A bandsaw is a great addition to your woodworking arsenal. I went without a bandsaw for years, thinking using a good jigsaw works as well. Then I got one. That shut my old way of thinking down.
Of course, that was years ago. But since then, I wouldn’t see woodworking without one. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done if you have a decent jigsaw. But I definitely would prefer having one when working on about any project.
For one thing, even the best of jigsaws are slower than a good bandsaw. Once you get good at using a bandsaw, then they will rise above the jigsaw because you don’t have to hold the tool, you hold the wood.
Because you are holding the wood instead of the tool, it is easier to keep the piece stable. Usually with a jigsaw you use one hand to hold the work piece, and the other hand to hold the saw as you cut.
With a bandsaw though, you hold the workpiece with both hands, and because of this, you have more control over the cut. There is a problem with using a bandsaw, and that is getting the mastery over it.
It took me months of constant use to get good at it. I had to have one when cutting the same pieces out over and over for the business that we have building porch swings and other furniture. And that was daily, constant use.
A few are a natural at it. But I had many that worked with me tried it over and over and they wouldn’t get good with it. They got better, but not “good.” So if you got the knack of it right away, that is a rare thing and be glad.
Most don’t just jump on the bandsaw and start cutting perfect curves. It takes a lot of practice for most. But once you get it down pat, you usually can cut most of the patterns you want, even with the sharpest curves, if you have the right blade for it.
When it comes to the tightest of curves, a 1/4 inch blade works best. Though a 1/4 inch blade has its place, it also has its drawbacks. For one, when cutting a longer straighter stretch it will be less accurate on a straight run than a curved one.
That is because it is designed for cutting heavy curves. They also break a lot, lot, LOT easier. When I first started, I was terrible at curves so all I used was a 1/4 inch blade. After about 100 of them broke, I went to a 3/8 inch blade.
To me, the 3/8 was a better choice. It could get most of the curves and still did well on a straight run. Even if you put the blade in a bind sometimes, it wouldn’t break. I hate it when a blade breaks on the bandsaw, it scares you half to death. (Or me, at least.)
I can use a 1/2 inch blade, and have had to at times, even on some tighter curves. It is just extremely hard in comparison to the 3/8. Anything over 1/2 is usually used for resawing wood, so especially if you are a beginner, I would use 1/2 or smaller.
I did know of a guy that did the same work as I did, building the outdoor furniture, and he would use a 1/2 inch blade on everything. More power to him. But most won’t be like that. Cutting curves are just easier with a blade that is smaller in width.
There are also different types of blades for the bandsaw. These will be discussed in my next post. But for now, keep in mind that a bandsaw is a great addition to your shop. So don’t get discouraged if it takes a good bit to get the hang of it.
Once you do, you will be glad that you got one.
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Ted Leger –
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