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Bandsaws Under $500

Looking to buy your first bandsaw? We found very capable machines for not a lot of money.

Nothing beats a bandsaw for quickly cutting curves, as well as ripping, crosscutting, and resawing stock into more manageable pieces. These machines run a thin-steel, continuous-loop blade, making possible cuts not easily (or even safely) accomplished on a tablesaw.  


In search of the best entry-level bandsaw, we tested seven machines  head-to-head: two with 14" wheels and five with 9–10"-diameter wheels. Here’s what we found.

Anatomy.jpg

Bandsaw terminology


Resawing: Ripping a board on edge into thinner pieces.
 Deflection: When an insufficiently tensioned blade bows or veers slightly left or right during a cut. The greater the distance between upper and lower blade guides, the greater potential for deflection.
 Drift occurs when the blade cuts at an angle not parallel to the rip fence. Also, a blade that loses some or all of its alternating-tooth side-to-side set wil tend to drift. Blade drift is most noticeable when resawing.

Low price doesn’t have to mean low power

Obviously, you can get more powerful bandsaws with heftier price tags, but most of the seven saws we tested surprised us with how well they powered through hardwood cuts. We ripped and crosscut 112 "-thick red oak and resawed red oak boards sized for each saw’s maximum capacity, feeding the wood as aggressively as each machine could handle. (See the bandsaw chart.)

The Craftsman BAS350 and Porter-Cable PCB330BS—14" models with 1- and 112 -hp-rated motors, respectively—proved most powerful, as you might expect. And the 10" saws (Rikon 10-305 and Jet JWB-10) fared nearly as well. Only the 9" Craftsman BAS230, equipped with a 14 -hp-rated motor, struggled in cutting anything thicker than 34 ". Bottom line: Six of the seven should serve you well enough for every cut you’d expect to make on a bandsaw.

Make blade control a top priority

Three aspects of blade control must be achieved to get the best performance from a bandsaw: tensioning, tracking, and guidance.

  Tensioning: Trust the blade, not the scale. To install a blade onto the wheels, you must first lower the top wheel slightly. Then, with the blade in place, raise the wheel to add tension to the blade. Insufficient tension allows a blade to deflect during cuts. 


Each of the tested machines has a built-in tension scale (with markings based on blade width), but we found all of them unreliable. (Some machines were undertensioned and others overtensioned, but none consistently enough that we could simply recalibrate the scale.) Instead, here’s how to tension the saws as we did. With the blade guides pulled back, and the top guide assembly fully raised, push sideways on the blade with moderate thumb pressure, adding tension until it flexes no more than 18 ". 

No saw presented serious issues with tensioning, and we like the quick-release tension levers on the Grizzly G0803, Jet, and Ryobi BS904G. This feature lets you change blades without losing the previous tension setting, and allows you to relax tension when the saw is not in use, prolonging the life of the wheel bearings and rubber tires.

  Tracking: Keep the blade from drifting. Tracking refers to the blade’s position, front to back, on the wheel’s rubber tires. You adjust this by tilting the top wheel slightly. Too far front or back and the blade will tend to drift left or right during cuts. It takes a little trial and error to find the sweet spot—not necessarily dead center—but once you do, you shouldn’t need to adjust tracking again until you change blades. The 14" Craftsman and Porter-Cable saws, with wider wheels, adjusted easier for tracking, but none of the saws were bad.

  Blade guides: Keep them tight. Here’s where we found the biggest differences among the saws. Each machine has upper and lower guide assemblies consisting of twist-controlling side guides and  backward-limiting thrust bearing. All three adjust independently. Any time you change to a different width blade, you need to reset the guides and thrust bearings away from the blade about the thickness of a piece of paper. 

There are three types of side guides on the test machines, as shown below. Six of the seven saws have thrust bearings that run in-line with the blade—which we prefer—so the blade runs against the bearing’s outer ring as you cut. The Porter-Cable uses a side-mounted bearing. In our experience, this style bearing doesn’t turn as effectively.

Three types of guides to keep blades cutting true 

103270609.jpg
Pin-style side guides, shown here on the Craftsman BAS230, have a small contact surface against the blade, and can be fussy to set accurately.

