How to Buy a Bandsaw Blade

Bandsaw blades come in a multitude of different sizes and will cut a large range of different materials. But which type of bandsaw blade do you buy? Hopefully the information below will help you choose which type of bandsaw blade is best for you (and the material you are cutting)…

What to Look For in a Bandsaw Blade?

What do you want to use the bandsaw for?

  • Occasional use?
  • How hard is the material you’re cutting?
  • Rough cut, or fine cut?
  • What does it cost?

If you only occasionally use a bandsaw for cutting soft materials, then you may as well get a cheap blade. Why waste your money?

However, if you intend to cut hard materials on a regular basis, then you need a good quality bandsaw blade, otherwise the blade will be going blunt every 5 minutes and you could end up breaking it. You will also need to match the right type of bandsaw blade to the material being cut.

The number of teeth (tpi), can effect the speed, quality and the blades effectiveness. Therefore the tpi needs to be matched to the material that’s being cut. For instance, cutting thin pipe will often need a blade with a large tpi.

Note:

Some bandsaw suppliers only sell bandsaw blades for the machines they sell. This can make the range they supply a bit limited (dependant on the supplier). Therefore check bandsaw specialist suppliers (manufacturers) to compare the range of blades available.


Bandsaws – What Material are You Cutting?

Bandsaw blades can cut a large variety of different materials. To get the best results, it’s always best to select the correct blade for the job:

Wooden Bandsaw Blades:

Bandsaw blades made for cutting wood (not made out of wood as the title may suggest!) are typically made out of carbon steel. However, bimetal blades are often used for harder woods and to extend the life of the blade.

Bandsaw Blades – What Wood are You Cutting?
Bandsaw Blades – What Wood are You Cutting?
Material Type of Bandsaw Blade
Carbon Steel Bimetal Carbide
Wood Y Y
Plywood Y Y
MDF Y Y
Hard Wood Y Y
In all cases, the correct tpi, speed and blade type must be used.

Metal Bandsaw Blades:

Bandsaw blades made for cutting metal are typically made out of carbon steel, or are bimetal. However, carbide blades are often used for harder metals and to extend the life of the blade.

Bandsaw Blades – What Metal are You Cutting?
Bandsaw Blades – What Metal are You Cutting?
Material Type of Bandsaw Blade
Carbon Steel Bimetal Carbide
Mild steel Y Y
Aluminium Y Y Y
Copper Y Y Y
Brass Y Y
Bronze Y Y Y
Cast Iron Y Y
Carbon steel Y
Hardened steel Y Y
Stainless steel Y Y
Tool steel Y Y
Mixed Metals Y
Nickel & Titanium Y Y
In all cases, the correct tpi, speed and blade type must be used.
The Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous:

You will often see the terms ferrous and non-ferrous.

  • Ferrous materials contain iron. E.g. Steel and cast iron.
  • Materials that don’t contain iron are non-ferrous E.g. Aluminium, Copper, Lead, Zinc etc.

Bandsaw Blades for Other Materials:

There is a long list of other materials bandsaws can cut. The list below gives some examples of what can be cut.

Bandsaw blades are not just limited to a flat hacksaw type blade (that’s formed in a loop). Wire cutting bandsaws are also common, but are usually for more specialist uses, such a cutting concrete, stone, marble and even whole submarines. See the article on the Russian submarine Kursk (K-141), (under the heading ‘Submarine recovery’)…

Bandsaw Blades – What Other Materials are You Cutting?
Bandsaw Blades – What Other Material are You Cutting?
Material Type of Bandsaw Blade
Carbon Steel Bimetal Carbide Diamond Grit Wire Cutting
Plastics Y Y
Fibreglass Y Y
Glass Y
Ceramics Y
Stone Y Y
Concrete Y
Cardboard Y Y
Foam Y
Cork Y
Rubber Y Y
Tyres (steel belted) Y Y Y
Foam Y
Meat & Fish Y Y
Submarines Y
In all cases, the correct tpi, speed and blade type must be used.

Bandsaw Blade Sizes (and Measurements):

A bandsaw blade typically has four measurements:

Number of Teeth (tpi):

The Number of Teeth Per Inch (tpi) in a 1 Inch Section of Blade
The Number of Teeth Per Inch (tpi) in a 1 Inch Section of Blade

The number of Teeth per Inch (tpi) is important when choosing bandsaw blades. It can effect:

  • The speed of the cut.
  • The quality of the cut.
  • The blades ability to cut.
Bandsaw Blades – The Number of Teeth (tpi):
Bandsaw Blades – Number of Teeth
Type of Cut: Material1: tpi
Continuous Steel Belted Tires, composites, hardened steel, reinforced plastic 0
Coarse Wood, Plastic, Soft Metals 4
Coarse Wood, Plastic, Soft Metals 6
Medium Wood, Plastic, Metals 10
Medium General Purpose (Metal) 14
Fine General Purpose (Metal) 18
Fine Thin Sheet & Tube 32
Knife blade Specific applications
Variable Teeth2
Coarse Wood, Plastic, Soft Metals 4/6
Coarse Wood, Plastic, Soft Metals 5/8
Coarse / Medium Wood, Plastic, Soft Metals 6/10
Medium Wood, Plastic, Metal 8/12
Medium Wood, Plastic, Metal 10/14
Teeth per Inch = tpi

