How To Use a Band Saw: The Ultimate Guide

I think you'll agree with me when I say:

A band saw is a very versatile tool in a woodshop and can do many jobs. But a lot of people ask me how to use a band saw?

After all, most people start their wood shop by getting a table saw, miter saw, sanders, and some drills. But a band saw?

No worries, in today's post (and videos) I'm going to show you how to use a band saw properly and with confidence.

Beginner's Guide To Using a Band Saw

The fact is you are here because you want to know how to use a band saw, so let us get acquainted with the tool.

Now, using a band saw may seem a little intimidating, but that is only because you are not used to it. We've heard numerous stories of how some novice woodworkers are scared to start and they put off projects.

Well, the first step is to know how to use a bandsaw safely.

Use a band saw

How To Use a Band Saw Safely

One thing an eager person does not want to do is read safety tips, but that is what we have to go over for our own peace of mind.

Consider some of the following:

  • Wear those safety glasses.
  • Avoid loose clothing that could get caught on the wheels or on the rotating blades.
  • ​Check the blocks, wheels, and blade before usage. Nothing should be loose or worn.
  • ​Verify that the tension on the blade matches the owner's manual.
  • Make sure that the stock is flat on the table.
  • ​Wait until the blade is running at full speed before cutting.
  • ​Never cut "free-hand" style or as you hold the stock in mid-air.
  • ​Use the rip fence or miter gauge if you are cutting a predefined angle.
  • ​Move slowly at all times.
  • ​Do not remove the stock from the blade until it is completely off.
  • Keep your hands at least three inches from the blade. Your hands should never be under the cut line. Use a push stick if you must get closer than three inches.
  • Use a push stick to remove chunks of stock away from the blade, though this is usually not necessary because the blade usually flicks off these chunks.
  • ​Keep your eyes on the tool at all times.
  • Remember that the blade is dangerous, even when it is off.
using a band saw

Okay, we are done lecturing and it is time to learn how to use a band saw properly.

How to Use a Band Saw

Here's a very detailed tutorial on how to use a band saw step by step.

  1. ​We are going to assume that you have set your band saw up according to the instruction manual; if you have not, please do so.
  2. ​Adjust the height of the band saw, which means it needs to be set just above your waist.
  3. ​Ensure that there is enough light in your workspace to increase visibility.
  4. ​Choose a blade that will work for the job. A narrow blade will give you an opportunity to cut with a shorter turn radius, whereas a thicker blade has a wider turn radius. A thick blade is not too precise, but it is more durable and works best for thick pieces of wood.
  5. Adjust the band saw blade tension to ensure that it does not slip or deflect while you are using it. Unplug the machine, and use the knob to adjust the tension in accordance to your instruction manual.
  6. ​Check the blade tracking by opening the cover on the upper wheel casing. Turn the wheel by hand 10 to 20 times, and ensure that the blade does not wobble. Close the cover, and you are done.
  7. Keep the blade guards between 1/8 and 1/4 inch from the stock.
  8. ​Make sure the alignment of the blade is correct by using a 90-degree mark. The blade should be perpendicular to the table.
  9. ​Set the miter guides to help keep the wood stock in place.
  10. ​Use a pencil to draw the lines you will use to cut the wood piece.
  11. Clear the work area so that you can move the wood piece freely.
  12. Plug your machine up. Turn on the machine, and make sure that the blade is going up and down in a straight line. Any wobbling indicates that an adjustment is necessary, meaning you will have turn off the machine, unplug it, and readjust.

Getting to know your blades in greater detail should help you choose the right one.  The following should help you understand the width/narrow difference which is the key to knowing how to use a band saw to cut curves:

  • The 1/8 inch blade is the narrowest blade that should cut the smallest arc you need.
  • A 1/4 inch blade is the second smallest blade, which could cut a circle or small arc.
  • The 5/16 inch blade is a mid-width blade and is usually considered the general purpose blade. You can expect a 3 inch radius, though the hardness and thickness of the wood piece might make a difference.
  • A 3/8 inch blade will give you a great cut on straight and mitered cuts, though this type of blade is not good for curves.

The following should help you understand the difference between TPI or the number of teeth per inch:

  • 16 TPI blade has the smallest teeth possible. These little blades are made to cut thin pieces of wood, which cannot be thicker than one-half of an inch. The feed rate is very slow, too.
  • 12 TPI blade is used for precise cuts, though the wood cannot be thicker than one inch.
  • 8 TPI blade is what most consider the general purpose blade. You can get a very smooth cut as long as the wood is no more than two inches thick.

Does this seem like a lot of steps?

Do not worry because now you can go ahead and start cutting your stock. Do not forget to observe the safety tips above.

Now, let's delve into another reason why using a band saw is beneficial.

How to Use a Band Saw to Resaw

Resawing is actually one of the hardest tasks to master, but it is also one of the most useful.

Resawing a wood piece is simply cutting a thick piece of wood into a thiner piece of wood. You can get more bang for your buck by resawing lumber instead of planning it to the thickness you want.

That seems simple enough, right?

Consider the following steps on how to use a bandsaw to resaw:

  1. ​You will need a 3/4 inch wide blade, though we recommend a wider blade to reduce wandering.
  2. ​You will need a fence that is (at least) as tall as the wood piece that you will resaw, but we recommend that the wood fence is slightly taller to increase stability while resawing.
  3. ​Use a jig to hold the block safely against the fence. This should make it a lot easier to resaw.
  4. ​Use your strength to hold the wood piece (that you are resawing) on the table and against the fence. Ease the wood piece through the blade with a steady hand. Do not make the mistake of forcing the wood piece forward, which can cause you to lose control or damage the blade. The key is to let the blade do the work, and push the wood piece only when the blade has finished cutting.
  5. ​Turn off the machine when you are done cutting through the first piece of wood you are resawing. Remove the wood piece, and clean the work station. Readjust the remaining wood piece over your table, and adjust the fence to get started again.

How To Use a Band Saw as a Saw Mill

There is another form of resawing that some find useful, though it is a little different because it involves a log.

​Here's how to use a band saw as a saw mill...

  • You will need to use a sled to support the log to keep it in place on the table while the blade cuts through the log. The sled is necessary because the log will likely rotate or twist without one.
  • Turn off the machine when you are done cutting a board from the log. At this point you want to readjust the sled before you keep going.
  • ​The steps to resaw a log (or a large piece of wood) are not really what make the project hard.
  • What really makes this project a little hard is that you need complete control of your strength to keep the wood piece or log steady as you resaw.

As you can see, using a bandsaw is not that difficult. Taking the time to properly set it up is one of the first tasks.

Selecting the proper band saw blade for the job is the second step.

After that, it's just a matter of practice. You can master the band saw with time.

And you'll be able to make a lot more projects with the awesome power and performance by using a band saw.

Well, there you have it, a complete guide on how to use a band saw.

There are advanced steps to use a band saw, but this was meant to be a beginning step-by-step use of a band saw.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share?

Let us know in the comments below, we'd love to hear from you!


About the Author

Founder of Woodworking Fuel, proud father of two, happily married to a wonderful wife, and passionate about woodworking for a fulfilling hobby!

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