The bandsaw is one of the most versatile and powerful stationary tools you can buy for your shop. While these machines are often overlooked in favor of the table saw, they really can’t be matched in terms of the sheer range of cuts they can perform.
Whether you’re looking for one big tool to handle all your cuts, or are someone who has a table saw, but wants to expand their woodworking potential, a band saw is a great choice. You can use it to re-saw planks, creating book matched boards for stunning furniture pieces.
You can use it to reset the edge of a board, when you need all your pieces to line up with absolute precision. You can use it to reset the face of the board, especially handy if you don’t have a planer.
Plus, these are the best tools for working with thin planks, like veneer, or bent laminations. If you’re feeling super adventurous, you can even mill a log!
With that said, band saws are big, heavy, and powerful machines. And, as you’d expect, they come with a big, heavy price tag! That’s why it’s so important to find the right one. Whether you’re a professional or a passionate DIYer, your band saw is an investment in your future as a woodworker, and you shouldn’t make your decision lightly.
As your saw experts, we’ve spent a long time coming up with our top three choices for the best band saws on the market right now. We looked intensively at all the options, from the classic Delta bandsaw to the latest competition. Our experts have narrowed the field down to the very best band saws, to fit a range of needs and budgets.
You can find our complete, in-depth reviews of all our recommendations below. You’ll also find a guide to shopping for your new band saw, and our favorite option for portable band saws to boot!
To get you started, here’s a glance at all our favorites:
Best on a Budget
- Our Rating: 4.3
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.3
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.3
- Popularity: Low
This Shop Fox is our current favorite band saw for budget buyers. It’s extremely affordable, and provides very impressive build quality for around the $750 mark. If you don’t need lots of extra features or conveniences, this one’s a great choice. It’s powerful, sturdy, and expandable. We recommend it to DIYers who are ready to take their woodworking to the next level, but don’t want to pay a fortune all at once.
- Motor: 1 HP, dual voltage, single phase (1725 RPM)
- Cutting speed: 1500/3200 FPM
- Cutting capacity (throat): 13 1/2”
- Max cutting height: 6”
- Footprint: 18″W x 15-1/2″D
It’s incredibly sturdy for the price. Both blade wheels are cast-iron, which is a big upgrade over other units in this class. They run incredibly smoothly, and previous buyers said they were balanced perfectly out of the box. We think they’re the best a DIYer can do without spending over $1,000.
The frame is cast iron, too, as well as the trunnions. Overall, this is a really industrial-quality unit, from the skeleton out. The cabinet is plated steel, and the fence is extruded aluminum. Reviewers were overwhelmingly pleased with how rugged this whole thing felt.
The 14 x 14 worktop is also cast-iron. It’s versatile, with a standard T-slot miter slot that works with the factory gauge and with any aftermarket gauge you might want to use in the Shop Fox. Previous buyers said they received very smooth, precise worktops, and they appreciated that it arrived pre-coated with a protective grease.
You get a lot for your dollar. Unlike many budget and midrange band saws, this one comes with a fence and miter gauge included in the box. It’s built with some smart features, too. It has a quick-release knob for releasing blade tension, all-ball bearing guides, and efficient storage in the cabinet.
Between the amount of features you get, and the general quality level of each one, we’re very impressed with the Shop Fox’s value factor. The guides alone set this apart from any other ~$750 we’ve reviewed.
It’s powerful. The Shop Fox is equipped with a 1 HP motor, which can be wired to run on either 110V or 220V power, depending on what’s available in your shop. At either voltage, it can crank out sawing speeds up to 3200 FPM. Reviewers testing it on walnut and other hardwoods said it cut very easily, even on thicker stock. This is a good choice for pretty much any cutting jobs, as long as you use the appropriate blade and tension settings.
Once you get up and running, it’s very low-maintenance. Previous buyers said it holds tension settings and blade alignment very well.
The fence and miter gauge are both above average, if imperfect. The aluminum fence has an accurate hairline scale, and locking lever just like you’ll find on premium tables. It’s also got a magnifying glass lens to help you see measurements more quickly and easily.
