Although the purpose of the power hacksaw and bandsaw are similar, there are some important differences in the way they work.
What’s the Difference?
The power hacksaw cuts into the material using a forward and backward motion with the cut happening only during the backward stroke. While a horizontal bandsaw has the blade in a closed loop that offers continuous cutting action. In both cases, the workpiece is fixed and the moving blade that is mounted on a swing arm is lowered onto the workpiece to do the cutting.
On vertical bandsaws, the material fed into a vertical blade as it circulates between at least two wheels.
What is a Power Hacksaw?
A power hacksaw is one step above a standard hacksaw that is not powered. Despite being rather primitive in its technology, it is quite efficient at cutting large pieces of metal. The power hacksaw was developed to augment the abilities of the basic hand-held hacksaw. It can cut through materials that are thicker and larger compared to what a hand-held hacksaw can do.
Parts of a Power Hacksaw
There are 5 basic parts for a power hacksaw
- The base on which also house the coolant unit.
- A work clamping device or vise.
- The frame on which the power hacksaw blade is fixed.
- Crank disc and lever that converts rotary motion into reciprocation motion.
- An electric motor that supplies the rotational motion to the crank.
How Do Power Hacksaws work?
The frame of the power hacksaw is attached to a crank which is powered by an electric motor. The rotary motion of the electric motor is transferred onto the crank through the belt and pulley. The crank then converts the rotating motion into reciprocating movement by means of the ordinary crank motion.
This action drives the frame along with the blade to move back and forth. The material is placed under the blade which is then brought down to cut into the material.
Generally, power hacksaws are designed to cut during the backward stroke and during the forward stroke, the frame is raised slightly. This ensures that the blade does not rub on the workpiece during the idle stroke. The direction of a power hacksaw blade is such that the cutting tip is pointing towards the back.
There are two basic types of powered hacksaws on the market.
- Gravity Feed
The first one, as the name indicates, works with gravity. The weight of the frame keeps the swing arm moving towards down and applies cutting force on the work.
In the case of the hydraulic power hacksaws, the hydraulics provide extra control over the cutting force to the blade. Overall, the power hacksaw is essentially what the name suggests, a powered version of a standard, hand-held hacksaw.
What is a Horizontal Bandsaw?
Bandsaws are similar in function to the power hacksaw but use completely different mechanics.
Here, instead of reciprocating motion, the circulating blade cuts continuously. This means, there is no idle forward stroke which allows the horizontal band saw to cut metals at a much faster rate when compared to a power hacksaw.
There are two basic types of bandsaws, horizontal and vertical. As the names suggest, they indicate the direction of the blade itself. Vertical bandsaws are mainly used for woodworking, pattern making, and for cutting soft metals such as aluminum.
Here, instead of feeding the blade into the material, the material is fed into a long, flexible blade that runs between a large upper and lower wheel. One wheel is the drive wheel which runs the blade to the idler wheel. The area in which the material is cut is a small one consisting of a table where the blade runs through. You run the material on the small table through the blade.
Comparison Between Power Hacksaw vs. Bandsaw
Although both machines perform about the same function, there are a considerable number of differences between them. What follows are the most obvious differences. This is followed by a list of other differences worthy of note between the two machines.
There is little doubt that the bandsaw is extremely efficient compared to the powered hacksaw when it comes to efficiency. This is not just due to the speed of the cutting, but also because of how clean and precise the cuts are with the bandsaw. The end result is less work to complete projects compared to the powered hacksaw. The only difference may be in demolition work or when the smoothness of the edges is not a consideration.
This is where the bandsaw also shines as the lack of an idler return stroke means it can cut the metal considerably faster compared to a powered hacksaw. While the hacksaw cuts on the backstroke, the blade has to be pushed forward and repositioned to cut into the material again. However, with the bandsaw, the cutting is continuous and does not have a wasted stroke like the powered hacksaw.
In terms of size, the powered hacksaw is noticeably smaller than the bandsaw. Bandsaws tend to be quite large thanks to the presence of the wheels and motor that runs the blade. While a powered hacksaw is smaller.
