by Beth Bartlett
Choosing the right band saw blade is important for both the quality of your work and your safety. When choosing a band saw blade, consider the project ahead: the type and size of blade for your saw matters just as much as the material that needs to be cut. While selecting the wrong band saw blade can cause undue stress and danger to you if the saw blade breaks, the proper blade can be a valued, long-lasting tool. Paying attention to the details ensures efficient, safe work with quality results.
Look at the type of saw you have to determine the blade you need. For a large, two-wheel band saw, you'll use thicker and stronger blades. If you're using a power tool such as a two- or three-wheel tabletop saw, your blade must be thinner to flex around the smaller wheels without breaking. Often, these types of blades are called three-wheeler blades. They are designed to flex to a greater degree without breaking.
Consider the material to be cut. You should choose a band saw blade rated for the material you will use. Most band saws include ratings from wood and plastics to non-ferrous metals and even tempered metal. This rating is based mainly on the density of the material the blade will cut. Carbon tool steel is the cheapest blade, but if you're doing more demanding work, invest in a more expensive bi-metal blade. They last much longer than carbon tool steel blades if used properly, so you save money in the long run.
Decide on tooth pattern, which relates to the number and set of the teeth on the blade. The fewer teeth per inch, the faster and rougher your cut will be. More teeth per inch produces a slower but smoother cut.
Measure the thickness of the material to be cut. You should use a blade that always keeps two to ten teeth in contact with the material at all times. The set of the blade refers to how the individual teeth are angled. There are blades with no set at all, so the cut is just as wide as the blade. There are also those with raker, alternate and wavy sets that are progressively wider. If you make a cut wider than the blade, it is easier to turn your work for fine detail curves.
Choose the width of your blade. This is a simple matter of deciding how small a circle you want to cut. The width of the blade is measured from the front of the teeth to the back of the blade. The smaller the blade, the tighter curves you can cut. For example, if the desired radius is 7 inches, the blade width should be 1 inch. If the radius is 2.5 inches, then the blade only needs to be 1/2 inch wide.