Most people are familiar with the vertical band saw that cuts wood and soft plastics. But there are types of band saws that can cut metal.
Understanding which type of band saw, the type of metal that you want to cut, and the shape of the cut will determine what band saw and blade you will need.
Band Saw for Cutting Metal
Generally, horizontal band saws are most often used for cutting metal bar stock.
Unlike a wood band saw, the workpiece on a horizontal band saw is secured rigidly on a vise, and the blade is fed against the workpiece at a constant rate. The continuous flow of coolant not only dissipates heat from the blade but also washes away the metal chips.
When it comes to cutting bar stock and raw material into smaller lengths, this is the type of band saw you need.
However, you should not use a horizontal band saw for cutting thin sheet metal.
Can a Wood Band Saw Cut Metal?
Also known as vertical bandsaws, the wood band saws can be used to cut soft metals such as aluminum. However, you should be able to adjust the cutting speed and will need a special blade to cut metal effectively using a vertical band saw.
The blade will need to have teeth made of carbide or high-speed steel. This allows the blade to cut through softer metals without damaging the teeth.
Cutting Speed for Metal
This may sound counterintuitive, but you will need to lower the speed of the band saw blade when cutting metals, especially harder ones such as ferrous metals.
This keeps the temperature down and helps with the precision of the cut.
Cutting Thin Sheet Metal
You can use a traditional wood band saw to cut sheet metal as it is better suited. You will need a fine-tooth metal cutting blade to do this.
The rule of thumb is to have at least 2 to 3 teeth in contact with the workpiece during cutting. This will ensure that the cutting action is smooth.
A scroll saw is ideal for cutting shapes and profiles on thin sheet metals. For more information, see the comparison between scroll saw and band saw here.
Pros and Cons of Using a Bandsaw to Cut Metal
- Accuracy: Although other types of saws may be superior in some respects, the main advantage of using a band saw to cut metal is the precision of the cuts.
- Ability to Cut Complex Shapes: The versatility of the band saw is also a big advantage. You can make several types of cuts and shapes when using the band saw with metal.
- No Sparks: Cutting metal with abrasive discs produce sparks, which can be dangerous for certain jobs. Use a band saw to cut metal without sparks.
- Difficult to Cut Hardened Steel: The band type blade needs to be flexible, and as a result, it doesn’t lend itself suitable for cutting hard steel.
- Chop saws and cold saws are better suited for harder metals compared to the band saw.
- Cutting Thick Metal on Vertical Band Saw: one of the biggest limitations, at least with the vertical band saw, is that cutting thicker pieces of metal is more difficult. The band saw is better suited to thinner sheets, plates, pipes, or softer metals when making precision cuts.
Thicker pieces can bend the blade, which means that the precision is lost.
No matter the material you are cutting with a band saw, the proper safety considerations need to be made.
Read the User Manual: Proper safety begins with following all instructions, keeping your hands well away from the blade, and wearing the appropriate safety equipment such as protective glasses.
Wear Safety Glasses: When cutting metal, there are additional dangers which include flying metal shavings that may get into the eyes.
Use the Right Blade: Another safety tip is to use the correct type of blade for the metal being cut. You may have to change out the blade if you are using different types of metal. For example, a blade designed to cut aluminum is going to be different than the one which is designed to cut steel.
Adjust the Guides According to Workpiece: Keep the guide bearing close to the maximum size of the workpiece will ensure that there is minimum deflection on the blade. Keeping it open too much can cause the blade to break and might cause injuries.
Use Protective Gloves: Cutting metal also generates heat that in turn, raises the temperature of the metal workpiece. Because metal transmits heat rather easily, you can burn your fingers or hands even if you are holding the metal at a distance from the blade itself.