We make extensive use of a 12" Hitachi bandsaw. If you slow the blade down to the lower speed setting and use the right blade then it cuts aluminum wonderfully. The trick is in the blade. Read through this tread for more info.
Unfortunately those are out of most of our price ranges… awesome saws if you ever get to use one though.
For cutting long tubing into shorter pieces, or for cutting solid stock, or for anything you want a straight cut for, go with the horizontal bandsaw. I’ve heard that if you use horizontal bandsaws in the vertical position very often, it can become very hard to get a straight cut when switching back to using it horizontally, however.
If you’re looking at cutting lots of thin stuff and cutting angles or contours, go with the vertical bandsaw.
P.S. We have that Delta vertical bandsaw, and considering it’s small size, it’s not bad at all.
Also, that JET and Grizzly saw are exactly the same saw, just branded differently. KBC Tools also sells the same saw for $225. Don’t pay more for the JET. Buy the cheapest one you find.
If you are buying your first band saw, the best choice is the
horizontal saw (with the possible conversion to vertical).
It will be useful for makeing nice square cuts on a variety
of stock, both aluminum and steel. If you can afford
a saw with a coolant/lube drip it is a good idea because
it will extend the life of the blade and keep the work a lot
cooler, although it can be messy.
Look in the yellow pages and B2B book. There are probably a couple of industrial power tool companies in your area that sell band saws. They quite often take trade ins when companies upgrade. You might get lucky and find a real nice used high end band saw.
I bought the small Jet horizontal/vertical metal cutting band saw for my own uses as well as helping my team. I have been happy with it. Two minor problems to report: 1) The table for use in the vertical orientation was bent in shipping and had to be hammered out, 2) Does not always make perfectly square cuts*.
If possible, lay eyes/hands on each model before choosing. Pay attention to the bearings that hold the blade straight and how the material is clamped. You want roller bearings, not bushings or pads for most accurate cutting. See how close to the blade you can clamp a piece as this will limit the size of some cuts.
Also, check on price and availability of replacement metal blades. They only break when you are using the saw so ALWAYS have spares on hand.
*I’ve been told a trick, but have yet to test it regarding straight cuts on a band saw. Many blades are stamped and as such have a lip on the trailing edge of the blade. Holding a wet stone to the trailing edges (before cutting) in theory will break this edge and provide straighter cuts.
As already stated, for heavy cuts (like a hacksaw) use a horizontal, for cutting patterns or intricately on thin stock use a vertical. The blade is the critical point, not the saw. Learn how to properly adjust a band saw - it is not intuitive - and it will serve you well.
As for getting a band saw, if budget isn’t a huge issue, go for a name-brand tool in the 12-14 inch range. If budget is an issue, then a used tool can be had for a fraction of the new price, either saving several hundred dollars, or getting you a far superior machine for the same price.
A band saw made for wood CAN be used, but it’s kind of like using a screwdriver as a chisel - it’ll do, but it’s really not the right way.
At my house, I have a Ryobi vertical band saw, which is about as much of a “wood band saw” as you can get. Home Depot didn’t even sell any blades for it to cut aluminum, but after searching around other local stores (and eventually finding some at Lowe’s), I switched out the wood blade for a metal-cutting blade. Since then, I’ve never had any problems with cutting aluminum or steel.
As long as you lave a blade with enough teeth per inch to sufficiently cut aluminum (or steel), you can use any band saw.
It really doesn’t sound like he’s in the price range to be buying anything name brand.
It’ll set you back over $2000-4000 for anything by Kalamazoo, Wells, Dake, HydMech, etc.
I think Dake is the only one that even sells a 7x12 model, and it’s identical to the one that JET, Grizzly, KBC Tools, MSC, etc all sell under different brand names.
To put it this way, in the price range he’s looking at, he can’t afford American iron. It’s all going to come out of some Taiwanese or Chinese factory, so which nameplate gets stuck on it from that point on is pretty irrelevant.
If they do happen to find a bigger, name brand used bandsaw, then there are awesome deals to be had and you would notice a world of difference in performance compared to the JET or Grizzly.
For light duty stuff, it really shouldnt make a difference though.
This is very curious to me. Of course it is possible to destroy anything if you work hard enough at it but I am really wondering what bandsaw you managed to melt and under what conditions. Could you please post more specific information on the brand/model of saw you destroyed, what type of blade you were using, what type of material you were cutting, and more specifics about what you feel lead to the tool failure? We would all like to learn from your mistakes so as to avoid duplicating your experiance.
I have used a wood blade to cut aluminum before. While it is not recommended, it does work alright if you go slow and are careful. The cut will come out a bit rough and the blade will not last as long, but it does work. Just do not cut something thin with a wood blade. The general rule is you want to try to have at least 3 teeth of the blade in contact with the workpiece. If you don’t go to a finer tooth blade for the thin material.
We ordered a bandsaw for our team last year and decided to go with Delta, however the first bandsaw we received came with a broken foot which could not be repaired(cast iron) so we sent it back for a replacement.
When the replacement came, I had it’s own problems, the tensioning knob on top was broken, and a few others which I can’t remember.
We don’t know if it was the shipping companies fault, or just broken machinery from the get-go, but from what we have experienced, we will not use delta again.
Personally I would go with the Grizzly bandsaw. The drill press we got from them works very well and we are pleased with the quality of the product.
I find for the applications that many FIRST teams encounter, especially if you cut your own frame railings or similar, that a horizontal bandsaw is tremendously helpful. For very small tasks, a vertical may often be slightly more appropriate though.
116 has both a horizontal/vertical and a bench-top bandsaw, and uses both. The horizontal in definitely the workhorse of the shop though, although that could be a bi-product of 116 cutting their own frame, axles, etc. The bench top is also small enough that 116 brings it their competitions. It’s also a Delta, and has been fairly reliable (although it has had issues). Their other Delta tools haven’t been as lucky, and have had MANY issues, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend Delta as a brand for tools in general.
We’ve been considering a bandsaw, but so far lack the space and funds for a fairly nice one. In the meanwhile, this past season we bought an inexpensive Sears power miter saw ($90, but found on sale for $60), and a 7" carbide blade designed for aluminum (Morse CSM754AC Metal Devil, $30 at Amazon). While it will not do long rip or fancy cuts, it works really well for angle and cross cuts on aluminum. It’s also light enough to be easily transportable. Even if we do eventually get our bandsaw, I’m sure our miter saw will still get plenty of use.
Don’t be duped into buying a horizontal/vertical bandsaw combo. Been there, done that. Now we just use it for horizontal only which works out OK - I think we got it from MSC for about $200. We recently got a nice Delta 12" Vertical Band Saw for those special cuts. I also can’t emphasize the importance of a nice disc/belt sander combo to go with it. That will get any framing cuts perfectly square and burr free.
I’ve been working with the JET model you pictured for basically all my simple aluminum cuts since I joined the team. That being said, I haven’t once seen a benefit in turning it to vertical.
For simple stock, like angle or 8020, just clamp it in and let the saw do the work…hasn’t failed on me once. Now, I have to say I have had a problem before with large stock. Cutting a plate of aluminum that was just smaller than the clamp, the entire cutting surface of the blade ended up running through the cut, and with the various dings in the blade from repeated cutting, something ended up jammed, and the blade snapped. Now I’m sure that was mostly just from repeated wear and tear on the blade…but it resulted in a snapped blade nonetheless. It’s an easy fix, but quite the annoyance when you’re in the middle of build season and you don’t have a spare part on hand. So my advice; buy a spare blade or two, it’ll help you greatly in the long run.