BAND SAW REVIEWS

          QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

DELTA 28-206 14” BAND SAW

DELTA 28-206 14” BAND SAW

            This, the least expensive saw in our review is a good basic or beginner band saw for a small shop. It has a 1 HP, single phase motor that can be wired to run off either 120 or 240V power. It has an enclosed stand so that your sawdust can be effectively contained in a small area and an easy-to open door for cleaning and maintenance. The 16 x 16 cast iron table tilts 45 degrees right and 3 degrees left for bevel cuts.

          The upper and lower blade guides are equipped with ball bearings to maintain proper band saw blade alignment. The lower blade guides are angled in such a way that they supply support as close as 3/4″ below the table work surface and are equipped with a micrometer adjustment feature for proper alignment. Other features include a 4 dust port, cast iron trunnions for table support, Stock as thick as 6 ¼ thick can be cut (12 1/4 with a height attachment). Two blade speeds are available: 2500 and 3300 FPM. A 3/4″ blade is the widest that can be tracked on this band saw. Band saw weight is 201 Lbs.

JET JWBS14DXPRO 14” BAND SAW

           This small band saw has a built-in 12 resaw capacity. The maximum blade width is 3/4″ and so, realistically, you are not going to have much luck resawing 12 hardwood lumber even though this saw features a high-tension spring design. Nonetheless, the added capacity will come in handy. This machine does surprisingly well resawing 8″-10 wood widths or less.

          A two-speed poly V-belt drive allows for two different blade speeds: 1500 and 3000 FPM. The table measures 15 x 15 and tilts 45 degrees right and 10 degrees left. The motor is 1 1/4 HP, suitable for this saw. A 4 dust collection port is for connection to a dust collector with at least 300 CFM of suction. Minimum saw blade width is 3/8. This band saw weighs 243 Lbs.   

LAGUNA TOOLS LT14 SEL 14 BAND SAW

Band Saws are a specialty for the folks at Laguna Tools who spend their days scratching their heads to find still another improvement for the units they design and sell. Their LT14SE and LT14SEL band saws have given them reason to be proud because these nearly identical machines received the Best Overall award in 2009 in Fine Woodworkings Best of the Best test ratings.

          If a bit on the pricey side, Laguna Tools band saws have always led the pack of competitors for innovation and quality. This European-built saw has a 2 HP Baldor motor for needed power when resawing. IT can slice wafer-thin veneers from a tall block of hardwood. The award-winning Laguna Guides are the reason for this. They are designed to give your Laguna band saw and its blade the best possible tracking and control.

           The difference between the LT14SE model and the LT14SEL model is simply a matter of table height. If you prefer a band saw table that is 35 above the floor, go with the SEL model with an extended frame and a price tag of $1795. Or if you want a 44 working table height on your band saw, you can opt for the SE model at $1750 plus an optional metal stand ($125) = $1875 total. Both the LT14SE or LT14SEL have a maximum blade width of 1 and can use a blade as thin as 1/16. The actual throat is 13 1/4″ and the table size is 15 x 15. This band saw weighs 264 Lbs.

JET JWBS 16B 16” BAND SAW

JET JWBS 18QT 18” BAND SAW

JET JWBS 20QT-5 20” BAND SAW

These three saws are very similar in design except for throat depth, horsepower, resaw capacity and price. The 18QT and 20 QT-5 have a Quick-Tensioning device to speed blade changing and tensioning. The 20 QT-5 model is pictured.

           The 16 model has a 1 1/2 HP motor, the 18 is available with either a 1 3/4 HP or a 3 HP motor and the 20 band saw  gives you a choice between 3 HP and 5 HP. The 16 and 18 models run on either 115 or 230 volts. The 3 HP 18 and both 20 band saws run on 230 volts. All motors on these saws are single phase. Resaw capacities for the three sizes are as follows: 16 band saw= 10 resaw, 18 and 20 band saws = 12 ¼ resaw. Cast iron table sizes are as follows: 16 =  17 x 17, 18 =  19 x 19 and 20 =  21 x 21.

