Review By Dean Bielanowski  Sterling Publishing Website -


Book Review
By Dean Bielanowski
"Band Saw Handbook"

Author: Mark Duginske
Publisher: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. New York
ISBN: 0-8069-6398-0
Price: US$17.95  AUD$29.95

So you have a nice workshop, some nice new machines and some time on your hands. After a weekend working with your tools, did they perform as well as you might have expected? A trip to many online forums or newsgroups will reveal the plights of many woodworkers seeking to gain knowledge on how to improve the function of their power tools, or worse yet, rants about how their new tool just isn't making the grade.

Many such condemnations of these infernal machines can be attributed to poor setup, or lack of knowledge or skills of the very user blaming the tool. In fact, you could have the greatest manufactured tool on the planet, but in the hands of an unskillful user, the results could be less than satisfactory, and of course, a true master woodworker or machinist could make a tool that is considered lower in the quality arena a workable machine.

When it comes to bandsaws, one name always seem to pop out of the wood chips and dust, and that is the name of Mark Duginske. He is considered to be somewhat of a master on the bandsaw and has published many books relating to this machine. Today we take a look at probably his most well-known and praised title simply called "Band Saw Handbook"

Book particulars
The soft cover title weighs in at 320 pages. Trying to read it through in one night, or even two nights would most certainly lead to information overload for many, so time is recommended. The book was first published in 1989 by Sterling Publishing Inc. and has changed very little since. There are 16 chapters covering almost everything any bandsaw owner should know about his/her machine and considering this book is touted as being the "bible" for bandsaw owners, we would certainly hope it leaves nothing to spare! Lets take a closer look.

Chapters 1 - 4
The first four chapters of the book essentially provide a historical overview of bandsaws, basic information on your machine including common components diagrams, types of bandsaws commonly used on various applications and features that are general and specific to each type of saw. Illustrations are a mix of hand-drawn diagrams and black and white photographs. The date of the book is easily noticed in the photographs - many depicting machine models you probably could not buy today (except second hand) and earlier models of many popular brands. Chapter 2 is probably reserved for new bandsaw owners only. Users with experience will most likely know what much of the content is trying to deliver.

Chapters 3 and 4 take an in-depth look at bandsaw blades. You will always find questions for beginners regarding blades and blade types, or lack of performance with blades.

Quick Tip

Have you just bought a new bandsaw that comes with a blade? In most cases, the standard blade shipped with the machine is rather ordinary in quality. It will lead to frustration if you try to use it right off the bat and expect good overall machine performance.
Do yourself a favor and buy a better quality blade for your machine from a respected manufacturer!

Everything you could ever dream of knowing about bandsaw blades is contained in these two chapters. Blade width, number of teeth, gullet shape, blade brazing, blade metallurgy, types of blades for various applications, blade maintenance you name it. It is by far one of the most, if not the most, detailed descriptions of bandsaw blades you will likely find anywhere. A real gem of information that is worth the asking price of the book alone. I learnt more about bandsaw blades in 1 hour than I have learnt in many years of woodworking. A real credit to Mark for the information contained in these chapters.

Chapters 5, 6 & 7
After you have learn more about blades and bandsaw components than ever before, you can devour the next 3 chapters which will surely have your bandsaw running to peak function in relatively short time. These chapters are grouped collectively in the table of contents as "Pre-Use Procedures".

A large part of efficient bandsaw function is aligning numerous components on the saw. More than anything, these procedures will aid greatly in reducing vibration in your saw and will help to achieve smoother, cleaner cuts in use. Aligning the wheels and tracking the blade consumes most of the chapter. Mark explains exactly how to achieve this check in good text and photographic detail and reminds readers of the important fact that a blade (of width that you use most often) must be installed and correctly tensioned before checking for coplanar wheels, a mistake many new bandsaw owners make. A good straight-edge is a good investment in bandsaw setup. Keeping the blade 'tracking' where it should track (most often in the middle of the tire in newer saws) is also an important consideration. Again, Mark has all the info and pictures to get this pre-use check completed.

Chapter 6 is all about adjusting the thrust bearings and guides, again another important step that helps eliminate or reduce blade wander or blade twisting during a cut. Mark looks at both wheel guides and block guides and looks at commonly used 'cool blocks' as a good alternative to standard blocks that ship with many saws. The age of the book plays a part in this section as it misses discussing newer materials now commonly used, ceramic blocks being an example. Nethertheless, all the important standard pre-use checks that can be made on these components are well explained.

