View Full Version : vertical bandsaws - are wood and metal machines interchangable?

10-14-2011, 01:53 PM
Assuming of course the correct blade and blade speed is used?

On craigslist I see lots of vertical bandsaws identified as "wood bandsaws" and I only see a few identified as "metal bandsaws". There is also a pretty substantial price differential between wood and metal.

I'm assuming the wood cutting blades run much faster, have more aggressive teeth, and the blade width is not as large, compared to metal cutting blades.

However, assuming I slow down the blade speed and use a metal cutting blade, is there really any reason I can't retrofit a wood cutting vertical bandsaw into a metal cutting vertical bandsaw?

Are the wheels different thicknesses for different blade widths?

I'm thinking along the lines of a 20-50 year old cast iron machine standing on the floor, not one of the cheapo $99 bench top big box specials. I've used those and don't want one.

I will probably cut up to about 1" thick material on it at most. Aluminum and low carbon steel primarily.

I have gotten by with a sawsall and jig saw and bench grinder until now. I would like to upgrade to a vertical bandsaw when I find a good deal.


10-14-2011, 02:10 PM
Speed and rigidity are the keys. Most wood bandsaws are geared towards finish cutting on an already dimensioned piece of material. Most metal saws are used to bulk cut material for further operations.

If you find a sufficiently stout wood bandsaw, yes, you can convert it. The speed difference can be better than 10:1 for wood to metal though. A cast aluminum table will last a while for woodworking but not so much for metalworking.

10-14-2011, 02:26 PM
I have been using an old delta 14" bandsaw for some time now to cut aluminum. It is all cast iron. I put a VS drive on it and slow it it down a little bit for metal. One thing that does happen is that the rubber tires wear out faster and get impregnated with metal chips, but it hasn't been a problem for me though. Tires don't cost much and are easy to change.

I have not cut steel with this setup.

10-14-2011, 08:08 PM
I just bought a new in the crate 12+ year old horiz or vertical 14"x8" Carolina metal bandsaw. Grampa bought it didn't tell Grandma hid it in the barn for years & they found it after he died. And it's made in the US. What a great barn find.:D

10-14-2011, 08:38 PM
Delta did put out a metal cutting version of their 14" bandsaw. I would,out of experience,caution against trying to convert one of the Delta clones. They aren't stiff enough.

I bought a new 14" Taiwan made clone from Wilke machinery years ago. I'd gotten hold of a super motor,an old General(I think) with a handle to turn for variable speed. Really a nice motor.

The saw would cut thicker material o.k.,but on thinner stock,like 1/4",using 14 tpi blades,it would catch and stall out. Then,it was a bother to get the FIRMLY jammed teeth unstuck and proceed with the cut.

I noticed that the vertical column was weak enough that it would bend a little,and the top end of the saw would nod a bit,and stall out.

The real Delta no doubt had better,thicker castings-I refer to the OLD model Deltas,not their new Asian knock offs.

Dr Stan
10-15-2011, 01:30 AM
I have an old Rockwell/Delta 14" vertical saw that was factory made to cut both wood & metal. It has a nice purpose built gear box that gives me 3 speeds in high range & 3 in low range. I found it on the St Louis Craig's List and drove from Western KY to get it. So, they're out there, but on the rare side.

10-15-2011, 07:56 AM
My first band saw was a wood cutting one and I recently replaced it with a metal/wood combination. The biggest difference between the two is in its strength and size of the parts. The wooden saw had many plastic parts and the saw blade support and cutting components on my new metal saw were twice the size and were very rigid compared to the wood cutting saw. The adjustment on the wood saw were with hand operated screws with plastic handles while the adjustments on the new saw are with Allen head screws. The wood saw had a dual speed pully system compared to the double pulleys with 4 grooves in each for a lot more speeds. I now cut both metal and wood were before I was limited in what I could cut.

To be the biggest differences are in the increased size and strength of the components and the greater speed ranges.

10-15-2011, 11:04 AM
I have a Wilton 14 inch metal/wood (gearbox and pulleys) bandsaw. Works fine... for a small bandsaw, but the castings and most other parts are the same as any of the generic Taiwan 14 inch woodworking bandsaws and is infact made by Jet (or whomever makes FOR Jet). Jet subsequently bought Wilton.

10-15-2011, 12:58 PM
I would think one of the problems with using the same saw for wood and metal is the mess that cutting metal makes. When I cut aluminum or steel I use a lube. If I were doing anything with wood I'd have to change the blade (a bother all by itself) and clean it real well to avoid getting oils on the wood. Oil can make staining the wood quite challenging.