The miter gauge is the standout feature, though. It’s made from very sturdy cast iron, and it’s far better than other factory gauges. This is actually one of the only factory components that we wouldn’t consider replacing!
It has a wide bevel range, thanks to the cast iron trunnion adjustments. You can angle the table through a 55 degree range.
It has a 4” dust collection port. That’s ideal for shops with a central vac system, and makes this one feel much more professional-grade than other band saws at this price.
It’s space-efficient. This one has a very small footprint to begin with, and it also makes use of all the room inside that block. There’s storage space in the cabinet, for you to keep machine-specific tools and accessories, along with the manual. The wheel covers are hinged for easy access.
It’s very easy to make blade changes. That’s thanks to a quick-release knob (another rarity at this price).
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
While it might not have as many extra features or conveniences as the more expensive options on the market, it offers lots of room for expansion. You can extend its cutting capacity with an optional riser block. The fence is replaceable, and it’s easy to add a wheel brush if you want to.
One of the best parts of the Shop Fox is the fact that it provides a great frame that you can customize in lots of different ways. Previous buyers were extremely impressed by how well-made this one was for the price. It’s everything an ambitious DIYer could want.
Reviewers weren’t thrilled with the blade tension adjustment system. You’ll have to make tweaks and check the blade as you go. It’s also a bit less convenient than some more expensive choices, because there’s no viewing window to see how the blade is running from the outside of the housing.
The whole thing can be tedious to adjust at first. Reviewers found that the tension markings weren’t particularly helpful, and they kept having to make small adjustments until they found a sweet spot. However, the Shop Fox stays put once you’ve found an optimal setting.
The instructions aren’t very good. Previous buyers said they still managed to figure things out, but it may take a few hours to get set up.
This one doesn’t come perfect from the box. You may want to refinish the work surface. You’ll probably want a new blade. You may want to add a work light or wheel brush.The factory bearings also don’t last very long. This is very much a work in progress, and you should upgrade all the little external features when you have the time or money.
The Jet band saw is a woodworking classic, and a mainstay of educational workshops as well as passionate home woodworkers. It’s even more rugged than the Shop Fox, and it offers a bigger table and doubled cutting capacity to help you meet your ambitious woodworking goals. We love it because it offers the capacity of a riser-block saw without the structural flaws.
- Motor: 1.25 HP, dual voltage (115V/230V), single phase
- Cutting speed: 1500/3000 FPM
- Cutting capacity (throat): 13 1/2”
- Max cutting height: 12”
- Footprint: 18″W x 15-1/2″D
It has a lot of the same great features as the Shop Fox:
- a cast-iron frame, table, and blade wheels
- ball bearing guides
- quick-release blade tension knob
- an enclosed steel cabinet with storage space
- a dual-voltage motor
- a standard 4” dust collection port
It has a much larger cutting capacity than the Shop Fox. This one has double the resaw capacity, and can handle boards up to 12”. You also get a bit more room to work. This one has a 15 x 15” table as opposed to the 14” by 14” on the Shop Fox. It tilts within the same 55 degree range. That extra versatility is thanks to its extended frame design, which provides all the capacity of a riser block but with greater structure and rigidity. The result is one of the best cutting capacities in any 14” band saw, on a very reasonable midrange unit. We recommend this one to DIYers who are ambitious, and want to work with larger planks. It’s also a good choice for professionals who need the most bang for their buck possible.
It cuts extremely well. This one has a slightly more powerful motor than the Shop Fox, and you can feel the difference: especially when you’re making those 12” resaws happen. It adds an extra ¼ HP, which is a 25% increase. That means this thing doesn’t need to work nearly as hard as the Shop Fox to cut the same speed. The extra grunt also allows it to handle thicker hardwoods and wider resaws without strain.
Reviewers noted that the belt drive was extremely smooth, and they never managed to bog it down, even with oak or walnut planks. It uses the same “V” belt system Jet use on their table saws, and we love it just as much on this one.
