Band saws and jigsaws are, perhaps, two of the most essential tools in a woodworking shop. They both perform various unique functions but can also carry out a few similar tasks. Woodworkers must understand the functionality and capabilities of both tools so they can know which tool they should go for, based on the intention and intensity of the job at hand. In this article, we will guide you through the bandsaw vs jigsaw challenge. We’ll first discuss both tools’ features and uses, then we’ll compare some of their characteristics. Finally, we’ll decide whether you should get one or the other.
As a rule of thumb, band saws and jigsaws shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Band saws are specially designed for heavy re-sawing projects, while jigsaws are particularly designed to make curved cuts on lighter material.
Band Saw Overview and Features
William Newberry of London invented the band saw in 1908. He initially built it as a machine to split animal skins and saw wood. Over the years, it underwent several modifications and by the beginning of the 20th Century, it was one of the most popular tools in the metalworking, lumbering, and woodworking industries.
The band saw comprises a long continuous sharp blade running across two or more wheels in the same direction. The wheels enhance the motion of the blade, enabling the teeth to cut almost all kinds of materials consistently.
The purpose of its long blade is to distribute the workload thereby reducing blade heating and blade wear. These blades are available in standard sizes but can be specially customized to cut a wider selection of materials.
An inexperienced user might find it difficult to understand the band saw sizes. The ‘throat’ is directly linked to the size of your saw. This is the distance from the saw’s vertical frame section to its blade – it dictates the width of the cut you can complete with your band saw.
This means that if you have a 10-inch saw, you will have a similar distance to work on between the frame and your blade.
You can find different types of band saws in the market today including cabinet models, mounted band saws, and bench-top models. All of them are motor-powered. The cabinet models are more expensive but will offer you more features and better performance levels as they have larger motors. Mounted band saws are cost-friendly but with lesser features. Nevertheless, the mounted band saws can still do a good give you adequate service.
A key feature of the band saws is blade tensioning. If your blades are not tensioned appropriately, your saw will not create straight and uniform cuts consistently. These saws contain a spring that holds the blade firmly in place by applying a tensile force as high as 20,000 PSI (Pounds-per-Square-Inch). Band saws that have bi-metal blades are stronger. They can go as high as 30,000 PSI.
The contemporary band saw frames are manufactured from folded steel. This is to provide a strong and sturdy framework that can withstand the stress created by blade tensioning. A weak frame can easily crumble under pressure.
Another key feature of the band saws is its fences. A well-designed fence lets you resaw boards into smaller pieces, produce precise and accurate cuttings, and rip through rough lumber. Besides, a good fence must be adjustable so that is always square to the blade and table.
When it comes to power, band saws with higher power ratings make it easier for the tool to perform different tasks. They have electric motors and a series of pulleys and belts which make it possible for you to adjust the speed of the blade.
Those that have lower power ratings can struggle to handle a normal resawing job. Consequently, go for those that have a power rating as they will give you that extra edge when taking on challenging projects.
Band saws have complex designs and functionalities and the user must have the necessary levels of expertise and knowledge of the machine. When used in the right way, the band saw can greatly boost your creativity and help you make the most out of the material you intend to work on.
Care and maintenance of the band saw are also important as a poorly-maintained machine will not perform to optimal levels. Below are some of the common uses of the band saw.
- Resawing– this is the process of slicing large, thicker pieces of wood and lumber into two smaller parts.
- Faster, repetitive cuts – the band saw is used to slice several large wooden piles that require a similar cut.
- Industrial use – its sharp teethed blades make it ideal for both wood and metal cutting. In carpentry, the band saw is very useful as it can cut wood with minimal waste. It is also used in the meat industry as it produces neat cuts.
Jigsaw Overview and Features
The Jigsaw is a handheld saw that consists of a reciprocal thin blade that works in an up and down motion to make accurate curves on specific materials.
The tooth design of the jigsaw hugely affects the performance of a blade. The cutting angle, tooth shape, and tooth spacing boost peak performances, speed, and cleanliness of cuts. A side set and ground tooth work best for fast and clean cuts in plastics and woods. A milled tooth and side set is designed for metals and some plastics. A taper ground tooth is ideal for fine, precise cuts in wood, while the diamond grit works perfectly on hard materials.
One of its main features is the replaceable blades. Its versatility makes it stand out from other handheld saws. You can, therefore, change its blade according to the type of material you have, from wood, plastic to other softer materials.
For instance, if you are looking to make small radius curves, you should go for the narrow blade as it will give you accuracy. So, by making the proper choice of the blade for a particular job, you can achieve the needed consistency and excellent results.
Some of the latest models have laser guide technology to help the user make perfectly straight cuts. This technology also makes interior cutting tasks simpler.
