Best Benchtop Bandsaw: Buying Guide and Top 5
If you’re a serious woodworker or are considering becoming a woodworking hobbyist, then it only makes sense to invest in several power tools. And for those of you just getting started in the furniture-making game, a bandsaw should be one of the most prioritized tools on your list. From building furniture to making picture frames to making hole cuts or intricate designs, more likely than not you’ll need a bandsaw in your workshop.
Benefits of a Bandsaw
Before we even talk about what makes a great bandsaw, let’s first discuss what makes a bandsaw a must-have tool. First of all, a bandsaw can be used to cut straight lines through wood of any thickness. Of course, you’ll need to have the right type of blade installed, but assuming you have all the necessary components and attachments, there isn’t a thing that the bandsaw can’t cut. And that includes plastic and metal.
The way the bandsaw is designed is really what gives it the power and ability to cut anything into almost any design. The bandsaw gets its name from its blade which is a band of narrow steel where one edge is serrated. The band is welded together to make a loop and is driven by a motor which pushes the blade through large wheels, giving it its continuous cutting motion.
What really sets a bandsaw apart from the numerous cutting tools available is that the band moves smoothly downwards with constant pressure, giving your stock extra stability. It’s generally safer to operate than circular saws and table saws since the risk of kickback is highly unlikely.
Types of Bandsaws
There are four distinct types of bandsaws to choose from – floor, stand-mounted, benchtop, and portable. Each type has its own cutting capacity and purpose which you can read in the description of each bandsaw type below.
The floor bandsaw is the largest type of bandsaw available. They are the heaviest, most stable, and expensive type of bandsaw you can get. Because of its large size, a freestanding floor model has the ability to kick out significantly more power than any other type. A floor model is best used for ripping and reconnecting thicker materials since it offers better stability and cutting power.
However, for most homeowners, a floor model is not the way to go. If you plan on doing work out of your garage then just know that the energy costs to power up a floor bandsaw can be rather costly, and that’s not including the initial investment of the tool itself. For commercial projects, a floor bandsaw is most likely the best option.
Stand-mounted models are in the middle ground in terms of size and power. This type of bandsaw usually rests atop a steel or cast iron frame which gives it the stability needed for cutting through materials of all sorts of thicknesses and densities. This is a multipurpose bandsaw that’s both lightweight and compact, making transporting the saw relatively easy to do. A stand-mounted bandsaw can be used in home workshops or in the garage.
This type of bandsaw doesn’t need any stands or mounts in order to function. Instead, this is a handheld (corded or cordless) model which a tiny throat – usually around 2 or 3 inches – for slicing downward on the stock. Because of their compact size, there shouldn’t be any issues when transporting this unit to and from job sites. However, the only limitation this unit has is its cutting capacity and maneuverability. This is only used for small, straight cuts, and making intricate, curved cuts can be potentially dangerous.
A benchtop bandsaw is perhaps the most popular type of bandsaw use in garage workshops. Their compact size makes them a viable option to take with you to different job sites. Plus, they don’t come with fixed mounts, making them much lighter than stand-mounted bandsaws. However, if you want, you can purchase or build your own stand to give a benchtop bandsaw stability, though you can improve stability simply by mounting it onto your workbench.
Performance-wise, benchtop bandsaws deliver enough power for a wide range of jobs – from cutting wood, metal, and plastic, to making intricate cuts and designs along the edge of your stock. The size of your stock depends on the size of the throat at table, but for most small- and medium-scale projects, a benchtop bandsaw can be the most cost-effective tool. Due to its popularity, we’ll be focusing more on benchtop bandsaws than the other types.
Benchtop Bandsaw Buying Guide
Knowing the various types of bandsaws should help you decide which of them would be best for your line of work. However, simply identifying the type of bandsaw you need won’t help you very much in determining which bandsaw to get, especially after checking out the hundreds upon hundreds of different models with various specs and cutting capacities. In the following segment, we’ll provide you with a quick description of each of the most important specs to consider when picking up a benchtop bandsaw for your workshop.