It has a lot of smart design tweaks and conveniences, which is one benefit of buying a machine that’s been around for a while and gone through several evolutions. There’s a blade-viewing window on the front of the housing, so you can always tell whether things are rolling smoothly. It’s also easier to change blades, thanks to quick-release knobs.
The cabinet has an easy-access, latching door, and a storage shelf built in, which helps you use the space more efficiently than the Shop Fox’s open box. There’s also a convenient lever to quickly engage and disengage the blade tension, which helps save the blade when you’re not using it.
There’s an adjustable blade guard to keep you safe no matter how large a resaw you’re doing. The blade guide post and guard system adjust precisely and easily with a rack and pinion system. It’s ideal for a machine that can make such a wide range of cuts.
Overall, it’s an incredibly sturdy machine. Buyers said their units felt rock solid, like they would easily last their lifetime. There certainly aren’t any cheap or lightweight parts on this unit. It also cuts smoothly and easily without vibrations anywhere on the frame.
Reviewers were extremely impressed with how quietly the Jet worked, especially when they hooked up a vacuum to the dust port.
It’s easier to get setup than the Shop Fox. The manual is much clearer, and previous buyers said they were up and running within a couple of hours. You won’t have to fiddle quite as much with the tension settings, although you might have to feel out your adjustments if you’re working with larger or smaller blade sizes than the factory blade that comes with the saw.
It’s a popular choice for woodworking classrooms. That’s a testament to the user-friendliness of the saw’s adjustments, and to the ruggedness of the build quality. There aren’t a lot of saws that can handle one person’s learning curve, let alone hundreds of students.
The Jet has earned its place in school shops all over the country thanks to its power, versatility, and reliability. We think that just goes to show what a great choice it will be for your home shop, or small professional operation!
It’s covered by a longer warranty than the Shop Fox. The Jet’s covered for 5 years, instead of 1. That makes it a much smarter long-term purchase than the Shop Fox, even if you’re on a budget. Plus, you can extend the coverage even further at the checkout.
It doesn’t come with a fence or miter gauge. You’ll have to purchase both separately, although most standard models will fit.
It’s a bit top-heavy, so it comes with bracket feet to keep it from tipping over. That’s a downside of the extra-tall design, and it’s something to be aware of in your shop. If you can bolt the feet to the floor, that’s the safest option. However, we didn’t see any reports of units tipping.
You’ll probably want to replace the blade. This one also uses longer blades than usual (105”), so make sure you note that before you purchase replacements.
While you can do most of the assembly yourself, you’ll need a helper to get everything lifted onto the stand portion of the frame, especially should you opt for the mobile base. Previous buyers recommended having at least three strong people to get the top half of the saw mounted onto the base.
As with the Shop Fox, the tension adjustments are a bit fiddly. Reviewers found that their factory gauges weren’t always accurate, so they had to eyeball things and feel out the tension until they found the right setting. This one certainly lacks the finesse of top-end models. However, as with the Shop Fox, folks said that once they found the correct setting, the Jet stayed dialed in.
While some elements of the design have been improved since the first edition of this model, it’s still a bit old-fashioned. For many woodworkers, that’s a plus!
However, folks who are looking for lots of extra features or modern safety gradings, this one might be a bit behind the times. It doesn’t have a light, it doesn’t list many modern safety certifications, and the adjustments require the sort of intuition that only woodworkers who are used to tools like this would have.
The Laguna is a real woodworker’s dream. It’s a shoe-in for our top bandsaw recommendation, since it’s so powerful, refined and rugged. No wonder it won Best Bet from Woodworker’s Journal! Taunton’s Tool Guide awarded this both their Best Overall and Best Value awards when it came out in 2015, and it continues to impress us now.
This is Laguna’s first 115V-compatible band saw, and it completely lives up to their reputation for powerful, refined, and reliable power tools. If you need lots of power and cutting capacity, or simply want the most accurate bandsaw out there, this is the one for you!
