Cutting straight with a bandsaw

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Forum topic by Derakon posted 06-21-2012 09:30 PM 4000 views 1 time favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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89 posts in 2165 days

06-21-2012 09:30 PM

Awhile back I was making some building blocks with my old hand-me-down table saw (probably made in the 80’s if not earlier!). Cutting 1.5” blocks on a table saw…not such a good idea. One of ‘em somehow got into the blade slot and jammed the thing up, there was a tremendous bang and my pusher stick got a few interesting scars. Better it than me!

Of course the table saw’s blade was ruined, and I wasn’t really willing to trust the thing any more, so I got myself a bandsaw (Grizzly Ultimate 14”) to replace it as my general cutting tool. So far I’m loving it—it’s a lot more predictable than a table saw and while of course it needs to be treated with respect, I don’t ever feel like I’m putting life and limb at risk just because I want to practice carpentry. And it can make curved cuts, which make for interesting possibilities (made a few crazy-checkerboard coasters for a friend’s birthday, for example). However, I’m having some difficulty with making straight cuts.

Specifically if I want to do a cross-cut through a 7-inch-wide board or the like, or if I want to square up an uneven edge. Of course with a table saw there’s this great hunk of metal doing the cut that’ll hold everything on a line for you, but the bandsaw blade’s never going to be able to do that for you. The miter gauge goes off the table if I need to cut through something 7” wide or so, and I’ve had zero success trying to use the fence to make straight cuts.

Is this just something I’m going to have to live with? Or do I just need more practice? Or a new tool? I’m still working on building up a proper workshop, so I’m really disorganized right now; I’d rather not make my garage any harder to navigate than it already is.

23 replies so far

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3046 days

#1 posted 06-21-2012 10:03 PM

I have a similar issue. all band saw have similar issue; this is called drift or drifting.
This is due to the blade set not be exactly identical on each side of the blade and also blade tension.
There is not much you can do about it to remove it.
You need to adjust your fence to compensate for it.
Check this link:

-- Bert

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 2985 days

#2 posted 06-21-2012 10:18 PM

If you are still using the original blade that could be the problem.
You could also try to increase the tension on the blade to see it that helps.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3559 days

#3 posted 06-21-2012 10:23 PM

Don’t give up on the TS. You should buy or make a zero clearance insert and use it (if possible) for all cuts. Besides making cleaner cuts, you eliminate the safety issues of pieces of the workpiece falling into the saw and coming back at you.

-- Joe

View thebigvise's profile


191 posts in 2898 days

#4 posted 06-21-2012 10:29 PM

Although I do not own a high end band saw, I believe that it’s fair to state that a properly executed band saw cut will not be as straight as a properly executed table saw cut. My thought is to rethink the table saw, mitigating the risk with the meticulous use of zero clearance inserts, featherboards, and anti-kickback hold-downs.

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#5 posted 06-21-2012 10:42 PM

I just saw a tip on Shop Notes for making a temporary ZCI out of duct tape for making a few thin cuts. I thought it was a dandy idea. Already used it and it really does help.

As far as the bandsaw making straight cuts,, you need the widest blade you can fit on it. A Wood Slicer would be a good option. A rip fence with a rounded ridge beside the blade will help, but, it will never be as straight as at ripping as good rip blade in the table saw. The band saw fence is only a reference. You still have to go slow and guide the workpiece.

From your description, Derakon, you said you are also wanting to use the band saw for cross cuts, to square up edges. The best tool for that is a miter saw or a table saw with a sled. I’d even suggest a Japanese pull saw would be better than the band saw for that job.

View Derakon's profile


89 posts in 2165 days

#6 posted 06-21-2012 11:01 PM

I’m using a 1/2” Wood Slicer blade on the bandsaw right now. Cut quality is good; it’s just cutting straight that gives me trouble. But it sounds like I should recalibrate it and make certain everything’s exactly right; it’s possible that the guides have gotten bumped or something.

The table saw is gone; I’d have to buy a new one. It was a cheap saw anyway. But I was hoping to only need one big, general-purpose saw in my workshop. Is that misguided?

Would a miter saw be able to do 6-7” cross cuts? And yeah, currently all of my cross cuts are being done by hand with my old handsaw. Not the greatest quality in the world, but it’s straight at least!

Thanks for the advice, folks!