Notes:

  • The tpi is selected for the type of material you are cutting and the wall thickness. E.g. The thickness of a pipe wall, rather then the overall size of the pipe.
  • 1 This list of materials is only a rough guide, as the tpi will vary dependent on each specific type of material. Please check the suppliers data sheets.
  • 2 Variable tpi increases the range and cutting ability of a bandsaw blade.

Typical Widths:

The width of a bandsaw blade is often dependant on the machine being used (see it’s specifications), and the type of cut, straight or curved.

Note:

  • Some bandsaws (and blades) are only intended to be used for straight cuts. Check the machines specifications.
  • Don’t get confused between blade width and thickness. The thickness is always the smallest measurement. I.e. 1638 x 13 x 0.63mm.
Bandsaw Blades – Typical Widths:
Bandsaw Blades – Widths
Metric Inches
6mm 1/4″
9.5mm 3/8″
13mm 1/2″
19mm 3/4″
25mm 1″
32mm 11/4
38mm 11/2

The Length of Blade:

There are so many different lengths of bandsaw blades. Many suppliers offer a made to measure service to cover the huge range of sizes. However, there are often set sizes for ‘off the shelf’ purchases. But again, the list is pretty long!

Check the required length for your specific machine.

The Blade Thickness:

Many ‘off the shelf’ bandsaw blades don’t specify the blade thickness. However, the blade thickness can influence how flexible the blade is, and the amount of material removed during the cutting process.

The bandsaw wheels (the blade usually runs on two large wheels to form the blade loop), also have a part to play in the thickness of a bandsaw blade and what blades can be fitted to a bandsaw machine.

  • The smaller the wheel, the tighter the bend.
  • The thicker the blade, the less flexible it is (generally).

For most cases, the standard ‘off the shelf’ blades with no mention of thickness will be fine (the thickness is often dictated by the length and width of the blade). But for piece of mind, it may be worth checking the specification of your bandsaw in case you ever need to choose a blade thickness?

Bandsaw Blades – Typical Blade Thickness:
Bandsaw Blades – Thickness
Wheel Diameter Thickness Width1
mm Inches mm Inches mm Inches
102-152 4-6″ 0.36 0.014″
152-203 6-8″ 0.46 0.018″ 6 1/4″
203-254 8-10″ 0.5 0.020″ 9.5 3/8″
254-457 10-18″ 0.64 0.025″ 13 1/2″
457-610 18-24″ 0.81 0.032″ 19 3/4″
610-762 24.30″ 0.89 0.035″ 25 1″
762-914 30-36″ 1.1 0.042″ 32 11/4
914+ 36+” 1.27+ 0.050+” 38 11/2
1The Blade width is just a rough Guide.

Note:

  • The table above is only a guide. Please refer to the manufacturer’s data sheets.
  • Don’t get confused between blade width and thickness. The thickness is always the smallest measurement. I.e. 1638 x 13 x 0.63mm.

Bandsaw Blade Material:

What are Bandsaw Blades Made of?

Generally, all bandsaw blades will be made out of some form of steel. The blades cutting edge should be harder than the material it’s cutting, otherwise it would go blunt very quickly.

The majority of the bandsaw blades cross sectional area will support the harder, more brittle cutting edge (to stop it from breaking). This supporting cross sectional area of the bandsaw blade also has to be flexible, otherwise the blade would snap.

Typical Bandsaw Blade Types and What they’re Made of:

Carbon Steel Blades:

Are for general purpose metal cutting. They will cut the softer materials. They can cut some of the harder materials, but the blade life will be reduced. See the section “What Material are You Cutting?” for a list of items carbon steel blades can cut.

Here’s an example list:

  • Mild steel.
  • Aluminium.
  • Copper.
  • Brass.
  • Bronze.
  • Plastics.
  • Wood.

Bimetal Blades:

Are for harder materials and more heavy use. They are made by welding two different steels together (a hard cutting edge is welded to a flexible back piece). If looked after, they can last 3 to 5 times longer (and sometimes more…) than carbon steel blades, but are more expensive. See the section “What Material are You Cutting?” for a list of items bimetal blades can cut.

Here’s an example list:

  • Carbon steel.
  • Tool steel.
  • Structural steel.
  • Stainless steel.
  • Mixed metals.
  • Titanium.
  • Hardwood.

Note:

Bimetal bandsaw blades can be used for softer materials. They are more expensive, but may last longer.

