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Band Saw Safely and Effectively

November 17, 2018Olen Murriel

Using a bandsaw is a way in which a craftsman can cut wood in a simple and easy process, if done with safety and proper procedure in mind. To avoid injury, the wood worker needs to understand how a bandsaw works, and the mechanics of the machine. A bandsaw comes with built-in guides which help propel the wood through the saw, and along the metal band. The potential for injury can occur with bits of wood flying up from the teeth of the blade, or if a wood worker isn’t paying attention and gets their guiding hand or fingers caught in the blade. There is always the potential for the blade or teeth to break when wood working, and metal could potential fly up and hit the worker or become jammed in the machine and cause the wood to slip.

Proper precaution should be observed when using any and all wood working equipment, and safety goggles should be worn to protect the craftsman’s eyes, earplugs should be worn to protect the workers hearing and the proper clothing should be worn so as not to become caught in the teeth of the blade.

A band saw is comprised of blocks and wheels which help keep the wood being cut secured and in place. The machine should always be maintained to ensure the proper functionality, and reference to the manufacturer’s recommendations should be recognized, observed and practiced ensuring injuries don’t occur, or errors aren’t made when cutting the wood. A band saw works off of tension and if the tension of the blade isn’t adjusted properly, it can cause the blade to snap and break. It is recommended that placing the wood on the table before the machine is turned on, and then adjusting the blade guard to 1/8″ to 1/4″ above the wood will ensure the proper tension can be adjusted before turning on the machine. Once all of the adjustments are made, it is then safe to start the machine and begin cutting the wood.


Making the Cut

It is important to trace the contours of the wood before making the cut. Cutting along the outer edge of the wood and gently guiding the wood through the saw, is the best way to get an accurate cut. Trying to push the wood through the blade will put unnecessary pressure on the blade and could cause the blade to snap or break and potentially cause injury. It is important to keep the wood flat on the table of the band saw, because trying to free-style cut the wood could result in injury or damage to the machine or blade. Leaving a small amount of wood outside of the outline traced on the surface can ensure that tool marks on the wood can be sanded out smoothly, and it also allows for error in case the wood has not been measured accurately. It will be easier to shave off excess stock than to have to measure and cut a fresh piece of wood.

Another tip for safety is to use a push stick if the cut line is going to be less than three inches away from the blade. Making sure that debris from shorter cuts is pushed away, will ensure that the blade doesn’t become jammed, or the wood doesn’t slip on the blade and cause an injury. Distractions are the leading cause of injury when working with a band saw, or letting fingers and hands get too close to the band, and not using a push stick to apply gentle pressure to the wood is another way in which mistakes are made and injuries occur. It is important to remember that having a clean and clear work environment can prevent injuries and having a secure stance when standing over the band saw, and working is essential to band saw safety. A craftsman should stand with feet shoulder width apart, slightly bent at the knees so that the knees don’t lock up is important to good workman’s posture. Doing relief cuts is a way to remove excess wood so that portions of the project that are hard to reach angles or curves is important when working with a band saw.

Some band saws are made to cut metal. Using a cooling oil or cutting oil will keep the metal and the band from getting too hot and will lubricate the metals to keep them from sparking. Replace any blades that are dull or with broken teeth. It is also important to release the tension of the band saw, especially if the saw will not be in use for a few days. Some band saws have a quick release whereas others the craftsman needs to release the tension manually by turning the knobs.

Band saw blades are measured by teeth per inch, TPI, and understanding the thickness of the wood determines the blade that should be used to cut the material. A wider blade should be used to cut a thicker piece of material, but it is important to know that a narrower TPI is used to make curved cuts. Understanding how the blades works will ensure a smoother cut. A lower TPI is used for cutting thicker wood, but the wider TPI will ensure a smoother cut. Having a bigger table will also ensure a more stable work surface and will ensure that debris doesn’t fly up and bounce or hit the worker in the feet and shins once debris has fallen way.

There are many aspects to ensuring that using a band saw is done safely but having the correct equipment and understanding how the machine works to operate it safely is the number one tip that can be offered to operate a band saw. Using cooling blocks on the table will also self-lubricate the band saw table and make the equipment operate safer and smoother. Remembering to wear the proper protective equipment, and instilling rules when working with or around a band saw is also another key tip to operating a band saw safely and effectively. Disallowing distractions around the work area, or other people is essential to ensuring the safe use of the band saw and the workers who are operating the saw.

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