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Best Band Saws

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 34 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 260 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best band saws

    Last Updated December 2018

    A good band saw is an invaluable addition to your shop whether you are a professional furniture maker, a weekend woodworker, or an enthusiastic model maker. Band saws have the ability to create composite angles and to cut long, straight lines or tight curves. No other saw can match the band saw in terms of versatility.

    Manufacturers provide a host of options when it comes to band saws, and that's where many prospective buyers run into difficulty. With so many machines available, choosing the best band saw can be quite a challenge.

    The BestReviews team is here to help. We have our own extensive workshops for testing. We talk to tradespeople to get the experts' view. We trawl through feedback from hundreds of customers to get their opinions.

    Our results are completely impartial. We don't accept manufacturer samples, as this could lead to bias. We buy what we test with our own money, and we shop at the same places you would, so you know your tool will perform the same way ours did.

    The five band saws above carry our seal of approval. Each offer the best-in-class performance you should expect. For readers who would like a more in-depth examination of what makes a band saw great, we've compiled the following report.

    Benchtop band saws can be very portable, but it's a good idea to bolt them down when in use. Long boards provide a surprising amount of leverage and could cause your saw to move.

    Band saw performance criteria

    When choosing a band saw, there are several things you need to consider. In this shopping guide, we'll look at each of the following aspects of band saws.

    • Capacities

    • Construction

    • Power & speeds

    • Fences & guides

    • Set-up / blade changing

    • Other features

    Band saw capacities

    Initially, band saw capacity looks like a fairly straightforward figure. All band saws are given a size by their manufacturers – 8 inches, 14 inches, 21 inches, and so on. But what does this figure relate to?

    Maximum width of cut

    Band saw size refers to the distance from the visible part of the blade on the right to the column on the left that conceals the blade as it runs around (usually where the on/off button is mounted). It's called the throat, and it signifies the maximum width that can be cut from a piece of lumber. But it is not the maximum width of lumber you could use.

    Let's just clarify that. If you have a 10-inch band saw, there's nothing to stop you from putting a 24-inch wide board on the saw table … but you would only be able to cut a 10-inch wide strip from it. Still, that's quite a sizable chunk. Imagine the size of lumber you could work with on a 24-inch band saw. You could be cutting off boards that are two feet wide!

    In practice, a 24-inch band saw is a huge machine. They cost thousands of dollars and are unlikely to be seen outside a serious production facility. Most people would be perfectly happy with a band saw in the 8- to 10-inch range.

    EXPERT TIP

    When adjusting blade guides and thrust bearings, a small gap is left to stop friction from overheating the blade. An ordinary piece of copier paper or a dollar bill, folded in half, can serve as a good gauge of the proper gap distance.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Maximum depth of cut

    The other important dimension is maximum depth of cut: the thickness (height) of lumber you can get through the band saw.

    This is something you need to keep in mind as a potential buyer, because greater width does not necessarily mean greater depth of cut. It’s common for machines in the 10- to 14-inch range to have a maximum of six inches. But there are exceptions, so you need to look at the specifications of each machine carefully.

    A note about table size

    While not specifically related to capacity, a band saw’s table size is also important. The bigger the table, the more support you can give your work piece, and this usually leads to greater accuracy. You'll find several websites that give instructions on how to build extended tables – and they can be very useful – but a substantial original from the manufacturer is always a good thing.

    A few band saws have ribbed tables. We can't see a good reason for this, as the ribs tend to collect dust and dirt. A smooth cast surface is our preference.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Guides help prevent blade deflection. Lower guides are fixed. Top guides are adjustable. Always position them as close as possible to the work.

    Table saw construction

    Wheels

    Most band saws have two wheels with a blade running around them. The bottom wheel has a motor attached for drive.

    Three-wheel band saws do exist, but they are not common. Although the layout allows for a deeper throat, the wheels are smaller, and that impacts blade life. It's also notoriously difficult to maintain accuracy on a three-wheel band saw..

    Band saw wheels have thin rubber tires which cushion the blade so it's not running directly on the metal of the wheel. In addition to prolonging blade life, the wheels allow better control of the blade, which might otherwise slip.

    Rigidity

    The rigidity of band saw components has a big impact on accuracy. The best tables are made of cast iron, as are the best wheels. On large band saws, this is invariably the case. Premium machines also have rigid cast iron frames.

    On mid-range and smaller band saws, the wheels are often made of cast aluminum alloy or steel. The tables might be, too. It's a budget option and perfectly acceptable if the band saw is for light duty or hobby use.

