Bandsaws are unique in the size and function of what they can cut. From woodworking bandsaws to metal and even “bone saws,” this saw will cut almost everything.
But choosing the best bandsaw for woodworking takes a bit of research and understanding some essential functions such as:
- Weight is necessary to reduce vibration
- Cast iron tables offer both weight and the best accuracy
- Saws with rip fences allow for making safer cuts vs. a table saw
- Higher quality tables have a tilt function for angled cutting
- Look for dust blowers, laser guides, dust ports, and ball-bearing guides on higher-quality saws
While there are popular brands in band saws, a few (like RIKON) may seem like an import but are respected names in band saws.
Types of Band Saws
Depending on how you count features, throat capacity, and the inside build of a saw, there are easily a dozen variations on a bandsaw.
There are many styles, from the food-safe meat bandsaws that cut that extra thick pork chops to a horizontal metal saw. All of that to say that bandsaws have a wide range of features:
- Floor vs. bench
- Handheld for metalworking
- Tabletop size
- Cut capacity
- Horizontal vs. vertical
And that’s to name a few.
Benchtop Band Saws For Woodworking
- Rip fence
- 1/4-horsepower motor
- 9-inch cutting width
- 3-inch depth of cut
- Blade tension lever
- Ball bearing guides
- Cast iron table
- Tilting table
- High quality fence
- Dust blower
- Laser guides
- 2-inch dust port
- Ball bearing guides
A full-size band saw is only an option in some small woodworking shops. Due to floor space, budget, or even the cost-to-value of a tool that will only get a little use, it’s expected that a bandsaw is an add-on in most shops.
This is why many woodworkers turn to benchtop saws that offer up a low-cost entry point (typically under $200) to test the waters to see if it is worth investing in later.
- Shop Fox
The features a 10-inch cut, dual speeds, 1/2-HP motor, high-quality fence, and a cast iron table. Learn more about this top brand that sports a 5-year warranty over here.
From a major woodworking brand, the Grizzly G8030Z has an upgraded fence, many of the high-end options, and lands as the top benchtop value for small shops.
Also, consider: RIKON 10-305
Full Size Saws
- Quality fence
- 1-horsepower motor
- 13-inch cutting width
- 12-inch depth of cut
- Tilting cast iron table
- Ball bearing guides
- Horsepower / 3 Phase
- Advanced fences
- Milling-machine grade trunions
With just a bit more space and budget, upgrading to a full-size model offers many advantages. Since a benchtop model is restricted in size, advanced features found on floor models often need to be clarified.
This is why serious woodworkers opt for a floor model to avoid re-buying a large saw when they would quickly out-grow the other.
Floor Model Brands
- JET Tools
- Laguna Tools
- General International
The Jet JWBS-18-3 sports commercial-rated three-phase power, a cast iron tilting table, and a cut capacity of 16 inches that can re-saw just about anything you can lift into it.
Unlike woodworking, when it comes to metalworking, the most common saw in any shop is a metal band saw.
With the ability to place, clamp and start cutting, this saw will precisely cut through all types of steel. And when done, most higher-end units will shut themselves off.
For most metal workers, the deciding factor on which saw is best ultimately comes down to the following:
- Size of metal stock
- Dry vs. wet cutting
- Need for adjustable speed
- Angle options
- Footprint of the saw (shop size used)
- Manual vs. semi-auto
Metal Working Saw Overview
- Vise to clamp stock in place
- 1/2-HP motor
- 4×6″ cutting
- Swivel vise head to 45-degrees
- Hydraulic feed control
- Adjustable blade speed
- 6×12″ or higher stock capacity
- Wet cutting system
- Removable chip tray
While a cold or chop saw can quickly cut metal, precision cuts are best left to a bandsaw.
Unlike woodworking saws, a metal saw can be used manually or semi-automatically. Through clamping and hydraulic feed systems, higher-end saws can set the stock in the saw vise, turn on the saw, and let it cut through large inventory.
For the best performance, look to standard-duty machines with ball bearing guides, adjustments and semi-auto feed.
Because with larger stock, people want to avoid standing by the saw for hours a day.
When metal or woodworkers spend enough time in their trade, they think they have seen it all.
But, unless you spend your days and weeks shopping for tools, you might miss a unique saw: the portable band saw.
While popular on job sites that are heavy into metalworking, these corded or cordless portable units can make heavy-duty cuts without shop tools.
And, as almost any tool you can pickup-up is now cordless, they are available from top manufacturers like Dewalt and Milwaukee in a cordless design.
Cordless Bandsaw Overview
- 5-inch cut capacity
- Cordless or corded
- Tool less blade tension adjustment
- Tool less blade change
- Variable speed
- Specialty compact size for tight areas
- Larger cut capacity
When working with metal on a job site, only a few saws can make heavy-duty cuts.
With any saw, though, comes a decision on whether you can lift or move the metal or wood to the saw. Or would you like to bring the saw to the material?
This is why most metalworkers will turn to a portable bandsaw for those tasks where cutting metal in place is required.
Some heavy-duty metalwork requires a free-form cutting capability that only a bandsaw offers. Some metal shops will use a vertical band saw to complement the standard horizontal saw.
Used most often in softer metals like aluminum, these saws offer the following:
- Large cut capacity
- High-quality tables
- Ball bearing guides
- Heavy-duty blades
- And some offer wet lubrication
If portable band saws weren’t well known, most don’t know that much of the meat on the grill was cut with a bandsaw. While not a standard purchase for homeowners, no look at bandsaws would be complete without at least mentioning it.
Like most types of tools, a few specialty brands always tend to shine in one category.
And from metalworking to woodworking, the following suppliers have a wide range of saws to choose from:
- Jet, RIKON, and Grizzly are top saw manufacturers
- Ryobi band saws are offered for entry-level woodworking
- Skil, WEN, and Craftsman also offer basic saws
- For cordless portable use, Dewalt and Milwaukee portable bandsaws are popular
- Porter Cable and Delta, while popular in other tool lineups, have a few saws but are not widely penetrated in these types of saws
Jet tends to dominate the vertical woodworking saw market. With a strong focus on floor models for serious woodworkers, their woodworking bandsaw lineup is diverse and designed to meet entry-level to professional woodworker needs.
And JET is also known for:
- Dust collectors
- Table saws
- Drum sanders
Unless you spent time researching bandsaws, likely, you haven’t heard of this brand.
As an ISO9001 facility, they offer quality tools with high-end features. And all backed by a five-year warranty that is hard to find in any tool lineup.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best bandsaw for woodworking?
Most woodworkers prefer a floor-based bandsaw with a larger table than is generally available on a benchtop bandsaw. Because bandsaws can be used to re-cut lumber as thin as 1/2″ thick, a high-quality saw with an accurate fence and a larger table will often come in handy.
Can a bandsaw cut metal?
Vertical bandsaws were explicitly built to cut metal and use a design similar to their woodworking counterparts. Much like a horizontal saw, these saws use high-quality carbide to cut material, allowing for cutting corners, curves, or just about any straight cut you can fit onto the table.
How much does a bandsaw cost?
A high-quality bandsaw costs $500 for a benchtop unit and $1200 for a floor model. While cheaper options exist, the best bandsaws have high-quality fences, ball-bearing guides, and proven designs that allow for proper blade adjustment for precise cuts.
While there are many band saws, the best band saw for your shop is usually a cut capacity and budget decision. Like most woodworking tools, the adage “buy once, cry once” is necessary with this tool to avoid going cheap and having to upgrade later.
- About the Author
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Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.