103270612x.jpg
Block-style side guides, shown here on the Porter-Cable, present a wide surface to support the blade, but friction makes them hot. The thrust bearing sits sideways to the blade.

103270611.jpg
Ball-bearing side guides, shown here on the Rikon, roll with blade contact so they provide solid support while keeping cool.

More factors to consider

  Table. Generally, the bigger the table, the better the workpiece support—crucial when making detailed cuts. As you’d expect, the larger saws have the biggest tables. The 10" and 14" saws have cast-iron tables that add mass to dampen vibration.

8962 problem.jpg
With two table trunnions, Porter-Cable’s cast-iron table tilts smoothly and locks solidly, never losing its front-to-back squareness to the blade. All other machines have single-trunnion tables.

All the tables tilt 45° to the right (above), and all but the 9" Craftsman have a stop bolt for quickly returning the table 90° to the blade. The Grizzly and Ryobi models have rack-and-pinion adjusters, which make tilting easier and more reliable.

■ Rip fence. Only three saws (Grizzly, Jet, and Rikon) come with a fence, which makes it easier to rip and resaw stock without having to create your own fence from scrap wood. Still, none of the fences performed great.

  Dust collection. These saws generate a lot of sawdust that must be evacuated from the machine to keep the blade guides and tires clean (maximizing guidance and grip) and minimize the amount of airborne dust. The 14" Craftsman, Jet, Rikon, and Ryobi delivered the best dust collection. (We hooked machines with 212 " or smaller ports to a large shop vacuum. With the Jet and 14" Craftsman, which have both 212 " and 4" ports, we tested with a shop vacuum and a 112 -hp dust collector [separately], using a wye connector to link the two ports.)

■ Line of sight. It’s critical to have good blade visibility, especially when you’re cutting close to a line or curved pattern. The guide assemblies on all but the Jet and 14" Craftsman fared well. (See photo below.)

103270613.jpg
The Jet’s blade guard extends down so far it impairs your line of sight to the point of cut.

Winners in three price ranges

We tested all seven saws together, but separated them in this review into two classes to be fair, considering the power, cut capacity, and price differences among the machines. 

The Craftsman BAS350 ($470) earns Top Tool in the 14" saw category. It performed with highest marks in all but one test, and is well worth the higher price to get its larger cut capacities and power.

The Rikon 10-305 wins Top Tool for the 9–10" category. This saw, selling for $300, runs smoothly and powerfully with excellent blade adjustments and a cast-iron table. 

If we were on a tight budget, we’d get the Grizzly G0803 for $200. It’s our Top Value overall.

Craftsman BAS350, $470

craftsmen updated pic

sears.com/craftsman
High Points
▲ With the most power, the best and easiest-to-use blade guides, and easiest blade adjustments, this saw performed well in nearly every test.
▲You can resaw up to 8", and use up to a 34 " blade, both tops in the group.
 ▲A big, paddle-type “off” switch makes it easy to shut off the saw in an emergency.
▲ Its cast-iron table is largest among the test group. And it’s the only model with 38 ×34 " miter slots, letting you use standard aftermarket accessories.
▲ With two dust ports, dust collection was excellent.
▲ The drive-belt tensioning system is easier to use than any of those on other tested models.

Low Points
▼ The blade guard impairs visibility at the point of cut.
▼ Not able to use a 18 " blade, the ideal blade for intricate curve-cutting.

Rikon 10-305, $300

bandsaw Rikon.jpg

877-884-5167, rikontools.com
High Points
▲ Showed plenty of power in all cuts, even when resawing 458 " red oak.
▲  Easy-to-set ball-bearing guides and tensioning system kept blade deflection and drift in check.
▲  Its big cast-iron table provides lots of workpiece support, yet doesn’t hinder access to the lower blade guides.
▲  Dust collection was excellent with a 212 " dust port, sized for a typical shop vacuum.
▲ Comes with a five-year warranty.

More Points
​■   The included rip fence performed decently, though we found its handle clumsy to use.

Grizzly G0803, $200

103270605a.jpg

800-523-4777, grizzly.com
High Points
▲ This benchtop saw demonstrated sufficient power to resaw 358 " red oak without bogging down at a reasonable feed rate.
▲ Easy-to-set ball-bearing guides and tensioning system kept blade deflection and drift in check. A quick-release lever lets you change blades easily and remove tension when not in use.
▲ Metal doors and hinges, as well as cam-style door latches, give this saw a heavy-duty feel.
▲The included rip fence worked decently.
▲ A handle on top makes lifting this saw on and off a workbench easier.
▲ Comes with a flexible-neck LED task light.

