I've been tasked with looking into Band Saw models which could be useful for in a Hackspace/Makerspace. This means the saw will be used fairly frequently, by many people, for a wide variety of tasks.

Ideally we'd like to be able to work with wood and metal. With this in mind we were considering getting a Vertical band saw for wood and a Horizontal one for metal.

My preliminary research has shown me a few dimensions to consider. They are

  1. Type
    • Floor-standing cabinet model
    • Bench-top
  2. Kerf
  3. Depth of cut
  4. Throat capacity
  5. Size of motor
    • 3/4 to 1 horsepower for most home models.
  6. Speed/RPM
    • Professional models will have larger motors with Variable Speed. This is convenient for switching from wood to metal work.
  7. Table
    • should have a cast-iron, steel or aluminum alloy table
    • should tilt up to 45-degrees for angled cuts.
    • are typically be about 16-inches in both width and length
    • best to equip it with a miter track
  8. Blade momentum
    • Thicker blades have higher momentum, which helps prevent binding.
  9. Blade length
    • Try to find a machine that uses common blade lengths
  10. Fence
    • Not sure what this is. I've heard I should aim to have one.

In terms of models the only brand I've looked at so far is Start Rite, but I have to be honest, I'm completely lost.

So, I guess my question boils down to:

Which features are must-haves for a Hackspace/Makerspace setup, and why? Am I on the right track?

Our budget would be in the £1,000 to £6,000 range.


UPDATE

I realise now that the scope of this question is might have been a bit too broad. I've received some good advice for vertical band saws (thank you) and have narrowed it down to two models. Ideally I'd spend a few weeks researching this, but unfortunately I don't have that time... so for now my picks are:

I'll probably start a new question specifically for the horizontal metal band saw.

Cheers!

  • The fence is the guide that you can run whatever you are cutting along to give a consistent thickness of cut - an example might be cutting a piece of wood into thin strips for laminating. – John Aug 14 '14 at 18:42
  • 2
    One adorned with large, graphic pictures of bandsaw accidents, and a reminder that they are used for cutting meat. They seem "less scary" than most circular saws, as they tend to run quietly and don't have the tendency to fling work around the shop - but they bite very, very well if users forget to use push-sticks (which don't bleed) when they should. In a shared use shop this may well be an issue. – Ecnerwal Aug 15 '14 at 2:35

I think you're on the right track, especially in considering TWO saws, one high-speed saw dedicated to wood and another very different low-speed saw for brass/steel. The wood saw will be fine (but messy) with alumin(i)um.

You should know a couple more more points.

First, the kerf on nearly all bandsaws (except sawmill types) is pretty much identical regardless of blade choice.

Second, a saw with a gearbox (don't DO this with a variable-speed motor!) for two very, very different speeds (wood and alumin(i)um require MUCH higher speed than steel will tolerate) will tend to be a very high-ticket item, generally much more expensive than two dedicated saws because of the dramatic shiftable gear reduction required for steel.

Now... to really answer your question of must-haves, we should know what - in particular - you plan to cut, and how accurately you want to cut it. What thicknesses of wood and metals? Do you ever plan to cut steel or brass (if not, you could do with one saw)? Do you require high-quality cuts in non-alumin(i)um metals... or could you do that work with a reciprocating saw? In wood, what are your goals? How large (length / breadth) a workpiece do you really plan to cut curves in?

For most steel I imagine you cutting, A small (4") vertical or vertical-horizontal bandsaw would suffice. I have one such from Harbor Freight in my shop, and it does everything I want a steel-sawing saw to do (which is really quite a lot).

A 14" bandsaw is the de facto standard for a "serious" woodworking shop. A wide array of manufacturers offer them, they all take one common blade size (unless they have a "riser" to lift the upper wheel another 6", in which case they all take a second common blade size).

You should know... that most bandsaws have a considerably smaller vertical capacity than the saw's "inch" size (which is a diametric measurement of the upper and lower wheels). Most saws have about a 6" vertical capacity, and that's really pretty realistic unless the saw is equipped with a very large motor; cutting material more than 6" thick requires a GREAT deal of power. A riser will gain more height capacity, but it's nearly always wasted capacity because the motor can't manage resawing stock that's much more than 6" thick (unless it happens to be balsa or basswood or tupelo or other very soft wood).

I like the 14" saws; they're generally built much sturdier than smaller saws, and have better blade guides. Blades are easy to come by. The basic saw, with no "upgrades" (some of which are glitz with no real practical upgrade value at all), works well for most tasks. Because they're so very common, there's lots of help available on the Internet if you should run into trouble aligning, maintaining, or using the saw.

I apologize in advance - I'm afraid I've rambled a bit here...

  • Hi, thanks for the advice. Just to clarify, are you suggesting a avoid variable speed motors in favour of a saw with a gearbox? And to answer your questions about what we plan on cutting... we really don't know. It's going to be used by a wide variety of people for a wide variety of tasks. It could be anything! – MetaFight Aug 14 '14 at 21:42
  • 8) I know that sort of shop - that's how I've been for the last thirty years, no clue what I'll be working on next. 8) Yep, definitely avoid variable-speed motors, go with a saw with a gearbox. A gearbox will add considerable torque, while the variable-speed motor will actually LOSE torque to the electronics. Too, a variable-speed drive/motor will tend to be far more expensive to repair/replace than a bog-standard single-speed motor (the gearbox should never require repair unless you run it out of oil). – TDHofstetter Aug 14 '14 at 21:49
  • Would a Jet JWBS-16X be a decent choice for the woodcutting saw? axminster.co.uk/jet-jwbs-16x-bandsaw . As far as I can tell it ticks all the boxes except for being multi-speed, but we can live with that. – MetaFight Aug 15 '14 at 19:43
  • THAT is a VERY nice bandsaw, better than any I own. – TDHofstetter Aug 15 '14 at 19:50

A horizontal saw is really only useful for cutoff work. A large vertical saw is useful for some types of metal work other than just cutting off tube and bar stock. Blade length hardly matters on a large metal-cutting saw, as a blade welder is usually included as part of the saw, and you just buy blade-stock in large coils and weld to suit. Room height and power supply available can be issues; best deals are generally used industrial models (if you have appropriate phase and voltage to power them) - new has a high premium.

Switching between wood and metal on the same saw is only remotely safe if the saw is throughly cleaned between uses (inside and out) or you risk setting the sawdust on fire with the metal waste, which comes off hot.

Kerf is a variable of the blade used, not of the bandsaw.

Bandsaws often do not play well with a "normal" fence - they rarely cut exactly parallel to the table, and that varies with the blade. While one approach is to go nuts trying to make them do that, the more workable approach is a "fence" that is essentially a rod (or rounded end of a board) placed just at the saw teeth, spaced at the thickness you wish to cut, and allowing the work to be pivoted to follow the natural tendency of the saw's cutting direction.

As noted in my comment, they are not as safe as some folks mistakenly believe them to be.

Make sure the cutting table has a 'T'-slot for mounting jigs, guides, and miter gauges.

You'll also want adjustable blade guides where you can adjust the height of the guide as close to the work piece as possible to provide blade stability and you can get guides that off load some of the heat from the blade which will extend blade life.

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