- Motor: 1.75 HP, dual voltage, single phase
- Cutting speed: (not listed)
- Cutting capacity (throat): 13 5/8”
- Max cutting height: 12”
- Footprint: 18 x 25 x 70.2 inches
It’s the most spacious of the three. With a 21” x 16” worktop, you have lots of space for larger boards and bigger cuts. You can always make a 14” x 14” worktop work, but it’s nice not to have to! This one can make resaws just as high as the Jet, with a 12” capacity. In fact reviewers found that they could actually get away with 13” resaws with this model (though we wouldn’t recommend trying that with anything that’s not softwood).
It’s also the most powerful saw here. That’s thanks to a 1.75 HP motor, as well as a smartly-designed belt which uses special grooves to maximize torque transfer from the drive shaft to the blade wheels.
Laguna doesn’t list official speed specs for this one, but users said it simply tore through stock, effortlessly and with an incredibly clean edge. Since it doesn’t have to work as hard as our other recommendations, the motor has better long-term reliability.
While the Shop Fox and Jet have sturdy builds, they’re big, bulky machines. The Laguna is just as rigid, but manages a smaller footprint and more refined design. This unit uses the company’s signature pyramid spine design, which gives you a rigid skeleton. It cuts weight without skimping precision.
Even though it has a modified frame, it has rugged cast iron where it really counts: the wheels, the worktop, and the trunnion. All the parts are very high-quality, and we love that the trunnion is oversized, so it provides the heft and sturdy feeling of a larger saw without requiring a huge cabinet or frame.
The worktop bevels within a 52-degree radius, with an incredibly smooth trunnion movement. The bevel adjustments are much more refined and precise than the cheaper band saws. There’s a positive stop at 90 degrees, and you can micro-adjust any other angle.
The cast-iron worktop is also by far the most refined of our recommendations. It’s micro-polished to an incredibly smooth surface, and it comes pre-coated with a finish that’s much better than the unrefined grease on the Shop Fox or Jet.
It comes with a great fence. The Shop Fox has a fence, but it’s not terribly exact. The Jet doesn’t even come with one in the box. The Laguna’s fence is sturdy, precise aluminum. It locks easily, and moves smoothly. We love that it easily switches between a narrow, tall (traditional) fence and a low, wide fence which allows you to make narrower cuts without getting your fingers too close to the blade.
The cast iron wheels are both dynamically and electronically balanced. They’re fitted with sealed bearings, and a solid polyurethane tire set. The one-piece tires run cooler and last longer than traditional components. There’s an oversized lower wheel shaft adjustment that makes tuning up the saw much easier than with full cabinet models.
It makes keeping your space clean a breeze. The Laguna has a wheel brush, which prevents dust buildup between the wheel tire and the blade, and there’s special shrouding inside the cabinet to help direct dust to the outlet. There’s a standard 4” dust port for hooking the Laguna up to your vacuum collection system, just like our other picks. On the whole, it does much better than the Shop Fox or the Jet at taking care of sawdust.
It’s the safest of the three by far. This one has an oversized set of power buttons which make it hard to start the saw accidentally, and easy to stop it in a hurry. The start button is set inside the stop button, at a lower plane which makes it accident-proof. There’s also a locking key which stops unauthorized users from using the saw. It’s CSA rated, so you can be sure that all the electrical components are up to snuff.
The on switch lights up when the saw is in operation. That’s a big advantage given how quietly this unit runs–you’ll never be caught unaware by the fact that your vacuum system can drown out the Laguna’s motor.
To raise and lower the blade guide and guard, you use a balanced flywheel that controls an internal worm gear. It’s extremely secure, and will stay in place even when it’s fully extended (which is where lesser units start to have issues with flexing). The magnetic guard provides easy access for changing the blade, while keeping the cutting edge covered
It’s much better than the competition at making adjustments smooth and precise. Like the Jet, the Laguna has a tracking window so you can keep an eye on the blade without opening the casing. This one also adds a second window, which lets you see the tension settings from the outside. It has a precise tension scale, unlike our other recommendations. That means you won’t have to do any guesswork when you’re getting this model set up! It has quick-release knobs for disengaging blade tension, and blade changes are very easy as well.
