Taking an Inch

Ever wondered why there are so many bandsaw sizes in the world, and just why you’d choose one over another?

If you head into a box warehouse and see a bandsaw, it is probably an 8″ model.  But there are sizes above that.  If there is a second size in the store, it is probably a 12″.  If you head over to a dedicated machinery store, then you can see 14″, 17″, right up to 21″ and 24″

Sourced from Wikipedia

Contrary to a common misconception, the size of the bandsaw does not equate to the achievable depth of cut, nor even to the depth of the throat (although that is also a very common opinion).  The second is pretty close to the money even so.  What it equates to is the size (diameter) of the upper and lower wheels.  This has a direct correlation to the maximum depth of throat (and thus where that popular interpretation comes from), and nothing to do with the depth of cut (resaw capacity).

Realistically, the depth of throat has some bearing on the decision between one saw and another, but I rarely find it too small, be that on my 14″ cast iron Jet, or my box-section 17″ machine.  (Even so, I’d love larger!)  The big reason is the overall capacity and power of the machine.

Not power as in motor size, but the ability to physically tension the blade, and the maximum width of blade the machine can cope with.  The larger the machine, generally the larger the blade it can comfortably handle.

The other advantage comes down to what you are expecting said blade to do. Run very straight, with as little bend or flex, then bend around a 180 degree turn, run straight, another 180 degree turn, repeat ad infinitum. Bend and straight, bend and straight.  Sounds like a perfect recipe for fatigue.  By having larger wheels, this issue is reduced.

A smaller bandsaw may be all you can fit, or afford and if that suits your purpose, no problem.  But if you have an option, try to justify upsizing.  Some other features to look out for include the type of guides (bearing vs rub block), quick tension release, dust collection, location of the blade tension wheel.  My 17″ also has variable speed (multiple pulleys), but I have never seen a need to change the operating speed.

I’d love to have both the bandsaws in my workshop – the 17″ set up for resawing, the 14″ for fine work.  However, there just isn’t that much space, so I have to stick with one, and change blades often.

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