King of cutting

I’ve maintained for years that the most versatile machine in the shop is the band saw. I’ve seen and gotten a lot of tools, but my mind hasn’t changed.

When I was just getting started, I had the usual assortment of hand tools and small power tools like a jigsaw and circ saw. But once I started getting serious my first major tool was a 14” band saw, and it changed absolutely everything about the way I worked.

For many, I suspect the favorite, most versatile tool is the table saw. A table saw makes rip cuts, but you can also do that on a band saw. On the other hand a band saw can make any curved cut you want, which a table saw can’t. You can resaw on a table saw, but not very wide, plus a table saw takes a huge kerf out of the workpiece which is undesirable for book-matching. A band saw resaws wide stock with ease in a single pass, with minimal kerf waste. With a jig, you can cut perfect circles on a band saw. And for making a really quick cut just to trim a bit of waste off before working the piece further, the band saw requires almost no set up or adjustment to make the cut. Ditto if you’re just breaking down scrap. Band saws don’t kick back, and burning is easily controlled. Their blades are easy to change, especially with today’s quick tension-release levers.

Now, I’m not planning on getting rid of any tool and letting the band saw take over. Every tool I own gets a workout, and some are better suited for certain tasks a band saw can’t perform. But when it comes to a single tool that does the most different types of cuts, the band saw is king, at least for the way I work.

So, what’s the most versatile tool in your shop, powered or unpowered, hand-held or stationary? No, you can’t be cute and say it’s your ingenuity, your computer, a sharp pencil (or its eraser) or a clock that gives you an extra hour of working time, nothing like that. I’m talking literal tools here.



  • Chris Wong says:


    I think that my most versatile tool is a chisel.


  • SawdustTX says:

    We started in opposite situations, but ended with the same perspective on the bandsaw. I started 28 years ago with a quality table saw and a not so great bandsaw. Because of it’s accuracy and consistency limitations, and the annoyance of trying to keep it properly tuned, I used the bandsaw only if there was no way to accomplish the task on another tool. About two years I finally bought a quality bandsaw, and have been truly amazed at the performance, quality, and ease of use. I continue to find things it does as well, better, or faster than my table saw, scrollsaw, and some hand tools. It truly has changed my methods of work entirely.

  • joe frohbose says:

    A well tuned LOW angle block plane is great for removing saw marks or quickly softening an edge. The thin ribbons also make for good fire starter. Bonus = fun to use…………

  • Chuck R says:

    I must agree with you. I own three.

  • Jim Allen says:

    I agree on the bandsaw. Second would be the router. Being a carver, of course my carving tools as a group covers the hand tool category. I just finished 20 crosses for a wedding reception that went in jig time. I did use the table saw to rip to accurate width, but went to the bandsaw for the lap joints. I did al 20 (40 cutouts) in 45 minutes and they all fit near perfectly. No way would I do that on the table saw with setups and adjustments. Incidently, I do 90% + of my bandasaw work with a 1/8″ 14tpi in up to 4″ thick. A good blade will produce a glueable surface.

  • Danny H. says:

    I’m going to have to agree with you. If I could only have one power tool the band saw would probably be the most versatile. But in my shop they don’t get used very often. My most used tools are the table saws. I have a Rigid portable one, for taking on the job site, a brand new Delta Unisaw( Which I won in your Newsletter contest last year) and a panel saw which makes quick work of squaring up panels of any size. Thanks Woodshop News !

  • Kevin says:

    I haven’t had a bandsaw for very long so I’m still exploring all it can do. For a long time now, my favorite tool has been my router.

  • Gary Schmidt says:

    A.J., As I told my students, “use the right tool for the job”. Given a limited budget of either money or space, the band saw is a good option. As Steve pointed out, a poor quality or worn out or just improperly tuned tool doesn’t do a good job.As Joe said , ” a well tuned ” tool works better. I still prefer a table saw for ripping, a miter saw for narrower crosscuts. Years ago, I saw an article suggesting,that if limited budget was an issue, the band saw was the choice. Gary

  • Tim says:

    Ironically, I just had this conversation last week with a friend. The bandsaw with a great blade is by far the most useful tool in my shop. Having more than one bandsaw means having the ability to make the cut you need without the dreaded “oh no the blade has to be changed” thought running through your head.

    I use it for dovetails, slicing veneer, small jobs I could do on the radial arm saw, prepping stock for the lathe, cutting tapers, etc. I can accurately cut to a scribed knife line. Great tool- lots of enjoyment-still have all my fingers. I once had an accountant that wasn’t aware of how dangerous the simple bandsaw can be.

  • I had a bandsaw. A cheap pile of crap with a blade that refused to stay center. I threw it in the garbage can and returned to the practice of law.

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