One common dilemma, especially for beginners, is choosing between a table saw vs band saw.
Table saws and band saws are two popular workshop tools, both of which have some important features. You can use them for some of the most basic cuts, such as ripping, but you can also use them to make more specialized cuts.
These familiar pieces of equipment each have their pros and cons, together with some fundamental differences.
In this table saw vs. band saw guide, I’m going to be looking at these as well as factors you need to consider when choosing one for your workshop. I’ll also introduce some of the jobs you can use them for.
Band saws are versatile power tools as you can use them to cut curved, straight, and angular cuts in a range of material types. You make the cuts using a thin straight blade that’s stretched between two rotating wheels. Moving the piece along a template or outline allows you to control the cut.
It’s typical for band saws to be cabinet-mounted and have a tabletop surface where you lay your workpiece. The blade is adjustable, which means you can change the cut’s width, depending on whether you want to make deeper or more refined cuts.
Band Saw Uses
You might be wondering, do you need a band saw? Let’s see if I can answer that question by explaining how you can use it.
You can use a band saw to cut fairly precise straight lines, cut curves, and make different types of more irregular cuts. It’s also possible to cut perfect circles.
Its primary use is for woodworking, but you can also use it for lumbering, metalworking, and cutting plastic. Cutting meat is also possible, but more for large hunks of meat rather than portioning out a chicken or turkey.
You can expect a small band saw to cut through wood that’s four inches thick. A larger saw will easily handle six-inch cuts and more.
Here’s what you can anticipate using your band saw for:
- Straight cut: One of the most basic and easiest cuts you can make is a straight line. The saws maneuverability lends itself well to this type of cut. Mark a line using a large scale or measuring tape to ensure your line is accurate and straight.
- Curve cut: A band saw is also a champion at making curve cuts. However, you do need to make relief cuts first to ensure the blade doesn’t bind up. This is an old woodworker’s trick.
- Relief cut: To make a relief cut, you make a straight cut in the waste material, as close to the line as possible. You then come straight back out. A relief cut works well if the curve you want to cut is less than a 2” radius.
- Resawing: Resawing is another cut a band saw excels at. Use it to resaw any broad sheet, or something as cumbersome as a large log, into smaller thin pieces.
- Veneer: If you ever need to make perfect veneer, you can use your band saw to saw a piece of wood into several pieces. A good example is if you need to get a matched drawer set or are making a curved set of doors.
- Precision work: The blade of a band saw is small, which makes it ideal for making small cuts. You can, for example, make smaller logs from a larger one.
- Laminate: One little known use for the band saw is cutting thin pieces of wood to use as laminate.
- Metal and other materials: Finally, the band saws versatility runs to cutting other materials such as metal. Durable carbon steel, alloy steel, and high-speed steel are the main types of cutting band saw blades. For softer metals, carbon steel works better, whereas alloy steel will also cut harder metals.
The uses of a band saw depend upon the type. There are three basic types of band saw: horizontal, vertical, and handheld.
A horizontal band saw holds the material stationary, and the saw blade swings down to make the cut. When the saw has made the cut, it automatically turns itself off using a switch trip.
One significant benefit of this saw is that you can set up the cut and then leave the machine to get on with the cut, safe in the knowledge it will turn itself off when done.
A vertical band saw is the second type. It’s different in that you have to move the workpiece through the blade to make the cut, thereby allowing for more complicated cuts.
The third option is a handheld band saw. It’s a multipurpose tool to have because you can use it to cut curved lines, straight edge cuts, or irregular shapes. Use this saw to cut materials you can’t fit into your workshop and for materials that are too large for a band saw table.
How Band Saws Work
A band saw is a power saw that cuts using a long blade loop that’s stretched between two wheels. Think of the blade as a ribbon that is continually rotating, along with the wheels.
Only a small part of the blade loop is visible in the cutting area, but you can adjust it to show more blade. This feature is useful if you want to work on large pieces.
You place your piece on the table of the saw and move it to meet the blade. The blade’s teeth remove small chips of material and create a slot that the band passes through.
Watch this video if you want to take a closer look at the internal workings of a band saw.
Accuracy and User-Friendliness of Band Saws
The quality of cut you make with a band saw is not as accurate as a table saw, even if you’ve set your machine up to an optimum standard.
If you want to learn more about setting up a band saw, this video gives you excellent insight.
The problem with this type of saw is that you’ll almost always be left with saw marks from the blade or a slight wobble in your cut. You can achieve a very close and accurate cut, but it in no way compares to that of a table saw that you’ve fitted with the right blade.
As far as user-friendliness goes, this saw is easy to use, and the guides and bearings help keep your workpiece secure. Kerf size is relatively thin, depending on the width of the blade. The low level of vibrations means it’s quiet to use, and the slow speed of the tool makes it more accurate.
Be that as it may, a band saw does have a steeper learning curve than a table saw. To achieve precise cuts, you’ll need to master maneuvering your workpiece correctly and following template outlines.
Band Saw Cost
Compared to a table saw, a good band saw will cost a little bit more. However, prices do vary from one outlet to another.
There are other options if you’re budget won’t stretch to a band saw. A jigsaw mounted upside down is one option that comes in at a much lower price.
Pros and Cons of Band Saws
There are many advantages to having a band saw in your workshop. However, there are also some disadvantages to be aware of.
- Cutting curves: Curved cuts are especially easy to perform.
