A bandsaw is an incredibly useful machine to have in your woodworking shop. With a bandsaw, you can saw boards to the thickness you want, make veneers, safely and quickly rip lumber, make curved cuts and many other tasks. But these tasks will be difficult unless you have the right blade for the task you want to accomplish.
Luckily, there are only a few things you have to consider when picking the best bandsaw blade for what you want to do.
1. Pitch/teeth per inch
The pitch of a bandsaw blade is measured by the blade’s number of teeth per inch. The lower the pitch, the more aggressive the blade will be, and the cut will be faster, but the cut surface will be rougher. Bandsaw blades with higher pitch will give you cleaner cuts, but will be slower. In the above picture, both bandsaw blades have the same width, but the one on the left has a finer pitch (higher TPI) than the one on the right (lower pitch/lower TPI).
2. Width of the blade
Bandsaw blades are made in different widths. Wider bandsaw blades are stiffer, and are good for making straighter cuts or for resawing a board into a thinner board or for making veneers. Narrower bandsaw blades allow you to cut tighter curves. Narrower blades tend to have higher teeth per inch, because the larger gullets you need for lower pitches require that the blade be wider. In the picture above, both bandsaw blades have the same pitch, but are of different widths. You would want the blade on the left if making cuts involving tight curves.
This table will help determine the width of the blade that you need to make a curved cut:
3. Kerf/thickness of the blade
Bandsaw blades come with different thicknesses. The thinner the blade, the narrower the kerf will be, and theoretically the thinner kerf will make the cut easier to make. In reality, this is usually only an issue in specialized circumstances such as bandsawing veneer, where a thinner kerf might get you one more veneer out of the board being resawn, or for cutting green wood, when a thicker kerf would be more useful.
4. Tooth geometry
Bandsaw teeth come in a variety of tooth shapes. Some of the more common ones are hook, skip, raker, and standard. A hook tooth will work for the vast majority of bandsaw operations. A skip tooth, raker tooth, and standard tooth profile will give a cleaner surface to the cut, but will be slower than a hook tooth. Most of the time I will use a blade with a hook tooth profile, and will use the other profiles often because they are the only option with bandsaw blades with high tpi.
5. Tooth material
Most bandsaw blades are made with either hardened carbon steel, carbide-tipped teeth or bimetal construction. Hardened carbon steel blades are inexpensive. Carbide blades are quite expensive, but will last a very long time. Bimetal blades are in the middle as far as price and longevity.
For my bandsawing purposes, I find that using a .1/2” x 3 TPI hook tooth bandsaw blade handles 95 percent of my bandsawing needs. I can make straight cuts and resaw veneers with this blade, as in the picture above. Although a carbide tooth blade would give me the longest life, I find that a bimetal blade is a great balance in terms of cost and longevity.
I do have narrower bandsaw blades for curved work, which I use based on the tightness of the curve I need to cut. Those blades have higher TPI depending on the width. Using raker teeth instead of hook teeth gives me a finer finish that is useful in this sort of work. These blades are made with hardened carbon steel. I don’t need a lot of longevity because these blades do not get used as often.
By understanding what factors determine how a bandsaw blade works, you can pick out a bandsaw blade to suit your purpose. This may be an extreme example, but one time I wanted to make very straight clean cuts in plywood with my bandsaw. I used a .1/2” x 10 TPI raker tooth blade. The .1/2” let me make very straight cuts, and the high pitch and raker tooth profile gave me a very clean cut.