Chris Schwarz's Blog

My Favorite Band Saw Blade

While I do most of my work by hand, there are two machines that I refuse to do without: a thickness planer and an old Delta 14” band saw. These two machines remove the drudgery from reducing boards in thickness and long rips.

So I baby these two machines.

When it comes to band saw blades, I prefer carbide-tipped ones from Lenox. Lonnie Bird turned me onto these many years ago. They are ghastly expensive ($100 to $200 each depending on the configuration). But they have three advantages:

1. They last about 10 times as long as a typical band saw blade and are worth re-welding if they break.

2. They cut much faster than regular steel blades.

3. They leave a finish that rivals that of a table saw, even when resawing.

Those three things make it worth the upgrade for me. Oh, and there’s one more advantage I forgot to tell you about: Because they are so expensive I seem to always remember to de-tension my saw at the end of the day, which is good for the saw and good for the blade.

My favorite blade configuration is the 3/8” TriMaster blade with a 3/4 variable tooth configuration. It’s smooth and quick. I order this blade from BandSawBladesDirect.com.

I’d rather put a $200 blade on a solid used $300 band saw than a $7 blade on a $3,000 Laguna. The blade counts. Want to learn more about band saws? Mark Duginske’s book on the machine is an excellent reference: “The New Complete Guide to the Band Saw.

— Christopher Schwarz

The Smythe Disclaimer: I paid full retail. I don’t know anyone at Lenox. I just ordered it like a regular customer. Plus, to make sure that they didn’t figure out who I was, I used my drag queen name: Elsie Wedgewood.

26 thoughts on “My Favorite Band Saw Blade

  1. dejure

    djmueller1, that’s why I don’t buy Fram. Look into Wix filters.

    My friends have toys that any one of which costs as much as my shop, and I have nice toys (Unisaw, PM band saw, etc.). They will not run Fram and stay with Wix for their better build with more pleats (surface area), better valves and so on.

    That said, you’re right – I can’t afford cheap, even with band saw blades.

  2. Adam

    Suffolk Machinery has something to say about tensioning that makes sense to me.

    “When you are done cutting for the day, take the tension off your blade. Band saw blades, when warmed up from cutting, always stretch; and upon cooling shrink by tens of thousandths of an inch each cooling period. Therefore, blades, when left on the saw over tension themselves and leave the memory of the two wheels in the steel of the band, which will cause cracking in the gullet. When you leave the band on your saw under tension, not only do you distort the crown and flatten out the tires (which makes them very hard), but you also place undue stress on your bearings and shafts. Believe it or not; you can, and will damage your wheel geometry sooner or later and considerably shorten bearing life. You are also crushing your tires or V-belts.”

    Just some thoughts on detensioning.

  3. tpmccann@gmail.com

    I don’t de-tension my bandsaw anymore. I found that de-tensioning and re-tensioning led to constantly adjusting the tracking with consequent fiddling with the blade guides. Haven’t had a blade break on me since I adopted this regime. In the commercial shops that I know they never de-tension the bandsaw blades.

    I found the secret of the bandsaw was a sharp blade and slow feed.

    1. Bradinsc

      I agree totally! I dont de-tension my blades anymore either, havent for years. I have found the same thing, I dont have to spend the time readjusting everything and it does not seem to affect the life of the blades or tires. Slow feed and sharp blades are the ticket for sure!

  4. JV Sullivan

    Chris (or anyone else):

    Do you know anything about really big band saws? My father in law is breaking up his equipment hoard and giving me a 36″ saw. It has a couple of horse motor driving it. I hope to saw logs and resaw wide oak and walnut with it.

    However, it has no tires. My FIL didn’t use them, and for what he did, it seemd to work. However, in resawing my precious wide boards, I don’t want to take chances.

    So the question is: should this saw be fitted with tires of not?

    Joe Sullivan

    1. DanD

      Joe,

      One word: OWWM.ORG. Mecca for old industrial WW machine users. Lots of good stuff there on 36″ band saws and everything else, including all about tires.

      -Dan

  5. rickb

    My bandsaw and a joiner are the only power tools I use too. I don’t really use the joiner much. I recently had a guy tell me it was “laughable” that I would try to use a bandsaw for jobs only a table saw could do, such as ripping. Wish I’d had this article to send him.

  6. Bradinsc

    Chris,
    As you said, an expensive blade is well worth the investment. I have a 14″ Rikon, about 6-7 yrs old, does a great job for me, sometimes with cheaper blades, though they dont last long. Do you have any experience with those low tension Timber Wolf blades? Just wondering if they are worth it. Thanks for the link for the blades.

    Brad

    1. D.D.

      Have bought two Timber Wolf blades – both for Deltas, one
      with the riser. . .didn’t invest the 100-200, but wish I
      had had info from gumpbelly Either I don’t know what in
      the world I’m doing, or they aren’t what they’re touted to be. Seem sharp enough, but after having rn tension just below what I think would be weld-breaking point, each still drifted (with accurately setup, shop-made re-
      saw fence) in walnut and curly maple, to the point where
      I didn’t want to try it in basswood! I wasn’t a happy
      camper, and will call number from gumpbelly’s info!