Carbide Tipped Blades:

Carbide tipped blades are for harder materials and more heavy use. See the section “What Material are You Cutting?” for a list of items carbide tipped blades can cut.

Here’s an example list:

  • Fibreglass.
  • Hardened steel.
  • Tool steel.
  • Stainless steel.
  • Cast Iron.
  • Tyres (steel belted).
  • Hardwood.

Diamond Grit Blades:

Diamond grit blades are for cutting very hard and abrasive materials. See the section “What Material are You Cutting?” for a list of items diamond grit blades can cut.

Here’s an example list:

  • Fibreglass.
  • Glass.
  • Ceramics.
  • Stone.

Wire Cutting:

Wire cutting is where a diamond or carbide covered wire is used to cut materials. As well as being used on a rotating ‘bandsaw’ type machine, they can be used with a sawing action. Often used for cutting large concrete reinforced structures. The most famous application was cutting the bow off a Russian submarine during a salvage operation in the Barents Sea. See the section “What Material are You Cutting?” for a list of items diamond grit blades can cut.

Here’s an example list:

  • Reinforced concrete.
  • Stone.
  • Marble.
  • Submarines.

Bandsaw Blade Quality:

The quality of a bandsaw blade will be dependant on a number of factors.

  • The quality of the steel:
  • The type of steel:
  • The quality of the heat treatment.
  • The quality control of the manufacturer.

Quality can be difficult to judge, unless you know the brand, the supplier, or have specific recommendations and technical information. Often cost is used as a guide, but if it is an unbranded bandsaw blade, all you can do is use your own experience by testing a sample purchase.


Buying a Bandsaw Blade – Other Factors:

When cutting materials with a bandsaw, you need to take into account:

The Material Being Cut:

Just buying a blade that fits, doesn’t always give you a good cut. There are other factors…

The Speed:

As well as the type of blade, the tpi, etc, etc. You have the cutting speed.

  • Too fast – The blade will wear quickly and there can be heat issues too.
  • Too slow – The bandsaw will be inefficient.

The Actual Item Being Cut:

  • What is it?
  • Is it made from more than one material?
What is it?

A good example is a thin wall tube. The material may look bigger than it actually is. In reality, a blade with a high tpi is needed because of the thin material (when the bandsaw blade cuts the perpendicular sides of the tube).

Mixed materials?

Is the blade suitable for all the materials being cut at the same time?

The Type of Bandsaw Being Used:

Not all bandsaws are the same.

  • Some do a vertical cut.
  • Some horizontal.
  • Some are better at cutting longitudinally?
  • Others are best at cutting perpendicular?
  • Some are designed for specific materials

Check the available speeds of the machine. Does it cater for the speeds most suitable for the material it is cutting?

Is the ‘Throat’ (depth of cut) big enough for the item you’re cutting?


Health & Safety – Blade Installation:

  • Always wear the correct PPE, gloves, safety glasses, etc
  • Always isolate the power when changing (or touching) bandsaw blades.
  • Beware of the spring steel. I.e. Blades can jump out at you if they’ve been twisted into a smaller coil for packaging purposes!
  • Make sure the installed blade is at the correct tension. Always recheck after every use (with the power off).
  • Make sure the blade is tracking correctly.
  • Check the machine before use.
  • Only run the machine with all the covers on.
  • Never use your fingers! Use a piece of wood.
  • Listen for unusual noises?
  • Don’t be distracted.

General Info:

What is a Bandsaw Blade?

A bandsaw blade is very much like a hacksaw blade, but is formed in a loop (a band). This is so it can be driven (usually in one direction) like a never ending cutting blade. A scroll saw on the other hand, has a very much shorter blade that only travels a short distance in both directions (in a sawing motion).

How is a Bandsaw Blade Made?

A bandsaw blade is usually made from a large single length of blade stored in a coil, (thats been made to a specific tpi and width). A length of this coil is cut to the desired length to make a looped blade that will fit your machine. The open ends of the blade are welded together to form the loop.

The welding process to join the ends must not change the make up (specifications) of the blade, otherwise the blade will fail at the join. Therefore the heat, thickness of weld etc must be strictly controlled during the welding process. The blades joint is often heat treated after welding, to return the blades joint to the blades original specification.

Making Your Own Bandsaw Blades:

You can purchase bandsaw blade in long lengths to make your own looped bandsaw blades. But you will need to purchase (or make) a jig to join the blade.

As well as holding the blade in position for welding, the jig plays a key role in heat dissipation during the welding process. The blade will probably need to be ground to maintain the correct thickness. The cutting edge of the blade will need to be heat treated to maintain the cutting edge. The remainder of the blades width will need to be heat treated to maintain the blades flexibility.

Manufacturer’s:

There are plenty of bandsaw blade manufacturers out there. Most of them provide more detail on specific blade types on their websites. Here is a brief list of some of the manufacturer’s (opens in a new window):


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