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Updated on February 27, 2010
Photo by Cory LaFLamme
Photo by Cory LaFLamme

A bandsaw is a power-driven tool for cutting wood and metals. Band saws are used mainly in sawmills and in cutting wood parts for furniture and metal parts for machinery.

The band saw has a thin, continuous ribbon of steel with teeth cut into one edge. The band of steel is mounted like a belt on two broad-faced wheels. The power-driven wheels cause the band to travel at rates ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 feet (2,400 to 3,600 meters) per minute. The lower speeds are used to cut hardwoods, and the higher speeds are used to cut softwoods.

Amazing Bandsaw Skills

In log mills, a band-saw blade usually is 49 feet (15 meters) long and 1 foot (0.3 meters) wide. The blade thickness is 14 gauge, the saw teeth are 0.75 inch (1.90 cm) long, and the distance between the teeth points is 1.75 inches (4.44 cm). For sawing very hard wood the teeth are shorter, the teeth points are spaced more closely, and the teeth have very little set.

For cutting white pine and similar softwoods, the recommended gauges, for all saw widths, are as follows: for bands up to 14 feet (4.27 meters) long, 22 gauge; for bands 15 to 17 feet (4.57 to 5.18 meters) long, 21 gauge; for bands 18 to 20 feet (6.59 to 6.10 meters) long, 20 gauge; for bands from 21 to 24 feet (6.40 to 7.32 meters) long, 19 gauge; and for bands 25 to 30 feet (7.62 to 9.14 meters) long, 18 gauge. For cutting hardwoods like oak and beech, the thickness of the blade should be increased by one gauge number, and the teeth points should be spaced more closely. For cutting metal, the thickness of the blade should be increased by three gauge numbers, the teeth points should be spaced 20 to the inch (8 to the centimeter), and the teeth should have little or no set.

For resawing, that is, sawing planks and boards into two or more thinner pieces, a thin saw is especially desirable to minimize waste. With the use of equipment such as automatic saw sharpeners, it has been found that thinner and thinner blades could be used. Saw blades as thin as 0.02 inch are used successfully.

The success of the band saw is due to the skill of the saw maker in turning out saw blades that retain a good cutting edge and are flexible enough to pass over the wheels without cracking. The usefulness of the saw also depends on the skill of the saw filer in fitting his saws.


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