The Ultimate Band Saw Buyers Guide
I think that when it comes to buying any tool, and especially expensive ones such as a band saw, then the single most important question you can ask yourself, is “Do I Really Need This?”
The average price of a good quality one is anything between $100-200, so although not crazy money, it is still a substantial enough investment, and as such you should give it a fair amount of thought, before parting with your hard earned cash.
If you want something of high quality and want to have the best type of band saw then the prices get high and around $900-1,000 for a proper band saw with a stand.
Here are a list of questions that should help you decide if you really need one of these or not. If you already know that you want one, then please skip to the next section. For those that are indecisive, then these should help you make your mind up.
Questions and Considerations On Deciding To Buy A Band Saw
What type of work will you be using the saw for?
This is absolutely the main consideration that you will need to figure out. The main purpose of a band saw is to allow you to cut curved or irregular shapes in wood. It can also do the same with metal, by changing the blade type. Although it can also cut straight lines, but that is not its main purpose.
It is also really useful for cutting several boards at the one time. There are also scroll saws for more intricate work and these are popular with people who do crafts. A band saw with the right blade can also do this type of work.
What size of wood or metal will you be using this on?
The distance between the blade and the frame will determine the maximum width of the cutting ability of the saw. This is commonly referred to as the “throat capacity.” No, I don’t know who comes up with these terms either, but that is what the industry calls it.
The bottom line is though that the bigger this is, then the wider your cuts and larger pieces you can work with. When buying a band saw, you need to be sure that this throat capacity is big enough to be able to handle the sizes of wood that you will be working with.
How often will you be using your band saw?
Is it a couple of times a week, every day, or just on the odd project? Band saws come in different models including a bench top, floor models, portable and cordless. Knowing how often, and what you are going to be using this for, will help narrow down which type will be best for your own particular needs.
Will you get enough use out of it?
For me this is always the toughest question to answer. As this saw can also do miter joints and angled cuts, it is a good universal saw to have in your workshop or garage. My general thoughts on this, is that if you are someone who enjoys working with wood, enjoys doing home improvement or home projects, then you should get one of these for your workshop.
If you are a carpenter, cabinet maker or joiner then I am probably preaching to the converted.
The key things to take away from these questions is that when you answer them, you should be able to make a more sound decision if you know exactly how and why you will be using it ahead of time. Make a short list of any projects or tasks you will be taking on in the next few months. Then just ask yourself, would a band saw help me get these done? If the answer is yes, then you will know that you need to purchase one.
As many old carpenters like me would say, this particular saw is an old work horse of mine, it is just a matter of picking the right one.
Hopefully these questions have helped make your mind up as to whether you would like one or not. If you have decided that you do, then let’s dig a little deeper and try to find out which one would be the best for you.
Below we have created a list of the top selling band saws in a comparison table which should help you understand what is available in the market right now.
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Quick Review of the Dewalt DWM120K
If you do a lot of metal cutting and are out and about on different job sites then this model seems to be the most popular choice for many workers.
This one is powered by a 10 Amp motor and has a 5″ cutting depth so excellent for cutting materials like wood, stainless steel, tubing and a handy product to have for electricians and anyone working with any type of metal fabrication.
It is a huge best seller and is currently priced at under $300. It also comes with a built in LED light which is great for working in confined spaces.
Quick Review of the Delta 28-400
If you are looking for a high quality band saw that ticks all of the boxes, then the Delta 28-400 is about as good as it gets. It costs around $700 so an expensive purchase by any measurement. It does however get some pretty rave reviews and they are fully justified.
It has a powerful motor, uses a 2-speed pulley system and has a really large table as a great cutting surface. The frame is made from heavy duty steel and the finish on this one is top notch.
Will accept all normal miter gauges and is overall a very accurate cutting saw. The height of the table sits at just under 41″ and it weighs around 165 pounds. Overall this is a saw that anyone would be proud to have in their garage. It will certainly last you for a very long time.
We have done a more detailed review on this band saw with a video. You can check that out by clicking here to read more information on the Delta band saw
Understanding The Types of Band Saws
Band saws come in different styles and models, and are made by different brands. Now I know that many people have a favorite brand as I do myself for many different types of tools. For example I love Dewalt drills, but for my gardening tools I prefer Bosch.
My advice always is to stick with a brand that has a good reputation, but is also best known for producing a particular tool. Even the very best brand names do not always make the best quality tool for a particular area of work. For now though, let’s have a look in general, at what is available. They essentially come in two distinct types which are:
- The floor standing cabinet models
- The workbench type models
Often you will see the different brands advertising features like cordless and portable, and usually these refer to the different features of the bench type. So what is the main difference between these two types?
