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What You Need to Know About Metal Cutting Band Saws

There are a few different types of saws that can cut through metal. The good old hacksaw is probably a familiar go-to tool for this type of cutting application. However, if you have to cut metal on a regular basis, doing it manually is both time consuming and a lot of hard work. Band saws for cutting metal are the easiest option, although relatively pricey.

This tool is essentially a large, automatically powered hacksaw mounted on a table. There are two available types of band saws for cutting metal: the horizontal band saw and the vertical band saw.

The average band speeds range from 40 feet per minute to 5,000 feet per minute. Specialized band saws, however, run band speeds of up to 15,000 feet per minute. These are band saws built for friction-cutting hard metals.

Metal cutting band saws are usually equipped with brushes or brush wheels to keep chips from getting stuck in the blade’s teeth. Cooling systems are another common feature on metal-cutting bandsaws to keep the blade from getting too hot. The coolant washes away the chips while keeping the blade cool and lubricated.

Horizontal band saws hold the workpiece stationary while the blade swings down to make the cut. This setup is used to cut long materials, such as pipe or bar stock, to length. However, the horizontal design is not useful if you want to cut curves or complicated shapes.

For small horizontal band saws, a gravity feed is employed with an adjustable coil spring. For large-scale, industrial models, the rate of descent is usually controlled by a hydraulic cylinder bleeding through an adjustable valve.

When cutting, the operator raises the saw, positions the material to be cut underneath the blade, and then turns on the saw. The blade slowly descends into the material, cutting it as the band blade moves.

When the cut is complete, a switch is tripped and the saw automatically turns off. Sophisticated versions of the horizontal band saw that are either partially or entirely automated are also available.

A vertical band saw, also known as a contour saw, moves the workpiece across while the blade’s path stays stationary. This type of saw can be used to cut out complex shapes and angles. The workpiece may be fed into the blade manually, or with a power-assist mechanism.

These saws are often equipped with a built-in blade welder, which allows the operator to repair broken blades or produce new ones quickly.

Purposely cut blades can also be re-welded to make interior cuts. Built-in air blowers are fitted to cool the blade and to blow chips away from the cut area, giving the operator a clear view of the work.

Band Saw Blades for Metal Cutting

Band saw blades used for cutting metal have bent teeth. The bend creates a cut that’s slightly wider than the thickness of the blade, which is important to prevent the blade from getting stuck in or pinched by the metal.

Metal cutting band saws use either carbon tool steel or bimetal band saw blades. Carbon tool steel blades are more economical and will cut softer steel if used at speeds under 200 feet per minute, preferably with coolant.

A bimetal band saw blade, however, is more suitable in a production setting where your saw is kept in good repair and adjusted correctly, and if you want a blade with the longest life possible.

These blades cost more but may be more practical to operate in the long run, since they can outlast carbon blades by up to 10 times if properly used. They’re also capable of cutting harder metals, such as stainless steel.

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