How to Choose A Bandsaw Blade: Essential Guide

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How to choose a bandsaw blade

When you need to cut something, whether it is wood or metal, you want to get the right tool for the job.

There are many different styles of blades available, but today we will focus on everything you need to know about bandsaw blades.

Bandsaw blades are the blades on a power saw with continuous lengths of teeth used to cut various materials such as wood or metal.

So, how do you choose the right bandsaw blade?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a bandsaw blade. Some of them are:

  • Length of the blade
  • Width of the blade
  • Teeth style
  • The material you are sawing
  • The type of project you are working on
  • The TPI you need
  • The material your blade is made out of

With all of these things to consider, it is no surprise that you’re looking for an essential guide to bandsaw blades!

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to learn in order to make an informed decision on your blade.

How to Choose the Correct Bandsaw Blade

A bandsaw is defined on Merriam Webster as “a saw in the form of an endless steel belt running over pulleys. Also: a power saw using this device usually with the blade in a vertical position.”

The blade is what’s used inside this mechanism to help cut anything you are working on.

There are different blades because there are different types of things that need cutting such as thin versus thick metal and various types of lumber.

Some projects need repeated straight cuts while others need curved edges. Your blade type will depend on these sorts of things.

How to Measure A Bandsaw Blade’s Length

There is a mathematical way to measure the length of your bandsaw blade.

That equation is (2xA) + (3.14xB). Wood Magazine explains that “A= distance in inches between bandsaw wheel centers when the upper wheel is midway in its adjustment range. B= bandsaw wheel diameter.”

Really, this simple equation is all there is to it. Measuring the length of your blade is easy once you have the numbers.

Many bandsaw blades can even take blades within a two-inch allowable mistake in sizing.

If you have your old blade you can check the length by doing the following:

  1. Make a mark inside the old blade
  2. Line it up with measuring tape so it’s at 0 on the floor
  3. Tape it down.
  4. Bend your blade back towards the tape and stop at the mark.
  5. Now measure that distance and you have your bandsaw blade’s length.

What width bandsaw blade should I use?

First, you want to look at the width of your blade. The blade width determines how much your bandsaw will cut and the minimum number you want to cut.

If the purpose of using your bandsaw is to resaw something or cut something off, you’ll want to pay closer attention to the larger blade width.

This will help prevent breaking your blade off while you’re working and let you cut in a way that is free from jagged sides.

Looking at other projects, if you want to do something called “contour sawing,” make sure to find a blade that is more on the narrow side.

This will help you cut in a size that is more favorable in terms of its radius.

The following chart is from a website called kmstools.com that specializes in different types of tools.

It shows you what the width of the blades in inches should be, depending on the radius of the project you’re working on:

WIDTH OF BLADE MIN. RADIUS
1/8 3/16
3/16 5/16
1/4 5/8
3/8 1-1/2
1/2 2-1/2
5/8 4
3/4 5-1/2
1 7

Next, you want to think about how thick your blade is. This is important because of the temperature changes that your blade will go through; they will wear the saw down.

If you are mostly doing straight cutting and not a lot of curved angles, a thicker blade would be better. If you need to do little touches, you don’t need such a large blade.

Another table provided on the KMS Tools site tells the blade thickness in inches as well.

It can help you reference how big of a wheel you have versus how thick of a blade you need.

WHEEL WIDTH BLADE THICKNESS
4-6 .014
6-8 .018
8-10 .020
11-18 .025
18-24 .032
24-30 .035
30+ .042, .050, .063

Wood Magazine, which is an expert on all things woodworking, offers a general guide for the most frequent issues you can run into when using your bandsaw to figure out what you might need.

They suggest using these bandsaw blade widths:

  1. For cutting tight curves (less than 58 ” radius) and delicate, thin materials, use a 18 ” or 316 ” 10–14-TPI standard-tooth blade.
  2. To cut curves greater than 58 ” radius, or when cut quality matters more than speed, use a 14 ” 6-TPI standard or skip-tooth blade.
  3. For general ripping and crosscutting, use a 12 ” 3-TPI standard- or hook-tooth blade.
  4. For resawing, use the widest 3-TPI skip or variable-tooth blade your saw accepts. Typically, the wider the blade, the straighter it cuts.
  5. Cutting green (undried) wood requires the widest 2–3-TPI skip-tooth blade your saw accepts.
  6. Dense, abrasive exotic wood species cut best with a carbide-tooth blade. It will stay sharp longer than a steel or bi-metal blade.