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

937 posts in 2232 days

#7 posted 06-22-2012 12:35 AM

Get on YouTube and search for Alex Snodgrass. He is a Carter Rep and the vidio will set you straight (pun).
It is not a Carter Product commercial. I have added it to my favorites to go back to.
If a band saw is set up correctly it will not drift.

-- Jerry

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#8 posted 06-22-2012 01:04 AM

If I want to crosscut on the band saw I just draw a line and
cut by eye. Then if additional squaring is needed it can be
done with a plane or a miter trimmer or a disc sander.

For ripping it’s often easier to snap or draw a line and freehand
it. If doing repeat rippings I’ll fuss with setting the fence
up to compensate for drift.

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2186 days

#9 posted 06-22-2012 02:20 AM

I think of the table saw and bandsaw as being complementary machines in that there are tasks like resawing wide boards that are almost never a good idea on a table saw but for which a bandsaw is well suited, and vice versa.

I agree with Paul in Clinton, NC that when either saw is appropriate for a given job, the table saw cut will almost certainly be better.

For both types of saws, really sharp blades help. On a bandsaw, once the blade starts to go, it’s a lot harder to stay on track, something that really sticks out when you are tying to do a dead straight cut.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Ted's profile


2846 posts in 2209 days

#10 posted 06-22-2012 02:41 AM

It’s too bad you got rid of the table saw. As MC says, they are complementary tools. But you can make accurate crosscuts with the miter saw, even on wider boards. Just make 2 cuts, one from each edge of the board so the cuts meet in the middle. I cut 10” and 12” boards on my cheap little 8” Delta and I get accurate cuts every time. Use a framing square or speed square to draw a visible line, so you can see that it’s staying square.

And get yourself another table saw when you get the chance. Even a cheap bench-top saw will rip most common lumber. I have a used Ryobi bench-top saw that I found on Craigs List for $65, stand included, and it works perfect for my needs. The important thing is to keep the blade clean and sharp, and don’t push it too hard.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2984 days

#11 posted 06-22-2012 02:57 AM

I recently got a bandsaw and have been using it for everything that I possibly can since. I have a TS, but I only busted it out today for the first time since getting the BS because I had some large plywood.

Spend a good hour tuning it up. Getting the bearings as close to everything as physically possible, tweaking the tilt of the wheels, centering the blade and getting the tension in its happy-happy spot. Ensuring that the table is square the everything and at a perfect 0 degree angle and what not. It definitely takes more set up than a TS but I heavily researched this prior to getting a bandsaw and found quite a few professionals who use the BS as the 99% cutting tool. It is quickly becoming that in my shop, as well.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View JAAune's profile


1798 posts in 2314 days

#12 posted 06-22-2012 04:19 AM

Like Tskkivinna said, a properly tuned up bandsaw will rip perfectly. Once I get them setup they never drift on me until the blade starts getting dull.

Cross-cutting is something the tablesaw does better though. Even if I didn’t want it to cut plywood or rip on it I’d still keep one around purely for its usefulness when combined with shop-made sleds.

While it’s entirely possible to create some jigs to crosscut decently on the bandsaw I’d never be willing to deal with the hassle. I recommend a miter saw or a tablesaw and an assortment of sleds for it.

-- See my work at and

View MrUnix's profile


6710 posts in 2197 days

#13 posted 06-22-2012 04:56 AM

The pointer Jerry gave is a good one.. Alex knows his stuff.
You can find the video here

And I agree with the others, a BS and TS are complementary.. both have their purpose and if possible, both should be included in your shop.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#14 posted 06-22-2012 07:28 AM

Woodworking magazines and things today emphasize the big table
saw as the “centerpiece” of the home shop but really the big
table saw earns its keep only as a lower cost alternative to a
high-end sheet-goods cutting machine like a slider or vertical.

For making solid wood furniture a modest little accurate table
saw is all you need: for cutting tenon shoulders, running
a crosscut sled on and so forth. Once you eliminate the idea
that you must be able to take a 5×10 sheet and slice and dice
it down to 10,000 toothpick sized parts on one machine,
the idea of the big table saw as the perfect custom furniture
making machine starts to fall away in favor of the friendly,
versatile and quiet band saw. Just don’t demand she cuts
perfectly without a little tenderness and don’t throw hard
glues at her delicate blades and she’ll reward you with exquisite
results in many tasks.

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3339 days

#15 posted 06-22-2012 08:02 AM

here is a shop build by eddie

it seems to be the best way to set for drift
i’ve seen this around here some other places

actually need to make it myself

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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