Many people consider the bandsaw useful only in the woodshop for rough work like resawing timber or cutting shapes to a rough approximation before cutting to the final shape. Nothing could be further from the truth.
How to Set Up a Bandsaw Properly: The Ultimate Guide. Setting up a bandsaw includes: following safety practices, tuning, installing the blade tensioning the blade, aligning the guides and aligning the table and fence. When you follow these steps, you have a great tool you can operate safely.
When properly tuned and setup, a bandsaw can be an incredibly versatile tool.
Once you master a few simple steps, your bandsaw may well become one of your most-used woodworking tools.
This how to set up a bandsaw properly is the ultimate guide to getting your bandsaw to perform to its full ability.
Understanding Your Bandsaw
Bandsaws can be scary and complex looking tools. They are simple once the mechanics are understood.
A long blade travels around two or three wheels to provide a continuous cutting motion.
The long blade allows the blade to run cooler and to have more teeth in contact with the material.
Cooler blades and less wear on the blade teeth extend blade life, making the bandsaw a very efficient tool.
Guides keep the blade straight. The guides are adjustable in several directions for the best operation and cleanest cuts.
The wheels that drive the blade can also be adjusted to keep the blade running true and in the center of the drive wheels.
The table on the saw and the fence used to align work with the blade must also be adjusted correctly for straight cuts and maximum blade life.
There are a lot of adjustments to be made to a bandsaw to keep it operating at its best.
Making the adjustments in the right order ensures that the finished bandsaw setup has the bandsaw in the best alignment possible.
Whether your bandsaw is a benchtop three-wheel model or a heavy floor-mounted two-wheel model, we hope you find this ultimate guide to setting up a bandsaw properly useful and helpful.
Before we go any further, let’s talk a bit about bandsaw safety. Just like any other power tool in your workshop, certain things need your attention before performing any maintenance or repair.
The bandsaw has some unique challenges for the woodworker that require special considerations for safe operations.
Follow the recommendations and instructions
Each bandsaw manufacturer has its own set of maintenance requirements to keep their saw operating properly.
You should be familiar with these recommendations and follow them when performing any maintenance or repair.
Failing to do so may void the warranty and damage your saw or you.
Make sure it’s unplugged
The many moving parts of the bandsaw can become hazards if an inadvertent motor start occurs while you are working with the safety covers and guards removed.
You don’t want to get fingers involved with a bandsaw blade in the event of an unexpected saw start.
Wear good leather work gloves
Even well-used bandsaw blades are sharp and can do significant damage if mishandled. Take every precaution when handling your bandsaw blade.
Wear eye protection
Don’t risk your vision. Bandsaw create lots of sawdust and can throw wood chips in almost any direction.
Bandsaw blades have been known to break while running. A wildly flailing broken bandsaw blade is not something you want to encounter without wearing safety equipment.
How to Set Up a Bandsaw Properly
In our ultimate guide, the steps to setting up your bandsaw break down into two main sections.
Before you start to set up your bandsaw, it is always wise to do a bit of a tune-up on your saw to make sure its parts are in the best possible condition.
Setting up the bandsaw requires several steps. Performing these steps in the order they are given in our ultimate guide will ensure that your bandsaw operates at maximum efficiency with the best results.
Tune it Up Before you Set it Up
Tuning up your bandsaw involves checking the moving parts of the tool, lubricating as necessary, and checking for normal wear and tear.
Check the following items when performing a routine tune-up on your bandsaw.
With a basic tune-up complete, you can proceed with setting up your bandsaw for your next project with the knowledge that your bandsaw is in tip-top shape and ready to go to work.
Setting the Bandsaw Up for Best Performance
Setting up your bandsaw is like stacking children’s blocks. Each level you add to the stack is dependent on the stability of all the levels below it.
Each step in setting up your bandsaw depends on how well you performed the previous steps.
Errors accumulate as the process proceeds. Pay close attention to each step to ensure that your bandsaw is at its peak of performance when you complete the setup process.
Install the Blade
Before making any adjustments to the bandsaw, install a good ½ inch blade.
Blade installation is critical before going any further. Installing a blade and putting it under tension puts the bandsaw in the same condition used for cutting.
Adjusting without a blade installed risks pulling some parts of the saw out of alignment when applying tension to the blade.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations
Each bandsaw has its method of installing a blade and applying tension.
Follow the directions supplied with your bandsaw by the manufacturer to correctly install a blade.
Most bandsaws use a spring-loaded mechanism adjusted with a wheel or knob.
The location of the adjustment wheel or knob can vary.
Be safe when handling bandsaw blades
Always wear gloves and eye protection. A folded bandsaw blade is a coiled spring ready to fly open.
Handle folded bandsaw blades carefully. If you are unfamiliar with how to fold and unfold a bandsaw blade, you should do a bit of research and learn the proper handling methods.
Remove the table if necessary
On some bandsaws, you must remove the table to install a fresh blade properly.
If your bandsaw falls into this category, remove the table according to the manufacturer’s directions and set it aside.
