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Updated July 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best band saw blades

Whether you own a wood- or metal-cutting band saw, choosing the best band saw blade for it can be a real challenge. At first glance, these seem to be fairly basic items: little more than a ribbon of steel with some jagged teeth. In fact, they come in a variety of lengths and widths, can be made from several different materials, have different tooth shapes, and can be capable of cutting wood, plastics, laminates, aluminum, steel, and even cast iron.

While a general-purpose band saw blade might seem the simple answer, and it can often be a cost-effective solution, it can also result in poor performance and disappointing results. Taking a few minutes to select the right blade for the job will increase both accuracy and productivity.

Fortunately, most of these blades are not expensive, so having a selection of three or four different sizes to choose from is a practical solution.

band saw blade
Always think of safety first. A band saw blade that can cut wood or metal will cause serious damage to fingers and hands.

How to buy the best band saw blades

Materials

Although wood-cutting band saws and metal-cutting band saws are quite different tools, the same general principles apply to choosing the best blades for both. However, while there is some overlap in blade materials, there are also clear differences.

Carbon steel: These blades (also called spring steel) are often what is supplied with a new wood-cutting band saw. They are inexpensive to make and can cut a wide variety of materials, including wood, plastics, fiberglass, brass, aluminum, and even thin steel. However, they do wear out relatively quickly, particularly when cutting metal.

Bimetal: As the name suggests, bimetal blades are made of two metals, usually carbon steel for the main body and high-speed steel (HSS) or cobalt steel for the teeth. The blades cost more, but the cutting edges are much harder and more durable. Bimetal blades can be found on both wood- and metal-cutting band saws.

Carbide-tipped: These blades usually have a carbon steel body with tungsten carbide powder bonded to the cutting edge. They often don’t have teeth. Tungsten carbide (or carbide) is a very hard compound that can cut through steel and cast iron. While mostly found on metal-cutting band saws, carbide blades can also cut concrete, ceramics, masonry, and stone. They’re also found on large logging band saws.

Diamond-tipped: These blades have industrial diamond grit bonded to the cutting edge, similar to carbide-tipped blades. The resulting blade can cut through just about anything, but the higher cost means they’re usually reserved for specialist processes like cutting quartz and glass.

band saw blade
DID YOU KNOW?
An old pro tip says that a properly adjusted band saw blade should sound clear when plucked, just like a guitar string. If it sounds dull, either the tension is wrong or the blade may be damaged.
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Features of band saw blades

Dimensions

Length: Every band saw requires a blade of a particular length. It’s a fixed dimension, and blades of the wrong length simply won’t fit.

Width: Band saws also have minimum and maximum blade widths. The narrowest is usually 1/8 inch, and few exceed 2 inches, though wider blades can be found on large industrial machinery.

Different widths serve different cutting purposes. Narrow blades are better for cutting curves, which is one of the popular uses of a band saw. A narrower blade can cut a tighter curve. For example, a 1/8-inch blade can cut a 3/16-inch radius, whereas a 1/2-inch blade can only cut a 2 1/2-inch radius.

However, narrow blades can make it difficult to cut straight lines, especially in thick material. If you want to take deep slices off a piece of wood (when cutting veneers, for example), a wider blade offers better straight-line control. There’s more metal in the blade and therefore more stiffness to support the cutting edge.

General guidelines say to use the widest blade possible for a particular job. The blade will cut straighter, be less prone to overheating, and last longer. Only use narrow blades when curves are required.

Thickness: The thickness of the steel used for the blade can also have an impact, though there isn’t a great deal of choice in this area unless the blades are custom-made.

Teeth

TPI: This is teeth per inch. Usually, having more teeth per inch means a smoother cut but at a slower rate. For rough sawing of softwoods, you might use a blade of as low as 3 TPI. For general-purpose band sawing, 6 to 8 TPI is often recommended. For fine cutting or hardwoods, your choice would be 12 to 14 TPI. High TPI is also recommended for thin material. If there are too few teeth making contact with the material, the cut will be ragged.

Metal-cutting band saws have a comparatively higher tooth count. For soft metals like aluminum and brass, you might use a blade with 8 to 10 TPI, whereas for steel it could be 14 to 16 TPI. Once again, cutting thin material requires higher TPI, and when cutting sheet steel it could be over 20 TPI.

Normally, the wider the blade, the lower the TPI. For instance, you probably won’t find a 1-inch wood-cutting blade with more than 10 TPI. You’ll sometimes have to compromise between blade stiffness and cut quality. If a fine finish is required, maximize the number of teeth. If rapid sawing is more important, a wide blade with fewer teeth is the better choice.

