You might think that a bandsaw is a luxury tool. One that you don’t really need. And it is true that a bandsaw is certainly not the first tool you would buy for your shop, there are much more important ones you need first.
A good table saw. A router table. Perhaps a jointer and a planer. A good miter box.
All that being said, a bandsaw is a very useful and versatile tool that can do things that are difficult or impossible to do with any other tool or collection of tools. And that is the hallmark of an important and useful tool.
You can cut vertical curves in any thickness of wood with a bandsaw. That is something that is nearly impossible to do with a saber saw. You may be able to cut wood up to a couple of inches thick with a saber saw and get the cuts vertical with a good router, but beyond that, you are pretty much out of luck.
And then there’s resawing which is really difficult to do well with any other tool.
When it comes to choosing a band saw there are a couple of things to look for.
The standard for the small shop is a 14″ bandsaw with a 6-inch throat. A step up would be tho purchase one that can have a riser block added to increase the height of the throat to 12″. This is a really useful feature if you do plan to do any resawing.
Look at the size of the table that the work will rest on. A larger table will make it easier to hold larger pieces of wood stable when you are trying to cut them. You also want a table that can be tilted. This allows you to make straight complex angle cuts on large pieces of material.
The cases that hide the wheels the blade runs on should be solid, but easy to open in order to change and adjust blades.
Blade guides are of critical importance. They contain the blade and keep it running true. It is vital that this part of the saw is of quality design and manufacture. Many guides are solid blocks that wear away as the saw runs against them, but higher quality bandsaws may opt for rollers. These run behind the blade and keep it in place and running freely as you push the material into the blade.
make sure that the base the saw rests on is stable. If you can choose an enclosed base, as it makes controlling the dust that is a normal part of any sawing operation to be controlled.
When it comes to motors, bigger is better. When it comes to a serious 14″ floor model bandsaw a one hp motor should be considered a minimum. While you might be able to get by with a smaller motor, the patience required will be monumental.
When it comes down to it, buy the best quality tool that you can possible afford. You are unlikely to be sorry.