The Differences Between Horizontal and Vertical Bandsaws

What is a Horizontal BandSaw?

Horizontal bandsaws hold the work piece stationary while the blade is moving back and forth through a cut. The configuration of the horizontal bandsaw helps to cut long materials. Vertical bandsaw machines need the operator to move the material against the blade to make a cut.

The horizontal bandsaw is a very safe machine as the workpiece is held by clamps when cutting, although when discussing cutting capabilities, the horizontal band saw is not as flexible as the vertical when it comes to precision or odd shapes. It does more than make up for this with its productivity. Horizontal band saws are machines designed for making repetitive, accurate cuts and with the help of built-in backstop systems, repetitive cutting is not only fairly accurate but very quick.

Accuracy of a band saw more so depends on the operators set up of the machine and their knowledge of its characteristics. Horizontal band saws are commonly used for both metal, wood and plastic with material thickness and hardness generally not being an issue when cutting .

What is a vertical bandsaw?

A vertical bandsaw, also called a contour saw, keeps the blade’s path stationary while the workpiece is moved across it. This type of saw can be used to cut out complex shapes and angles. The part may be fed into the blade manually or with a power assist mechanism.

This type of metal-cutting bandsaw is often equipped with a built-in blade welder. This not only allows the operator to repair broken blades or fabricate new blades quickly, but also allows for the blade to be purposely cut, routed through the center of a part, and re-welded in order to make interior cuts. These saws are often fitted with a built-in air blower to cool the blade and to blow chips away from the cut area giving the operator a clear view of the work.

This type of saw is also built in a woodworking version. The woodworking type is generally of much lighter construction and does not incorporate a power feed mechanism, coolant, or welder.

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Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Bandsaws

Selection of horizontal and vertical bandsaws, like any other decision, depends on things like need, capabilities, and fit. Both can be used for woodworking and in metal fabrication shops.

Horizontal bandsaw machines have the capacity to cut materials from soft woods to thick metals. Vertical bandsaw machines are used for cutting wood, metal, and plastic.

Vertical bandsaws are ideal for contour cutting while horizontal bandsaws are typically used in large cutting applications.

The horizontal bandsaw is not useful for cutting curves or complicated patterns and shapes while the vertical bandsaw is capable of cutting these intricate angles and shapes. Horizontal bandsaws are safer to operate than the vertical bandsaw because there is no need for the operator to have to make contact with the cutting surface.

With a vertical saw, there is the ability to clamp on both sides of the cut, offering more material stability during the cutting process. The blade pivots around the miter or datum point on a vertical saw whereas on the horizontal bandsaw, the arm swings away from the clamping when mitering.

The set-up of horizontal bandsaws is for use in cutting stock to length and any desired angle, using a lot of power; a critical consideration with regard to shop capabilities from an output perspective. Vertical saws require less power to make continuous cuts.

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What to Consider When Buying a Band Saw


When selecting a band saw it is important to take note of the capabilities and power of its motor. The horsepower that you require will depend completely upon what you wish to cut and how thick or hard the material is. For lighter work a 1-1 ½ horsepower motor is generally efficient with a 2-3 horsepower being better for heavier work.

Characteristics of the Machine

Understanding what will best suit your work will help with identify machinery characteristics better. For example, a large, heavy-duty band saw could prove impractical when one only wishes to cut 1 mm steel. Start by taking into account the size of different components of the band saw such as the table width, clamp size, base girth and the material the saw is made from and identify whether these match what you wish to use the band saw for. Ability to change blade size is also something to consider if you plan to cut different materials often.

Cutting Capabilities

Vertical and Horizontal band saw are both accurate; however, if you require odd cuts with angles, curves or other patterns, then buying a vertical band saw will be best. If you need to repeatedly cut accurate lengths of different sized material then the horizontal band saw would be more what you are looking for.

Materials to be Cut

As previously stated, a vertical band saw is impractical for cutting thick steel and more specific types such as hardened products, while the horizontal band saw will prove itself more compatible. When woodworking on furniture or precision projects, the vertical band saw is much more effective. It’s important to understand the materials you plan to work with before purchasing a saw.