When you enter the world of woodworking, or any other trade for that matter, it can take some time and instruction to really learn how to use the various tools out there. Woodworking has a large assortment of tools and they all serve a different purpose.
You use tools like the lathe to form unique items, you use the table saw to make cuts to lumber and other items. You use tools like the bandsaw to cut curves or to make rip cuts and thin lumber. There are so many different things.
The thing is, not all of these tools work the same. While you might use a table saw or a circular saw in a specific way, you might use other options like the bandsaw or scroll saw in completely different ways!
This can quickly become overwhelming. The good news is that as you become accustomed to using them, they are pretty simple and straight forward to master and put to work. In this guide, we are going to share with you a quick instructional on how to use a bandsaw.
We’ve got some tips and some steps to help get you on your way and informed. You can also check out this quick video overview that we found helpful for step-by-step instructions on how to use a bandsaw.
What are Bandsaws Used For?
Before we get started, it’s important that you understand just what you will use a band saw for. They are designed for certain types of cuts and when you put it to work, you should plan to do so correctly.
These saws are not meant for cutting long, straight lines. They can be versatile and they can also be very safe in comparison to other types of saws out there. You will find that band saws can cut both wood and metal, you just need the right blade for the task.
The band saw can cut straight lines or curved lines. You will find they can handle even the tightest of curves if you equip them with the proper blade. You can also make rip cuts with them even.
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Setting Up Your Band Saw
First things first. You need to prepare your band saw for use. This means getting it ready with the right blade and settings. What you should know is that setting the band saw up for use is quite possibly the most challenging part of the task. The good news is that it also isn’t overly challenging.
Your blade needs to be installed properly and you need to be sure you are using the right blade for the task. If you’re cutting curves, you might do better with a narrow blade. If you’re looking for a smooth cut, go for a blade with more teeth.
These are some good tips for choosing the proper blade but it isn’t an all-inclusive guide on choosing a blade. Many woodworkers prefer blades that are about 1/2 an inch wide and sport a TPI (teeth per inch) of 3 for general use so that might be a good place to start.
Do a bit of research on your blade and make sure you have the right blade for your task and for the material that you are going to cut. It’s up to you to make sure you educate yourself on the proper blade so that your cutting will turn out like you need or want it to!
Now, here are some simple steps for getting your blade set up.
- Make sure the saw is powered off and that it is unplugged for your safety.
- Open up the cabinet of the saw and release the blade tension device. Loop your blade of choice onto the bottom wheel there.
- Roll the blade onto the top, keeping the teeth of the blade facing down towards your table top of the saw.
- Tighten up the tension on the blade. You don’t want to make it too tight but tighten it enough to release any slack from the blade.
- Rotate your top wheel using your hands and make adjustments to the tracking knob until your blade is near the middle of the wheels.
- From here, you need to get your tension right. Your blade packaging should have instruction from the manufacturer for the appropriate tensioning to use.
These steps get your blade in place and tensioned correctly. Follow the remaining steps to finish getting the band saw set up and ready for use.
- Loosen your blades locking bolt at the top. Find the thrust bearing and adjust it so that it is not touching the blade. Your distance will not be large, probably about the thickness of a business card.
- On the sides of the blade, loosen the locking bolts of the guide blocks. Adjust them so they are also away from the blade, about the thickness of a business card or piece of paper.
- Now alight the guide blocks to make them even with the gullets between the blade’s teeth.
- If your band saw also has guides below the table, adjust them in the same manner.
- To finish, adjust your table to square it to the blade. You can use a combination square to help you get the table square. Loosen the locking knobs as needed for adjustments and tighten the knobs when you are finished.
Now, band saws are used a lot for curved cuts but can also be used for straight cuts. We will cover both here.
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How to Use the Band Saw for Curved Cuts
Once you have your bandsaw set up, it’s really pretty straightforward to use. You will need to first determine whether your cuts will be curved or straight and then take it from there.
You’ve already gone through the hardest part of choosing your blade and getting the blade, guides, and guard all set up. Your table is square and now you just need to get cutting!
Follow these simple steps for how to make curved cuts on your band saw.
- Remember that narrow blades work best for tight curves but they are not great for normal curves. At this point, you’ve probably already set up and chosen your blade but we felt it was important to point this out still!
- As you cut, you will need to feed steadily and lightly and try not to stop and start as you go as this will negatively impact your cutting.
- Measure and prepare the wood by drawing lines to use as guides for you to follow as you cut.
- Start up the saw and move steadily but slowly, trying to stay on or close to the line to the best of your ability. If you stray slightly, just keep cutting to keep your cut smooth.
- Turn your wood as needed to make your curves. This will take some getting used to so try some practice runs before you work on your actual piece. Do not readjust the approach of your wood and turning as you go as this will leave you with a rough cut.
- As you move the wood, do your best to stay on the line or slightly outside your line if possible.
With a band saw, it can take a bit of practice to really get used to cutting the curves. You will improve and get to know your saw and the movements as you try. It’s ok to make several practice runs before you start a real project.
While you’re cutting, if you find it hard to stay on the line, we recommend the outside of the line rather than inside the line. It is much easier to correct the piece if you were outside of the line. You can easily trim back in or even sand it down. However, if you cut inside the line this can be harder to correct in the end.
If you’re going to have tight curves, it might be easier to do just a little bit of prep work to help maneuver. You can make cuts that are known are relief cuts in the wood. These cuts are made perpendicular to your curve, clear to the line. Basically, as you cut the line, the relief cuts will help these wood scraps to just fall away and give you a little more working space for the cut.
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How to Use the Band Saw for Straight Cuts
While bandsaws are more known for making curved cuts, they can also make straight cuts. You probably won’t make straight cuts on a whole 2 x 4 or plywood sheet, like you would on a table saw but you never know.
The band saw is much safer and sometimes easier to guide but it does have its limitations as well.
Follow these simple steps for making straight cuts using a bandsaw.
- Set your guard to approximately 1/2 an inch above the stock to prepare.
- Always square your blade and make sure that it will cut parallel to your fence for the cut.
- Use a long piece of crap wood to help you cut straight and guide the wood as you go. You can draw a line down the center of the scrap wood to help keep the wood parallel as well.
- Align your scrap wood with the blade. This will help you keep a smooth, straight cut. You can also use the scrap wood to help set your fence to the appropriate line, making your fence parallel to the blade.
- Once you’ve set your fence, it will be parallel and then you can move it if you have a different width to work with. You can also clamp wood to the table if you don’t have a fence on your saw.
- Turn on your saw and start pushing the wood forward, make sure it is lined up to the fence and straight.
- Continue pushing the wood forward until you have cut through as needed.
When it comes to cutting straight cuts on the bandsaw, you want to keep moving just like you did on the curved cuts. If you stop and then start and try to make adjustments as you go, you will end up with a rough cut that simply doesn’t look as great.
Take it slow and steady and you can always go back and sand some edges if you need to.
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Using a band saw is pretty simple once you know the appropriate steps and the best way to set up the bandsaw for use. One of the best things you can remember is that once you start, you should just keep moving.
It’s easy to fine tune the wood after you finish the cut, rather than trying to stop and make adjustments as you go. Good luck with your next project!