The larger floor standing models are designed and made for professionals. Up and down the country you will find these in factories and large workshops. They will be much more powerful, have larger motors, be able to do larger cuts and be pretty stable with little or no vibration during the cutting process.
The bench type models are either mounted on a bench, or a stand and are ideal for the home improvement type of person, or a home based cabinet maker or carpenter. Some of these can also be wall mounted, but that is not something that I would recommend as it is just too restrictive.
Let’s have an even closer look so as you understand the exact difference between the two. Before we do, just remember the questions that I asked at the beginning of this article, as that will really help make your mind up, which type is best for you. The choice is really all about two things which are:
- The depth of the cut you will need
- The throat capacity
Have a look at the picture below and that will explain it so much better.
The Floor Standing Model
If you are a professional, a serious DIY person, or someone who loves working with wood, then the only band saw that you should consider is the floor model.
Bench models are great for hobbyists, or those restricted by space, or for those who just need to use a saw from time to time. They are classed as larger band saws and another way of defining large is anything bigger than a 16″ blade.
Pros For those of us who love working with wood, then we will only ever consider which floor model to buy, and nothing else.
- These floor models are simply more powerful, and can be used on the tougher tasks such as rip sawing, or working with tougher woods and metals.
- They have a wider and larger cutting capacity
- They do not vibrate as much as the smaller bench or portable saws
- They are usually more expensive when you compare them like for like
- They are heavy and difficult to move around
- If you are new to wood working or home improvement, these saws can often seem a little intimidating to set up and use.
The Jet JWBS-14DXPRO 14″
In the past JET were known for making cheaper versions of these to try and capture a wider market.
This one is a step up from those and it comes highly recommended by professionals and at around $1,000 it brings a high quality saw for a sensible price
Bench Top Models
These are really useful for people who know that a band saw is a really useful saw to own. They can set it up on a bench and attach it to that, or alternatively attach it to a stand. It is also portable so easier to take from place to place when working. These are a really good buy for anyone with a tight budget, or anyone who is really pushed for space.
You will lose out slightly as typically they have less sawing capacity, but to be honest, they will handle most jobs. They are particularly good for working on smaller projects as well.
That is why they are a popular choice for people who do craft work. I am not going to do the pros and cons of these as essentially, they are the opposite of those that I have already done for the floor cabinet style model.
Which Band Saw Is The Best For a Novice or A Keen Amateur?
If you want something at an affordable price that will do about 99% of the work, then I would recommend a 14″ bench saw, and I would also get a good sturdy stand for it as well. That way, you have in my opinion, the best of both worlds.
It can look and feel like a floor stand when you need it, and you can also use it as a bench style, or take it with you wherever you need it.
Understanding The Main Features of A Band Saw
There are quite a number of things to consider, and especially if you have made your mind up that you want to own one of these. By taking the time to understand the features that are important to you, then you can really focus in on your best choice. I will make some recommendations at the end, but it is always a good idea to know what to look for, and why that feature may be important to you.
What Size Do You Need?
All band saws are measured by the diameter of their wheels. In almost all cases the size of the wheel will be about the same size as the throat capacity. Typically these measure between 10″ to 18″, and by far the most popular choice is the 14″.
The depth of the cut you can get is one of the most important considerations to make. This is the distance from the table to the upper blade guides. Back in the day, this was the only consideration that carpenters would consider as being the most important. You will see this shown as something like 6″ depth of cut.
Risers and what they are used for
You can also add what is called a riser to the saw, which can then increase this depth up to about 12″. This is pretty handy, especially for re-sawing or making lumber out of logs, and if you do opt for a cheaper model with a 6″ depth, it is easy enough to buy a riser and therefore increase this. Riser heights can be adjusted anywhere from around 4-6″ depending on the riser you pick.
A riser block is just a piece of cast iron in a rectangular shape, that is placed between the upper and lower arms of your saw, and as such increases the depth of cut that you can make. If you plan on using these, then do buy good quality ones, as otherwise you can have great difficulty when it comes to lining up your cut.
The throat as we have mentioned determines the width of the cut we can make. It is measured from the blade to the vertical frame of the main body of your saw. The smaller bench type models will be around 12-14″, and on the floor standing ones it will be more likely to be around 18″.
So when you are looking at band saws and you see a term such as a “14 inch band saw,” this is referring to the throat measurement, or width of wood that it can cut.
These range from around 0.5 – 1.5 Horsepower (HP) The higher the horsepower the more efficient the saw will be as the motor does not have to work as hard. The best way for you to understand what power you need is again to know what the main purpose of your saw will be.
