Choosing a Palmgren® Band Saw–Insights from an Expert
When choosing a band saw, it’s important to know the different models available and their uses. Recently, we sat down with Ernie Torkilsen, our Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Palmgren. Ernie has been working in the metalworking industry for over 40 years and uses his wisdom to improve the operations at Palmgren. Read on to get a better understanding of what these saws have to offer.
Q: What Are the Different Kinds of Band Saws and Their Uses?
Ernie: “There are two general classifications for band saws, the oldest being a vertical band saw and then a horizontal band saw. There are different categories within each of those classifications, but we’ll cover the vertical band saws to start.
The vertical band style comes in sizes from a 10-inch capacity to a 40-inch capacity. The inch capacity is the distance from the backbone of the saw to the blade. If it’s a 10-inch saw, you have 10 inches of clearance. The other limitation is the height between the top of the saw and the table. The smaller the saw, the less expensive it is, and of course, the larger the saw, the more expensive.
Basically, a band saw is a metal blade or band positioned on two wheels that turn. One is a dry wheel, and one is an idler wheel where you can track and tension the blade. And then, you feed that blade, or that part you want to cut. You have many different styles of blades that enable you to cut about any material effectively. On all vertical band styles, the operator takes the piece that they want to cut, and they push it or feed it into and through the blade.”
Q: What About Metal vs Wood Saws?
Ernie: “Actually, there are three different types of vertical style saws. You have what’s called a wood vertical band saw. It cuts wood, plastics, and composite materials. The blade on a wood band saw operates at a faster surface foot per minute to cut. Another type of vertical band saw is a wood and metal band saw. It takes the same wood band saw, but it’s driven by a gearbox. The lower speeds enable you to cut metal. When you want to cut metal, you engage the gearbox, and when you want to cut woods, plastics, and composites at a higher speed, you disengage the gearbox. So, it becomes a pretty universal type of machine that gives you a much broader cutting capacity.
The third type of the vertical style is a tool room band saw, which is strictly designed to cut metal. It’s very heavy duty, it takes a heavier blade, and has more horsepower. They’re more expensive, but you can cut cast iron to stainless steel effectively and efficiently.”
Q: We Covered Vertical Saws, What About Horizontal Band Saws?
Ernie: “The other style of saws that we sell is a horizontal band saw. Now, with horizontal band saws, you have a lot more variation in the saw style that’s been developed over the years. The most common is what we call a general-purpose, which is a pivot or scissor band saw. It has a pivot point where you raise the saw head up. You clamp your workpiece in the machine, and let that head pivot down and close like scissors, and it feeds itself through and cuts the part. You control the feed of the head with a hydraulic counterbalance cylinder. So, the weight of the saw head is actually doing the cutting as it’s coming through, but you control that speed and the amount of pressure with a countered hydraulic cylinder, which is adjustable. A pivot head band saw is the economical size, and those generally come from a 7-inch capacity diameter. Horizontal band saws are sized by the diameter of a round that they can cut. So, they start at 7 inches on a pivot horizontal style, and they go all the way up over 40 inches.”
Q: What About Variations?
Ernie: “Another variation is a mitering horizontal band saw. In a traditional pivot style horizontal saw, if somebody wants to cut parts at 45 degrees where they could weld them together, they angle the vise on the bed of the band saw. They put the workpiece in, and they cut the 45-degree angle. Now, they have to cut the mating piece. To do that, they have to then take the part out, flip it over, put it back in the vise, and cut it. Now they have a matching piece.
If you’re doing a lot of cutting and have a 10-foot bar, you’re flipping that bar back and forth a lot. One of the innovations was a mitering band saw, where the actual saw head can angle from right to left. You keep the workpiece that you’re cutting fixed in the vise at 90 degrees, and you move the head back and forth. So, if you’re miter cutting, this is much quicker, faster, and more accurate. There are two styles of mitering band saws. One of them is traditional, where we just took the standard horizontal pivot style saw and re-adjusted the way the saw head is mounted at the bearing point, so you move the head back and forth.
The other is fabricating, or Palmgren refers to it as a zip mitering horizontal band saw. This is a European-style saw. These saws cut faster than a traditional horizontal style. Through this design, they pivot back and forth easier, but they cut at one and a half thousandths per inch. You get the finish and speed of a cold saw, but you can miter with them yet it’s a horizontal band saw. It has more features and tighter tolerances, which comes at a higher cost.”
