In the engineering workshop, no matter what size it is, the chances are you will need a metal cutting bandsaw. This is mainly for the cutting and sizing of your stock. You can of course on certain bandsaws produce intricate shapes for sculpting and architecture.

There are many, many different bandsaws available on the market today and so finding the right one for your needs can be difficult. This guide will try to help you in this by going through what key features you should look for, as well as how they will benefit you.

Why do you need a Metal Cutting Bandsaw?

Now some of the traditionalists out there may argue that a hacksaw will suffice, but if you are sizing large amounts of metal, you can't beat the speed and accuracy a metal cutting bandsaw brings. Not to mention the lack of physical exertion.

For the hobbyist, you may wonder if the initial outlay is worth it, and that will depend entirely on how much you need to cut. For those of you who work in fabrication workshops, they are vital and that's where some key features come into play.

Metal cutting bandsaw in use

Horizontal or Vertical?

Although vertical bandsaws are very much associated with woodworking, they can still have their place in the engineering workshop. This will mainly be in workshops where intricate or curved work needs to be done, as well as sheet work. Smaller workshops will also benefit from vertical models, due to the smaller footprint that they have.

Horizontal bandsaws are definitely what you think about when talking engineering. Although they can't do the intricate shaped work that vertical models can, the accuracy and ease that you can cut stock makes them invaluable for the busy workshop.

Key Considerations

Before you jump straight in and buy, it's best to think about your needs and requirements. If you can put a list together, this will certainly narrow down the selection of bandsaws available.

  • The amount of work - This will determine firstly if you need a bandsaw. If you're going to be doing very little work, do you really need to dig into your pockets to buy one? Secondly this will determine the size/power of the model you need to buy.
  • Workshop space - Always a defining factor on your purchase. Try and buy as big a machine as you can fit into your shop, as you never know when you'll need to something bigger!
  • Size of the job - Will ultimately affect the size of the machine you need. Try to think of the biggest task you will be doing, then add a little more to get the machine. This is so you won't be working at full capacity at all times.
  • Type of job - This will decide if you need a horizontal or vertical bandsaw. Curved or intricate work will require a vertical model. Cutting of stock and straight cutting will need a horizontal version.
  • Ease of use - Fabrication workshops will likely be looking for a saw with hydraulic downfeed and cut off switch. This is so the cut can be started, then the engineer can move onto other tasks before coming back to the saw.
  • Budget - The bigger the budget, the larger, more powerful machine you will likely be able to buy. Depending on the age of the machine. Of course it's also good to consider extras such as blades and coolant.

What are the Key Features to Look For?

Depending on the size of the machine and the tasks you need to perform you may only be looking for one or two of these features, but here are a list of the key ones we think you need to look for...

Variable Speed

Different materials will require different speeds for optimum cutting. Some machines may come with a belt drive with three or four speeds which are good, but a variable speed is definitely preferable. Not only will these give you easy speed changing, but also great flexibility of use over many materials. With the overall benefit of making your blades last much longer.

Mitre Or Dual Mitre Cutting

Having this ability is what makes bandsaws stand out over powered hacksaws. A lot of processing, especially in the fabrication workshop will need to be angles and therefore mitre cutting is a necessity. Not just having mitre cutting, but accurate mitre cutting with a precise scale.

Dual mitre cutting is another great feature to have, especially good for workshops that have a multitude of cuts to do on non-symmetrical material. For people wanting a vertical bandsaw, this should be easily done with a standard mitre fence.

Rigid Construction

As with most engineering machinery, solid steel and cast iron construction are very important. This is so the machine can withstand the cutting forces put on it, as well as giving it vibration dampening qualities that will aid the accuracy of the cut.

Rigid construction

Desirable features

These are great features that not every bandsaw will need but are certainly beneficial.

  • Coolant system - For larger machines performing bigger cuts, having a coolant system is vital for prolonging the life of the blade. For smaller machines, it's great to have some available to spray on the job sporadically.
  • Hydraulic downfeed - These are preferred over the basic spring systems, which are found on smaller machines. This is due to them offering a consistent blade pressure during automatic functioning.
  • Swivel head over swivel vice - Some machines may come with swivel vices instead of swivel heads for mitre cutting. Although these are good, they won't provide the accuracy of the swivel head alternatives.

Blades And Accessories

An important factor in the performance of your metal cutting bandsaw will be the blades that you use. Most 'stock' metal cutting blades will come with a standard tooth count (6, 10, 14tpi). Although these blades will do an adequate job, it's best to get variable pitch teeth (6-10tpi or 10-14tpi). The variable teeth allow the blades to cut through almost any material. This is because while the finer teeth do the cutting, the coarser teeth then clear away the swarf, reducing heat build up.

Another great accessory especially for the larger workshop are roller stands. When cutting stock, these provide a stable structure that supports the weight of the material, whilst also making it easy to feed it into the vice. If you are doing round bar or tubular materials, a V Roller stand, is going to be your best bet. Finally, some coolant for putting onto the work is essential, to get the best finish, as well as prolonging your tool life.

Buying a metal cutting bandsaw is probably a bit harder than it first seems, with many things having to be considered. However, once you have done the research and found a machine that suits your needs, you will (with the correct maintenance) have a machine that will perform accurate cuts time and time again.