Graphical Construction Glossary >> Tools. >> Power Tools >> Band Saw

Band Saw
A continuous steel toothed blade running between two large pulleys, one of them power driven.
Butchers Blade
A bandsaw blade specially made for cutting frozen meat. The heat treated teeth make it ideal for cutting laminates and plastics.

a band saw in vietnam
A re-saw in a Vietnamese boat building shop.

Travelling around the Mekong Delta in Vietnam I came across many of these large horizontal band saws in boatyards that were building traditional timber craft.

resaw blades
Another shed with spare blades on show.

In my experience large saws like this are fairly common but they are invariably have an upright or vertical orientation. Saws with blade sizes like this 6" to 8", 150mm to 200mm are called band re-saws.

The majority of band saws today in small joinery and home workshops range in size from very small for model makers to up to about 36" or 900mm. The size refers to the the diameter of the pulley, so my old 36" Robinson would be able to cut a circle of say 34" radius. That is I have to deduct a touch for the guard around the enclosed section of the blade.

Just because they are great for cutting curves, do not think this is all that band saws are used for. They are very handy for lots of small sawing jobs. They are used just as much for cutting straight as for cutting curves. One advantage of a band saw over a circular bench saw is the thin blade width. Ripping up strips out of sheet material quite often gives an extra strip or two than if a TCT bench saw was used.

a modern band saw
Photo thanks to Wikimedia Commons, User: VEBA MECCANICA SRL

The photo above is a typical example of a modern small shop saw. At a guess it is around 30". The bottom wheel is the one that is driven and the top one is an idler.

  • It has modern guards around the moving parts.
  • It has a standard height working table with an adjustable fence.
  • The gap between the table and the top support for the blade is known as the throat. In the photo the gap looks to be about 10" or so.
  • The throat is adjustable and should always be set just higher than the material being cut.
  • The top support contains a ball bearing race that the back of the blade rides against and it is essential that it is kept well maintained.
  • The exposed part of the blade that does the cut ALWAYS moves down towards the table. (No excuses for stating the obvious here, but it is passible to put them on the wrong way round in spite of the fact that instructions are printed on the inside of the guard panels.)
  • The machine has a light and modern safety on off switches and it will have some provision for dust extraction.
a butcher's band saw
Cutting up a frozen tuna.
Photo thanks to Wikimedia Commons, User: Chris 73.

The food industry has long used band saws and as a result they have provided a service to the general joinery trades in that the blades developed for butchers work very nicely for cutting laminates and plastic, The blades are typically quite narrow, saw less than 3/4" and the tips are heat treated for longer life.

Most woodworking saws have now got tungsten tipped versions for greater life between sharpening, but to the best of my knowledge the band saw does not use them, so when cutting very abrasive material a modern butcher's blade can be used. Unfortunately they can't be sharpened like the HSS blades so they have to be thrown away when they are badly worn

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Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
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