The fastest way to reproduce identical parts is with a machine guided by a template. Most woodworkers are familiar with the technique as it applies to a router: A bearing, which is fastened to the end of a router bit, runs around the edge of a template fastened to the workpiece. The template is then fastened to the next workpiece, and the process is repeated. All pieces, whether there are 6 or 600, are exact copies because the same template is used to guide the router.
This concept can be applied to a bandsaw for reproducing curves. Rather than drawing the design on the stock and care fully sawing to the line, a template is attached to the stock and the cut is guided by a stick that is secured to the table adjacent to the blade (see the drawing above). This permits you to saw faster because you don’t have to concentrate on following the layout line. Instead of following the line, you simply push the stock past the blade while maintaining contact between the template and the guide.
Bandsawing with a template is definitely a fast way to produce any number of curved parts. But the technique does have a major shortcoming: You can’t saw inside corners. In fact, the technique is most beneficial for bandsawing large, sweeping curves such as chair rockers.
Also, because making an accurate template may consume a considerable amount of time, the benefit gained by sawing with a template may not outweigh the cost. Nevertheless, bandsawing with a template can be a quick, accurate method for producing large quantities of certain types of work
For a template, you’ll want to use a material that is stiff, strong, and easy to work I’ve found that a high-quality ply wood is ideal. Inexpensive plywood isn’t suitable because it typically isn’t flat and it has voids in the core between the veneer layers. Consequently, the guide will catch in the voids and spoil the workpiece.
Making a template is much like making a pattern: You simply draw the design and carefully cut it out. It’s also important to sand or otherwise smooth away any irregularities. If you don’t take time to smooth away errors, they will be duplicated in any work for which the template is used.
The guide is simply a stick that extends from the blade of the bandsaw to the edge of the table. The business end of the stick, near the blade, is notched to fit around the blade. It’s also convex in shape to easily follow the curves of the template. The other end of the stick clamps firmly to the table edge.
With the setup complete, the actual sawing becomes the easiest part of the job. As you’re sawing, always keep the template positioned against the guide.
Securing a Template You can attach a template to your workpiece in a number of ways. My favorite method is to tack the template to the stock with small brads. If you allow the heads to protrude, it’s much easier to pull the brads out again. Obviously, you don’t want to use brads if the holes will show in the finished work, but typically you can position the brads in an area where they won’t be seen or where the offending holes in the stock will later be removed during joinery and construction.
Another option for securing a template to a workpiece is to use double-sided tape. The cloth tape used by woodturners is strong and readily available from many woodworking supply catalogs. I’m not a fan of this tape because the application is so slow it can often negate any benefits of template sawing.
A third option is to construct a jig that includes the template profile plus toggle clamps to secure the work. Toggle clamps are quick to operate and are ideal for most jig clamping situations. Because constructing the jig takes time, I reserve this method for parts that I reproduce often.
Make the template a little long I make the template approximately ½ in. longer than the stock so that the tem plate contacts the guide before the work reaches the blade. This ensures a safe, accurate start to the cut.
This article is excerpted from The Bandsaw Book written by Lonnie Bird and ©1999 by Lonnie Bird and The Taunton Press.