Position the bandsaw blade
Slip the bandsaw blade over the top and bottom wheels. If your bandsaw has three wheels, be sure that the blade follows the proper path around the wheels.
Install the blade with the teeth facing the front of the saw and make sure the saw blade travels around the wheels in the right direction.
The teeth on the bandsaw blade should face down so that the cutting action is from the top of the material to the bottom.
Tension the Blade
With the bandsaw blade in place on the wheels, it is time to tension the bandsaw blade.
The best information about how much tension to apply to your blade comes from the blade manufacturer.
Consult the information that came with the blade or visit the blade manufacturers’ website for this data.
In general, standard bandsaw blades require between 15 and 20 thousand pounds per square inch of tension pressure.
Bi-metal, spring steel, and carbide blades can need as much as 125 to 30 thousand pounds per square inch of pressure to perform to their potential.
Fortunately, you can get by with less tension on most material. You only need the maximum tension if you are sawing dense hardwoods or material at the maximum depth of cut for your saw.
Most bandsaws don’t come with tension indicators that read in pounds per square inch.
You will be lucking if your bandsaw tension system has any indicator at all.
Even if your saw comes equipped with a tension indicator, it is probably highly inaccurate. The best method is to employ a tension meter if you can afford one.
Tension meters are expensive. Even a low-end bandsaw blade tension meter can cost $300.
If you use your bandsaw a lot or are doing delicate work, having the proper tension on the blade can be critical and the only way to accomplish this is with a bandsaw blade tension meter.
Using a tension meter can also increase the life of your bandsaw blades by making sure that they run at the proper tension setting.
If you are a hobby or home woodworker and a tension meter is out of your budget, there are other methods for judging tension on your bandsaw blade.
Raiding the upper blade guides about 6 inches above the table and deflecting the blade can give a good idea of correct blade tension.
The blade should deflect with moderate pressure only about one-quarter inch.
Related Content: Bandsaw blade keeps coming off, what’s causing it?
Align the Wheels
Open or remove the covers on your bandsaw to expose the wheels if you don’t already have them open.
You need to have access to all the wheels to make sure that the wheels are all aligned correctly.
The wheels on the bandsaw have several adjustments. Checking and making these adjustments will make sure that your bandsaw gives the best performance.
The alignment of the wheels is a two-stage process. The wheels must be parallel with each other and they must run in the same plane or operate co-planar.
These two adjustments to the wheels of your bandsaw are critical to making the blade run straight and true in the saw.
Get the Wheels Parallel
The wheels must be parallel with one another for the bandsaw blade to track properly.
A straightedge is the tool of choice for this step in the process
Lay the straightedge across the wheels
The straight edge should contact the wheels evenly on both edges of the wheels.
Sight along the edge closest to the wheels
Sighting along the straightedge will reveal any discrepancies in the parallel orientation of the wheels.
Typically, if one wheel is not parallel, you will see a gap between one edge of the wheel and the straightedge.
The tracking adjustment will allow you to bring the wheel back into alignment and parallel with the other wheel.
Use the tracking adjustment
Your bandsaw has a tracking adjustment wheel that allows you to bring the wheels back into parallel alignment. Turn the wheel or knob in the proper direction until the wheels are perfectly parallel.
Checking for Co-planar wheels
Once you have the wheels parallel, you may find that the wheels are still out of alignment with one another.
If the straightedge touches both sides of one wheel and there is a noticeable and equal gap along the edges of the other wheel and the straightedge, your wheels are not co-planar.
If the wheels on your bandsaw are not co-planar, the only option is to add shims to the axle of the wheel that is out of alignment.
Some bandsaw will only allow the removal of one of the wheels without special tools.
Measure the gap between the straightedge and the wheel.
This distance tells you the number of shims that you need to add or remove from the wheel axe to bring the wheels back to co-planar.
Remove the wheel from the bandsaw
Follow the manufacturer’s directions to remove the wheel. This will give you access to the axle and any shims that are on the axle.
Add or remove shims
Add or remove shims to the axle on which the wheel rides to bring the wheel back into alignment.
Make sure you use the correct size shims for the axle diameter.
Replace the wheel and recheck the alignment
With the wheel back on the axle and all bolts replaced and tightened to specification, check the co-planar alignment again.
Repeat the steps above if the wheels are still not co-planar.
The wheels on your bandsaw must be both parallel and co-planar for the bandsaw blade to track properly and give straight even cuts.
Fortunately, having to perform these adjustments is not a routine maintenance problem. Once you put the wheels into alignment, they will stay that way.
Align the guides
Your bandsaw comes equipped with two sets of blade guides.
The upper set can be adjusted up or down so that you can adjust the distance from the upper blade guide to the top of the material you are cutting.
The lower blade guides are fixed and are just below the bandsaw table.
Blade guides come in several types.
Front to Back
The blade guides on your bandsaw must sets of alignments, front to back and sides to side.
Set the front to back adjustment first. Do both the upper and lower guides making sure that they set as close to the same place on the blade as possible.
