Best bandsaw for aluminum sheet?

What bandsaw does CD recommend for aluminum sheet and/or possibly also square tube? Is horsepower a concern? Or just the blade type?

For square tube, you will likely want a horizontal band saw. These have the return loop of the blade set back so you can cut any length. With most vertical band saws, you will only be able to cut off pieces up to the throat length.

For sheet, you will likely want a vertical band saw. The critical dimension will be the “diameter”; you will not be able to cut anything wider than this; the limit is actually a bit less because the return blade is guarded. The “throat depth” tells how thick the piece you can cut will be; this is less likely to be an issue for sheet.

In both cases, I recommend getting a band saw which is designed for cutting metal, as they will run more slowly than those designed for wood. By the time you do this, you will also have all the horsepower you will need for aluminum, or occasional cutting steel bolts and such for that matter.

There are “convertible” horizontal/vertical band saws. I’ve only worked with one convertible bandsaw, and the conversion looks like it will take 15-20 minutes each way, so if you’re frequently cutting both, this is likely not a good option.

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Thanks GeeTwo! Any recommendations on a bandsaw designed for aluminum? I can’t figure out how to know what materials its intended for.

My team got this one. It can convert to vertical in like five minutes although the table is very small.

If it doesn’t say, it’s likely wood. You can also check the blade speed. If it’s single speed, a thousand feet per minute or higher, definitely wood. Metal cutters are more typically 50-250 fpm, and usually have several speeds.

Our team uses a similar bandsaw, conversion can take less than a minute. (Unscrew, re-screw 2 fasteners) Though I would not recommend folks use the vertical config.(We do because budget, but it leaves much to be desired.) The throat on ours is only a few inches in the vertical config so not ideal for sheet goods. It’s pretty good for tube though!

Okay, new question, I’m looking at these and I’m having trouble figuring out how I would cut down a 2x4, it looks like there’s not enough table space there or anything to brace it against to get a straight cut.

The two links posted so far are not great examples of bandsaws for cutting sheet goods. Excellent for square tube however.

How wide are these pieces you expect to create on the bandsaw? That dimension will dictate what kind of a bandsaw you require. Or even if a bandsaw is the right tool for the job.

The saw pictured on the Homedepot site is similar to many small horizontal band saws. The clamp on the table works quite well to support the work at the cut. With anything but the shortest of pieces you have the support the ends of the work, but they do not have to be clamped.

The best way to cut something long to length is with a horizontal format saw. These have a pair of vise plates; usually one is to set the miter and the other to do the clamping. If the piece is long, you would set up a separate saw horse or similar support to hold the end up.

With a vertical format saw, there is usually a miter gauge with a glide that moves parallel to the cutting direction. You would then hold or clamp the piece to this, and push the piece into the blade; the miter gauge will help it go in a straight line. To support a long piece in this process, you will need a roller stand.

Our school has bandsaws for just wood and one that is humongous and cuts metal. I’m not sure if it can cut any other metal other than aluminum though.

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Depending on how thin of a sheet we’re talking about, it may be in your best interest to buy a shear instead and just a cheap horizontal bandsaw for tubing. A bandsaw will [maybe] work on thin sheet aluminum, but you will not like the results.

Bandsaws work great on any aluminum that’s 1/16" or thicker. Great for FRC, and a must-have IMO. I’m sure you can cut thinner, but you need to swap the blade out for one with fine teeth.
My recommendation is to get the heaviest, slowest vertical bandsaw you can find (horizontal will not work!). A high/low gear is good, and indicative of an ability to cut metal. We use a rolling Grizzly bandsaw with 2 speeds, but ours is poor enough to not cut metal without heating it enough to need gloves. We’re about to purchase a much heavier bandsaw that’s clearly made for aluminum- it features speeds down to 25ish feet-per-minute (FPM).
Google can help you figure out what FPM is good for aluminum, and what saws people have had success with. My recommendation is to look for a nearby machinery dealer and see if they have anything. Ours is going to cots $1650, and probably another $100 for replacement tires for the wheel and a new blade.

This is our 20inch metal cutting bandsaw. It’s about 6ft tall.

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What blade type are you using? If you have a 2 speed saw and it’s heating up the part I would suspect you have a dull blade or something that isn’t clearing chips out of the gullets between teeth.

25 FPM is wayyyy low for aluminum sawing. You want to be in the 200-500 FPM range. We cut steel at 165 FPM on our horizontal bandsaw.

I’m not cutting at 25 FPM, I’m just making a point that it can go that slow as an example of what a metal-cutting bandsaw will look like in terms of features. Also, I just checked it again, looks like the saw has a range of 40-5000 FPM.
Currently we use a bimetal blade with some number of TPI that I can’t remember off the top of my head. We went through at least 3-4 blades this season, and each one was retired only after it become dangerously hot to use. 115 used carbon steel blades on their large vertical bandsaw, to save it in case somebody cut steel. That one cut like a dream when I was on the team.

I’ll echo what Cory said. Aluminum cuts fast. The slow bandsaws are for steel.

We use a Grizzly G555X 14" bandsaw designed for cutting wood, and it works quite well on aluminum. In fact, in about 2 years of use, I’m not sure we’ve ever even changed the blade on it, and that’s with a class using it in addition to the FRC team. The bearings on it are quite loud, but it still works well. If you can find a Delta 14" bandsaw, those are pretty decent too, but discontinued now. Pretty much all the 14" bandsaws are based off the same basic design, but there are some differences in the minor features and motors and whatnot. I would not recommend less than 3/4 HP. I can easily bog down my 3/4 HP 14" Delta. The Grizzly linked above has substantially more power.

Many saws designed for wood will work just fine on aluminum, and even some blades will too. This Porter Cable at Lowes is not bad for the price if you’re looking to avoid shipping, and quite honestly even this Harbor Freight model is decent, and includes several speeds available via step pulleys.

Wilton had a nice 14", but like the Delta, it too appears discontinued.

Of course, if you can find a big old Rockwell or Do-All bandsaw in decent shape, those are beasts.

We were fortunate enough to find a local manufacturer that was offloading equipment (times are good, companies are retooling and upgrading machinery) and we snagged a Do-all 36" three-wheel bandsaw that also has a blade welder. They threw in a stand-alone bandsaw blade welder and about 30 years worth of blade stock (seriously, I will retire before it is all used up).

Prior to this, we had a cast-off from our Wood Lab (Rockport). It had issues until a couple of mentors did a full run-through with it. Now we are up to two vert bandsaws that we use non-stop. Best part, we didn’t pay for either.

And as for the Horizontal Bandsaw, we have a Wilton from the late '90’s. It works great, but we now have to lube it manually. We had a Keller that was awesome, but after 50 years in service in a HS shop, it just petered out.

As for prioritization - vert would be the highest priority if it was my shop.

For your sheet work, have you considered a nibbler?

Perhaps a nibbler for sheet and a chop saw for tubing is a useful combination?