      1. Bradinsc

        Thanks DD, I really appreciate it! I will steer clear of those for sure. I was somewhat doubtful that a low tension blade would NOT drift! I am going to try the number gumpbelly posted as well. I appreciate the info!

      2. AeroClassics

        I think you will find that if you tension your blade as suggested by the Timberwolf folks, i.e. looser then you would on another blade you will get a better cut. On my 14″ Grizzly, I tighten until the blade tracks. Start the saw running and notice the flutter in the blade. Start tensioning until the flutter just stops. The I back off about 1/8 of a turn.

        I like their blades very much and they always give me a good cut. Another good resaw blade is the Wood Slicer from Highland.

        Doug

  7. gumpbelly

    Hi Elsie

    I had gone the route of the $200.00 blade for resaw 1/2″ 3TPI, and on my 14″ clone had less than spectacular results, and certainly didn`t get the 10x use factor many claimed. Couple years ago, yous goils had Michael Fortune come to WIA. Changed my bandsawing life forever. He advocates many things, but what resounded the most with me was, it`s not so much about the blade, it`s about the weld. I`d heard this many years before in regards to metal sawing bandsaws in my friends tool and dye operation. Fortune advocates buying from http://www.bcsaw.com because they have 1 guy who does all of the welds, and has done so for many years, perfect welds. I suggest to anyone that before they spring for a $200.00 blade to just spend $15.00 and S&H for one from these guys. Go to the site, get the 1-800 number and call them. Tell them what it is primarily you want to do and they will hook you up.

    Elsie like you I pay full retail, get no freebie blades for this suggestion, but it has changed my bandsaw into a resawing machine.

  8. zackdog

    1.25″ Resaw King (from Laguna) also kicks butt – leaves an amazingly smooth surface. Sure, it’s expensive when you need 150 inches of it, but then exotic hardwoods are also expensive too. And they resharpen them for a reasonable fee ($45 I think) – they’re not carbide, but some other fancy proprietary alloy.

    I agree Chris, that the blade is at least as important as the saw, but I’d put great blade guides right near the top of the list too. The guide blocks on Laguna’s better (i.e. Italian) bandsaws are very easy to adjust and work great to help improve the cut.

    Joe

  9. John Cashman

    Elsie,

    I thought that thicker blades, and carbide tipped blades are thicker, would not tension well on a run of the mill bandsaw. And for me, a smaller blade at high tension cuts better, especially resawing, than a wider blade at less tension — at least for non-carbide blades. That said, this blade would be great if it would work — I would just be loathe to gamble $200 if it didn’t. My saw is a 16″ clone with a riser block.

    Is tensioning this blade at all an issue? My favorite Woodslicer 1/2″ blade is .025 thick, and I see that the 3/8 TriMaster is .032.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      John,

      I have a 14″ American Delta band saw — circa Disco. It tensions these blades just fine. No barreling cuts in resawing. Just take your time. These blades EAT wood.

  10. docwks

    Chris I hope you let folks know that the carbide tipped blades are wonderful for dry lumber. If they are cutting wet wood like logs etc. They need a different blade all together. I have the TriMaster on my 16″ bandsaw and it cuts like butter when cutting flat kiln dry lumber. But when I’m cutting logs in half and then round for bowl and vessel blanks it’s not very effecient. I use a 1/2″ 3 tpi Lenox steel blade from Carbide Inc. (I have not connection to these folks) I pay about $17 + shipping and I go through one every couple of months. I need to start sharpening them. But for now I’m too lazy. What I’m trying to say is one blade does not fit all needs. Oh, and ignore that other, um, person and keep writing. We know and love what you are doing, those of us with brains anyway.

  11. alanmuldowney

    Hi Chris,
    I have just read your disclaimer in your reply under ‘my finances., Chris
    I must say I’m stunned by the vitriol of this guy what is it with him? How can a seemingly innocuous article in a woodworking magazine prompt such an acrimonious outburst as that. And you say you have to put up with much more of this rubbish from other sources all the time !? Incredible.
    Could I suggest you forward his comments to a suitable psychiatric publication?
    Just for the record wether you do or don’t receive $6k per article matters nought to me I value your output and hope this garbage doesn’t discourage you too much from continuing…if not only to irritate this fool all the more?
    Thanks Chris
    Regards

  12. djmueller1

    The logic of buying better was driven home for me years ago. The manufacturer of Fram filters had an advertisement line that went: You can pay me now, or pay them later. It pays to buy quality, and when possible, locally and from cottage businesses. So, where does one go to have a broken band saw blade welded?

    1. J. Pierce

      Where I live, the local place that caters mostly to professionals and contractors. Yes, the tools are sometimes overpriced, but 9 times out of 10 they have it, they always stand behind it, and they don’t carry cheap crud. A lot of the bandsaw blades they sell just come from coiled stock and they make them to fit. Look for places like that, it’s always done me well.

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