I'm considering buying a small table sized 9" band saw because it's much cheaper than buying a full sized stand up band saw. Are there any major differences in terms of what kind of materials I can cut and how large of pieces I can cut? Are there any other major differences besides size and cost?
From a "size - only" standpoint two critical dimensions of a bandsaw are the throat capacity and the maximum cutting height.
- Throat capacity is the size of the opening between the blade and the frame. You need your workpiece to be able to fit through this opening as you push it through the blade.
- Max cutting height is the maximum amount of blade that can be exposed. This will impact how many pieces you can stack. Keep in mind you may not be able to fill the space, depending on the material.
Larger, more expensive bandsaws will generally have better blade guides, a more powerful motor, more table and fence adjustments, and can hold wider range of blade widths. Adjustable speed is nice if you intend to cut metal, as slowing the speed will increase blade life.
Are there any major differences in terms of what kind of materials I can cut and how large of pieces I can cut?
That's the primary difference of any saw. The bigger the saw, typically the larger the substrate you can cut with it.
Other variables that affect the type of substrate you can cut would be if the saw has variable speed options, how easy it is to change the blade, and the overall size/power of the motor in it.
In a band saw, a larger blade basically gets you two things; a little more momentum, and more teeth. More momentum is good because it means the blade is less likely to bind, and if you do encounter some difficulty it's not as hard on the motor. More teeth means the band lasts longer and makes a better cut because the teeth stay sharper.
A bigger band saw will also have larger diameter guide wheels, which allows for a wider maximum guidestop setting. If you're chopping a plank into foot-long sections, the larger band saw will be the better buy; you may not be able to do it with a portable saw.
Depends on the types of cuts you plan on doing. If you are planning on resawing lumber, the more powerful motors in a floor standing bandsaw would be required. If you plan on cutting 3/4 to 1" flat stock, motor strength is much less important than the throat depth, which will determine the maximum width of your workpiece.