          Common features included a 2-speed, poly V-belt drive (2000 or 3300 FPM), a foot brake, upper and lower ball bearing guides,  cast iron trunnions, locking cabinet doors, a blade tensioning gauge, a T-square rip fence with a resaw post and single-knob tracking. A triangular design provides rigid column stability.  

LAGUNA TOOLS RESAW MASTER 18” BAND SAW

          All of the band saws in this review can resaw but only one of them was specifically designed to be a fully-capable resaw and this is it. Its price reflects its 16 resaw capacity and its 6 HP Baldor motor. It has a high/low resaw fence, geared trunnions and an easy-to use blade tension guide. The best part is the Laguna blade guide system with thumbs screws for precision adjustment and quick control.

          This is the band saw to own above all others if your primary use is resawing and lots of it. It is able to do what it does so well because of overwhelming motor power, a 2 specialized blade and the award-winning Laguna blade guides. It would be a mistake to price-compare this resaw band saw to other 18 band saws that are not specifically designed for resawing. There are good reasons that this resaw band saw costs more, namely: power, accuracy and capacity. It is true that other band saws can do resawing but not this fast and accurately and certainly not with a wood thickness of 16.

          There are other motor options ad varying prices: 4.5 HP, single phase, 3 HP, 3 phase and 7.5 HP 3 phase.  Maximum band saw blade width is 2. The actual band saw throat is 17. Table size is 19 x 25. This band saw weighs 561 Lbs.

GENERAL 90-270 M-1 18” BAND SAW

            This 18 band saw from General has a 3 HP, 200V, single phase motor which is totally enclosed and fan cooled.. Its 18 diameter, 1 1/8 wide wheels turn at 995 RPM. Maximum blade width is 1 and the minimum is 1/4″. Maximum height of cut for resawing is 9 3/8. The table measures 24 x 19 ½.. The table tilts 45 degrees outward (to the right) but does not tilt inward (to the left).

          This band saw has a heavy-duty, one-piece frame which needs no assembly. Blade tension is adjusted with a hand wheel. A tension scale allows you to set the proper tension for each width of blade. Also included with this band saw are a foot brake, a 4 dust port and a magnetic safety on/off switch.

LAGUNA TOOLS LT28 28″ BAND SAW

LAGUNA TOOLS LT32 32″ BAND SAW

LAGUNA TOOLS LT37 37″ BANDSAW

          Laguna Tools largest band saws are industrial machines, if you have a need for that much capacity and power n a band saw and can afford the price tags. These three band saws are similar in design but differ in power and size. They offer more resaw capacity, motor power and throat depth than most other band saws. Pictured is the 32 model. The cast iron table tilt mechanism slides on dovetailed ways. The foot brake shuts the motor power off instantaneously when the ergonomic brake pedal is pressed. Upper and lower doors open quickly and easily, making blade changes a breeze.          

          The L28 model band saw has a 7.5 HP, 3 phase, 220V Baldor motor and can resaw 18 in height. Minimum blade width is 1/8 and maximum is 1 3/4″. The actual throat measures 27. The table measures 28 x 38. Laguna guides are included. Band saw Weight is 1,034 Lbs.

          The L32 model band saw has a 10 HP, 220V, 3 phase Baldor motor and can resaw 20 in height. Minimum blade width is 1/8 and maximum is 1 3/4″. The actual throat measures 30 1/2″. The band saw table measures 28 x 42. Laguna guides are included. Band saw weight is 1135 Lbs.

          The  L37 model band saw has a 15 HP, 220V, 3 phase Baldor motor and can resaw 24 in height. Minimum blade width is 1/4″ and maximum is 2. The actual throat measures 36. The table measures 31 x 50. Laguna guides are included. Band saw weight is 1,610 Lbs.

