Choosing a Bandsaw

The versatility of a bandsaw can open up a world of unique design possibilities for a woodworker.  A well-tuned bandsaw can provide you with the means to cut large sweeping curves, cut custom veneer and even produce your own rough-sawn lumber from a log. Selecting the right bandsaw can be a daunting task, so to make it a little easier we thought we would put together an outline highlighting some of the critical components to consider.     

Cutting Capacities  

  • Throat capacity is the distance between the blade and the column. This measurement is also a quick reference to the size designation for a bandsaw.  In other words, a 14" Bandsaw should have close to 14" of cutting capacity between the blade and the column.
  • Resaw capacity is the distance from the bandsaw table to the highest elevation of the blade guide assembly.

Frame Style

Two of the most popular styles currently available are steel frames (European style) and cast-iron frames.  

Cast-Iron Frame

The cast-iron frame bandsaws have been around for generations. Traditionally available in a 14" platform, they consist of two large machined castings, upper and lower assemblies. While these saws are perfect for everyday bandsaw operations, motor size and cutting capacities can limit operations. 

The height capacity can usually be expanded with a 'riser block,' but these machines typically have a motor rated between 1 and 1-1/2 horsepower, which is underpowered for larger resawing applications.

Steel Frame

The steel frame bandsaws have been popular in the European market for some time and have recently made a big splash in the US market.  

These saws have one-piece frames made from heavy, welded sheet steel. The popularity of this design is due to the construction method, which enables manufacturers to increase cutting capacities without sacrificing deflection and strength. 

These saws are available in multiple sizes ranging from 12" up to 24".        

Blade Guides

The importance of a quality set of blade guides cannot be overstated. Bandsaws are equipped with upper and lower guides, and each guide should consist of two components: a trust support element and side supports.  

It wasn’t uncommon for the bandsaw manufacturers of the 1980s and 1990s to install inexpensive blade guides to keep the price of the bandsaw down. The good news for woodworkers – most manufacturers have realized the importance of quality blade guides and now incorporate top-of-the-line guides in their base models. Two popular forms of guides are listed below.   

Bearing Blade Guides

This style is the most common form of guides and utilizes sealed bearings to guide and support the blade.


Ceramic Blade Guides

This style achieves its stability by utilizing 10 points of contact with the blade. Without any moving parts, the ceramic material dissipates heat from the blade for longer life and is designed to give you many years of use.



The horsepower requirements are going to depend on the cutting demands. With general cutting of thinner stock with minor resawing, typically a 1-1/2 horsepower motor will do the trick.  If you plan on making your own veneer by resawing larger exotic hardwood or cutting bowl blanks from a log, consider looking at units with a 2-1/2 to 3 horsepower motor.  Keep in mind, motors rated at 2 horsepower or larger will typically require a 220V electrical supply. 

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