For woods like soft woods, or those used for crafting, then a motor of between 0.5-1 HP, will be plenty. For slightly heavier work, such as making furniture or cabinets, then look for a good strong 1.5 HP to make sure that the saw motor will not burn out.
A rule that is used by many home cabinet makers is that if you are cutting wood of around 3″ in thickness, then a 0.7 HP motor is the one to go for. You may also see variable speeds on a motor. For those who are only working on wood, that is not an important feature.
However, if you plan to also saw plastics or metals, then this is key to have. To cut these you will need the ability to select a slower speed.
Understanding Blades And What They Can Achieve
There will be times when you need to use a small blade and at other times a thicker one. This very much depends on the type of work that you are taking on. Scroll work for example would use something like a 1/8″ blade for the finer work.
If the main purpose is re-sawing, then you will need a thicker blade. It is only important to understand this, as you need to be sure that the saw you buy, can accommodate different sizes of blades.
Many manufacturers make great play on the material that blades are made from, and yes there is some merit on that. However the most important thing to consider when it comes to any type of blade is the number of “teeth per inch.” (TPI)
The higher the teeth to inch ratio the cleaner the cut, but it is also a much slower cut. if your main purpose is just to rip through some wood, then a lower TPI should be used as it will still cut, but be a lot faster.
The ideal speed for a band saw is 3,500 feet per minute (fpm)
Frames & Stands
If you are going for a floor standing saw, then it will sit on a cabinet style frame. These frames are usually either made of welded steel or cast iron. Cast iron as you know does not offer much yield, whereas steel that has been welded together, is so much better at absorbing vibration, when you are doing the actual cutting.
For years cast iron has been used and it is a good choice. If you are going for a steel frame you do need to know what you are looking for.
These welded steel frames are only strong enough if they have been layered together. It is easy enough to see, but avoid that type of frame if you can only see a single layer of steel, as that is nowhere near strong enough, in my opinion.
I have also seen a recent trend in aluminium stands, but I have not used these, so I can not comment with any authority. Aluminium is a tough enough material and it is is of course much lighter than steel or cast iron. These frames then sit on a base and these bases are either closed or panel based.
The closed type of base is again so much better for vibration absorption. I also think that the closed stand keeps the dust away from the motor which has to be a good thing. I also store some blades and a few adjusting tools in the base, which means I can get things done faster. Please don’t get me wrong the open stand works just fine, but I have a strong preference for the closed style.
The Size of the Table Top is Important
This is the area where you will place whatever it is you are going to cut. This makes it an area that will support the wood or metal, and the bigger that can be, the better. To be honest, even the best band saws have a table that is too small for the bigger products. The manufacturers do of course have to place some limits on the size, otherwise it could get silly.
When doing bigger wood sizes I will use either a set of supports and I recently made a table from some old plywood, which I can also use as a supporting mechanism. A decent sized table for a band saw is about 16″ square.
There are quite a number of accessories that can increase the uses of a standard band saw. These are things like cutting attachments to create perfect circles, tables that tilt to allow you to create bevels, rip fences and miter gauges. The reason I mention those now is because if you think yo may use these at some stage, then just make sure that the band saw you get, can have these either as standard features, or can be attached.
Many of the saws you can buy will come with some of these features built in. Personally the ones I like and use the most is the tilting table, which allows for angled cuts and I do use those a lot. I also use the rip fences and the miter gauges quite a bit.
Dust bags on most power tools are in my honest opinion pretty useless and can often be more of a hindrance than a help. With a band saw though, you will make a heck of a lot of dust, so using one is a really good idea. Some of them have an outlet that you can hook up to a dust collection system, and other have a bag attached to an outlet. Either way, it is something that I would recommend using.
Warranties, Guarantees and Availability of Parts
Having a good strong warranty on any product is just important for me. There is nothing worse than buying a product, having it go faulty and then find that the warranty or guarantee is not worth the paper it is written on. Make sure that at as a minimum you are covered under warranty for parts. Very few offer any type of parts and labour warranty, but if you find a brand that does, then that is a huge bonus.
No matter which brand you buy, it will need parts at some stage such as new blades, guides or bearings. Please make sure that these are easy to obtain, otherwise your saw is pretty much redundant. The best way to check this is to do a search on line for the various parts, and also to check what other buyers are saying in reviews and Internet forums.
Customer Service & Support
Like the warranty above, if I need to make an enquiry or raise a complaint, I want a quick and efficient response. That is not too much to ask for, but everyday you read horror stories, of people being given the run around. That is why I prefer certain brands over others.
Personally I read reviews from other buyers, and especially those who have had problems, and been satisfied completely with the response that they received.