There are two indicators that show how large a stock a bandsaw can cut. These are throat capacity and resaw capacity. Throat capacity measures the distance from the blade to the column. In other words, the throat capacity helps in determining how wide a piece of stock you can cut with the bandsaw without the use of additional supports. The resaw capacity measures the distance from the table all the way to the top of the bandsaw’s blade. This measures how tall a stock can be fitted on the table without tilting the stock. The number (usually in inches) in the name of a bandsaw will indicate the machine’s throat capacity.
Motor Power and Speed
The motor is the heart of the bandsaw and is responsible for all types of performance indicators such as sufficient cutting power and quick speed. Even though benchtop bandsaws aren’t large and won’t be able to perform well on extremely thick stock, you still need to find a machine with a sufficiently capable motor for dealing with small to medium sized stock. We find the minimum motor power to be at least 2.5 amps or around 1/3 horsepower. However, it really depends on what you plan on sawing with your bandsaw. It’s never a bad idea to get bandsaw with more power than what you think you might need.
When looking at the speed of a bandsaw, check out the SFM (surface feet per minute) rating. This indicates how quickly the band rotates along the band wheels. A higher SFPM rating means quicker speed but not necessarily cleaner cuts.
The bandwheels are driven by the motor which then transmits the rotating action to the blade. The wheels should be as balanced as possible and made of heavy-duty materials like cast alloy to prevent vibrations that could potentially ruin the straightness of the blade and cut. The bandwheels of large, freestanding floor bandsaws don’t need frequent supervision to straighten out the wheels or handle balance issues, but several benchtop models do require constant maintenance.
A bandsaw’s frame holds the entire unit together. Bandsaws can come with wooden and plastic frames, which are great materials for reducing costs, but they won’t do much in creating an enjoyable work experience. Not only are they not very sturdy – a huge problem when using a quick-moving blade to saw through wood, metal and plastic – but they can develop cracks over time. This can be avoided if the bandwheels are less than 12 inches in diameter.
We highly recommend getting a bandsaw with a steel frame. They are sturdy and durable – two important variables when working with a bandsaw. The tradeoff is that they’re costlier than plastic frames, but in the long run it’s definitely a worthy investment.
You should consider the size of the table when choosing a bandsaw. The table is where you’ll release your creativity and saw away at stock, making it into beautiful pieces ready for further processing. In general, a larger table offers better support for larger stock, though you may not need a huge table for many applications. It’s best to go for larger tables since, as you increase your skill in using a bandsaw, you’ll want to use it working on larger pieces of wood, plastic, and/or metal. We suggest looking for a table of 12 x 12 inches or so.
Trunnions, or semicircular brackets, allow a bandsaw’s table to bevel up to 45°. A tilting table is necessary if you plan on working on curved stock. It’s important to check what the trunnions are made of; cheap metals like pot metal or zinc alloy are oftentimes used, but they may not be able to support large tables.
However, it’s not just the weight of the table that you need to worry about, but also the weight of the stock and the user who presses down on the table while it’s beveled up to 45°. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to find a bandsaw with cast iron or stainless steel trunnions.
Blade Length and Width
Other than looking at the bandsaw, you also need to consider the type of blade(s) the saw comes with or blades that are compatible with your bandsaw. Even though you can use the stock blade that comes with your blade saw, you should think of considering investing in additional blades for different jobs. The length of a benchtop bandsaw’s blade can be anywhere between 59 and 70 inches. The width of the blade is usually between 1/8 and 1/3 of an inch.
The pattern of the teeth on a bandsaw blade affect how cleanly the machine can cut or how quickly it can pass through different materials. There are three main types of tooth patterns, namely standard tooth, skip tooth, and hook tooth. Most benchtop bandsaw models will come with a standard tooth blade for use out of the box.
Standard tooth blades are used for general cuts in wood, plastic, and metal, though they may become gummed up when sawing through nonferrous metals. A better-suited type of blade for non-ferrous metals is the skip tooth which has spaces between every other tooth to let the following tooth push away any residue. Hook tooth blades have an angled undercut face, making it the best option for quick cutting through hardwoods and plastics.
