If you are planning to do some carpentry, you want to renovate a section of your house, or you want to move into a specific trade, something you will need is a good saw. Chances are almost 100% that you will need various saws, but which one do you go for first?
Two popular types include the bandsaw and the circular saw, but which one is better suited for your purposes?
Bandsaws and Circular Saws: The Basics
Before we get into talking about the differences between bandsaws and circular saws, let’s first provide you with a good idea of what both of these saws are and how they work.
What Is a Bandsaw?
First off, we have the bandsaw, a type of saw most often used in woodworking projects, but also used for other purposes. Most people are going to be familiar with the cabinet or floor bandsaw, the full-size version that has its own table or cabinet upon which it rests, as well as a large working table to support the material.
Bandsaws feature so-called bands, which in this case are very long, thin, and flexible metal blades with sharp serrated teeth that form a loop. This loop is fitted onto a set of wheels or rollers, usually four of them, which propel the blade to high speeds. The operator supports the wood with the table and then moves the wood through the bandsaw blade.
What is important to note is that there are also portable bandsaws, also known as handheld bandsaws. These are of course much smaller and lighter than floor or cabinet bandsaws. With portable bandsaws, the material being cut is supported by another surface, and instead of moving the material through the blade, like with a full-size bandsaw, with a portable bandsaw, you move the saw blade through the material.
What Is a Circular Saw?
A circular saw is probably one of the first saws that you will encounter in any type of woodworking or construction. Circular saws are always handheld, and usually quite small and portable too. These circular saws, as the name suggests, feature a large and circular blade that is fitted with serrated teeth.
The user supports the material being cut on a table or workbench, and then cuts it by moving the circular saw blade down and through the material. There are two types of circular saws, more traditional sidewinders and worm drive saws.
Do not confuse a circular saw with a miter saw. While both have circular blades, miter saws also have small worktables, as well as fences, which circular saws do not. Miter saws are stationary, while circular saws are not.
Bandsaw vs. Circular Saw: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both bandsaws and circular saws are, let’s take a closer look at what the main differences between them are.
Types of Cuts
One of the main differences between these two saw types has to do with the type of cuts that they can make.
On one hand, the small and thin design of bandsaw blades makes them quite versatile in terms of cutting curves and shapes. In essence, a bandsaw is a larger version of the jigsaw. That said, if you want to cut very straight lines with bandsaws, you need to be very accurate, and indeed, cutting anything perfectly straight with a bandsaw can be challenging.
On the other hand, that circular saw blade that has a very large diameter excels at cutting straight lines. While it is almost impossible to not cut a straight line with a circular saw, it is simply impossible to cut curves or shapes with one.
To sum it up, bandsaws are great for curves and shapes, whereas circular saws are best for cutting straight lines.
Something that does stand out about circular saws is the awesome cutting speed that they can achieve. That blade moves at ridiculous speeds, and thanks to the design of circular saw blades, they can pass through wood stock in a matter of seconds. On the other hand, while bandsaws are not slow by any means, they also aren’t particularly fast, especially not when compared to circular saws.
If it is speed you are looking for, then circular saws are the way to go.
Quality of Finish and Tear-Out
Something else to consider is that a bandsaw generally doesn’t leave the wood with a smooth finish. Due to the limited speed of bandsaw blades, as well as the blade design, the material often ends up being quite rough, and there may also be a bit of splintering or tear-out as well.
However, when it comes to circular saws, they generally produce a much cleaner cut, particularly when using something like a carbide-tipped blade that doesn’t suffer from a lot of friction or heat buildup.
A cut made with a bandsaw will undoubtedly need to be sanded down, whereas a cut made by a circular saw probably won’t.
Blade Kerf and Material Loss
To simplify things, by blade kerf, we are referring to the thickness of the blade, or in other words, how much material is removed when a cut is made. Bandsaws have much thinner blades than circular saws, which thus results in far less material being cut away. If you have small workpieces or need ultimate accuracy, and you cannot afford to lose much material, then the bandsaw is the way to go.
When you use a circular saw, the possible depth of the cut is determined by the diameter of the saw blade, with a 10-inch blade being able to cut to a depth of just under 5 inches. This does limit the size of the material that a circular saw can handle. On the other hand, a full-size cabinet bandsaw may be able to handle stock as wide or thick as 80 inches.
Simply put, you can cut much larger pieces with a bandsaw, particularly when it comes to cross-section cuts. Bandsaws also allow for bundle cutting, which circular saws do not.
If we are talking about cost, for the most part, an average bandsaw will cost less than a circular saw, although if you want to go for a large, high-quality, and brand name bandsaw, it could very well cost more than a basic circular saw.
Ok, so what you need to keep in mind here is that you have full-size floor bandsaws and more compact portable bandsaws. The larger version is obviously not portable at all, while the portable option, well, that’s pretty self-explanatory.
That said, most people would agree that one way or another, circular saws tend to be more portable. Moreover, they also tend to be a bit easier to hold, as portable bandsaws are clunky, heavy, and awkward to hold.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
Which one of the two you should use depends on what your needs are. If you are just planning to make a bunch of quick crosscuts, such as if you are cutting wall beams or floorboards, then a normal circular saw will do just fine.
The bottom line is that if you want to make straight cuts, you need speed, and you need a clean finish with every cut, then a circular saw is the way to go. However, if you plan on doing bundle cuts, or you want to cut out curves and various shapes, then it is a bandsaw that you need.
When all has been said and done, we aren’t going to say that one of these saws is better than the other. Both bandsaws and circular saws have their specific uses and advantages.
Realistically, if you plan on being a professional tradesman, or you plan on doing a lot of projects at home, you will end up needing both of these tools.