The bandsaw has a reputation as being a benign machine. The back of the blade can’t cut you like a circular sawblade can. More important, you won’t experience violent kickbacks while using your bandsaw. But any power tool that is designed for cutting wood can quickly and easily wreak havoc with flesh and bone. I learned early in my woodworking career to treat the bandsaw with respect.
When I work on any machine, I follow all the safety rules. Most woodworking accidents occur because the operator did some procedure he knew he shouldn’t have done. By requiring myself and my students to adhere to the rules in every situation, no matter how small the cut, I’ve managed to build furniture and teach a shopful of students for more than 20 years with no serious injuries.
A turning blade is an obvious safety hazard, but bandsaws also produce a more insidious hazard – dust. It is essential to protect your respiratory system from the dust, and the best way to do that is with a dust-collection system. There is no need to worry about complicated separators and ductwork: A shop vac is an adequate bandsaw dust-collection system when coupled with a mask.
Bandsaw safety rules and -guidelines
When it comes to bandsaw safety, the operator play the critical role. I’ve found that by keeping my bandsaw and its guards in working order and following a few simple guidelines, bandsaw safety is virtually assured. The guidelines that I use are listed below.
Keep your finger out of the path of the blade. Although this may seem obvious, it is easy to allow your fingers to be in the wrong place as you are cutting contours. As you turn and rotate the work-piece to follow the layout line, you must frequently reposition your hands to keep them a safe distance from the blade’s path. I never allow the sawing operation to prevent me from being aware of my hand position.
Gradually decrease the feed pressure as you approach the end of the cut. As the blade nears the edge of the workpiece, be ready for the fact that the feed resistance is dramatically reduced right at the end of the cut. If you continue pushing the work-piece with the same degree of force, you can lose control as the blade exits the kerf.
Use push sticks when ripping narrow stock or when resawing. Keep your fingers intact by keeping them a safe distance from the blade. I keep a push stick in a convenient location and use it when ripping narrow stock or when resawing. It is impossible to push the stock safely with your hands during the last few inches of resawing. The stock is often too thin for safe placement of your hands. Also, I’ve seen the last few inches suddenly and unexpectedly spit apart when resawing. I always place a push block within easy reach, and I use it to finish the cut.
Always keep the wheel covers shut while the bandsaw is running. It may be tempting to check the tracking or guide adjustment while the saw is running, but if the tracking is way off and the blade jumps the wheels or breaks, you are unprotected.
Keep the upper guide adjusted approximately ¼ in. above the stock. One of the most common bandsaw safety mistakes is to cut a thick piece of stock and then cut thinner piece without first lowering the guide. If you don’t lower the guide, a long length of blade is exposed, and it is more likely the blade will deflect while cutting, possibly ruining your cut.
Keep the blade guard in place. The guidepost has sheet-metal guard to cover the blade. If the blade breaks, the guard is one of your major lines of defense. If you must remove the guard for blade changing, always replace it.
Disconnect the bandsaw from its power source before changing blades. I also make all tracking and guide adjustments with the power disconnected.
Always wear eye and ear protection when operating a bandsaw. Today more than ever, there is a broad selection of safety equipment from which to choose. It is easy to find eye and ear protection that is lightweight, comfortable, and effective, so make use of it.
Wear gloves when handling large blades. Long, wide blades have a lot of tension when coiled. When uncoiling a large blade (or any blade, for that matter) wear gloves and use caution.
Protect your respiratory system. The dust is generated from the bandsaw is some of the finished from any woodworking machine/ and it is the fine dust that does the most damage to your lung. Also, fine dust stays suspended in the shop air for a long time. For these reasons, I use a dust collector with my bandsaw, especially when resawing, which produces a huge amount of dust. Because bandsaw dust is so fine, you will want a collector that traps fine dust and not just chips.
Summary of bandsaw safety guidelines
- Keep your fingers out of the path of the blade.
- Decrease the feed pressure as you near the end of a cut.
- Use push sticks when when ripping or resawing.
- Keep the wheel covers shut when the saw is running.
- Keep the upper guide about ¼ in. above the workpiece.
- Keep the blade guard in place.
- Disconnect the bandsaw power source before chaning blades.
- Wear eye and ear protection when bandsawing.
- Wear gloves when handling blades.
- Protect your respiratory system.
What to do if a blade breaks
Ideally, blades don’t break or if they do, the teeth are already worn out and it is time to throw out the blade anyway. But blades do occasionally break prematurely because of excess tension or stress from trying to push the blade through too tight a turn. Avoid this situation by choosing the best budget bandsaw for your need.
When a blade does break, it typically stays safely enclosed with the saw cabinet. When his happens, use the foot brake (if your saw has one) to stop the lower wheel. You can always weld your own bandsaw blades if need.
Of course, the brake doesn’t stop the upper wheel unless the blade is intact, which it isn’t. So for safety’s sake, don’t open the cabinet to install a new blade until both wheels have come to a complete stop. Otherwise the spinning top wheel could potentially send the blade or a fragment of it flying.