Low Points
▼ The 2"-diameter dust port requires an adapter to connect to a common 212 " shop-vacuum hose. Once modified, dust collection was only fair; a grate in the dust port clogged with debris.

Porter-Cable PCB330BS, $400

103270603.jpg

888-848-5175, portercable.com
High Points
 ▲ The only tested model with two table trunnions, table adjustments are smooth and easy to make despite no rack-and-pinion adjuster.
▲  A large cabinet below the saw provides lots of storage for blades and accessories.
▲  Comes with a three-year warranty.

Low Points
▼ With only a 212 " port beneath the table, dust collection was inadequate.
▼  Blade deflection and drift were issues with this saw, especially when sawing with the guide assembly at full height.
▼  This is the only tested saw without a rack-and-pinion blade-guide-assembly adjuster, our preferred method.
▼  The blade slot in the table exits to the right of the blade, making blade changes more difficult.

More Points
■  The steel-block blade guides work well enough, but the blade’s back rests against the side face of the thrust bearings rather than the
outer ring.
■ The table comes predrilled with holes for a fence rail, but the optional rip fence kit (no. X4CT) costs $50 (available by calling 888-609-9779).
■ The brush to clean the lower wheel/tire mounts on a thin, flimsy piece of metal—a potential breaking point.

Craftsman BAS230, $130

103270606.jpg

sears.com/craftsman
High Points
 ▲ Good line of sight to the blade when cutting.
▲ Blade changes, tensioning, and tracking proved easy enough.

Low Points
▼  With the least-powerful motor in the group, this saw repeatedly bogged down in testing. It worked best cutting stock 34 " or thinner.
▼   Blade deflection and drift, worst in the test group, routinely resulted in inaccurate cuts.
▼   Its pin-style blade guides with tiny hex screws proved difficult to adjust accurately.
▼   The 2"-diameter dust port requires an adapter to connect to a common 212 " shop-vacuum hose. Once modified, dust collection was only fair; a grate in the dust port clogged with debris.
▼   We found the small toggle-type power switch difficult to locate and turn off in an emergency. 

More Points
 ■ Although we had no problems during testing, we worry about the durability of the many plastic parts, such as the blade guard and door hinges and latches.

Jet JWB-10, $385

103270602.jpg

800-274-6848, jettools.com
High Points
▲  It has above-average power for its size.
▲ A steel extension to the right of the cast-iron table provides an additional 6" of support when fully extended.
▲ Ball-bearing side guides kept the blade on target when cutting curves.
▲ The included rip fence works well, and the miter gauge was best in the test group.
▲ A quick-release lever lets you remove blades easily and remove tension when not in use.
▲  With two dust ports, dust collection was excellent.

Low Points
▼  We found the lower side guides difficult to access and adjust without tilting or removing (not easily done) the table.
▼ Tracking blades proves finicky.
▼  The blade guard impairs cutline visibility.
▼  Sharp edges on the table’s miter slot and blade slot needed to be filed down.

More Points
 ■  It comes with a flexible-neck task light, but it’s too weak to be effective.

Ryobi BS904G, $130

103270607.jpg

800-525-2579, ryobitools.com
High Points
▲ We were pleasantly surprised with this unit’s power considering its size.
▲ A quick-release lever lets you change blades easily and remove tension when not in use.

Low Points
▼ The pin-style side guides with small hex screws were difficult to adjust accurately.
▼ This machine lacks a brush on the lower wheel assembly to keep the tire clear of debris, which could reduce blade grip and tire life.
▼ We found the small toggle-type power switch difficult to locate and turn off in an emergency. 

More Points
■   Dust collection proved excellent through the 212 " port, but a grate built into the port clogged with debris frequently.
■   The steel-pin guides performed well at keeping blades running true, but were not as easy to adjust as ball-bearing guides on other saws.
 ■  Although we had no problems during testing, we worry about the longevity of the many plastic parts, such as the blade guard and door hinges and latches.

Download full Bandsaw Comparison Chart.

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