More Nifty Ways to Use the Bandsaw

You can use the bandsaw to cut creative curves, easily work with thick stock, and, more than any other woodworking machine, add artistry to your woodworking. In a previous post on how to use a bandsaw, we looked at how this machine can expand the ways you use wood. Now, let’s look at how you can put its cutting capacity in service of your creativity, starting with curved cuts.

bandsawing wide curves

Think wide

When considering curves in a project design, skillful use of the bandsaw expands your repertoire to include very wide curved components. In the photo above, a shallow concave curve has been formed across the width of a board using almost the entire 12″ cutting depth of the saw. Stood on its end with the grain running vertically, this will form one side of a jewelry chest. Hand tool work, mostly sanding with a custom curved block, will finish the job. (The offcut is lying on the bandsaw table.)

This cutting power awaits your ideas:

bandsaw depth

Compound curves

Curved legs for tables and chests are great design opportunities and the bandsaw excels at executing them. This is particularly so for compound curves, which are those that curve in two dimensions. Though a step-by-step instruction is beyond the scope of this post, here is an overview to show what the bandsaw can do.

The photo below shows the layout for a gently curved leg penciled onto a squared-up blank. Using a template, the shape has been drawn on adjacent faces. Actually, at this stage, the lines you see on top of the blank are kerfs. The waste material has been taped back on using bits of double-stick tape. This is necessary because the initial cuts remove some of the layout lines, and create curved surfaces that would be awkward to rest on the saw’s table for subsequent cuts.

bandsaw compound curves

Follow the lines for the remaining cuts, remove the waste pieces, and voila — a leg emerges! Creative and productive, yes, but this is also just plain fun. Final truing and smoothing of the curves are done with hand tools.

bandsaw compound curves
bandsaw compound curves

Work thick wood with ease

Making curved legs, along with many other furniture making processes, often starts with preparing 12/4 or 10/4 rough stock into squared-up blanks. The most efficient and pleasant method is to start at the jointer where you flatten one face, then square an edge. Next, bandsaw a slightly oversized section. Finally, using the two jointed faces as references, use the thickness planer to easily square up the blank, which then will have four smooth faces.

This process, along with lots of other work with thick stock, goes much better using the bandsaw for the sawing rather than the table saw. This is especially so for dense or resinous woods that tend to burn on the table saw or tax its capacity.

bandsawing thick stock

Easy tenons too

In a similar way, the bandsaw is a great tool for cutting tenon cheeks. The shoulder crosscuts are first established on the table saw using the miter gauge. The bandsaw easily handles the cheek cuts with the great benefit of working with the piece oriented horizontally. Cheek cuts on the table saw must be done with the piece oriented vertically, which is awkward or impossible for long rails.

cutting tenon on bandsaw

Note the block that stops the cut just short of the shoulder:

bandsaw tenon cut

Some examples of much more:

  • Use of the bandsaw is a pleasant way to make mockups of nascent designs. The key is speed and flexibility to readily get ideas into substance.
  • Similarly, the bandsaw is a fun tool for you to make toys and novelties for children, who will appreciate the range of possibilities and quick turn around.
  • Bandsaw boxes are fun to make and take advantage of the machine’s flexibility to produce imaginative containers in impromptu shapes.

A machine or a hand tool?

I like to call the bandsaw a “hand tool with a motor.”

Of course, for safety, it must be respected as a machine with the power of a few horses, the teeth of a shark, and no brain to distinguish wood from fingers. Yet, the creativity and work sequences that this machine engenders fit more into a hand tool approach to woodworking than a restrictive machine-based approach.

For example, curved layout lines can be followed freehand on the bandsaw and then incrementally refined and smoothed with hand tools. Like most tools that define little of the process themselves, the bandsaw broadens your woodworking skills. It offers the liberation of hand tools backed with the power of a machine.

Tomorrow on the Craftsy blog, we’ll share what to look for when choosing a bandsaw. See you then!

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