How Many Teeth Do You Need on Your Blade?

How many teeth you need for your bandsaw blade is another factor to consider when choosing your blade.

Teeth come in a conversion called TPI which can be explained as how many teeth a blade has per inch.

If you pick a blade with a lot of teeth, you will have a smoother finish to it but the time it takes to cut it will be longer.

If you have fewer teeth on your blade, it cuts more quickly; however, it’s a rougher end result. The type of project you pick will influence the number of teeth you need.

If you are sawing something really thick or resawing a project, you want fewer teeth. Anywhere from two to three TPI is fine for this type of work.

Around five TPI is suitable for quicker, general woodcutting. Around fifteen TPI is for paced out, level cutting, and you will use up to the thirties for thin materials.

Blades feature different types of teeth, which include:

  • Regular
  • Skip
  • Hook
  • Variable Pitch
  • Raker
  • Alternate
  • Wavy

Regular teeth have an evenly spread out TPI. They are good in most regular or common settings. They can also be used around the curves of your cutting material.

Skip teeth are more widely spread out. They are at an angle so that if you cut softer wood, they won’t get stuck.

Hook teeth are deep like a fishing hook. They are bigger than the other teeth and also have an angle. The purpose of the angle of the teeth and the hooked-up style is to cut your material faster and cut into thicker mediums.

Variable pitch teeth feature alternating sizes of teeth. Thus, the variable part of the name. It gives a smooth result. It is good for rounded parts or joints.

A raker is one tooth pointing one way and the next the opposite followed by a straight blade.

The alternate teeth style is similar; however, there’s no raker in this one. That’s pretty much all this style: a raker without the straight blade.

Finally, wavy teeth blades are groups of blades that are pointed in opposite directions from each other, joined with rakers. They are usually small and for thin projects.

The Different Materials of Bandsaw Blades

When you pick your bandsaw blade you might want to know what type of material is in it.

The two most common styles are carbon band and bimetal band.

Here is a list of the two, with what type of material each offers for your blade, brought by the Border States, a tool blog:

Carbon Band Saw Blades Bimetal Band Saw Blades
Aluminum Aluminum/ Nonferrous
Carbon Alloy steels
Brass Carbon steels
Graphite Stainless steels
Bronze Tool steels
Plastics  
Copper  
Mild steels  
Fiberglass  

They also remind us to consider some things when choosing from these properties, such as:

  • Hardness: must be maintained at high heat levels
  • Toughness: must prevent chipping or fracturing
  • Wear resistance: must last an acceptable amount of time before replacement
  • Purpose: must consider the product to be cut (the right blade for the material)

Using Your Saw Vertically vs. Horizontally

There are two main ways that people use a bandsaw: vertically or horizontally.

How you position it can affect how easily you are able to cut the project you are working on.

Vertically:

If you use a bandsaw vertically, you have an electric power motor to make the belt go through that is called a transmission.

This will let you pick how fast you want your blade to cut through the lumber you’re working with. Usually, you want it fixed onto its track, with the wheel mounted on the table.

You’ll have the drive wheel below the table and will cut on the sides. You move your lumber or metal against the blade and can turn it in different directions for different curvatures of cuts.

Using your bandsaw vertically is good for corners and polishing pieces but can also be used for simple cutting as well.

Horizontal:

Horizontal cutting is another way to use your bandsaw blade. Instead of mounting your wheel up on the table, you will be putting this machine down on the floor.

Usually, horizontal cutting is used for metal pieces such as steel or tubing and is also utilized for oddly shaped projects.

The blade is pulled along with an electric runner and you are able to change the speed and make any other adjustments as you see fit.

With the horizontal style of placement, you can cut down into whatever metal you are working on.

This is good for cutting lengthwise down projects or at right angles.

Testing Your Bandsaw Blade

There are two ways to test your bandsaw blade: fluttering and de-tensioning.

Fluttering is running your bandsaw while correcting the amount of tension the blade has.

You need to see if reducing the vibration from the saw is required and try to get it to a place where it can function at its best level.

You want to increase or decrease tension until the “fluttering” stops.

De-tensioning is preventing your blade from being run down too early by taking all the tension off your blade when you’re done the cutting.

You want to slack it before you leave for the workday so that the pressure of your bearings isn’t too much on the blade while it’s just sitting still.