The guides and guards have no moving parts, so they don’t wear out. You’ll get the ceramic components standard, while other models only have ceramic bearings as optional extras.
It’s pre-wired with a socket and bracket for a worklight. You can add it on at checkout, or install your own work light later on. Previous buyers who opted for the Laguna light said it was everything they’d hoped for.
You can order this one with an optional wheel system. It’s better than a separate wheel base, since it allows you to use the machine exactly as intended, without adding any height or instability. The casters raise and lower the machine with foot pedals, so you can easily move the saw around your shop.
It’s light. At under 300 pounds, this one’s much easier than the competition to lift into place, and to move around your shop. That’s where that modified frame design really comes in handy.
It’s American-made. It has fantastic fit and finish, and much better quality control than our other recommendations. We didn’t find any buyer reports of flaws with this unit, and that’s consistent with Laguna’s excellent reputation for quality control with their other machines.
It’s professional-grade. Previous buyers said this tracked dead-on in both blade tension and table settings, and never struggled even with the widest hardwood resaws. It’s refined, rugged, and a pleasure to use. That’s why we recommend it to working professionals, and to the most ambitious home woodworkers.
It’s a steel frame. While the Laguna is extremely sturdy, it doesn’t feel quite as indestructible as a band saw with a cast iron frame. All that said, we couldn’t find any complaints about the sturdiness or stability of this frame in buyer reviews.
It’s expensive. You won’t find this one available for less than $1250, which is a lot of most of us to drop on a band saw. We think this one’s an excellent choice for someone who makes a living with woodworking, but it’s probably not a wise purchase for any but the most ardent of home woodworkers.
Like the Shop Fox, this one comes with a very short warranty (1 year from purchase). You’ll want to opt for add-on coverage at the checkout, especially since this machine is a sizable investment.
It doesn’t come with a blade. Laguna make blades that are specifically designed for this unit, but you’ll have to be sure to add one to your cart when you buy. As with the Jet, you’ll need to get an extra long blade, so look for something at 105”.
Which is the Best Bandsaw for You?
If you’re a DIYer, the Shop Fox is the clear choice. It’s simple, sturdy, and straightforward. You’ll have plenty of power, a very rugged build, and a reasonably good fence. However, some more ambitious home woodworkers may find the 6” resaw capacity limiting, and professionals may find that this unit lacks the precision they require.
It’s also the least powerful unit here, and the hardest to get tensioned properly. It’s a good choice for home woodworkers who aren’t working with any larger planks on a regular basis.
The Jet is a great midrange choice that suits either the ambitious DIYer or the working pro on a tight budget. It doubles your resaw capacity, and gives you 25% more power to boot.
However, it still lacks the precision and professional-grade features of the Laguna. It’s a good choice for folks who can assemble their own custom saw using this frame and adding fence, but not for people who want a perfect saw all at once.
The Laguna is the clear choice for a full-time woodworker. It’s simply the best of the three, in every department. It has the best worktop, the most powerful motor, and the most precise adjustments. It does the best job at containing sawdust, and it’s premium in every sense of the word.
You won’t need to modify or upgrade any of its parts, and it won’t limit you nearly as much in terms of the size or grade of wood you can cut. However, it doesn’t have quite as much old-school heft as the Shop Fox or the Jet, and it’s cost-prohibitive for most home DIYers.
Best Benchtop Bandsaw
Not every woodworker has room for a freestanding band saw in their shop. However, if you’ve got counter space to spare, and can make do with something more compact, a bench-top band saw can be an excellent alternative.
Our current favorite is this Rikon, which is a great countertop option for cramped DIYers and small shop owners. It’s built much more ruggedly than other countertop options, with a solid steel frame and a cast iron worktop. Popular options from Craftsman and SkilSaw are mainly plastic.