Shape: Tooth shape on these blades varies tremendously.

  • Standard: This tooth pattern is the most common. It has regularly spaced teeth for all-around use. Many home woodworkers or hobby metalworkers will never need anything else.
  • Skip: A skip tooth pattern has long gaps between the teeth, as if every other one has been “skipped.” These blades are for fast cutting through thick lumber or plastics and are designed to clear waste quickly so they don’t clog.
  • Hook: These teeth have a pronounced curve and are also for aggressive cutting, though they will produce a neater edge than skip tooth blades.
  • Alternate: Though much less common, there are also alternate or raker teeth, which have one tooth angled to the right and the next to the left. These almost always have high TPI and are designed for thin material, though this type of blade is more usually used on scroll saws for more delicate cutting.

Tooth shape is an often overlooked feature of band saw blades. It’s an area worth exploring, particularly if you cut a wide variety of materials.

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How much do band saw blades cost?

Inexpensive

The cheapest band saw blades are plain carbon steel, which is fine for high-productivity use when cutting softwoods. Depending on the size of the saw, these can start from well under $10.

Mid-range

Bimetal band saw blades for wood, plastics, and soft metals like aluminum or hard metals like steel cost around $15 to $30, though lower prices are available for those who buy blades in packs of five or more.

Expensive

Commercial band saws often require longer and wider blades or carbide-tipped versions for heavy-duty metal cutting. These can be significantly more expensive, and it’s not unusual for them to cost $80 or more.

band saw blade
CAUTION
A band saw blade can get very hot during use, though it may not seem like it. Allow time for the blade to cool before adjusting or changing it or it could burn you.
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Tips

There are several ways you can prolong the life of your band saw blades and maintain their accuracy, as well as stay safe while using them.

  • Handle band saw blades correctly. Even old blades can cut you badly. They’re usually coiled when they arrive, so be aware that they might spring open. Unpack them with care at arm’s length. It’s a good idea to wear cut-resistant gloves when unwrapping or disposing of these blades, though you should not wear gloves when actually using the band saw because there’s a risk of them catching in the blade.
  • Fit the band saw blade correctly. Blades have adjustment for tension and tracking. Check the owner’s manual to learn how to do this properly. Don’t guess about this even if you’ve used a band saw before. Minor differences in instructions can make a big difference in performance. It’s not something that takes very long, and when done properly the saw will cut quickly and accurately. Incorrect adjustment will invariably result in substandard work.
  • Use the right blade guides. Blade guides sometimes use roller bearings but might also be fixed steel blocks. The latter cause friction, which increases heat in the blade. Cool blocks are an alternative available for some band saws. They’re made of phenolic resin impregnated with graphite. These self-lubricating blocks can extend blade life. For frequent band saw users, they’re certainly worth considering.
  • Know when to change your band saw blade. While it’s good to maximize the life of the blade, there is a point when performance deteriorates and the blade needs to be changed. Not only do worn blades cut badly, they also put unnecessary strain on other saw components, potentially shortening the working life of the whole tool. There are some indicators of worn blades that are easy to spot:
    • The blade wanders no matter how much you adjust it.
    • The blade starts to overheat because the tension is set too high (in trying to keep it straight). Burned wood is a clear sign.
    • The blade is noisy because it’s rubbing against the material, not cutting it.
    • The blade develops hairline cracks. If these appear, stop immediately.
band saw blade
Give the blade a quick visual check before each work session. If you spot missing teeth or hairline fractures, change the blade immediately. Sudden breakage is rare, but it can be very dangerous.

FAQ

Q. Are more teeth per inch better?

A. Not necessarily. Generally speaking, higher TPI produces smoother cuts and is better for hard materials. However, the sawing is slower. For rough cutting of softwoods, for example, low TPI is better. Most band saw users have a selection of blades to suit different purposes.

Q. How long should a band saw blade last?

A. It’s difficult to say because it depends on how frequently it’s used and the materials it’s cutting. In a professional environment, a blade might only last a week. Hobby users should probably expect it to last at least a few months and perhaps up to a year.

Q. How do I sharpen a band saw blade?

A. You can use a small round file or a rotary tool with a carbide burr to regrind the edges of the teeth. However, this is very laborious and can only be done once or twice before the cutting edge is worn away. Given the relatively low cost of these blades, most people treat them as disposable.

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