There are few tools more versatile and indispensable in the wood shop than a band saw. However, the same qualities that make a band saw a woodworkers’ favorite also present some interesting challenges.

What blade tension is best? How can you tell if blade tension is correct? How can you extend blade life? A good person to ask is Rod Burrow. Burrow has answered thousands of band saw questions over the years as quality assurance/customer service manager for RIKON, a leading band saw manufacturer. Recently Burrow shared his top band saw blade dos and don’ts:

I. Follow the 3 laws of blade care. 1. Proper tension. 2. Proper tracking. 3. Proper guide setting.

II. Set the proper tension. “Tension is number one because without it, you won’t have proper tracking and guide positioning,” Burrow says. “Try a test cut. If you put a square against a test cut and the test cut bellies in the middle, you’re under-tensioned.”

III. Use this rule of thumb index finger. Is your blade under-tensioned? Raise the guide post to its maximum height and press the broad face of the blade with your index finger. If your color under your finger nail goes white (about 7 pounds of pressure) without giving up more than a quarter-inch of deflection, blade tension should be fine.

IV. View the manufacturer’s blade guide with caution. “The tension scale of your band saw manufacturer doesn’t anticipate all blade variables, like blade thickness, length, overcut, and undercut,” says Burrow. The tension scale only gets you close. It’s up to you to make the final tension adjustment.

V. Release blade tension when not in use. That helps prevent blade stretching and deforming the band saw tires, which are likely made of rubber or urethane. A stretched blade will cause the operator to increase blade tension to compensate, increasing blade break risk.

VI. Follow the rules. “I’d say about 50 percent of band saw users observe best blade practice. The rest do not. Those that don’t risk lower-quality cuts and broken blades,” cautions Burrow.

VII. Be careful with after-market blades. After-market blades may have different care and use instructions. Understand that. Every brand has their own cut specifications.

VIII. Select the right blade. Take resawing. To avoid burning and a slow feed rate, “… you want a nice big hook on the blade with a big gullet,” says Burrow. Nearly every cutting application has different blade requirements.

IV. Check blade position on the wheel. “Line up the center line of the blade to the center line of the wheel. Centering any other way will probably cause a problem with guide positioning,” Burrow says.

X. When you’re really stumped. “If you’re having an issue, take a step back. Go back and check tensioning procedures. Re-read the manual before calling technical support,” Burrow advises.

With the right band saw blade care, your time in the shop can be even more rewarding and productive. Visit here to learn more about RIKON band saws.