Bandsaw blades are consumables which means their value to you is measured by their longevity. Investing in a high-performance bandsaw is all well and good but, much like a high performance car, if the operator’s not on their game, the machine won’t function to the height of its capabilities.
If your bandsaw blade is losing its edge, not cutting straight, breaking altogether, or you’re just sure it should’ve lasted longer, you are in the right place. The experts at Adler have teamed up with us to create a simple but comprehensive guide to optimum bandsaw operation and care so you can get the most out of your machine. Following the simple steps outlined below will give you accurate and consistent cutting with better end results. And you will be setting yourself up to more than double the average bandsaw blade life.
1. Mastering tooth selection
Band saw blades are not a ‘one size fits all’ deal. There is an art to tooth selection. If you want to get maximum lifespan out of your bandsaw blade, you need to select the right one for the work you’re putting it to.
Both too many and too few teeth can lead to cracking and blade fatigue. Cutting thin-walled products with coarse-tooth blades will result in breakages. Likewise, cutting a thick section with a fine-toothed blade will cause the gullets to fill with swarf and, once again, you’re looking at breakages.
Method: The crew at Adler recommend going for an average of 5-7 teeth in the cut, at any given time. For a handy, downloadable tooth selection chart, click here.
2. Perfecting your blade tension
Your first thought might be that backing off the tension will help preserve the blade. However, bandsaw blades are not like people, tension doesn’t make them snap. In fact, a good amount of tension will actually maximise the performance and longevity of your blade. Adler recommeds the ‘Dependable Precision’ method which involves keeping tension high but measured. While many bandsaw machines come with a tension gauge, and this can be a good secondary tool, Adler recommend developing a feel for tension yourself. This way you train your fingers to know what works by muscle memory.
Method: Make sure your bandsaw machine is switched off. Then, place the palm of your hand on the back edge of the blade and, with close to as much pressure as you can, try to push it vertically out of the guides. Ideally, you want no more than 1-2mm movement. If you’re getting any more than this, you need to up your bandsaw blade’s tension.
3. Breaking-in your bandsaw blade
While it’s tempting to just get straight into work-mode, not properly running-in a new blade will cost you in the long term. To manufacture bi-metal bandsaw blades, high-speed steel strips are welded onto backing bands. The teeth are systematically cut and ground from the the high-speed steel strips to create a sharp cutting-edge on each and every tooth.
While a fresh, new bandsaw blade is a beautiful piece of workmanship and a powerful tool, it needs to be broken in correctly. If not, you run the risk of destroying it with your first cut.
Method: The first thing you need to do is halve your down-feed rate. Then, with coolant flowing, spend 15 minutes cutting through a solid piece of mild steel. This gently hones the fresh teeth, ensures they are all aligned, and minimises your risk of breakages.
4. Cutting with coolant
This is a vital component to extending the life of your bandsaw blade. Coolant gives you three fundamental benefits:
- washing the swarf out of the cut;
- cooling the tooth edge;
- lubricating the whole cutting process.
Without coolant, you’ll have heat building up in the teeth which can cause the swarf to weld itself onto the blade.
Method: This one is so simple the title said it all. Cut with coolant!
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