Hand tools can play an integral part in a project, but band and table saws are the workshop workhorses. When you're undertaking serious projects on a continual basis, you need the extra power and durability of a band saw or table saw. These saws are valued not only for their speed, but their accuracy when it comes to complex cutting tasks.
Band Saws vs. Table Saws
A band saw is the ideal tool for cutting curves and slicing through thick stock. Smaller band saws should be able to slice though lumber 4" thick, with bigger saws being able to handle 6" cuts. Band saws are also capable of ripping, cross cutting, bevelling, and cutting aluminum, plastic and other materials.
For a saw with this much cutting capacity, you might expect a tool with an immense motor. But the band saw's efficient cutting action means it can get its muscle from a surprisingly compact source. Even on some of the biggest band saws, you'll rarely see a motor larger than 3/4 horsepower. Band saws come in both stationary models with cast-iron frames, and portable saws that can be moved easily and placed on a workbench or tabletop.
Band Saws: How They Work
The blade guide system is a key component of a band saw. The upper and lower guides minimize sideways movement of the blade, and prevent the blade from deflecting backward when feeding wood for a cut. Carefully check this system before you buy. Look for one that is easy to adjust, but will hold a setting despite vibration. It should be substantial enough to resist force but small enough that it doesn't obstruct your view of the cutline.
Two additional considerations are depth of cut and throat. Depth of cut refers to the distance from the table to the upper blade guides. This determines maximum cutting thickness, and can range from 6" to 12" with an optional riser for lengthening or shortening cuts. Throat, meanwhile, is the distance from the blade to the saw frame, and determines width of cut. It can range from 12" on some models, to more than 18" on larger band saws.
Band Saws: How They Work
|A tilted table helps make angled cuts. Make certain the table on the band saw you want to purchase tilts easily and locks positively. Also check that it doesn't flex out of square when locked in its 90-degree normal position.
|Cast-iron Table and Stand
|A cast-iron table and stand helps minimize vibration when cutting. They are an absolute must for larger band saws, and helpful for smaller ones. If you need to buy a stand, also consider the advantages of adding a mobile base beneath it.
|Some band saws will allow you to increase their capacity to slice a board through its width by adding an accessory riser block. This cast-iron block bolts into the middle of the saw's column. Depending on your saw, you may be able to add 4" to 6" of capacity.
|Some bands saws incorporate a plastic turbine blade to their lower wheel to create a suction that pulls dust into a bag, while others have a built-in port that you can connect with a hose to a shop vacuum or a dust-collection system.
Table saws are the traditional centre of most home and professional woodworking shops. Table saws can perform a variety of cuts, including cross cuts to rip cuts, to dado cuts, and can cut straighter, smoother lines, and larger workpieces, than other types of saws.
Table Saws: How They Work
A table saw consists of a circular saw blade mounted on an arbour that's powered by an electric motor. The blade protrudes through the surface of a table, which helps provide support for the material being cut (typically large timbers). The depth of the cut is varied by moving the blade up and down, and the angle of the cut changed by adjusting the angle of blade.
Types of Table Saws
There are several types of table saws to choose from, and the choices you make should be largely determined by how you plan to use your saw. There are three general types of table saws: stationary/cabinet, contractor and portable table saws. Each offers different degrees of mobility, power and performance, and comes with a different price tag. A table saw is a significant investment, so if you anticipate your use may change or increase, you may want to spend more now to ensure you get the capabilities you might need for the future. For lighter use, a basic saw with moderate power may be sufficient.
|Stationary/Cabinet Table Saw
|3 to 5 hp or more
|Frequent, demanding professional or home use
|Contractor Table Saw
|1-1/2 to 3 hp
|Medium-to-heavy-duty home or professional use
|Portable Table Saw
|3 to 15 amps
|Light-to-medium-duty home or professional use
Table Saws: What to Look For
|The mitre gauge is a removable guide used for fast, accurate mitre cuts and crosscuts. Look for a table saw with positive stops at 45 and 90 degrees. Also, check the mitre gauge slot on the saw table; it should be perfectly parallel to the blade or your mitre cuts won't be accurate.
|Most table saws allow you to tilt the blade to the left for angled cuts, though some right-tilt models are available to accommodate personal preferences. Look for easy adjustment and positive stops at common angles, so you can make fast, accurate bevel cuts.
|A rip fence is a guide for cutting parallel to the edge of the workpiece. Longer fences offer better control. The fence should fit snug, slide freely, lock down solidly, and be perfectly parallel with the blade at every setting.
|Table saws produce a lot of sawdust, but those with cabinets keep dust fairly well contained. On other types of table saws, look for a dust port if you want to connect to a dust collection system as you cut.