Setting Up Your Band Saw
I have been using a band saw for years and have set my own up and helped many others do the same. Some of the set up manuals that you get from certain manufacturers are in my opinion a disgrace. They have clearly not taken the effort to make their instructions clear.
If only they would use proper pictures and a genuine step by step method, it would make life a whole lot easier for people. Some brands on the other hand to a very good job when it comes to giving you a really good set up manual. There are a number of key adjustments when it comes to setting this up for the first time. The key ones are:
- Blade tension
- Adjustment of the blade guides
- Adjustment of the bearings
Blade adjustment is the key to having a proper working band saw. If this is not done properly, then all you really have is a piece of metal, or a saw that will continually have broken blades. These are not cheap to replace so that is just how important this is to get right. It takes a little patience and testing, but do follow the manual closely for the best results.
If you want to get the full and proper use from your band saw, then at some stage you will have to put on different blades. When checking out the features it is always a good idea to find out how easy this is to do. Some of them can be a real pain in the ass.
Making sure the blade has the right tension is what will really make your saw run smoothly and something like 15,000 PSI is ideal for a 1/2″ blade. This is usually adjusted by a knob and needs a little tweaking every now and then.
The Blade Guides & Bearing Adjustments
These normally take about 15-30 minutes to get adjusted and is a really good investment of your time. These prevent any type of lateral movement when the blade is engaged. These along with the thrust bearings will make your adjustments complete for these important guides.
The bearings help ensure that the saw is not pushed back too far, when it first meets the wood that you are cutting. In most cases these guides and bearings are made from metal, but they can be replaced with synthetic ones, that will over time extend the length of your blade.
I don’t bother with this myself but it is of course an option to consider. Some buyers use what are called Cool Blocks, as they are easier to adjust, and they also allow you to make use of really narrow blades.
Hard To Get A Good Fence
I find that with almost any saw I have used, that finding one with a good solid and accurate fence is quite difficult. The manufacturers it would seem treat this as a nice extra, where in my opinion, I think it should be a key feature.
A fence simply has to move easily, and lock down effectively, so it isn’t actually rocket science. Yet for some reason on a band saw many brands get this wrong. Check out any reviews on these saws if a fence is going to be something that you will regularly use, otherwise a poor version will drive you nuts.
The General Build of the Saw
If a saw is made from metal, then in my opinion, it is built better and will last longer. There are just far too many brands who have started to use hard plastic, and although that reduces the price, it also reduces the quality.
I would prefer to spend and extra few bucks and get something that is well made and easy to adjust. The type of things I am talking about are the adjustment knobs, the various catches and handles.
Using Your Saw Safely
Of all the power saws in the market, this is one of the safest to use. That said, accidents can happen, but as long as you work safely, then you should be safe with this one. Wearing goggles, gloves and watching your fingers will greatly increase your safety.
Also avoid loose cuffs as any moving parts will easily catch those and damage your arms. Not that many of these come with a light to illuminate the working area, but I think it is a great idea. It is however a nice to have so not completely necessary.
Should You Get A Band Saw or A Scroll Saw?
Now both of these do a similar job, in that they can both produce curved cuts. The difference is however in the cutting style. A band saw uses what is termed a continuous cutting motion which it gets from the band blade, whereas a scroll saw uses an up and down or oscillating movement.
To make that simple a scroll saw is in effect only actually cutting half of the time on the down stroke. If you looked at a piece of wood that has been cut with a band saw and compared that to one cut with a scroll saw, there are some noticeable differences. The wood cut with a scroll saw will have a highly smooth finish, whereas the wood cut with the band saw will be much rougher.
Carpenters who use a band saw will always cut really close to the line, and then use sand paper for a smooth finish. People who work on delicate projects or fine wood working will almost always use a scroll saw. For example people who make doll houses would use these.
Scroll saws are almost always used for cutting out an internal shape, as with the right size of blade, these can turn or change direction on a pin point. Remember though that any saw is dependent on the size of the blade to turn easily.
Should You Get A Band Saw or a Jigsaw?
Similar to the scroll style of saw, the jigsaw also uses an up and down action on the blade. Most people who work in the carpentry industry will tell you, and I do agree with them. that the band saw is just way superior to a jigsaw. This up and down motion that the jigsaw uses, can make it move off line whereas you will not have this issue with the band saw.
Don’t get me wrong a jigsaw does have many uses, but generally it is better for cutting out things like the sink position on a worktop, where the actual line of cut is not very precise.
Jigsaws are also much more portable, lightweight and it is a great deal easier to change the blades. Each saw has its own uses as you can see, so as I described in the first section of this article, it comes down to what you are using the saw for.