    EXPERT TIP

    Dust and grit can wear on the rubber tires on your bandsaw wheels, eventually affecting accuracy. Check and clean the inside of your band saw regularly, even if you have dust extraction fitted.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Adjustability

    The band saw table should be adjustable for angle, from zero to 45 degrees, to allow for bevel cuts. It should also have a T-slot for use of guides.

    Floor-standing/benchtop

    You’ll need to decide whether you would prefer a floor-standing or benchtop band saw. Large machines have to be floor-standing simply because of their size, but in the mid-range (10 to 14 inches), you often have a choice.

    Some band saws have cabinet stands, which can be useful for storage. Some just have sturdy leg stands. Some people choose to build custom supports. There is plenty of design flexibility, but rigidity is vital.

    Many small band saws are benchtop only. They're light enough to use, then store elsewhere if space is at a premium. Nevertheless, we recommend bolting them down when in use to ensure stability.

    Band saw power and speed

    Band saw power comes by way of a fairly simple electric motor. There can be confusion when making comparisons, because some are rated in amps and others are rated in horsepower. In order to convert from one to the other, you need to know wattage and the percentage efficiency of the motor at full load. Not surprisingly, few people bother.

    As a guide, we would expect to see 2.5- to 3.5-Amp motors on 8- to 10-inch band saws. Above that, you're more likely to see horsepower quoted, with 1 hp sufficient for band saws of 12 to 14 inches and increasingly large motors thereafter. Though there are always exceptions, even the largest band saws seldom have motors more powerful than 3 hp.

    When it comes to speed, you generally have the choice of having one or two options. Speed change doesn’t come via the motor; rather, it comes by simple choice of pulleys driven by a v-belt. In theory, a band saw with two speeds allows you to choose the option most appropriate for a given blade, material thickness, and type. In practice, however, many people just opt for the faster of the two speeds and leave it there.

    EXPERT TIP

    Guide bearings should be set just behind the teeth, regardless of blade width.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Band saw fences & guides

    A good band saw should have a scale along the leading edge of the table and a fence (often called a rip fence) to set thickness of cut. It should also have a miter guide, which allows you to make angled cuts quickly and easily.

    It's disappointing that several reputable manufacturers provide neither a fence nor a miter guide as standard. These components are vital to making the most of your band saw. If you purchase one of these lacking band saws, you just might have to bite the bullet and pay extra to get a fence and guide.

    Set-up and blade-changing

    With large band saws, you’ll likely need to do some minor assembly, such as mounting the main body (on legs or a cabinet) and attaching the table. These tasks can require a bit of heavy lifting, so it's a good idea to have someone around to help. Don't rush things; your patience now will be repaid with accuracy later.

    You'll also have to install the blade or, if already fitted, tension and align it. The same procedure will need to be followed each time you change the blade. It's important to follow manufacturer instructions in case there are variations, but the routine is similar.

    • A new blade is slipped over top and bottom wheels. It should go over easily. If it doesn't, the top wheel should be wound down/loosened off. Usually this is done with a knob on top of the case, but some machines have quick-set levers which make the job faster and easier.

    • Once the blade is installed, tension is applied using the wheel/lever mentioned in the previous paragraph. This needs to be done carefully, following the guidelines provided with the machine. Too little tension and the blade will wander. Too much and you risk the blade breaking. There are usually marks inside the case to help you.

    • At this stage, the blade should run around the wheels freely, but it might move forward and back. If it's not running straight, it won't cut straight. This can be fixed by adjusting the tracking. On most machines, the top wheel is wound in or out a little (rather than up and down for tensioning).

    • Once tracking has been set, the upper and lower blade guides are positioned, again following the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Now you're good to go!

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Even worn band saw blades can cut you badly. Always wear sturdy gloves when changing them.

    Other band saw features

    • A prominent start/stop button is always a good idea. At some point, you'll almost certainly jam a blade, so being able to turn your band saw off quickly will save you from over-straining the motor.

    • A light is a nice addition to a band saw. It allows you to keep your work area bright.

    • A dust port should be fitted, and you should use some form of extraction. These vary in size, so check in case you need to buy a reducer.

    • Some band saws have a brush fitted to one wheel to help clear dust and debris. This prolongs the life of the rubber tires. They may need replacing eventually, but they will last hundreds of hours if you look after them properly.

    The importance of band saw blades

    Most band saws come with a perfectly adequate general-purpose blade, but you may find that you want to perform tasks with your new saw beyond “general purpose.”