Unlike other countertop manufacturers, Rikon also has an excellent reputation for customer service, and quickly address the sort of quality control issues which are common with units like this. Previous buyers said it holds calibration well, and provides a great level of power and precision in a much smaller package than freestanding band saws.
It cuts hardwoods with no trouble, and can handle some metal jobs. Plus, it comes with a very long warranty, and buyers said the company were extremely helpful for the whole 5-year period. Just be sure to switch out the blade and the fence when you buy!
Best Portable Band Saw
For all those times when you need the versatility of a band saw but aren’t working in your shop, the latest portable bandsaws are just the thing.
This Dewalt is by far the best portable unit we’ve reviewed to date. With a hefty 10-amp motor, this is one of the most powerful portable band saws out there. It’s more than capable of cutting steel and aluminum, which means that using it on wood is really like cutting through butter with a hot knife. You can use the variable speed controls to choose the best setting for your materials, and previous buyers were thrilled with how easily they could cut all their construction materials.
It also has the best cutting capacity on the market for a portable band saw: 5”. It has an onboard worklight, which doubles as a guide, showing you your cutting line. You can adjust the blade tracking manually, and the dual-bearing guides keep everything in place once you’ve got your settings calibrated.
It’s maneuverable, at 15 pounds, and has a hook built in for you to hang it up at the end of the day. It’s rugged, too: this one has a steel shroud and rubber bumpers which allow it to stand up to the back of your truck and being used around an unpredictable worksite. Overall, we think this is the best choice by far for folks who need a portable band saw! More portable saws available from https://bestsaws.reviews/
How to Choose the Best Bandsaw
Stick to the 14” models:
You’ll find that most band saws are either 14” or 16” format. That rating is based on the size of the wheels at each end of the blade band.
Bigger 16” units are quieter in terms of both noise and vibration, and they can cut bigger stock more quickly, thanks to their extra power. However, they’re simply too unwieldy and expensive for most woodworkers.
You’ll find that you can do just about all the tasks possible on a 16” unit on a good 14” unit, while saving yourself a lot of space, weight, and money. Most folks, unless they’re running a full-time production operation, will be best-served by a 14” band saw.
Decide on your budget:
Free-standing/stationary band saws generally cost between $500 and $1,500. We’ve focused on units above the $750 mark, because cheaper models tend to have weak motors with less than 1 HP, and lighter frames which can’t provide the steady precision we rely on to make quality woodwork.
DIYers will do very well with a unit between $750 and $1,000. That’s the range you’ll need to pay for something that ticks all our basic bandsaw boxes: a cast-iron frame, worktop, trunnion and wheels, a steel cabinet, and a motor with at least 1HP. However, these units don’t tend to be quite as precise or user-friendly as professional-grade models costing $1,000+. Expert DIYers may want to spend closer to $1,000 for something that’s easy to calibrate with precision and powerful enough to re-saw larger hardwood stock.
Woodworking professionals should expect to spend between $1,000 and $1,500 on their band saw. These units will have higher-powered motors, sturdier construction, and more precise adjustments for making expert cuts with any materials you could want to use.
They also tend to have more user-friendly features like improved dust collection, cast flywheels, wheel brushes, and work lights, which full-time woodworkers will really appreciate. However, they’re probably overkill for DIYers.
Look for an enclosed cabinet:
Band saws, like table saws, come in either open or enclosed formats, depending on whether the table and motor sit on open supports, or a closed cabinet. We always prefer enclosed cabinets. They muffle noise better, they help contain sawdust, and they provide a nifty storage spot for your band saw accessories and tools.
However, they’re not any more stable than an open stand, which is a big difference from table saws, of which the cabinet models are the sturdiest. Look for cabinets made from steel plating, built around a cast-iron frame.
You’ll find the some non-cabinet band saws can provide the stability of a cabinet while saving space and weight. Just make sure the frame is still a solid piece of metal, since it’s not quite as substantive as a cabinet. Look for pyramid-style frames, or double-welded frames, made from solid steel.