The total number of teeth per inch on a bandsaw’s blade is crucial for obtaining the desired finish and feed rate. Coarser blades – 2 or 3 TPI – is best for resawing wood, or cutting wood to the desired thickness, of stock of around 8 inches. Finer toothed blades – 18 TPI or more – should be used when slicing away at metals and plastics with a thickness of at most ¼ of an inch. The fineness of the stock blade that comes with a bandsaw varies.
Top 5 Benchtop Bandsaws
Even after learning about what to look for concerning a bandsaw’s most important specs, finding the right model can be a bit confusing. Throw in the hundreds upon hundreds of different models, sizes, brands, and special features and you’ll go bald after researching each bandsaw. No need to worry; we’ve gone bald for you, dear reader, by doing the research so you don’t have to. This segment will introduce our picks of the 5 top-performing benchtop bandsaws for your home workshop.
5 Ryobi BS904G 9″ BANDSAW Green
The first item on our list is the BS904G from Ryobi. This is a 9-inch machine (throat capacity) that comes with a 2.5-amp motor that generates up to 2,460 SFM. This unit has a throat capacity of 9 inches and a resawing capacity (maximum height) of 3-5/8 inches while the table is set to 0°. Keep in mind that this machine’s frame is made of plastic so don’t expect it to do heavy-duty cutting through thick materials without it causing a minor earthquake in the process.
The BS904G has an 11-3/4 x 14-3/4-inch table that tiles up to 45° with a rack and pinion system. The beveling system works well and can keep the table stable at any position up to 45°. The table itself is well-built and keeps vibrations to a minimum, but some customers have expressed their distaste for the table’s inability to sit square with the machine. However, we found that a few tweaks can get the table back into position, though it is annoying having to deal with issues like this.
This machine uses blades that are 62 inches long and between 1/8 and 3/8 of an inch wide. The width range gives users the flexibility to choose from a wide assortment of blades for cutting through all sorts of materials while producing excellent finishes. The BS904G comes with a stock 1/8-inch blade for use straight out of the box.
4 SKIL 3386-01 2.5-Amp 9-Inch Band Saw
The next item on our list is another 2.5-amp machine with a 9-inch throat capacity – the 3386-01 from SKIL. The 2.5-amp motor produces up to 2,700 SFM of speed for quick cutting through wood-, plastic, and metal-based materials. Like the Ryobi, this machine also has a 9-inch throat for cutting small- and medium-sized stock. It has the ability to resaw stock of up to 3-1/2 inches tall.
This is another model with a plastic frame. It’s not that plastic frames are bad, but you shouldn’t expect them to be as durable or as stable as steel frames. This machine is for light- and medium-duty jobs so its plastic frame suits it well.
The 3386-01 features a 12 x 11-3/4-inch table for ultimate support when pushing whatever material through the band. This table can also tilt 45° with the help of a durable rack and pinion system. Unfortunately, the table is not perfectly flat across its entire surface. The blade slot is raised slightly above the table’s surface, making it rather easy for your stock to get stuck.
The stock blade that comes with this machine is a 6-TPI, 59-1/4-inch standard blade for all-purpose cutting on different materials. This benchtop bandsaw accepts blades ranged between 1/8 and 3/8 of an inch wide and 59-1/4 and 59-1/2 inches long. Of all the stock blades we’ve tried, this is one of the finer blades in terms of cutting ability and clean finishes.
A special feature that the 3386-01 comes with is a handy, bendable LED work light. It provides proper illumination on whatever stock you place on the table so maximum visibility. The light isn’t all that bright, but it’s enough to give you proper vision in dimly lit rooms (don’t use bandsaws in the dark).
3 WEN 3939 2.8-Amp 9″ Benchtop Band Saw
One of WEN’s most powerful benchtop bandsaw models is the next item on our list – the 3939. Like the other items on our list, the WEN 3939 has a throat capacity of 9 inches. It has a resaw capacity for dimensioning stock as tall as 3-5/8 inches. The beefy 2.8-amp motor provides up to 2,460 SFM which isn’t the quickest, but the added motor power really gives it significantly cleaner cuts when using a standard band.
Speaking of the band, the 3939 uses blades that are between 1/8 and 3/8 of an inch thick and 62 inches long. The stock blade that comes with the kit is a 3/8-inch, 7-TPI standard blade for versatile cutting. Thanks to the cutting power provided by the 2.8-amp motor, even this stock blade can be used for various applications and on all sorts of materials.