Types of Bandsaws

Just like there are different types of bandsaw blades, there are different kinds of bandsaws. You can find a bandsaw for many different needs.

Here’s a list of all the different types of bandsaws you should be familiar with:

Floor Saw

Floor saws are usually pretty large and popular among professional craftsmen.

They are powerful, take up a lot of space, and are able to cut very large materials.

Floor saws are expensive because of these factors and can cost hundreds of dollars, or over a thousand (tap for details):

Tap to view on Amazon

They are good for contractors but are not recommended for personal projects in garages, though that won’t stop some saw enthusiasts.

It’s not unheard of for people who just love to work with these types of saws to have one of their own for their own private use.

Floor models are mostly recommended because of the sheer size of them and the power that size provides.

They are designed for large workspaces, so if you do decide to get one make sure to measure how much room you have for it.

Handheld

Handheld bandsaws are mostly still classified as a bandsaw because of the way that the saw itself is able to go through the wheel.

I’ve used a handheld bandsaw before for cutting metal pipe – they are extremely handy for metalwork; Check out this model (tap for details):

Tap to view on Amazon

You can also get cordless models from Dewalt as well, which is a solid option too (tap for details):

Tap to view on Amazon

You get many different uses with a handheld that a stationary saw isn’t able to provide.

Handhelds are very small and designed specifically so that they are light enough to be picked up and help as you work on your project.

Some

The downside is that they only offer a limited cutting space. They aren’t nearly as long as other bandsaws are but can be very handy for small projects.

Like this small table opens some possibilities for you (tap for details):

Tap to view on Amazon

They are the most portable version you will find and are used for cutting off little excess pieces of wood most of the time.

One industry you might spot a bandsaw in is plumbing. This is because they are good for things like metal pipes, which are thin all around.

This isn’t their only workspace use, as contractors can use them for their own designs by sawing off any excess fragments that may be left uncut.

For jobs where you don’t need portability, or jobs that are simply larger, try the Benchtop option:

Benchtop

You might be just as familiar with the benchtop saw, as this is the one commonly pictured when saws are mentioned.

They are almost one step up from the floor saw in mobility but are below the handheld.

You can get relatively cheap models, like a Ryobi:

Tap to view on Amazon

Or, a bit more deluxe option with a much higher price tag:

Tap to view on Amazon

Personally, the Ryobi is just fine for the projects I need a bandsaw for.

Benchtop saws are attached to the flat tops of things like desks and are the bandsaw’s stand and their base.

They come in different sizes with a wide variety and can be even almost as small as our previous handheld.

You can also attach it to a bench if you prefer that over a tabletop.

While still a great tool, they won’t have quite as much power or cutting capacity as a Floor Bandsaw.

Meat Bandsaw

Another version of the bandsaw is the meat bandsaw. A meat bandsaw is used by people like butchers.

They cut bone and flesh and are similar to any other bandsaw.

Meat bandsaws are affordable and can be combined with a floor-standing version.

Why Use A Bandsaw Blade?

Bandsaw blades have a lot of different uses and the choice to use one doesn’t include being stuck in one style of blade.

There are many different sizes and styles of bandsaw blades.

Bandsaws can be used for curves, thick wood, ripping wood, and making short pieces.

A common use for a bandsaw is sawing out weird and funky shapes. Another thing that you’ll see bandsaws do is resaw things or cut the wood into thin pieces.

Bandsaws are also good for smooth cutting and can even cut more than just wood.

Bandsaws are an essential blade to have and help in cutting above the basic straight line.

They have such a wide range of techniques available with the different types of cuts you can make with them.

They are said to be one of the easiest blades to use and the most cost-effective.

They can be used anywhere, from big businesses to workshop classrooms to garages.

A bandsaw in simple terms is a long blade with teeth that can be used on a wheel. It is a flexible blade that allows it to bend without breaking.

Why Pick a Bandsaw Over a Scroll Saw?

When picking out a bandsaw you might be offered an alternative, which is the scroll saw.

It can sometimes be difficult to see what the difference is and why you’d want to pick the bandsaw.

Both of these saws are great at cutting out any curvy projects you have in mind.

They do so better than other saws, making them the go-to for that sort of work.

They are capable saws that can be used for much more than just smooth edges.

