How to Use a Band Saw for Woodworking

Learn how to use a band saw in this Howcast woodworking video featuring Makeville Studio.

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Having a band saw in your shop adds a lot of different cutting capabilities to your arsenal. And, you know, the table saw gives you right angled cuts. The band saw can add curved cuts as well as resawing and even safer ripping than you can do on a table saw. So, let's look at the saw itself and just understand how it works. Basically a band saw is just what it sounds like. It's a big, looping saw blade that's passing along these two wheels. And so, it's spinning around. The blade is working down into the table. All the cutting half is down into the table. Making it very safe. There's no possibility of kickback as there is on a table saw. There are a couple of settings you need to have set up before you can use your band saw. For instance, you have to have proper tension on the blade. And you also have to set these guide bearings so that they control the lateral and side to side, lateral and backward movement of the blade. So, once those are set up, and that's different on every machine, then you're ready to saw. One of the main things you do have to adjust before you make any cut, though, is the height of the blade guard. So, the blade guard can move up and down and it covers, or exposes, a length of blade. Depending on how thick of a piece of wood you're cutting. So, if we're cutting a piece such as this one, you'd want to get the blade all the way down, as far as possible, without making contact. You want these bearings to be able to freely move. Get it very close. And then lock it in place. What this does is it will limit the amount of deflection that can happen. And so gives you a better quality of cut. The accuracy will be much better. Plus it's safer. Less blade exposed. There a number of cuts you can make on the band saw. Ranging from curved cuts to resawing, which is basically tall ripping of wood. And, in order to do those various types of cuts you have to decide, beforehand, what type of cut you're doing and which blade you're going to put on the saw. So, if you're doing a curved cut of any kind, you're going to want to figure out the maximum radius that it has and find the right blade. Essentially, the thinner the blade that you put on, the narrower the blade, the tighter the radius that you can do. So, if I'm doing very tight curves I'll put on this quarter inch blade. If I'm doing resawing, which is cutting through the wood vertically like this, you're going to want a very wide blade. It's going to need to be as stable as possible. So, at least three quarters of an inch wide, possibly one inch wide, to do that kind of work. Now, for general cutting I keep half inch blade on the band saw all the time. Just for doing general ripping and crosscutting and some light, curved pieces. That works just fine. And so, that's what I was going to show you just now. Is, how to just curve, cut a curve in a piece of wood just by free handing it. And, if you're making a template out of this, one of the things I would use, cut slightly outside the line. And then sand it down to make it perfect. But, I'm just going to go ahead and make the cut just so you can see what it's like on the band saw. So, whenever you start a cut you don't want to be making contact with the saw when you turn it on. But, I'll turn this on and then I'll slowly feed this into the blade. And try, I'm going to try and eyeball and just follow this line by steering the wood from behind as you're pushing it through. It's pretty intuitive. Alright. Let's turn on the saw. Okay. Pretty fast cut. I've got my curved cut now. So, if I wanted to use this for a template I could bring it over to the sander. Do some final shaping, getting rid of any of the bumps. And then, I'd be all set.

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  • Makeville Studio

    Robyn Mierzwa is the founder of Makeville Studio, a community workshop established in 2008 that offers classes in woodworking and furniture making in Brooklyn, NY. A self-taught woodworker, Robyn has honed her craft over many years and continues to learn something new on every project. In addition to furniture making, she is passionate about teaching and is grateful for the opportunity to help others tap into their creative selves through craft.