Highland Woodworking
 
Tool Review: General-Purpose Bandsaw Blades
By Jeff Fleisher

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Bandsaw blades come in a variety of tooth geometries, combination metals and sizes but I've always been happy using the basic standard bandsaw blades. Highland Woodworking has long been known for their wonderful Wood Slicer Resaw Bandsaw Blade and I did a review of it in the September 2017 issue of Wood News Online. Highland also carries Premium-Carbide Tipped Bandsaw Blades if you are looking for a long life blade that will cut through extremely dense woods. However, if you are like me, a low-volume, pretty average bandsaw user, then a General-Purpose Bandsaw Blade works well for most of my applications.


For this review, I worked with the 1/4" and 1/2" General-Purpose Bandsaw Blades. They also come in 3/16", 3/8" and 3/4" blade widths and a large number of lengths from 70-1/2" to 160" to cover most bandsaw configurations. The blades are made from 0.025" thick carbon steel with a hard edge and flex-back. Carbon bandsaw blades can have an extremely sharp edge which can leave a relatively smooth clean kerf.

The 1/4" blade is my 'go to' size and is the one that is on my bandsaw all the time unless I need to remove it for a special reason, like resawing. It is an excellent size for most applications. It is narrow enough that I can cut almost any size curve (as you'll see later in this review) yet has enough body to maintain a straight line when needed. The 1/4" blade has a 6 teeth per inch (TPI), hook tooth configuration.

Why a 6 TPI blade? For general wood cutting in typical 3/4" material a range between 4 TPI for coarse, fast cutting and 14 TPI for slower, smoother cutting is desired. Something in the 6-8 range is a good general-purpose blade. Also, hook tooth blades have a deeper gullet/larger tooth and a positive 'rake angle' which helps the blade to feed into the material more aggressively.

The other blade that I use on my 14" bandsaw is the 1/2" 3 TPI hook tooth blade. I use this mainly for resawing. Since I seldom resaw anything over 6" wide the 1/2" blade gives me a very nice straight cut. The 1/2" blade is also 0.025" thick but has 3 TPI which gives me a deeper gullet and performs very well for resawing this size board. If I need to resaw a wider board I may change to the general purpose 3/4" blade for a little more stability.


When I install these blades on my bandsaw I use the tension gauge on the saw as a guide but then adjust the tension with my 'finger' test. If, when I press on the blade with my finger, the blade deflects about a 1/4" then I know I have good tension on the blade. This approach has always worked for me whether I'm cutting curves in thin pieces of wood or resawing a wider board.

Also, when setting up these blades, I make sure that my supporting guide blocks are barely touching the sides of the blade and that the blocks are set just behind the blade's tooth so they are not cutting into the guide.


With a 1/4" blade, the obvious cuts are either a straight cut or a curved cut in the board. As you are cutting a straight line you may notice that you might need to angle the board slightly to keep the blade cutting true to the line. If you do, this angle is called the drift angle and is normal. When I tested this for the 1/4" blade I did not have any drift.


Above you can see that I am cutting perpendicular to the front of the table and the combination square is flush to the side of the board. It's not unusual to have none to minimal drift on a blade of this size.

The reason I keep this blade on my saw all of the time is the ease in which you can make curved cuts. A 1/4" blade will let you cut a curve with a minimum radius of only 5/8". If you went down to a 3/16" blade the minimum radius would only change to 5/16". However, the 1/2" blade only allows you to make a 2-1/2" minimum radius, so to me, the 1/4" blade gives me a lot more flexibility.


It's also nice if you want to cut a more complex shape.


When cutting curves remember...you can back out of a straight cut but not a curved cut. If you try to back out of a curved cut 9 times out of 10 you will pull the blade off the wheels and ruin the blade while it bounces around hitting the metal cabinet until you can turn off the saw. Don't ask how I know this! Therefore, if you are going to cut out a design like this you need to preplan your cuts and make some 'stop-cuts' so pieces will fall away and you can continue cutting your design.


While the 1/2" blade may not give you quite the cutting radius as the narrower blades it is excellent for straight line cuts and resawing. I did the same straight line cut and had a very small amount of drift.


Again, this is completely normal and you can adjust your fence to this drift angle if you are going to use the fence to make repeated straight line cuts.

In the picture below I am setting up to resaw a piece of bubinga. As you can see, I'm using some of my 'go-to' spacers to set the blade distance from the fence. I always keep a set of playing cards in the shop for setting small distances!


The 1/2" 3 TPI blade works very well cutting this highly figured piece of wood.


The resulting piece is about 3/32" thick as each playing card is about 1/32" and I had used three cards during the setup. As you can see, I would say it provides an excellent resaw cut.


The General-Purpose Bandsaw Blades from Highland Woodworking provide an excellent, everyday blade for your bandsaw. The carbon steel blade is sharp right out the box and for the average bandsaw user they will give you excellent results. They obviously won't keep an edge as long as a carbide tipped blade but at the very low price point for these blades it is very easy to replace them when they eventually get dull. I would recommend these blades for your shop.

Click here to purchase your own General Purpose Bandsaw Blade from Highland Woodworking.


Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He is the president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at furnmkr@gmail.com

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