Look carefully at the frame and cabinet construction:
The best frames are made from cast-iron. Welded steel is an increasingly common alternative, but it can vary widely in terms of sturdiness. We don’t recommend any cabinet model with a steel frame, since they’re simply not as steady or precise.
Make sure that if you’re considering an open-frame model you don’t by a single steel frame. Look for double or triple frames with solid welding throughout. Take a good hard look at the thickness of the metals and the quality of the welds. You can also find pyramid-style frames that have extra strength without as many seams as traditional double or triple welded frames.
All the hinges, latches, and hardware on your cabinet or frame should be metal, not plastic. Take a look at all the knobs, gears, and adjustments, and make sure that nothing but the handle grips and power button is made of plastic.
Take a good look at what’s under the hood:
The blade wheels are the most important components to pay attention to inside the frame. There are two, one at each end of the blade, and they should be matched exactly. You should look for solid metal wheels, preferably made from cast iron. That’s because more weight means a more balanced revolution, making for a smoother saw.
Plus, once a cast iron wheel gets up to speed, it generates a lot of momentum, which saves your motor and makes for a steadier finish to your cuts. You should also take a look at the number of spokes on your wheels.
The more spokes, the better the wheels. They each make a big difference in cutting down on vibration and wobble. If you can find a completely solid wheel, so much the better!
After the wheels, you should check the trunnions, just as you would with a table saw. The trunnions serve the same purpose here, holding up the worktop and controlling bevel or height settings. You should look for cast iron where possible, or heavy-gauge steel at the very least.
Always opt for solid trunnions over welded, multi-piece options. The bigger and heavier the trunnion, the smoother the adjustments will be. Professionals especially should never purchase any band saw without a solid cast-iron trunnion, and we’d encourage other buyers to heed the same rule.
Check the guide bearings:
Guide bearings on a bandsaw keep the blade from flexing backward or to one side while you cut. The guide blocks control lateral (side to side) movement, and the thrust bearing keeps the blade from bending backward. Usually, they’re made of metal.
However, ceramics and laminates are increasingly popular among professional woodworkers, because they run cooler. You can also find sealed ball bearings, which are a good alternative to solid ceramics. Don’t worry too much about the factory bearings, because you can always replace them, and most longtime woodworkers will do so immediately. With that said, you should make sure the guidepost mounts are all secure and stand up well against flexion.
Go for a powerful motor:
Band saw motors range in power from about .5 HP to 2 HP. We recommend that even the most casual user opt for something with at least 1 HP. That’s enough to safely cut a range of woods, with no lag or burnout danger. Under the 1 HP threshold, you’ll be very limited in what you can cut, and no woodworker wants to be stuck on softwoods.
Aim for at least 1 HP to give yourself some extra versatility. If you’re a full-time woodworker, making furniture or other work that requires nicer wood, you’ll want to choose something 1.5 HP or above.
Aside from HP, the other key power rating to look for is a cutting speed spec. It’ll be measured in feet per minute, and it’ll tell you how fast the actual wheels spin, as opposed to the drive shaft of the motor. A higher FPM rating compared to the same HP spec signals a more efficient belt drive system.
You should expect your unit to cut at around 3000-3500 feet per minute. Dual-speed models are essential if you’re planning to cut metal, since metal stock requires a slower blade speed than wood stock. Look for one speed around 1500 feet per minute in addition to the standard 3000-3500 feet per minute setting.
Take a look at safety features:
Bandsaws aren’t usually as packed with safety features as table saws and other larger tools, since they have a narrower blade and a smaller danger zone. However, you’ll still want to check for all the basics. Look for a blade guide/guard set that adjusts easily to cover the parts of the blade you don’t need for your cut. Look for a large, obvious “stop” button, and a “start” button that’s inset, lockable, or otherwise hard to start by accident.
