With a surprising variety of band saws for everything from woodworking to metal cutting the decision on which to buy can sometimes be overwhelming.
In the end, however, most band saw needs fall into a couple of distinct types of band saws. And, factoring in brands and performance the most popular saws are:
- Full Size Woodworking: JET JWBS-14SFX floor model features heavy duty cast iron tables and high quality fences
- Benchtop Woodworking: GRIZZLY G8030Z offers the best bang for the buck in compact saws
- Portable Bandsaw: MILWAUKEE 2429-21XC is part of a large lineup of cordless saws great for cutting pipe on the jobsite
Like any tool purchase its always best to take a few minutes and research just what all the options are. And, when it comes to bandsaws, you might be surprised what brands and options are out there.
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.
From the food-safe meat bandsaws used to cut that extra thick pork chop to a horizontal metal saw there are many styles to pick from. All of that to say that bandsaws have a wide range of features:
- Floor vs. bench
- Handheld for metal working
- Tabletop size
- Cut capacity
- Horizontal vs. vertical
And that’s just 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
In most small woodworking shops a full size band saw isn’t an option. Due to floor space, budget or even cost-to-value of a tool that won’t get much use its common a bandsaw is an add-on in most shops.
Which is why many woodworkers turn to benchtop saws that offer up a low cost entry point (typically under $200) to test the waters if it is a saw worth investing more in later.
- Shop Fox
From a top 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 Bandsaws For Woodworking
- 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 don’t make sense.
Which is why serious woodworkers opt for a floor model to avoid re-buying a large saw when they would quickly just 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.
Metal Band Saws
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:
- 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 saw or chop saw can quickly cut metal, precision cuts are best left to a bandsaw.
Unlike woodworking saws, a metal saw can be used either manually or semi-automatically. Through clamping and hydraulic feed systems higher end saws have the option of setting the stock in the saw vise, turning on the saw and letting it cut through large stock.
For the best performance, look to standard duty machines with ball bearing guides, adjustments and semi-auto feed.
Because with larger stock nobody wants to stand by the saw for hours a day.
Metal Band Saw Brands
Portable Band Saws
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 just miss a unique saw: the portable band saw.
While popular on jobsites 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, 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 jobsite there are only a few saws that 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, do you need to bring the saw to the material?
Which is why for those tasks where cutting metal in-place is required most metalworkers will turn to a portable bandsaw.
Metal Band Saw Brands
Vertical Band Saws
Some heavy duty metalwork requires a free-form cutting capability that only a bandsaw offers. Which is where some metal shops will opt for a vertical band saw to complement the standard horizontal saw.
Used most often in softer metals like aluminum these saws offer:
- Large cut capacity
- High quality tables
- Ball bearing guides
- Heavy duty blades
- And some offer wet lubrication
Meat Band Saws
If portable band saws weren’t well known, most don’t know that a lot of the meat put on the grill was cut with a bandsaw. While not a common purchase for homeowners no look at bandsaws would be complete without at least mentioning it.
Band Saw Manufacturers
Like most types of tools there are always a few specialty brands that 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 Band 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
Rikon Band Saws
Unless you spent time researching bandsaws its 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.
What Is a Bandsaw Used For?
While a scroll saw is commonly used for cutting complex shapes a bandsaw, due to its wide blade width, is best at tackling slight curves in thicker wood.
Common uses include:
- Re-sawing larger pieces of wood into strips
- Cutting curves in table legs
- Making circles
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 that is as thin as 1/2″ thick a high quality saw with accurate fence and larger table will often come in handy.
Can a bandsaw cut metal?
Vertical bandsaws were specifically 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 and allow 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 will start at $500 for a benchtop unit and $1200 for a floor model. While there are cheaper options, the best bandsaws have high quality fences, ball bearing guides and proven designs that allow for proper blade adjustment for precise cuts.