Of course, a powered hacksaw is not exactly the lightest of saws, but it can be moved about from place to place where it is needed. It can also be loaded into a vehicle far easier compared to a bandsaw. So, if portability is a major concern, then the powered hacksaw is the one to consider.
If there is one significant advantage to a power hacksaw over a bandsaw, especially one that has an auto-feeding feature, it is the price. The top-of-the-line auto-feeding bandsaws are as expensive as economy cars with some reaching above $10,000. However, the lower-end bandsaws of good quality will still run you thousands of dollars if purchased new.
A power hacksaw can be obtained for a few hundred dollars. You can often find used power hacksaws in good condition for $200 or less. But even when brand new and offering the latest features, a power hacksaw is considerably less expensive compared to a typical bandsaw. This means that if budget is a primary concern, then you may want to choose a power hacksaw if it can perform all the functions that you need.
Here, the bandsaw outshines the powered hacksaw as it can cut through a considerable amount of material in a relatively short time. While powered hacksaws are not exactly small, the reciprocating frame design makes it difficult to have a large frame size. Besides, you can’t have very long power hacksaw blades since it may break easily. That means, the size of the material that you can cut is limited and hence it takes longer for the powered hacksaw to cut the same amount of material compared to the bandsaw.
Bandsaws can be operated at different speeds to maximize their cutting ability. This means that for certain metals, you can set the speed either faster or slower depending on what works best. A powered hacksaw generally has one speed.
Bandsaws have a long flexible blade in the form of a circular loop compared to the straight blade with square teeth of the powered hacksaw. At any point of time during the cutting, only a small portion of the blade is used and by the time the same cutting tooth circulates and comes back at the workpiece, it has plenty of time to cool down. On the other hand, the reciprocating blade has very little time to cool down and hence less tool life.
In addition to that, the full length of the bandsaw blade is utilized during cutting, and hence is tool wear is evenly distributed. In the case of a power hacksaw blade, only the middle portion of the blade is often used especially if you are cutting small cross-sections.
In addition to the main differences between the powered hacksaw and bandsaw, other differences include the following.
You can bundle cut with a bandsaw, but not with a powered hacksaw. This is an important difference for those who want to do the bundled cutting as part of their job.
A bandsaw has a chip removal brush to clean the blades relatively quickly. This helps to keep the blades moving through the material at a reasonably fast rate. The powered hacksaw has no such brush to clean the blades.
One small advantage of a powered hacksaw is that swing cutting is always available when using this unit while on bandsaws it is only an optional feature.
Bandsaw or Power Hacksaw: Which One Should I get?
If you are a hobbyist whose main consideration is price and space, go for a power hacksaw. Everyone else should get a horizontal bandsaw for metal cutting since they are much more efficient and accurate.
Ultimately, the cost is only one consideration between a power hacksaw and a bandsaw. There are several other features that need to be mulled over before you make your final decision. In essence, the bandsaw is generally more desirable because of its versatility, longevity, and efficiency. But if your needs are simpler and can be fully performed with a power hacksaw, then that is the more economical choice.
This is especially true if portability or space is another concern. It’s far easier to bring a power hacksaw to a job site compared to a bandsaw, especially the heavier version that requires stabilization when setting up. So, you may want to look at a power hacksaw first and then decide if it best fits your needs before moving on to the bandsaw.
However, the bandsaw is quite versatile and more importantly can make fine cuts that require little clean-up afterward. Depending on the type of metal it is possible that the cut can stand alone without any milling to smooth the edges. Powered hacksaws are rougher and more in line with cutting that may need some cleanup afterwards.
Prioritize what you need the most, assess your budget, and then make the decision about which one is best for you. While the powered hacksaw is limited compared to the bandsaw, it is a great saw for those who are starting out and do not want to spend much in the way of money.
The bandsaw is better suited for established workshops as it offers greater versatility, cleaner cuts, and faster productivity. The choice as to which one works the best for you should be the final consideration.
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