OTOH, I frequently use my wood bandsaw to cut thin aluminum using only candle wax as lubricant. :)


Rich Carlstedt
10-15-2011, 10:57 PM
Some saws, like the old Rockwell/Delta will cut both wood and metal.
A metal saw should cut from 50 (SS.) FPM to 400 FPM (ALum), while a wood saw does 3,000 FPM.
Metal saws have steel/cast iron frames and are rigid, Wood saws can have aluminum or sheet metal frames
Wood saws use rubber tires because they run differnt blades (like 1/8" to 3/4"), while metal saws have steel wheels with a relief for the teeth set. (restricts to design blade size) rubber tires work on metal saws, but can fail if not cleaned. Metal saws generally have a brush on the tire surface, whether it is rubber or not.
Wood saws can use "block" guides (steel, carbide, brass , phenolic), while metal saws always use ball/needle bearing guides and thrust rollers

Just some differences to note

I have an old Rockwell and it cuts steel like magic.
The tires need replacing about every ten years

10-16-2011, 01:41 AM
I have an old Rockwell/Delta 14" vertical saw that was factory made to cut both wood & metal. It has a nice purpose built gear box that gives me 3 speeds in high range & 3 in low range. I found it on the St Louis Craig's List and drove from Western KY to get it. So, they're out there, but on the rare side.

Hi Everyone,

Would like to pass on some tips about Delta/Rockwell 14 inch saws because they are one of the more plentiful ones out there.

The fact that so many Asian makers have copied the design shows me how good it is. All they would have had to do was make them heavy enough.

Here are photos of mine that I bought new on sale from J.C. Penney in 1976.


This is the wood cutting version that I added a variable speed, gear reduction drive to. The drive is from Grainger’s – don’t know if it is still available.


It gives the entire range of metal cutting speeds that the metal/wood Delta has w/o changing belts. Plus, it does this in the lower 30% of the speed range. This allows me to just crank it up for aluminum & wood. It does not reach the 3000 sfpm recommended for wood, but has worked well regardless. I do very little wood cutting w/it.

When I pieced this together I priced a new Rockwell/Delta metal/wood saw & I saved over $100.00 doing it this way. This was big money compared to today.

If I was to do it again, I would incorporate a pedal for lifting the tension off the drive belt. I have found that because there is so much gear reduction, when the blade occasionally sticks, you can’t turn it backwards to help release it.

There is also a 6 inch riser kit available for these, but I just made my own.

If you come across one of these saws, pay attention to this area of the saw:


The original Delta’s had a hex shaped guide shaft for the upper blade guides and were, IMHO, built to higher standards than the Rockwell/Delta models like mine. Looking at the photo below, you can see the original hex hole in the die-casting for the guides. I don’t know if Rockwell ever changed this casting, but an awful lot of saws were made like this.


If you are lucky enough to find one w/the hex shaft & the saw is in good condition - grab it!

At least from the vintage of mine, all the castings were the same thickness etc. The difference of the main casting w/the wood saw was that it had no accommodation for the gear box that Dr. Stan mentioned.

One more tip. I welded the short handles to the thumbscrew for the guide shaft & to the taper pin that aligns the table segments. This makes tools unnecessary when changing blades.

10-16-2011, 02:16 PM
I've had a Delta 14" wood/metal for about 15 years. My standard blade is a 1/4", 14 tpi, bi-metal. The two speed gearbox allows me to go from 3000 fpm directly to about 90 fpm. There are other speeds available since the motor and gearbox have cone pulleys on them, but I don't use them because it is too time consuming to set them up.

I cut everything but ferrous metals at 3000 fpm. Aluminum and brass are no problem at this speed as long as the blade is sharp. 90 fpm covers all ferrous metals. I don't use lube on the blade. The tires are polyurethane and have lots of metal swarf imbedded in them. However, it is not a problem and I have never replaced the tires. My only complaint is the gearbox changeover is not the easiest thing to do, but you have to go to a much more expensive saw( Reeves drive) to get easy speed changes. Even then the range is only about 6:1.


10-16-2011, 05:58 PM
I converted a $300, 14" Harbour Freight bandsaw into a metal cutting saw with a DC Treadmill motor. Have been cutting aluminum up to 1.5" and steel up to 1/4".........It's all in the blade selection.

You can see a pictorial here: