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What is a Band Saw and Why Do You Need One?

July 19, 2016 4 min read

In short, a band saw is a type of saw that’s primarily used for cutting wood, metals, plastics and many other materials too. Consisting of a blade with continuous bands of teeth rotating on opposing wheels, band saws are one of the most efficient machines for cutting a wealth of materials without losing uniformity.

The History of Band Saws

First incepted in 1809 by William Newberry when he received a British patent for his idea, band saws remained impractical for a number of years owing to technological inabilities to produce accurate and durable blades. However, the past 200 years have seen a dramatic rise in the practicality and effectiveness of band saws to the point where most joiners, metal workers and lumber yards will own one on their premises.

How Do They Work?

Band saws operate is a fairly easy manner; the material required to be cut is fed into the machine and cut to whatever requirements are set from the start of the process. With either the material or saw being in a fixed poisiton, depending on the required cut, the teeth of the saw work through the material offering a clean and uniform cut as a result of the evenly distributed tooth load. As with most band saws, the general set up comprises of two wheels that are connected to a belt that rotates in the same plane and empowers blade movement.

Types of Band Saws

Metal Cutting

Available in both horizontal and vertical designs, band saws for cutting metal offer great production rates and accuracy, with typical band speeds ranging from 40ft/min to 5,000ft/min. But, what’s the difference in horizontal and vertical designs?

  • A horizontal band saw holds the metal stationary while the blade swings down and makes the cut, but isn’t particularly useful when looking to cutting curves or complicated shapes.
  • A vertical band saw, on the other hand, keeps the blade’s path stationary with the workpiece being moved across the metal to make the cut, and is excellent when looking to cut curves or complicated shapes.

Timber Cutting

Band saws used for ripping lumber are much larger than other types as they can accommodate timber with a larger diameter and result in less wastage due to their smaller kerf or cut size. Despite this advantage, band saws used for cutting timber will vary in size and are categorised into one of the following:

Head Saws

Head saws are larger versions of a typical band saw that are used to make initial cuts at a sawmill to transform a log into cants or planks of wood. They are generally used for cutting logs between 16 and 72 inches in diameter and consist of between 2 and 3 inches’ tooth space on the cutting edge, with sliver teeth on the back. The sliver teeth on the back aren’t designed to cut teeth though, instead they are used to wipe slivers away to reduce obstruction when the blade is backing out of a cut.


Resaws are a type of large band saw that are specially designed to cut timber along the grain, reducing larger sections into smaller sections or veneers as a result – hence the name, resaw. When resawing to produce veneers, a wide blade between 2 and 3 inches with a small kerf is used as a method of minimising wastage.

Double Cut Saws

Similar in size to a head saw, double cut saws pretty much speak for themselves, as they have cutting teeth on both sides to offer a double cut of any timber that is passed into the machine.

Common tooth forms

Precision Blade

Precision blades have been engineered to give an accurate cut and produces a smooth finish for efficient and consistent results every time.

Buttress Blade

Buttress blades have been engineered to provide a much quicker rate of cutting and larger chip loads, which are ideal for reselling as wood chips.

Claw Tooth Blade

Claw Tooth blades have been engineered to give additional clearance for fast cuts and soft material, without endangering the quality of cut due to less resistance when cutting.

Why do you need a Band Saw?

For joiners, sawmills and metal works, band saws are essential machines to have in the yard, due to its versatility to cut a range of different materials to various sizes. Not only that, but band saws offer a wealth of advantages such as:

  • Reproducible results
  • Efficient and effective method of cutting materials (metal, timber, plastics etc.)
  • Versatile and many different types available
  • Uniformed cuts
  • Ability to cut complicated shapes
  • Fast cutting of desired material

In summary, band saws are an essential machine to own for many companies within the wood/metal working industry as the benefits and advantages speak for themselves. So if you’re looking for a band saw for your business, then why not get in touch with Calderbrook Woodwork Machinery for more information on our range of new and used woodwork machines.

For further information and a full guide to band saws, click here.