The 3939 comes with a durable aluminum 12 x 12-inch table. The table uses a rack and pinion setup for beveling at an angle up to 45°. The steel rack and pinion system keep the table tilted and the desired angle without risk of slipping or tilting in the opposite direction.
One massive problem with this unit is that if you’re inexperienced in tightening a bandsaw’s band, then you will definitely run into several issues with this machine. The blades are difficult to align, adjusting the tension requires microscopic precision, and even if you set everything up properly, there’s a risk that the bottom bandwheel will be misaligned.
2 Rikon 10-305 Bandsaw With Fence
The next benchtop bandsaw on our list is the 10-305 from Rikon. This is one of the heavier-duty benchtop models due to the beefy 3.5-amp motor that moves the band up to 2,780 SFM. It has a 9-5/8-inch throat capacity and can resaw stock as tall as 4-5/8 inches.
This machine comes with a wide 13-3/4 x 12-1/2-inch aluminum table for maximum support for handling larger stock. The can be set to tilt up to 45°. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly weak-looking rack and pinion beveling mechanism; it holds the table at the appropriate angle so even downward pressure won’t ruin your bevel.
The 10-305 comes with a 5/16-inch wide, 6-TPI standard blade that works rather well on wood, metal, and plastic. The bandwheels and blade port can support blades between 1/8 and ½ an inch wide. This bandsaw uses 70-1/2-inch long blades.
There have been some complaints about the tool’s inability to keep the blade straight. This is problematic since 1) you’ll end up cutting more of your stock than you initially wanted, 2) you risk slicing your fingers in the process, and 3) the blade can become worn out much quicker and will need frequent replacing. Be sure that the bandwheels and power belt are aligned correctly before turning the machine on.
1 WEN 3959 2.5-Amp 9-Inch Benchtop Band Saw
The final product on our list is the 3959 from WEN which is the older brother version of the 3939. This machine comes with a 2.5-amp motor that moves the band up to 2,500 SFM for quick, clean finishes with any type of blade. You can feed stock as large as 9 inches wide and 3-1/2 inches tall into the blade.
The 3959 features a large 12-1/4 x 11-7/8-inch aluminum table that can bevel up to 45°. This also uses a rack and pinion system to adjust the work table’s tilt. After setting the angle, the beveling system will keep the table in place regardless of how much downward pressure you apply. After opening the box, be sure that you square the table since it’ll most likely come misaligned from the factory.
This WEN-made machine comes with a ¼-inch wide blade that we suggest replacing as soon as the machine arrives at your doorstep. This machine uses blades 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch thick and 59-1/2 inches long.
This tool is best used for small to medium projects. Some customers have complained about the 3959’s inability to resaw efficiently. It’s not that it can’t resaw your stock, but you need to be extremely careful (i.e. slow feed rate) to ensure clean finishes.
A bandsaw is one of the most important and frequently used tools you can have in your workshop. Although the tool depends heavily on well you can see and how steady your hands and fingers are, a bandsaw has several applications, such as dimensioning, shaping, and making intricate cuts in your wood, plastic, and metal stock.
There are several types of bandsaws for you to choose from, but in this article we’ve focused mainly on benchtop models since they’re compact, lightweight, portable, and a good starting point for people thinking of jumping into the woodworking game. Benchtop bandsaws are also quite inexpensive but provide enough power and speed to perform some rather demanding cutting jobs.
There are several things to consider when looking at potential benchtop bandsaw models to take home, such as its motor power and speed, the size of the bandwheels, what materials are used to make the machine’s frame, the size and material of the work table, and whether the table can tilt. You should also consider the different types of blades as well as their widths, lengths, and how many teeth they have per inch.
In this article, we’ve included our picks of the five best-performing benchtop bandsaws for you to consider. Of the models we’ve researched and tested, our favorite by far is the WEN 3959. It delivers more than enough power speed for performing some complicated dimensioning cuts. However, there is an issue in how this machine resaws stock so if you do get this machine, try and keep your workload light.