Set the front of the blade guide about one-sixteenth of an inch from the deepest part of the blade gullets (the spaces between the teeth on the blade).
The blade guides must ride behind the teeth on the bandsaw blade. The teeth of a bandsaw blade have a tooth set, a slight flare to the outside of the blade.
The flair makes the leading edge of the teeth slightly wider than the actual blade itself.
Allowing the blade guides to ride forward and contact the teeth will shorten the life of the blade and impact the quality of your cuts.
The bottom blade guides should be set at the same place as the upper blade guides to make wear on the surfaces of the blade equal.
Align the Thrust Bearing
The thrust bearing rides in the blade guide mount direction behind the blade.
The thrust bearing takes the pressure of the material against the blade to keep the bandsaw blade from moving too far out of line.
Make thrust bearing adjustment is by loosening the set screw through the center of the roller bearing or the blade guide mount and shifting the thrust bearing forward or backward.
Locate the thrust bearing so that it spins freely. The thrust bearing should not spin when the blade is moving, and you are not cutting material
The thrust bearing should only start to spin when cutting the material. Adjust the bottom thrust bearing to the same position.
Carefully locate the upper and lower thrust bearings so that they take the same amount of pressure as the material is cut.
Out of alignment thrust bearings can cause a bandsaw blade to break.
To adjust the lower bearings on your bandsaw, particularly the thrust bearing, may require you to remove the bandsaw table.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to remove the bandsaw table
Adjust the Side-to-Side Bearings
Lastly, adjust the side bearings. The side bearing must be centered on the blade and as close to the blade as possible without contacting the surface of the blade.
When the blade is turning, the side bearing should not spin until you push the material through the saw.
Adjust the upper side bearings first and then adjust the lower side bearings.
A good test of alignment is to start the saw and, using a piece of scrap material, apply very light pressure to the side of the blade.
Watch and make sure that both upper and lower side bearing start to spin at the same time. Be sure and test both sides of the blade.
Improperly adjusted side bearings can cause the blade to run out of true with the drive wheels putting unnecessary strain on the blade and the drive mechanism.
Out of alignment bearing guides can cause premature blade failure.
Keep it Square
With the bandsaw blade properly installed, and tensioned, and the blade guides properly set, the next issue is to make sure that the bandsaw table is square and level.
A square and level table mean square and straight cuts.
If you have detached your bandsaw table to access the lower blade guides, reinstall it now according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Most bandsaw tables have indicators to show the angle of the table with the blade. Set your table to the zero-indicator mark.
Unfortunately, bandsaw table indicators are not very reliable. To perform a quick test of your bandsaw table, use a length of two by four or two by six lumber.
Make a partial cut on the long face of the lumber. The cut should extend at least a full blade width into the material.
Turn off the saw and remove the material and flip the board over and then try to re-insert the blade.
If the blade is out of alignment with the table, the cut will not line up with the blade.
If the blade and table are not aligned, make the necessary adjustments to the table to bring them back into alignment and then perform another cut test.
Aligning the fence with the table ensures that the material you are cutting encounters the blade at a 90-degree angle.
Having the material run at a right angle to the blade keeps the blade from wanting to torque to the side and makes your saw kerfs as tight and smooth as possible.
An easy way to check the alignment of your bandsaw fence requires a metal ruler and a reasonably good eye.
Some special tools and jigs are available to align the bandsaw fence, but with practice, you can do just as good with a simple metal ruler and your eyes.
Make a Test Cut
With all the adjustments and alignments done, it is time to do a few test cuts.
Most woodworkers use a bandsaw for resawing materials into more manageable and useable dimensions.
One of the most valuable jobs a bandsaw can perform is cutting thin veneers from wider material.
Cutting a veneer from a prepared panel is an excellent test of your bandsaw alignment.
Using a jointed and surface planed piece of lumber, set your upper saw guides to the proper depth and adjust the bandsaw fence so that you can cut a 1/64” veneer from the wide side of the material.
Most woodworkers will never take this thing of a veneer from a piece of lumber, but it is a great test.
Feed the panel through the saw slowly and watch the blade and the cut carefully.
If everything is aligned and tensioned properly, the blade will but cleanly and smoothly and you will have a nice 1/54th veneer panel when you complete the cut.
If the blade deviates or the veneer panel is not the same thickness along the entire length or from top to bottom, you need to repeat the setup steps and correct the out of alignment issue on your bandsaw.
**Does your blade needs repair? Find out whether your bandsaw blade needs replacement here!!!**
A bandsaw can be a tremendous piece of equipment to have in your woodworking shop.
When properly maintained and adjusted, it can perform tasks that are nearly impossible with other saws.
Remember that maintenance and setup of your bandsaw is not a one time or infrequent occurrence.
You should perform routine maintenance according to the schedule set out in the operator’s manual supplied by the manufacturer.
We suggest that you go through the setup steps in this how to set up a bandsaw properly: the ultimate g guide before starting a new project and each time you change your bandsaw blade.
Blades differ in the way they react to tension and you should readjust the bandsaw to compensate for these differences.