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Band Saws


Photo by Norbert Schnitzier
Portable Deitz band saw from 1911


A band saw is a power tool which uses a blade consisting of a continuous band of metal with teeth along one edge which rides on two or more wheels rotating in the same plane.

Band saws range in throat capacity from 8" to 36", with either two or three wheels for the blade. Blades for the home shop range from 1/8" to 1" wide, the narrow blades are used to cut small radius curves, the wide blades are used for straight cuts such as resawing. The smaller three wheel style is not that popular as the blades tend to break frequently due to the small curvature around the wheels.

Early Band Saws

Powered Band Saw 1871

bandsaw patent
Vintage Internet Patents


Pedal Band Saw 1877

bandsaw patent1
Vintage Internet Patents



14" Band Saw
A good entry level machine.

Be aware that manufactures seem to list band saws based on the diameter of the wheels, not the throat capacity, a 14" saw will often only have a throat capacity of around 13 1/2".

A good quality band saw properly set up it will become one of the most used tools in your shop. Choose at least a 14" model if you plan to do much resawing, the smaller models are a bit too light.

Most would choose a band saw over a table saw if only one of them could be had, they are so much more versatile. Cutting dados is not possible on a band saw but they can be done on a router.

The only downside is that they require more set up than any other tool in the shop, different operations require different blades, each time a blade is changed the saw has to be tuned to that particular blade. Many shops eventually end up with a large machine for heavy work and a smaller machine with a narrower blade for fine work.

Shop and Compare Bandsaws



18" Band Saw
An excellent resawing

19th Century Patent
10 X 13 Print

Tuning a Band Saw

Unplug bandsaw when installing and centering blade.

Adjust tilt of top wheel so the gullets of the teeth are running dead center on the wheels, spin the top wheel by hand to check.

The tension should be just enough to prevent slipping on the wheels but not enough to stretch the blade, the wider the blade the more tension required. If there is too little tension the blade will not cut straight, increase a bit at a time until you feel you can control the cut. Some inexpensive or damaged blades will wander no matter what you do.

Set guide blocks to miss the teeth but support the rest of the blade. Wrap a single layer of 24# paper around the blade to set the side clearance.

The back up roller should be set so it does not turn when idling but will support the blade when cutting.

Condition the back of the blade, with the blade running hold a sharpening stone against the back corners of the blade to round them off, this will allow you to cut sharper corners with less binding.

Check if table is set square to blade, otherwise your cut will not be 90 degrees.

Set fence to blade, most band saws do not cut parallel to edge of table so the fence has to be adjusted accordingly. Mark a line about 3" from and parallel to the straight edge of a 12" square scrap of plywood, make a cut into plywood following the line for about six inches. Stop the saw, keeping the plywood in the position it was in while making the cut. Align the fence to the straight edge of the plywood.

There are many variables when setting a band saw, each blade will have its own characteristics, often you may find that you have to go back and tweak some of the previous settings again as you go through the procedure. It can be a time consuming exercise, but well worth it in the long run.

Before adjusting your saw watch this video by Carter, it is the best explanation I have ever run across:


carter guide

Carter Products from Rockler.com

Band Saw Blades

bandsaw blades

Bandsaw Blades

Order from:


Using the proper blade will give a better cut and make the job much easier and safer.

Regular Tooth - Available in finer tooth pitches for smoother cuts in all woods. NOT for resawing.

Hook Tooth - 10 rake angle - best for hard and difficult to cut woods. High rake angle makes the blade very aggressive.

Skip Tooth - 0 rake angle - best for softer woods. An all purpose blade, excellent for resawing.

More teeth per inch will make a smoother cut but the blade will cut slower, a blade with fewer TPI will cut quicker and leave a rougher finish. For resawing, you will want an aggressive blade, one with very few TPI, and as wide as the saw will accommodate. As a general rule you will want at least 3 teeth in the material at all times. A wide blade will provide you with more stability and giver you a straighter cut. The narrower the blade the tighter the radius you can cut. You should always run as wide a blade as possible for the particular job.

Blade Width
Cut Radius
1 1/2"
2 1/2"
5 1/2"

Band Saw Fences

One of the first things you will notice about a band saw is that every blade cuts on a different path. Setting the fence parallel to the miter slot will not usually work, the cut will tend to drift toward one side or the other. To set the fence draw a line down the center of a scrap of plywood about a foot square, cut along this line about half way through, twisting the plywood to stay on the line. Stop the cut, shut of the band saw with the plywood still in the position to cut along the line. The edge of the plywood will indicate the angle the fence must be set at for that particular blade. Most experienced woodworkers will purchase at least one quality blade in the widths they think they will need when purchasing a new saw and use these blades instead of the stock blade that comes with the saw.

Band Saw Accessories from Rockler

Check For Recalls

Fasten the machine securly to the bench or stand.

Read the owners manual and understand the limitations of your particular machine.

Wear safety glasses or face sheild.

Make sure all guards are in place, never run the saw with wheels exposed in case the blade should run off.

Set upper guide to 1/8" above stock being cut.

Ensure blade tension is set properly and the blade is tracking in the center of the wheels.

Hold stock firmly and flat on the table with your hands braced against the table.

Keep your hands to one side of the blade, not in line with it, don't force the material into the blade.

Use a fence and push stick to cut narrow pieces.

Keep the floor clear of clutter around the machine.

Do not back the stock away from the blade if the saw is in motion.

Use the proper blade for the job, narrow blade to cut small radius curves, wide blade to cut straight lines.

Never leave the saw running unattended.

13 X 19 Shop Poster

Download free .pdf image

Band saw safety rules on 1871 band saw
original patent drawing background