Jigsaws also have variable speed options to help you cut different types of material efficiently. High cutting speeds are those that go beyond 2000 SPM (Strokes Per Minute), while low cutting speeds are those that go below 750 SPM.
The speed you will use depends on the material you want to cut. For example, to cut metal or hardwoods, lower speeds should be used to prevent the blade from overheating. Similarly, softwoods will benefit from a quicker cutting speed. The reduced vibration allows the blade to slice through the material more effectively.
Another prominent feature of some jigsaw blades is the orbital action. Unlike the standard action jigsaws, the blade moves marginally frontward into the material on the upswing, then marginally backward on a downstroke. These orbital movements minimize wear and tear of the blade.
Jigsaws are generally light in weight – they weigh between 5Kgs and 20Kgs. Both the corded or cordless models are portable and convenient to carry around from one workstation to another. Cordless models will offer you convenience in handling – you will not have to worry about its long cords getting tangled in your feet and other objects.
The corded models are more powerful than the cordless models. With the corded models, you will not have to worry about your battery losing power in the middle of a job. A jigsaw with an ampere rating of between 6.5 and 7 can complete several tasks without getting overwhelmed. Those that have ampere ratings of 5 or below can overheat easily when subjected to harder tasks.
Other additional features such as dust collection bags, splinter control shoes, and dust blowers are a matter of individual preference. Simply focus on those features that will improve your efficiency and productivity.
Below are some of its common uses:
- It is the safest option for beginners looking to undertake various DIY projects at home. Jigsaws can work perfectly on materials like particle boards, drywall, foam, wood, and fiberglass. They can work virtually on all surfaces, provided that you use the right type of blade.
- To make neat curves and designs on wooden art pieces such as sculptures. One of its biggest advantages is that it enables you to cut the inside part of the wood without interfering with its edges. This may be difficult to achieve with other power tools.
What are the Differences between Band Saws and jigsaws?
They have several differences as outlined below.
Type of cuts
Band saws are suitable for wider cuts on thicker materials. They are mostly used for re-sawing and other large-scale cutting activities of timber or wood. On the other hand, jigsaws are mostly used for narrow and more intricate cuts and curves. They are suitable for general cutting purposes on wood and softer materials.
Tool Size and Comfort
Jigsaws are handheld tools. They are lightweight, small, and very portable. Users can carry the saws comfortably and use them at any desired location. Conversely, a band saw is not handheld. They are heavy and cumbersome and you cannot carry them around easily.
For beginners or DIY (Do-it-Yourself) projects, the jigsaw is the most ideal option. The risk of injury is lower when using a jigsaw. But for large-scale and more complex tasks, the band saw is undoubtedly the most perfect choice for you. More importantly, band saws should only be operated by qualified and experienced personnel to prevent the possibility of injury.
The jigsaw can handle several different types of materials from wood and soft metals. Band saws are powerful enough to cut through harder and thicker materials.
Type of blade
Jigsaw blades are reciprocating saws. This means that its blades are connected to the top part of the saw only. On the other hand, band saws have blades that connect to a band. More so, the blades are attached to the wheels to help them power through the material.
Band saws have a flexible and continuous blade, running in a downward motion. They also have thicker blades that can slice through up to 30 inches of material. In contrast, jigsaws use motors that drive their blade in a quick up-and-down motion. They have very thin blades that can only slice up to 3 inches of wood accurately.
Bandsaw vs Jigsaw: Which One Suits You Best?
It would be incorrect to state that one saw is better than its counterpart. Their uses depend on your skills, requirements, and experience. There are many factors to consider before choosing the right tool for a particular task.
Hence, go for a jigsaw if your job involves the following:
- You are planning to perform simple and straightforward tasks such as cutting of thin material such as veneers, sheet goods, and paneling;
- You need to cut different shapes, forms, and curves on your material;
- If you have to work at an awkward angle, such as cutting out a part of your drywall.
Similarly, go for the band saw when your job involves the below:
- You need to resaw large pieces of lumber or timber and are looking for smoother cuts from the thick timber;
- You want to make large diameter curves in thicker timber or difficult angle cuts in complex designs.
In summary, the functionality of these saws depends on the blade condition, cutting type, user comfort, and the material you are working on.
If you have both tools of these tools in your workshop, ensure you use the appropriate tool for a particular job to avoid disastrous results and enable you to get the most out of your investment.
Always follow the user manuals and instructions provided in your package. Place special emphasis on those that talk about tool maintenance and safety. You must learn how to use and maintain your tools for your safety and the best working experience.
If you are still not sure whether you need a bandsaw or a jigsaw, maybe it’s a sign you need a different tool. Check out the following comparisons I wrote: