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Choosing the Best Bandsaw Blade



Wooden table top

Using the right blade, the author cut this top at a good feeding rate with the desired finish.


The secret of re-sawing is not a tricky machine. The secret, if any, lies mainly in two things: the blades you use and how you set up your guide for making the cuts,” asserts James Krenov in The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking. His advice on blades applies not only to re-sawing but also to most other bandsawing tasks. Using the correct blade in a properly set-up saw will allow your bandsaw to perform like a champ.

Each bandsaw uses a blade of specific length as given in its user manual. Here, I will focus on blade selections based on other blade attributes and suggest an all-purpose blade for furniture and cabinetmaking.

Understanding the Blade

A blade is defined by several attributes, including its width, pitch (number of teeth per inch) and tooth pattern. Knowing how they can affect a saw cut is essential to picking the right blade for a task.

The blade width will determine how small a radius can be cut in curves. The narrower the blade, the tighter curve it can handle, and the wider the blade, the less deflection it will have (see Diagram 1).


Blade Width

Minimum Radius of Cut

1/8"

3/16"

3/16"

5/16"

1/4"

5/8"

3/8"

1 1/2"

1/2"

2 1/2"

5/8"

4"

3/4"

5 1/2"

1"

7"



The pitch, usually between 3 tpi and 24 tpi (teeth per inch), will affect cut smoothness and speed. A high tpi blade produces a smoother cut, while a low tpi blade allows a higher feeding rate but with a coarser result. The desired number of teeth during cutting is three to five actively in the wood, providing an appropriate balance between quality and speed.


1/2" blade

A 1/2" blade is suitable for handling stock 1/2" thick and above on a regular basis.


Last, the common tooth patterns are standard, skip, variable and hook (Diagram 2). The standard tooth blade produces smoother cuts but tends to clog in thick materials. The skip-tooth blade has well-spaced gullets to clear away sawdust. The variable blade offers reduced vibration for faster cutting rates and smooth cuts, and the hook blade, with a positive rake angle and large gullets, cuts aggressively but with rougher results.


Diagram 2: Blade Tooth Patterns

Diagram 2: Blade Tooth Patterns

Choosing the Right Blade – Coarse, Medium & Fine


For furniture making, I find from experience that these three blades can handle most of my sawing needs: 3/16", 5/16" and 1/2" wide blades.


Set of bandsaw blades

This set allows the author to do a wide range of furniture and woodturning projects.


I use the following guide (Diagram 3) to help choose the blade for the task at hand:

Diagram 3: Blade Selection Guide

Diagram 3 – Blade Selection Guide

The "All-Purpose" Blade

Changing a bandsaw blade, which involves tracking, tensioning and guide setting, can take three to four times longer than changing a table-saw blade. For this reason, I prefer to install a blade that can deal with most of the regular sawing tasks. Some pick a less aggressive blade, such as a 3/8" × 4 tpi or 6 tpi hook-tooth blade, as their regular blade. My choice is a 1/2" × 3 tpi hook-tooth blade, because I handle a lot of 3/4" and 1" thick lumber and resaw often.


Bandsaw blade

Either a 1/2" or 3/8" wide blade makes a versatile regular blade.


I change the regular blade only when the cuts must be handled by a narrower blade. If a new blade does not come with a rounded back, I round its back to assist in making radius cuts. Simply use a small coarse stone or hone to rub the back edges gently while the blade is running.


Honing a bandsaw blade

Hone both edges on the back in a semicircular motion.


Even for tight curves, I try to use the regular blade with the relief cut technique first.


Cut-lines marked on board

Mark parallel cut-lines about an inch apart for the relief cuts.


Krenov considered his bandsaw “by far the most important of my machines.” You and I may not feel the same way as he did, but we will certainly benefit from the master’s advice by choosing the correct blade for the job!





Text and photos by Charles Mak

Charles Mak, now in retirement, is an enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He formerly worked part time at his local Lee Valley store.

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