Tools & Workshop

Band Saw Safety

This is a powerful cutting tool and must be used with proper respect and care.

The Saw Table. Keep it clear of debris, moving waste scraps away from the workpiece. Set the upper saw guide so that it will just clear the workpiece by an eighth to a quarter of an inch. If it stands well above the work, the saw is less likely to make a neat, perpendicular cut; and more blade is left ex-posed, a potential hazard to the sawyer. Install the blades and make any adjustments with the saw unplugged.

The Blade. If it makes a click-ing sound as it saws, turn off the saw immediately. The click probably means that the blade is cracked and may be about to break. Wait for the saw to come to a stop, then replace the blade.

Use blades that are big enough to do the job you are requiring of them. Using small blades for large stock is asking for a bro-ken blade, a dangerous and wasteful practice. Check the tension and tracking of the blade: It should be taut (take care not to overtighten it) and should travel at the center of the wheels.

Don't Go Too Fast… Wait for the saw to reach full speed be-fore bringing the workpiece in contact with the blade. Don't feed the stock too fast into the band-saw blade. If you do, the blade will chatter, cutting un-evenly. (Don't go too slowly, either, or the blade will tend to burn the workpiece.) There's essentially no risk of kickback, however, as the motion of the blade tends to drive the work-piece against the worktable.

… and Don't Push Too Hard. Push too hard, and you'll prob-ably displace the blade to one side or the other, producing an irregular cut. Too much pres-sure or too much speed will also dull the blade rapidly.

Cutting Curves. Not all curves are cut with the same tech-nique on a band saw. Three dif-ferent approaches can be applied, depending upon the radii of the curves and whether the cut is inside or outside.

A technique called nibble cut-ting is used to cut inside radii. A series of cuts are made within the path of the cut, re-moving much of the waste. Then the band saw can more easily make the arched cut.

For outside curves with large ra-dii, the cutting path can simply be presented to the band saw, and it will cut its way around the curve. For tighter curves, however, making a series of tan-gent cuts will make the job eas-ier and the result cleaner. Another option is to make a se-ries of cuts perpendicular to the tangents; that approach is called relief cutting.

Protect Yourself. Wear safety glasses or goggles. Oh, yes, there's one last thing: As with any saw, keep your fingers away from the blade when the saw is running. At least six inches away, in fact. And when the saw-ing produces loose scrap pieces, don't be tempted to use your fingers to remove them. Have a stick or small piece of scrap at hand (a piece the size of a desk ruler is about right) to push the unwanted pieces out of the way.