SIDE-BY SIDE COMPARISON CHART:  BAND SAWS

MakeModelThroatPriceMotorPhaseVoltage
(in.)Size
Delta28-20614$660.0011120/240
JetJWBS-14DXPRO14$900.0011115/230
LagunaLT14 SEL14$1,795.002n/a220
JetJWBS-16B16$1,100.001.51115/230
JetJWBS-18QT18$1,600.0031230
JetJWBS-20QT-520$2,600.0051230
LagunaResaw Master16$4,395.006n/a220
General90-270 M-118$2,400.0031220
LagunaLT2828$6,195.007.53220
LagunaLT3232$7,850.00103220
LagunaLT3737$10,395.00153220

          Any band saw can resaw. The question is: How well and how thick? The first thing you need to decide if resawing on your band saw is an activity in which you are likely to engage frequently, occasionally or never. For those of you who dont know, resawing is the ability to cut thin slices or veneers out of a board standing on its edge on the band saw table, while being guided along a high fence. Where this pays off is when you are trying to get maximum mileage out of an especially fine, beautiful, expensive hardwood board.

          For example, I made a lot of jewelry boxes with 3/8 thick sides. Considering that I had to sand all of the sides flat and smooth, I found that I could barely get 2 slices out of a 1 thick board or 3 slices out of a 1 1/2 board or 4 slices out of a 2 thick board. You need to allow 1/16 kerf waste for most band saw blades plus more if your blade wanders, which all blades do to a certain extent. Then all unevenness has to be sanded away in a drum sander or wide belt sander. In the end, you can’t realistically expect to get two finished 3/8″ box sides out of a board that is only 3/8″+3/8″ +1/6″ = 13/16″ thick. You will need not much less than a full 1″ thickness in your original board. Since most hardwood lumber is sold milled down to 7/8″ for a so-called 1″ board, you are faced with only getting one, 3/8″ slice, not two. On the other hand, most 2″ lumber comes milled down to 1 7/8″, which allows you to bet three 3/8″ pieces out, saving you money.

          The more your band saw blade wanders, the more thickness you will need. The important thing is to minimize this wandering and there are five ways to do this: (1) blade tension (maximum recommended to keep the blade from flexing), (2) blade width (the wider, the better for stiffness), (3) blade type (designed specifically for resawing), (4) motor power (to drive the blade through the wood without bogging down) and (5) blade guides (the more blade control, the better).

          If you plan on doing a lot of resawing, pay close attention to the specifications of band saws you are considering for purchase, in light of what has been said above. If resawing doesnt look like it will play a large part in your future, then you are probably more interested in cutting curves in thinner material. In this case, throat depth of your band saw becomes a very important consideration because, on a small band saw, you will be constantly bumping into the back of the throat and you may not be able to complete the curved cuts you have penciled out.

          Any 14-inch band saw will severely limit the width of cuts you can make to the left of the blade, so consider if this will present a problem for you. If you are planning on just cutting out small parts, fine. On the other hand, if you want to make large parts for furniture, then a small band saw just won’t do. Of course, there is no limitation to the right of the blade, on a 14″ (or any other) band saw, except that you will have to supply auxiliary support for your work piece if it extends very far off the edge of the table. Throat depth is not so much of a problem when you are using the band saw for resawing, although, for resawing, you will need to consider the maximum distance between the table top and the upper blade guide. That measurement determines how wide a board you can resaw on your band saw.

          When shopping for a band saw, dont be fooled into thinking that an 18 band saw will give you a full 18 between the blade and the back of the throat. Band saws are measured by the outside diameter of their wheels. These wheels are mounted inside the cabinet, one above the table and the other, below. Actually, there is an upper cabinet and a lower cabinet connected by a column. The blade travels upwards from the lower (powered) wheel through and inside the column to the upper (idler) wheel before reversing direction and going downwards through the upper blade guide, then the table, then the lower blade guide before returning to the lower wheel.

          Because the column takes up a certain amount of space, an 18 band saw will not normally have a full 18 throat. It will be something less than that, perhaps 17½ (if you are lucky) or even 17. So, if you need a full 18 of clearance, you will need a 20 band saw. Prices climb with throat depth simply because as throat depth increases, the wheels and the cabinets must increase in size accordingly. In short, the whole machine gets bigger.

          Small band saws with small wheels may not be tall enough to sit on the floor like larger ones. With small band saws, you must either mount them on a bench or purchase or build a stand. Usually the stand is included in the price of the smaller saws. Conversely, when working on a very large, industrial band saw, count on the table top being quite high off the floor to accommodate the lower wheel and its cabinet.