- Versatile: You can cut wood, MDF, plastic, plywood, metal, and meat.
- Quiet: Compared to a table saw, a band saw produces much less noise.
- Clean: The thinner blade produces less kerf.
- Safer:: Band saw injuries represent just 11.5% of all reported saw injuries from 1984 to 2017.
- Powerful: You can cut materials 3 1/2” and thicker.
- Rough edges: The action of the blade tends to leave ragged edges.
- Reduced power: Compared to a table saw, it has less power which means it’ll be slower at making the cuts.
- Cutting bevels and grooves: Bevels are tricky with a band saw, and not being able to adjust the blade height makes cutting long grooves virtually impossible.
A table saw uses a circular saw blade, with the ripping taking place underneath through to the top. Many people consider it a very sophisticated and powerful circular saw, but it is far more flexible than that.
There are several factors you should consider if you’re a beginner looking for a table saw. Ease of use is the most important. Choose a table saw that’s less complicated than more professional models. It should be lightweight and better suited to small projects.
How it handles is also crucial and will help you understand how to use such a power saw safely.
Other things to consider include the table accessories available, how much it weighs, whether it has a dust collection facility, and how easy it is to clean.
Table Saw Uses
You can use a table saw for various projects. However, you’re limited to wood or plastic.
Accessories are available, for example, stops, jigs, and clamps, to assist in making specialty cuts such as compound angles, bevels, rabbet joints, kerfing, and dado cuts.
There are, however, two more common uses: ripping and crosscutting. Ripping refers to cutting material to a defined width, whereas crosscutting is cutting material to a given length.
You can use a table saw to make crosscuts and straight cuts in a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and even metal. The tabletop or the cabinet that the saw rests on allows you to rip sheets or large pieces of wood.
To make a cut, you move your piece along the length of the blade. You can make a straight edge cut or a 45-degree angle cut if your table saw is adjustable.
How Table Saws Work
A table saw has a fixed, round blade that’s mounted and protrudes from a table. An electric motor drives the blade. There are two types of motor combinations: direct-drive and belt drive.
This type of universal motor connects to the blade directly. Therefore, all the motor’s power transfers directly to the blade. It is commonly found on portable saws. This form of power delivers a big punch, but they tend to be very noisy.
A saw of this kind has an induction motor and belt. The belt powers the blade. This type of motor is much quieter and able to cut denser materials.
To cut your material, you push it through an arbor to create a straight and accurate cut. You can adjust the height of the blade should you need to cut variable depths of cut. Adjusting the angle of the blade controls the angle of the cut.
A table saw is more dangerous to use because you’re pushing the material into the blade instead of the blade cutting downward and pulling the material into the table. There is an increased risk of kickback and the possibility of serious injury. A kickback occurs when the blade catches the material and throws it back toward the user.
Accuracy and User Friendliness of Table Saws
A table saw makes very precise cuts in terms of accuracy, but the trick is setting up your table saw correctly. Additional accessories such as a jig assembly, miter gauge with extensions, or a sled are key.
When it comes to usability, few tools are so flexible. It can efficiently perform cuts you’d expect with a router, circular saw, or miter saw. However, there is one thing that lets it down, and that’s the fact that it is not the safest of power tools.
Could you replace a table saw with a band saw? There is a small overlap in these tools’ basic functions, but they cannot replace each other. There are things a band saw can do that a table saw can’t, and vice versa.
Table Saw Cost
If your budget is limited, a table saw is relatively inexpensive when compared with a band saw. However, there’s the cost of additional accessories to factor in if you plan to use your saw for something other than crosscutting or ripping.
There are alternatives to a table saw that are more affordable, for example, a circular saw. You can make perfectly straight cuts if you use a guide system and the range of blades is also the same.
Pros and Cons of Table Saws
If you’re still struggling to decide whether a band saw is right for you, let’s look at the pros and cons.
- Efficient: The blade design and motor’s power means you can perform cuts quickly and with no hassle.
- Accurate: You can make precise cuts using the table saw’s miter gauge slot.
- Versatile: Use additional jigs, including a miter gauge, to increase your range of cuts.
- Adjustable: Newer models all feature an adjustable blade depth.
- Tilting wheel: New tables also feature a tilting wheel you can use when making bevel cuts.
- Unsafe: Table saws are considered to be one of the most dangerous stationary saws.
- Best for wood: Table saws are better suited for cutting wood and plastic.
- Bulky: A table saw can’t cut fine lines like a band saw.
- Noisy: The motor that powers this tool is very noisy.
- Struggles with thick materials: The maximum thickness a table saw can cut is 3 1/2”.
Band Saw Vs Table Saw – So Which is Best for Me?
After reading this guide, you may have concluded that these two power saws complement each other. They each have their uses, and it’s more a case of learning the right projects for each one rather than deciding on one over the other.
If you’re going to be trying your hand at a range of woodworking tasks and other projects, there is a place in your workshop for both of them
You can make clean cuts in wood and plastic with a table saw. A band saw, on the other hand, is excellent for creating curves and working on different materials. It also happens to be quieter and safer.
If you have to decide between these two power saws, remember you want a functional tool that makes working easy. For those of you just starting who only want one saw, it’s most likely that a table saw will meet most of your needs.
However, as you gain more experience, you may find it doesn’t meet all your requirements. In which case, you might want to upgrade to a band saw.
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