board, this process involves resetting the thicker dimensions of a piece of wood.

One example that is very common for this is resetting the thickness of a table leg on your dining room table or other furniture.

This process involves using the band saw to cut length-wise through the end grain to produce grain-matched surfaces. It is a simple, fast cut, and another great bandsaw use.

bandsaw defined

3. Making Boards Thinner through Re-sawing

​Re-sawing is the process of cutting vertically through the width of a board. In essence, it is cutting the board along the most difficult dimension, typically vertically through the entire length.

An example would be to take a 3/4″ thick board, and re-saw it so that it is only 1/2″ thick. This would involve cutting through the entire length of the board to get rid of 1/4″.

Re-sawing is a common practice in woodworking, and a band saw is the perfect tool to use for re-sawing. Whenever you have wood that is too thick for your project, re-sawing is the process you’ll go through to get the wood to be the correct thickness.

You can use this technique when making veneer, which requires you to cut very thin pieces of wood. You can also use this technique when making boxes that utilize 1/2″ thick walls from 3/4″ stock wood.

Re-sawing is a wonderful band saw use. As a woodworker, you’ll need to constantly re-saw, and this is a great reason to keep your band saw handy.  

​4. ​Making Bent Lamintations

​When a project requires the wood to be bent, such as a round box, it is very difficult to bend thick wood. Using a band saw, you cut thin material out of the thick wood. Then, as you glue the thin pieces of wood together, you bend them into the desired shape.

Allow the glue to dry, and you’ll have used a band saw to create bent surfaces out of thick wood.  

​Making bent lamintations is not a beginner woodworking task, but at some point, you’ll probably find a project that requires it. The band saw is the perfect tool for the job.

5. Making Veneer

A veneer, especially a thicker one, can allow you to explore more design possibilities. You use veneer to put an expensive wood surface on another wooden base (usually of less expensive wood). You can also use veneer to try and match a wood grain look.

In order to come up with a perfect veneer, you will have to saw a board into thin pieces. The thin pieces can then be used to form a matched set in a piece, like a set of curved doors or drawer front faces.

The band saw can help you make a veneer better than any other tool. If you prefer thinner veneer, then you simply adjust the band saw to make smaller cuts. You can make veneers with thickness as low as 3/64″.

If you’re making veneer, you’ll find it is a great band saw use.

what is a band saw

6. Making Band Saw Boxes

Band saw boxes have become very popular over the past few years. They enable you to exercise your skills in woodworking and use your band saw to its full potential.

To review, a band saw box is a box made from a single, large block of wood. Using your band saw, you make curved or straight cuts through the wood block, making a three dimensional figure.

Then, you cut off one end of the figure you just made, and you cut a void in the remaining wood. After cutting, you glue the piece back on. The result is a simple but popular band box.

You can even create a box with leftover wood materials in your workshop.

how to use band saw

7. C​utting Small Logs

You can also use a band saw as a mini mill. Since it can function as a log mill, you can use it to shape and resize small logs, like those that come from your homestead. 

This can be an exciting and fun way to spend your free time and clean up unwanted pieces of tree stems and branches in your backyard.

You can also use your small logs and a band saw to create straight, usable lumber. Simply take small logs and cut them equi-distant length-wise, similar to the process involved in re-sawing.

​8. Tapering Legs

​Often times, table legs are tapered, with surfaces that are not parallel to one another running the length of the leg. These can be a challenge to cut, and a band saw is the best solution.

The band saw allows you to cut the one surface along a line, drawn at an angle to the opposite surface. Using a band saw is the simplest technique to taper legs in this fashion.

​9. Scroll Work on Thick ​Stock

​You might think that a great scroll saw would be the best saw to use in this situation, since the name matches up. However, when you are working with thick pieces of wood, the band saw is much more accurate and easier to use.

Because the band saw blade is held firmly, both top and bottom, it is an ideal saw to do even curves cuts in thick material. You can even do fairly tight curves with a band saw if you use the appropriate, thin band saw blade. 

Types of Band Saws

Band saws come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. They each have their own uses. Since they can be used for all sorts of different projects, this makes them a versatile and handy tool to have. If you’re wondering how to use band saw, you’ll first need to know what type of band saw you need.

Metal Band Saw

If you’re cutting through metal, a metal band saw is the ideal tool to use. Metal band saws come in vertical/horizontal forms. If you are cutting stock down, you should use a horizontal metal band saw.

Polishing and contouring jobs are more likely to be finished with vertical band saws. You can use metal band saws to cut pipes, cut metal stock down, file and polish metal, and more.

Wood Band Saw

​Wood band saws are generally the more popular choice among most woodworkers and can be used for large pieces of timber. ​

A Jet bandsaw sits in a workshop garage

There are three types of saws located inside a wood band saw which are all used for different purposes:

  • Head saw
  • Resaw
  • Double cut saw

The head saw makes the first, deep cut. The re-saw cuts wood into smaller sections. The double cut saw, which has cutting teeth placed along both of its sides, can cut through any type of material without sticking.

Woodworkers love band saws as they allow them to take on a multitude of projects that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Horizontal Band Saw

The horizontal band saw is used by both professionals and amateur carpenters. These types of band saws can be used to cut longer materials down to size. They are generally not recommended for cutting shapes or curved lines.

Horizontal band saws hold the material you are cutting as the blade makes the cut. They also offer great precision and are much quieter to use than regular band saws.

Another benefit of a horizontal band saw is that once the machine has completed the cut. It automatically turns off. This makes it much safer to use.

You can use horizontal band saws to cut wood, metal, plastic, and more.

Vertical Band Saw

A vertical band saw, unlike its horizontal counterpart, has a saw which remains in a stationary position. It stays in position as the workpiece moves through the saw blade. Vertical band saws are great to use when you are cutting complicated and curved shapes. They can cut precise, straight lines as well.

Vertical band saws are extremely versatile tools you can use for both complicated and simple lines. If you’re looking for ease, speed, and precision in a band saw, the vertical band saw is an ideal choice.

Portable Band Saw

Portable band saws are a great tool to use on the go. If you travel to several different locations to complete work and often have different jobs on the go, it is the perfect tool for you. Portable band saws can cut curved, straight, or complicated lines and shapes and are very versatile.

If you’re wondering how to use a portable band saw, it is very similar to how other band saws work, except that it is portable. This makes it very handy and convenient to use.

Portable band saws use the same technology as other types of band saws. A portable band saw has a continuous band of metal which is pulled along wheels. That is how it makes its cuts. Portable band saws are also great to use on pieces of material that are too large for regular band saws.

Portable band saws are a great option because you can use them to cut through material that you can’t necessarily get into your workshop. You can also use portable band saws to work with large materials that are too big to fit on your regular band saw table. They can also cut through pipes and metal sheets for a clean, smooth cut.

A man uses a band saw to cut wood for a DIY project

Conclusion

Now that you know the basics of how to use band saws, you should determine what type of band saw you will be using. You’ll also need to determine the size and scope of your project.

When using any type of band saw, minimize the amount of loose clothing you are wearing. You don’t want anything that can get caught in the blade. Lastly, get to know the machine you are using before you get to work so you can be comfortable with it. Test it out with a few practice cuts and always read the owner’s manual before getting started.