The vertical band saw is a versatile tool for making straight and slightly curved cuts in materials. In our lab, the materials we commonly work with are wood, aluminum, and other metals. We have two vertical band saws in the lab a large white standing one and a smaller red tabletop one.
The vertical band saw consists of two large wheels with a seamless steel saw blade wrapped around them. When you turn the machine on, a powerful motor drives these wheels to spin the blade, and material that you feed through the blade will be cut. In general, the thicker the material is, the less accurate the cut.
The band saws we have in the lab can cut different materials, depending on what blade is currently installed and what speed the saw is set for. We will leave a metal-cutting blade on the large (white) vertical band saw and a wood-cutting blade on the smaller (red) vertical band saw.
The large white standing band saw can also be adjusted for different speeds. Wood and aluminum use a high speed and other metals use a low speed. We have made a sign for this saw that indicates what material the band saw is currently set up to cut. If you need to change the speed, you must find someone who is approved to do so: team captain, technical lead, build lead, programming lead, and safety captain are all trained to change speeds. You can also ask an adult mentor who is familiar with this particular band saw.
Adjusting the Blade Guard
You must adjust the blade guard height before every cut. The purpose of the blade guard is twofold:
- The guard contains guides that keep the saw blade stable and cutting straight. For these guides to be effective, the guard must be placed as close to your material as possible.
- The guard protects your fingers from the saw blade.
To adjust the blade guard:
- Loosen the knob (blade guard knob) in the back of the blade guard assembly. Now you should be able to move the blade guard up and down.
- Adjust the guard so that it sits 1/8″ to 1/4” above the material.
- Tighten the knob to lock the guard in place .
- Before turning on the saw, align work so that many blade teeth will be in contact with the material being cut. If only a single tooth is contacting the material, it will absorb all the force of the cut and lead to skipping, stalling, or saw teeth snapping/breaking.
- Mark your cut line on your material with pencil or marker.
- Set appropriate blade guard height for material (1/8” – 1/4” above the top of material).
- If using fence, set appropriate distance from blade.
- Set material on table but NOT touching the blade.
- Turn on machine and let it come to full speed before feeding material. Otherwise, it will cause kick back. If something sounds weird or blade is vibrating, immediately turn off machine and notify an adult.
- Slowly feed material into blade after it has come to full speed. Apply adequate downward pressure to minimize chatter. Don’t apply excessive force let the blade do the work.
- Don’t lean into saw while cutting. Stand close and slowly straighten arms to feed work.
- KEEP HANDS AWAY FROM PATH OF BLADE. Do not remove scraps around your material until motor has completely stopped.
- When cut is finished and blade is cleared of material, turn off motor and wait until full stop.
- Once the blade has completely stopped, clean up all scraps and sawdust from table and surrounding floor. Don’t stick hands in to remove scraps when machine is on.
- CLEAN UP!! Leave the bandsaw AND surrounding area clean and clear of scraps.
Tips and Safety Notes:
- We’ll say it again: KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE BLADE UNTIL IT HAS FULLY STOPPED. Fully stopped does not mean “you have pressed the off button.” It means the blade is no longer moving!
- Never put your fingers or hands near the path of the blade.
- Remove all staples, nails, and screws from material before cutting. You don’t want that stuff flying at you.
- If saw binds or slows down, your material is too thick/hard or you are being too aggressive with the cut.
- If you need to pull out of a deep cut, stop machine then slowly back out. Do not attempt to back out of a deep cut with the machine on you will pull the blade off the wheels.
- To stop in the middle of a cut or get blade out of an incomplete cut, stop motor and wait for full stop. Then gently wiggle the blade out backwards with the motor stopped.
- Only change speed or blade when saw is OFF. Unplug from socket so no one can accidentally turn it on.
- Use relief cuts when doing a complicated or difficult cut or to clear away scraps. These are cuts from the edge of the board to the cut line. Your real cut will intersect them as you go and the scrap will fall away in sections. Make many relief cuts for tight turns or long curved cuts.
- The radius of the curve that the saw can cut is dependent on the width of the blade from front to back. Wide blades cannot cut small radii, but will be more precise for straight cuts. Thin blades can cut tight radii, but not super straight lines.