    We don't have the space here to go into the enormous variety of band saw blades available. Any good woodworking site would have plenty of information about band saw blades. There are, however, some general rules about band saw blades that we can share.

    • A coarse blade of three or four teeth per inch (TPI) is used for fast cutting, particularly softwoods. The finish it leaves is quite rough, so sanding is often necessary. Bear this in mind when cutting, and leave more wood on the waste side of the cut to allow for it.

    • Fine blades produce a much cleaner finish, but they don't cut as quickly. You'll usually use them for more detailed work, particularly with hardwoods.

    • As a rough guide, you should have a minimum of three teeth cutting at any time. If your material is a couple of inches thick, a 6TPI blade will rip through it pretty quickly. If you're working with 1/8-inch ply, a coarse blade will produce lots of tear-out or might even jam. In this case, you should be using a 24TPI blade for efficient cutting.
       

    There's an old saying that "a band saw is only as good as its blade." It's true. Always buy the best band saw blade you can, and change the blade as soon as performance starts to deteriorate.

    EXPERT TIP

    If the sound of your band saw changes dramatically, it could be due to blade damage. Stop the saw and check carefully. Don't proceed until you've found the cause.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How much does a band saw cost?

    Band saw prices vary. In essence, it’s important that you find a machine that will handle the capacities you need.

    • If you're a 1:12 scale model maker, an 8- or 9-inch band saw might be all you ever want. Good ones cost around $150. With light use, a machine like that could potentially last a lifetime.

    • Before you make your purchase, however, you might want to look at 10- and 12-inch band saws. You’d likely pay between $200 and $250, but this type of saw generally grants a considerably greater depth of cut. These saws, both benchtop and floor-standing models, are popular because they satisfy the needs of a wide variety of hobbyists.

    • Larger band saws (14 inches and above) cost considerably more. Designed to meet the expectations of professionals, they're generally quite robust with cast iron components. That's not to say the keen amateur couldn’t use one; large, high-quality band saws can provide a great deal of enjoyment. But in order to purchase one, you’d have to spend upwards of $600. In fact, it’s not difficult to spend $1,000 or more on a band saw of this caliber.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Always keep your hands to the side of the blade – never directly behind it. Use a push stick to avoid getting your fingers too close.

    Tips

    • Mind your blade tension. If your saw is going to sit unused for more than a few days, it's a good idea to loosen the blade tension. This not only prolongs the life of the blade, it also relieves the stress on the rubber tires around the band saw wheels.

    • Keep your blade sharp. A sharp blade is vital to band saw accuracy. A blunt blade will start to wander, and you'll have difficulty following a line. New blades aren't expensive, so replace them as soon as this happens. Nobody really likes changing blades, but trying to carry on with one that's no longer sharp is false economy. You'll get frustrated, and you'll likely ruin your work.

    • Tension your blade properly. You should always follow manufacturer instructions for blade-tensioning, but one method pros have used to check – for as long as there have been bandsaws – is to pluck the back edge of the blade as you would a guitar string. A properly tensioned blade will give a clear, ringing note. A blade that's too loose or too tight will go “dunk.”

    FAQ

    Q. Are band saws used only for woodworking?
    A.
    While band saws are primarily aimed at the woodworker, they are often used to cut plastics and a variety of composites. With a fine-toothed blade, a band saw can even handle thin aluminum and brass, though sawing these materials must be done slowly and very carefully.

    If you need to cut steel or other thick metals, you’ll need a dedicated metal-cutting bandsaw.

    If you're likely to resaw long boards, site your band saw with plenty of space on either side; you need room for the whole length of the board both before and after cutting.

    Q. Why are several different widths of band saw blade available?
    A.
    One of the big benefits of a band saw is its ability to cut straight lines or curves. Doing this accurately means changing blades to suit the task. A wide, 3/4-inch blade will help you cut in a straight line when turning a thick block into thinner boards (called resawing). It will also cut gentle curves if necessary. For cutting tight curves, you need a thinner blade. Blades of 1/8-inch are available.

    Q. What are cool blocks?
    A.
    Olsen cool blocks are an alternative to the normal ball-bearing blade guides. Standard guides are metal, and a gap must be left to avoid overheating through friction. Cool blocks are made from a graphite-impregnated laminate that not only causes negligible friction but also lubricates the blade. It's claimed they improve blade life and accuracy, though the mounting method means they're not suitable for all band saws.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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