When Jay Gordon started his career in the saw blade industry in 1979, cutting a 10-in. round of any type of material within 1/2 in. accuracy was enough to make just about any manufacturer happy.
“If you think that would happen now, you’d be in big trouble,” Gordon says rhetorically.
Bandsaws date back to the early 1800s when William Newberry developed the idea for them and received a British patent. However, the blades on those early saws were lacking in accuracy and durability. It wasn’t until nearly 1850 that Anne Crepin developed a welding technique that brought improved durability and accuracy to the blades.
Expectations have changed with the evolution of blade and saw technology, especially in the last couple of decades. End users looking for just the right blade can expect experts like Gordon, who is the North American sales manager for sawing at Starrett, to drill down on as many questions as it takes to zero-in on the blade that will perform best for the application.
The Usual Questions
What type of material is being cut, and how thick is it? Is the blade for general-purpose cutting or high production? Is the primary goal to have the highest quality of cut possible or is there more of a need for speed? What type of saw is being used and how experienced is the operator? These are a sampling of the types of questions that need answers before a proper blade recommendation can be offered.
Picking the right blade can start with some general guidelines to point the end user in the right direction. For example, those cutting a range of steels will likely choose a bi-metal bandsaw blade. For harder materials such as nickel and titanium alloys, carbide-tipped blades are a good choice. For cutting aluminum, carbide-tipped blades might again be the best choice, but the blade also needs to be resistant to fatigue, abrasion and shock if it’s going to last long.
After decades of research and development, blade makers have been able to fine-tune what works best. From the Intenss PRO line to Primalloy blades to Advanz blades, Starrett creates blades with specific tooth geometries, backings and blade designs made specifically for different types of metals and shapes.
Tim O’Loughlin, sawing product manager at Starrett, notes he’s run into situations where an end user needs assistance selecting a blade, but they’re working with a proprietary metal and can’t say exactly what’s in it. That’s not really a problem. More often than not, the end user is able to describe what they’re working with and Starrett blade experts can pinpoint the most suitable blade for them.
“What does it cut like and what do the chips look like?” O’Loughlin will ask in situations like this. “The chips often tell the story so we can fine tune their blade options.” Gordon agrees that for just about any sawing issue, there is a specific solution.
For example, “When cutting very small shapes of Inconel – we might recommend carbide grit, which eliminates the problem of stripping teeth,” he says.
Cutting through material as fast as possible is pretty much the norm for any manufacturer pushed to be as productive as possible. But to get a quality cut and still get the most out of the blade, they must use recommended speeds and choose the correct tooth pitch.
An interrupted cut, for example, requires a blade that’s quite different from one that cuts through solids. The blade going through interrupted cuts must be built to take the abuse of constantly going in and out of material, which is why Starrett’s Versatix MP bi-metal blades have a patented tooth design that minimizes pinching and dissipates stress during cutting for less tooth breakage and longer blade life.
Some end users experience situations where they’re cutting various types of materials and don’t have the resources or time to switch out blades with each new cut. In these cases, a general-purpose blade turns out to be a good choice.
“’General purpose’ makes it sound like it might not provide the optimum cut, but it cuts a lot of different materials well,” O’Loughlin says.
Gordon says end users of general-purpose blades are typically those in shops specializing in cutting a combination of structurals, solids, key stocks – “everything under the sun, and there is a big mix where they’re using a blade for a wide range of applications.
“There are solutions for that as well,” he continues. “Our Intenss line, for example, is less aggressive, which means it’s more durable while making interrupted cuts, but it performs well on solid materials, too.”
Hole Saws Too
In addition to bandsaw blades, Starrett offers a line of hole saws that are application specific, including the Fast Cut bi-metal saw for faster, smoother cuts on a wide range of materials. Another is the Deep Cut bi-metal saw with a variable-pitch tooth design for aggressive material penetration and kerf clearance. Deep Cut hole saws penetrate larger depths, improving cutting performance on thicker materials or where there is a need to cut through both sides of the tube. Both Fast Cut and Deep Cut hole saws feature new tooth material with extra cobalt, offering an improved cutting range on metals and fiberglass.
Starrett has also designed tungsten carbide-tipped hole saws for cutting at higher speeds than what is possible with a bi-metal hole saw.
With so many different hole saw options, Starrett has developed a web-based portal called PowerCalc, which assists users in picking out the right hole saw for the job.
PowerCalc is essentially a calculator that allows the user to enter all the information they can about the job they’re working on, which allows PowerCalc to calculate which hole saw is the best fit. O’Loughlin says they are also working up a similar online solution for calculating the best bandsaw blade for a job.
“It basically gives you what the best options are for your application,” O’Loughlin says, adding that the program will provide a product EDP number and a link to the product for easy ordering. “It also marries in the recommended cutting speed and the compatible arbor models, which is very helpful for the user.”