They have a lot of similarities and differences:

  • They are different mainly in how they operate and how their blades go about cutting wood.
  • Bandsaws are made to be constantly circling around inside the machine, this is done through the help of wheels in your stand.

    This constant motion means that the blade will always cut towards the ground. So, you can cut up big materials and not worry about its thickness as much.
  • If you get a scroll saw, instead of moving in a circle, the blade will move up and down really fast.

    Because of this, the scroll saw is similar to a jigsaw.
  • The way the scroll saw moves as opposed to the bandsaw means that you get a precision cut that is helpful for small spaces that need sudden sharp moves.

    You can get a final texture that requires little sanding after you are done. It’s a great saw for 90-degree angles.
  • Band saws also cut wood without you needing to do the extra work to make a point of entry.

    This is an advantage for those who need to save a little bit of time as long as you don’t need internal cuts.

What doesn’t a scroll saw offer?

A scroll saw has a lot of advantages and similarities to the bandsaw; however, it is also missing some things that the bandsaw has.

Scroll saws aren’t nearly as large in their variety of uses compared to the bandsaw.

Bandsaws can cut through thicker and tougher pieces whereas the scroll saw would have trouble.

Bandsaws can be used for cutting almost anything, from metal to wood.

You might want to have both a scroll saw and a bandsaw in your workspace, but if you can only get one, the bandsaw offers so much more in terms of use.

What Can My Bandsaw Blade Be Used For?

Now, that you’ve chosen your bandsaw blade you need to know some of its uses.

There are several common things that a bandsaw blade could be used for. These include woodworking, ripping, and metal cutting.

Woodworking

One of the most common reasons people use bandsaws is for woodworking.

When choosing your bandsaw blade, you want to keep in mind your primary function for it.

If you are a woodworker, then you want to look at things like the types of projects you do and relate that to how thick you want your blade, or what style of teeth to get.

Bandsaws, when working with wood, act as a function of multiple saws working together.

They focus on the angle of the wood and where the wood is placed, like on a table or the floor.

You can do different types of cuts with your bandsaw and this is really helpful in wood pieces that don’t have any preplanned schematics laid out, letting the creativity flow.

You can use your bandsaw in quite a few different ways with wood.

The more you practice with different types of blades, the more you can figure out what style suits you best and how you would best utilize it for future works.

Ripping

Ripping will cut big pieces of wood and chop it down into little pieces.

For instance, if you wanted to build a wooden gate, you would need different pieces of wood that are the same size.  

You will want a larger bandsaw blade for these types of works. You will also need to line up the lumber.

Cutting through the lumber is a quick and easy process.

This gives you a close to exact estimated measurement because you can simply line them up along a set-out mark or ruler.

The rip will make the wood parallel to each piece.

This method is used often and is what many people think of when they think of bandsaws.

Metal Cutting

Some cutters use their bandsaws to cut metal. When one thinks about cutting metal, they will want to think about the thickness of it.

For a thin piece of metal tubing, for example, you could potentially use a wavy blade on a handheld device.

Bandsaws are very good for metal as well as lumber. You can cut out of sheets of metal or even boards.

You could potentially use the same blade on the wood as the metal; however, make changes as you see fit on what blade is best.

This shows the amazing versatility of the bandsaw blades.

Who Makes Bandsaw Blades?

When searching for your new bandsaw blade, consider looking at some notable blade brands.

Here are some brands that are popular in the bandsaw community:

Delta

Delta is a saw company that has the underlying title of “power equipment corporation.” They offer durable saws with a high standard of excellence in their work.

DeWalt

DeWalt’s motto claims that they have “high-performance industrial tools & accessories.”

They have different saw categories and offer items for every level of bandsaw expertise.

They opened in 1923 and are most recognized for manufacturing portable bandsaws.

Jet

Jet or Jet equipment has a full line of saw blades and saws. They are used often with contractors and began in 1958.

They tend to develop their saws woodworking in mind. They offer quite a bit of floor models.

Skil

Skil has a long history of making saws.

They originated in 1924 and their motto is “Do it right. Do it with Skil.” They offer saws in a variety of sizes, from benchtop to portable.

In Conclusion

To summarize, when you are choosing your bandsaw blade, it’s good to keep in mind a few factors that will affect their performance.

These factors are what types of teeth you want for your blade, how long or wide you want your blade, what type of bandsaw you want, whether it be portable or a big floor model.

Hopefully, this is helpful when choosing your bandsaw blade.

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