Although the classic vertical band saw is one of the most recognizable, there are other types of band saws as well.
What follows are the most common types of band saws, how they work, and why they are used.
1. Vertical Band Saw
Sometimes known as contour saws, the vertical band saw is arguably the most common, most recognizable of all band saw variations. As the name suggests, the vertical band saw indicates the direction in which the band saw blade travels.
The key advantage of a vertical band saw is its ability to cut curves and complex shapes in addition to straight cuts.
This type of saw is designed to cut large sheets or bars of material quickly and efficiently. The goal of this type of band saw is to cut the material while minimizing the number of chips that are created.
This type of band saw is primarily used for woodworking, template making, art and craft work, etc. A vertical band saw may cut wood, soft metals, or plastics with little difficulty. This is also an excellent type of power saw for resawing timber.
You will need to use the right type of bandsaw blade as part of the device. In other words, the band that makes up the saw needs to match the type of material that is to be cut.
For metal, it needs to be a blade designed to cut metal and reduce the speed. This is most important when cutting hard materials such as ferrous metals. Softer materials are more forgiving in terms of what type of blade can be used.
2. Horizontal Band Saw
The horizontal band saw works on a similar technology as a vertical version, except that the blade travels horizontally and not vertically.
The difference in direction is not the only difference in the type of band saw.
The blade in a horizontal direction between two pullies that guide the band and hold it in place as it runs. The stock is secured to the table, usually with a vise, and the pivoted head along with the blade is then lowered so the cut is made. This is unlike a vertical band saw in which the stock is pushed through the circulating band saw blade at a fixed position.
The horizontal band saw is most often used to make cuts into steel and other hardened materials, while vertical band saws are more often used to cut wood or plastics. As with the vertical band saw, the horizontal version uses a blade that is thin and flexible but often wider. The continuous band saw blade that is designed primarily to cut through metal stock, although it can be used to cut other types of material as well.
The table or work-holding device on a horizontal band saw can rotate or swivel, providing the opportunity to make miter cuts into the material.
3. Double Column Band Saw
When the head of the horizontal bandsaw travels across two posts, it is a dual-column bandsaw. The terms dual column and dual posts or twin posts are essentially the same in describing this type of bandsaw.
The dual column band saw is designed to cut large sections of material as straight as possible. The cut is made when the head of the band saw descends from one of the posts.
The primary advantage of a dual column band saw is that it is rigid and sturdy to perform heavy-duty cutting operations.
The double column band saw comes in different sizes and can be used to cut large metal bar stock, structural steel, large-diameter pipes, etc.
They are available in both miter and non-miter versions.
The miter type of dual column saw that comes with a swivel base can be used for making miter cuts. Some of the newer models have double miter that can be rotated up to 60° in both directions. This allows for different angles to be cut at either end of the workpiece.
If you make many miter cuts, then a double column band saw may be the perfect tool for you. Especially if you get one with a swivel head that allows for a wider variety of cuts to be made.
4. Combination Horizontal/Vertical Band Saw
As the name suggests, a combination of horizontal and vertical band saw offers a pivoting head that allows you to switch between horizontal and vertical orientations. The enables you to cut different types of materials and sizes on the same saw.
The main advantage is that you can perform both horizontal and vertical cutting all with one saw, so there is no need to purchase a second saw. This can be quite beneficial for work areas that are too small to hold two separate saws.
The vertical version of this saw is manually operated, where you move the workpiece by hand. In the case of horizontal positioning, a table supports the workpiece with the head lowered into place so that the cut can be made.
5. Portable Band Saw
A portable band saw or portaband as it is sometimes called, drives a small blade band between two wheels. The portable band saw is basically the same design as of horizontal band saws. The primary difference is that the device itself is small enough to be portable.
For the most part, the portable band saw is used to cut threaded rods, pipes, and similar structural elements. The stock or whatever is to be cut is held in place while the portable saw is moved into position. You then press the saw blade through the stock or material to make the cut.
The advantages of the portable band saw are considerable, starting with the clean cut that is made with less grit or excess material being lost. Its ability to cut metal without generating sparks makes it a better choice than other metal cutting saws such as an angle grinder or an abrasive chop saw.
Electricians and plumbers primarily use portable band saws when on the job. They are also used by other professionals who cut materials for repair or replacement. Cutting threaded rods are particularly useful as the portable band saw maintains a solid edge.
See an extensive list of portable band saw uses here.
The portable band saw lacks the overall versatility of a standard horizontal or vertical band saw, particularly in terms of the size of material that can be cut.
You can find both corded and cordless portable band saws. They are well-suited for cutting smaller diameter materials, particularly pipes and threaded rods. However, they are not as versatile as other small portable saws such as the jigsaw. This limits their use to specific materials and tasks that normally fall within the field of electricity and plumbing.
Which One to Choose?
Understanding what type of band saw to use will depend on the type of work that you most often perform.
What follows are some suggestions that will help you narrow down the choices so you can make the right decision.
If you primarily cut wood, plywood, MDF or soft plastics, then the vertical band saw is arguably the best type available. It’s easy to use, can make different types of cuts depending on how you feed the material into the saw blade, and creates less waste compared to other types of saws.
Plus, the vertical band saw is solid and designed to stay in one place for you to make a considerable number of cuts.
For Metal Cutting
You may also use the double column band saw if you have some more money available. But the horizontal band saw is quite efficient without being too costly, at least in terms of cutting metal at angles.
- Miter Cuts: If you make lots of cuts at angles, especially into metal, then the horizontal band saw may be for you.
If you make different types of cuts using different materials, then the combination horizontal/vertical band saw is probably the one for you. With this type of saw, you can cut different materials and make different types of cuts all in one machine.
The downside is the expense as it costs more and is less sturdy compared to a dedicated horizontal or vertical band saw. But it may be worth it depending on how much work you do.
The portable band saw is the only one that is considered portable, although if you have a large enough vehicle, you can take any of the band saws to the job site. However, apart from the portable band saw, the others are primarily designed to be set up in a workshop and left in place.
Cutting Pipes and Conduit
The portable band saw is perfect for electricians and plumbers who need to cut conduits, threaded rods, and pipes when on the job.