Last Updated on April 12, 2023 by Barry Gray
Where are you on your woodworking journey? Are you still a beginner, or have you been at it for some years now and are considering buying a band saw? As with our household budgets, the woodwork shop can contain some “nice to haves” and some “have to have” pieces of equipment when it comes to power tools.
Surveys among woodworkers regarding the need to have a band saw in your shop have yielded a firm negative. A band saw is nice to have but is not essential to the types of projects you can do with or without a band saw. Other types of equipment can be used to do the same work.
Setting yourself up to do a comprehensive range of projects in your workshop does not require you to have a band saw in your arsenal of equipment. We will look at the most common tasks performed with a band saw and how these can be done by using other more essential woodworking tools.
What Is A Band saw Typically Used For
Band saws are most typically used to do the following tasks in the woodwork shop:
1. Splitting Pieces of Wood Into Two Halves Along The Lenght Of The Wood
When a thick and broad piece of wood can be split down the middle to form two planks of equal thickness, a band saw is a handy tool to achieve this cut. However, the same task can be done far more safely and accurately using a table saw.
The thick length of wood can be cut into two halves by setting up the table saw blade to cut halfway into the wood from one edge and then turn the wood around and cut it from the other edge using the same guide setting. This would yield two planks with a similar grain pattern and almost equal thickness.
Finally, you would pass both planks through a thickness planer to make both sides of the wood smooth and flat. Even if you used a band saw for the splitting operation, you would still have to plane all sides of the wood to eliminate any blade marks.
2. A Band Saw Is Also Ideal For Cutting Curved Surfaces To A High Level Of Precision
The width of the band saw blade allows the operator to make cuts along complex curved edges. Once the curved cuts have been made, they can be accurately trimmed to shape using a small block plane or sander to achieve the desired curved edge.
The same curved edge can be achieved by making use of a jigsaw. A jigsaw is light and maneuverable and can cut along a curved line as accurately but perhaps slightly more slowly than a band saw.
Book Matching wood with a band saw is when you split a piece of wood down the length of the wood to yield two planks with matching grain patterns. The two halves can then be bonded together to resemble a book with symmetrical grain along the centerline.
A table saw can be used to achieve the same split cut from the top and bottom edge and then be put through a thickness planer to create two smooth surfaces with symmetrical grain patterns.
3. Band Saws Are Ideal For Cutting Notches And Joints Or Cutting Thick Pieces Of Wood Over Twelve Inches In Diameter
Band saws can also be cut through non-ferrous metals, plastic, or other synthetic materials. Other methods can also cut these applications.
Notches and joints can be cut using a jointer, a table saw, or a jigsaw. Non-ferrous metals, plastics, and synthetic materials can be cut using a jigsaw or a metal saw. For most woodworkers, cutting wood wider than twelve inches in width to thinner planks is rare.
Why You Don’t Need A Band saw In Your Shop
A Band saw is nice to have in your workshop as they are quite bulky and take up a lot of space. Most jobs done with a band saw can be done using alternative tools. A circular saw and a jigsaw are the most versatile in your arsenal of power saws.
Band saws introduce a level of risk to the woodworker and are probably the most dangerous of all the power saws, except for the chain saw. All saw blades running at high speed pose a risk to the hands of a woodworker, and care should always be taken to use safety equipment and machine guides.
For the price of a band saw, you can buy a lot more useful tools for your workshop. A band saw blades are also more sensitive to correct alignment and require maintenance to keep the teeth sharp and ensure that the blade does not pinch and break. Buying a band saw is recommended only for skilled woodworkers with available space and a definite need for a band saw.
A single blade is not sufficient to do different types of cuts. You will have to keep several different band saw blades in stock and be adept at switching out between different blade types. The band saw blades are expensive, and if you need to have various types of blades, the cost quickly adds up.
A band saw requires a significant space footprint in a workshop. As you will want to use the band saw for cutting long thick pieces of wood, you will also need to allocate the space around the band saw to have such bulky pieces. You may find that the sacrifice in woodshop space is not worth the sacrifice.
A band saw is not ideal for use by novice woodworkers, and most jobs for which a band saw is designed can be performed using alternative tools. As the financial investment in a band saw is quite high, the purchase can be delayed or completely avoided by most woodworkers.
If you are new to woodwork or even somewhat more advanced in your skills and project complexity, you can avoid the need for a band saw by planning out your wood needs in advance. Your budget can be far better spent on a good drill, a handheld circular saw, and a jigsaw.