Q: What Are the Other Kinds of Horizontal Band Saws?
Ernie: “There is one for the large structural cutting and it’s called a horizontal structural band saw. These traditionally will miter in one direction, not two, but they’re designed to quickly cut large structural pipes and shapes. They’re semi-automatic saws and for parts that are over 20 inches in diameter.
Then the fourth style is what we call dual column band saws. Dual column saws have been around for a long time. They differ from a pivot saw because you have two round columns that the saw head is mounted on. The saw head goes up and down perpendicular to the base on those round columns. It’s a more accurate way of cutting because you have a hydraulic system that raises the head and controls the feed down of the head.
There’s also a hydraulic feed compensator built into this style of saw. You have a consistent pressure of feed coming down. If you vary in the materials you’re cutting, it self-compensates, speeding the feed of the head or slowing down the speed of the head. This way, you get a long blade life and an accurate cut. Because of the design, these band saws are also cut at one and a half thousandths per inch. You get a better tolerance than a traditional horizontal band saw, which was one advantage when that design came around. They tend to cost more than a pivot style, but if you’re cutting a lot of different materials, these are high-quality saws that give you an accurate finish. Additionally, you get a much more controlled feed rate and speed ratio.”
Q: What Saw Would You Recommend?
Ernie: “Those are the four classifications of the horizontal band saws, which tells you what the differences are. If you are doing a lot of miter cutting, it’s better to go with a miter saw because it takes up less floor space. You get faster, more accurate cuts and better throughput. If you’re using a saw for conventional cuts here and there, a pivot style horizontal saw is the best choice. Then, on vertical band saws, it depends what you’re cutting. One of the advantages of the vertical band saws that Palmgren offers with the wood metal is that we have a different design than other wood metal band saws with our gearbox so that you can cut hardened steels, the softer steels, where all the competitors’ wood metal band saws basically can do softer steels in the metal side of that operation.”
Q: Are Band Saws Dangerous?
Ernie: “All band saw manufacturers, Palmgren included, build their saws around ANC and OSHA specifications, which are the government safety guidelines that are published and put in place to produce a machine. All the guarding, designs, electrical, and more conform to the government guidelines and specifications for safety. These saws are designed to cut metal, and there are safety precautions that you need to follow. Before operating the machine, we highly recommend that you read thoroughly the safety of warning manuals that come with the machine to operate it safely. With any machinery comes an inherent risk of use. At Palmgren, we design our tools to help prevent operator accidents.”
Q: Why Choose Palmgren Band Saws?
Ernie: “What separates us from our competitors is that we use a lot of end-user feedback to design the product, you know what they like and don’t like. This helps us design a machine built for operator convenience and safety while meeting their goals and objectives. Another reason is we have one of the leading warranties in the industry– with a three-year warranty on all our bandsaws. And that’s from parts to service and to sales. The other reason to choose Palmgren is that we operate as a resource and partner with our end-users. We’re there to help them before they purchase by answering questions and helping them choose the right product for them. We’re also there to help them once they’ve bought the product with world-class service and support. We really stand behind the product, and we’re there to assist our customers however we can.”
Q: What Band Saws Does Palmgren Offer?
Ernie: “For vertical band saws, Palmgren offers several opening price points, small, more consumer-driven with sizes ranging from 8, 10, 12, and a 14-inch. With our wood metal saws, we have two sizes– a 15-inch and an 18-inch. On these products, Palmgren implemented a chip cleaner air system to keep chips away from the cut. For tool room saws, we offer 15,18, 20, and a 24-inch. They’re all variable speed and strictly designed to cut a wide variety of metal products.
On the horizontal side of the band saws, we have the basic pivot style. We offer those in a 7, 8, 10, and 12-inch. They’re available in manual and some semiautomatic variations. We also offer a couple of miter saws, and those come in either a 10 or 12-inch size. Then, we have our European style or zip band saws that come in a 7, 10, or 12-inch plus an 11-inch semi-automatic version. Palmgren also has fully automatic dual post band saws, which come in 11-inch, 14-inch, and 18-inch.
For any production application, Palmgren’s got it covered. We have provided some large vertical saws for customers that were looking for 36-inch throats. We can supply those for unique applications. Besides our standard offering, Palmgren can also quote special requirements for just about any application.”