          When you order blades for your band saw, do so in quantity. There are few sure things in life but blade breakage is guaranteed. Always have replacement band saw blades on hand so you don’t end up breaking your only blade right in the middle of a project. When you do order blades, you can usually find the best prices online but you will need to allow for delivery time and shipping costs. You can buy blades from the saw manufacturer but it is usually cheaper to purchase them from a vendor who specializes in band saw blades. If you cant find the exact size your band saw uses, you can ordinarily have your blades custom-welded to any length you need.

          There are times when you want a specialized band saw blade for a specific use like resawing. Here, the challenge is to get a reasonably smooth cut but not to have so many teeth that it causes an undue amount of friction, heat and wandering. In a case like that, it may be best to buy directly from the manufacturer of your band saw. Band saw blades designed to cut tight curves are as narrow as 1/8. For most curves, I have found 1/4″ blades to be sufficiently narrow. The narrower the blade, the more likely it will be to break quickly but it can track tighter curves than wider blades. For really tight curves, a scroll saw may be a better tool than a band saw. Resaw blades should always be as wide as your band saw can accommodate.

          There are two basic types of blade guides on band saws: “blocks” and “ball bearing guides”. Blocks can be made out of smooth metal, non-metallic composite or ceramic material. Ball bearing guides are more expensive but are much easier on blades in that there is minimal friction and, therefore, reduced heat. There are side guides in any band saw to restrain the blade from moving left or right and a single block or bearing behind the band saw blade to keep it from moving backward when pressure is applied to the front of the blade by the work piece. After-market ball bearing guides with full installation instructions can be obtained from manufacturers such as Carter. The more expensive band saws come already equipped with ball bearing guides.

          Like other stationary power tools, very large band saws usually have three phase motors. You should not consider purchasing one of these unless you have three phase power available at the place where you will be using the saw. Three phase power is usually only available from the power company in commercial or industrial areas and cannot be found in residential areas. The only way to have three phase power in a home woodworking shop is to use a phase converter that is large enough for the power requirement of your largest three phase motor. If you plan on running more than one three phase motor at a time, you will need a correspondingly larger phase converter. There are two types of phase converters: rotary (looks like a big electric motor) and electronic. Rotary is better if you can find it. Search for phase converters online.

           A two speed band saw is useful if you are planning on cutting metal or very dense hardwoods. Running the band saw on the slow setting will mean that while it will take longer to make cuts, it will reduce heat from friction and extend blade life. Metal cutting band saw blades are widely available for cutting mild steel and non-ferrous metals. Never use a metal cutting band saw blade to cut wood. Never use a wood-cutting band saw blade to cut metal.

           Some band saw wheels are bare metal. If you want to track narrow blades, your band saw wheels should have rubber tires that are glued onto or inserted into grooves in the metal band saw wheels. These tires are usually crowned. By adjusting the blade tracking device, you can get the blade to stay in one position on the tires or metal wheels.

          Another adjustment moves the upper band saw wheel up and down to increase or decrease blade tension. You will need to release this tension to change band saw blades and, on the newer band saws, you can usually find a lever that does this for you. If not, you will have to loosen the tension knob enough to install a new blade on the wheels. Then re-apply the tension, using the blade tension scale, appropriate to the blade width you are using. Wide blades will require more tension than narrow blades. Narrow blades can break if too much tension is applied. Large band saw blades can wander off the band saw wheels if insufficient tension is used. Always refer to the tension scale on your band saw. Don’t guess.

          After the band saw blade is tensioned properly, disconnect power to the motor and turn the upper wheel by hand to verify that the band saw blade is tracking properly. If not, make appropriate tilt adjustments to the upper wheel until the band saw blade stays in the approximate center of both wheels. A hand wheel or knob is provided on any band saw for this purpose. If the wheels are slightly out of alignment with respect to each other, you can still track a band saw blade. In this case, the band saw blade will be more to the back of one wheel while being more to the front of the other wheel. This discrepancy should eventually be adjusted or “tuned” out of your band saw, but, for now, its OK as long as the band saw blade stays on the wheels while cutting. Once you have the band saw blade tracking properly, reconnect the power and start cutting.

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