It’s also a good idea to check if your saw is equipped with overload protection and a magnetic switch. Both features will protect your motor from surges and fluctuations in your power supply, and prevent accidental restarts when power cuts back online. You can look for UL or CL listings to tell you whether the electric system in your saw meets current standards.
Expect a level, rugged cast-iron table:
The quality of the table/worktop on your bandsaw will have a significant impact on the quality and precision of your woodwork. Look for a precisely engineered table top made from solid cast-iron. The table should be extremely flat, with no significant changes in tolerance from edge to edge. In general, the more you pay, the more you can expect from your band saw worktop.
Look for a surface at least 12-14” square. Expect your worktop to come finished with a grease, lubricant, or other surface finish from the factory. While premium bandsaws usually have excellent coatings on their worktops, you’ll probably want to refinish any cheaper cast iron tables to prevent corrosion, especially if you ever work with damp stock.
You should also expect a T-slot for a miter gauge in the surface of your worktop. Most band saws don’t come with a miter gauge in the box, so you should double check that the T-slot is the standard groove size (nearly all band saws are).
Don’t be put off by a small table. Most stationary band saws are pretty compact, so tables from 12-16” inches across are the most common. No bandsaw table is going to fit your wood completely on its surface, so you shouldn’t be worried about using a smaller unit. However, it is always more precise to have more perfectly level workspace, so pros should probably opt for something closer to 15-20”.
Know that many band saws are works in progress:
We’ve yet to find a band saw that’s absolutely perfect in every way. While the Laguna we’ve rated Top Quality here comes close, all our recommendations have some weak spots. The best thing to do is to focus on the parts you can’t upgrade: the frame, the wheels, the table, the trunnions, and the motor.
You want the sturdiest, heaviest saw body you can buy. External features like the fence, miter gauge, tension springs, or other smaller components are easy to replace if need be.
We especially recommend replacing the tension gauge on most band saws, since the factory units tend to be a bit wonky. DIYers still in the learning process will probably find the factory fence on any bandsaw satisfactory, but will want to upgrade as their skills improve. You probably don’t even need to consider using the factory fence and gauge if you’re a pro.
No factory set will be quite good enough for pro-level precision, with the exception of the Laguna fence on the unit we’ve recommended here. In any case, you’ll almost certainly need a new miter gauge, since most band saws either don’t included one in the box, or include a flimsy, sub-par gauge. Pros should plan on buying those parts when they purchase their saw.
You should also be prepared to replace the factory blade on any band saw under $1,000. Even saws over $1,000 have mediocre factory blades, so experienced DIYers and pros will want to have replacements on hand when they install their units.
Think about other extras:
These are a few extra features which are convenient to have, but not essential. You can add them after buying your saw, but they’re also good features to look for, especially if you’re a professional woodworker.
- Wheel brushes: Wheel brushes help keep sawdust from building up between the wheel tires and the saw blade. Most units don’t include wheel brushes standard, so you’ll have to buy them aftermarket on all but the nicest band saws. They’re not an essential feature, but they certainly cut down on maintenance inside the cabinet, and they make the saw run more smoothly.
- Lamps: Work lights are always a boon on any power tool, and they’re especially handy when you’re working with the small blades on a bandsaw. Look for machines that are pre-wired for work lights, or models that are available with optional work lights. If your ideal saw isn’t available with a worklight, you can always add one afterward, so long as there’s somewhere to install a bracket or clip on the cabinet. When you’re shopping, be mindful of whether you want to have a light onboard from the get-go, or whether you want to make sure you have a way to install one after the fact.
- Riser blocks: Riser blocks are most commonly used on smaller, cheaper band saws (with a 6” re-saw capacity). They help you extend the re-saw capacity of your bandsaw by raising the upper wheel housing (usually by 6”). If you have a larger saw, you won’t need to worry about riser blocks, since full-size units already have a re-saw capacity of 12” or so. However, they’re a good way for DIYers to get the most out of their first band saw, since they’ll allow you to expand your saw’s capacity as your skills grow.
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