Chapter 7 is about the illusive factor known as blade tension. Illusive in the sense that it can take a lot of practice is learning what exactly is the optimal tension for varying width blades. Mark first explains the undesirable results that can be evident with poorly tensioned blades and goes on to discuss the use, and limitations, of the standard tension gauges found on many bandsaws. If you have a musical ear, you can tension blades by sound which is also discussed. Over-tensioning blades can also impact machine performance and function. While some may argue that you can never have enough tension on a bandsaw blade, Duginske offers some side effects that may result from continually over-tensioning blades.

Chapters 8 and 9
Naturally, once you have your bandsaw tuned up and ready to go and have invested a bit of time in doing so, you will need to know how to keep your machine running at peak performance, and this is what Chapter 8 entails. Simply titled "Maintenance and Troubleshooting", the chapter looks at keeping your bandsaw clean, avoiding buildup of dust on tires, how to renew worn tires, keep vibration to a minimum. You will then be armed with the information to check wheel eccentricity and wheel balancing and then be treated to a great guide on installing new bandsaw tires. If you have done it before, you may know what a pain in the proverbial backside it can be to get those tires on. Mark offers some constructive advice that should keep the anger and frustration to an acceptable neighborly level! The chapter concludes with somewhat of a mini-FAQ on common problems, and their solutions.

Chapter 9 is three pages long and looks at bandsaw safety. Naturally, it is advisable to read it... enough said.

Chapters 10 - 16
With your bandsaw now ready to go, its time to learn some techniques, and the remainder of the book is focused on just that. We start with Basic Cutting Techniques and while I was almost tempted to skip this chapter, I am glad I did not. Even for a intermediate to experienced bandsaw user, this chapter still offers some useful information. The part that struck me was Mark's information of how to use your very fingers to work in harmony with your workpiece and saw. certain finger formations will work better to control your workpiece during various cuts. Yes, its a bandsaw ballet with your fingers and the results are surely going to be beautiful, and that's worth an encore! For complex shapes, Duginske offers correct cutting sequences and explores backing and nibbling techniques sure to make even the most prudent cheese connoisseur proud.

Chapter 11 comprises over 20 pages and looks at using patterns and templates with your bandsaw. It may sound simple but there are many techniques and tricks that will greatly aid in producing better results. I can't reproduce any here for copyright reasons, but the high use of photographs in this chapter will speak ten thousand words. Considering that templates and patterns are used most commonly on the bandsaw, this chapter certainly makes for interesting reading.

Chapter 12 looks at cutting curves with your saw. If you are a fan of the New Yankee Workshop television show with Norm Abram, you may recall him cutting curves close to the line and then sanding them to the line with his spindle sander. Chapter 12 will give you the information to translate into precise skills that may eliminate Norms second step altogether. While it would certainly take practice and plenty of it to perfect cutting curves accurately to a line, I'm convinced through the images accompanying the text in this chapter that Duginske would surely be a crowd-attracting craftsmen at woodworking shows with his fine display of almost perfect curve cutting shown here. I'm sure they do need a little smoothing sand afterwards, but nothing like shaping with the sander - not to detract from Norm Abram's skills of course. There are many ways to skin a cat as they say, and of course, many ways to make a curve too.

The next chapter naturally continues on with curve cutting work and looks at cutting circles on the bandsaw, a common function of such a machine. The author offers tips on building jigs for this procedure and illustrates the use of the jigs to make a circular cut. You can also make radius cuts, round tenons and cones on a bandsaw relatively easily. I say easily now, only because I've read the book. I'm not so sure how "easy" these procedures would have been previously. In fact from memory, I think I got turned off such shapes ages ago and haven't tried them since. The round tenon illustration and demonstration depicted would almost certainly make any woodturner stand up and take notice.

While the bandsaw is the ideal machine to make curved cuts, it is also used to make straight cuts. Getting a bandsaw to cut perfectly straight however is like asking a new-born to run around the block. It's not something that happens straight away. Even a finely tuned bandsaw can have trouble at times. A lot of it comes down to technique, and building the right jigs for the task. Most of Chapter 14 is just that, a guide on how to make useable jigs for straight cutting, and more importantly, how to use your bandsaw to resaw wood effectively and cleanly, definitely one of the most challenging tasks a bandsaw owner can face.

More Advanced Techniques
If you have the basics of bandsaw cutting figured out, perhaps a challenge is in order. How about making a full dovetailed joint on the bandsaw? Sounds tough to begin with, but with Mark's tips, you might just like to give it a try and see how you go. If that doesn't take your fancy, perhaps making bandsaw boxes is more your style? I have often considered boxes of such nature to be rather unique, something you will not find at your local Ikea or Wal-mart store. Perhaps cutting letters for a sign, a key-ring or a child's bedroom is on the job list, that is all covered too in Chapter 15. The classic cabriole leg is also discussed and illustrated step-by-step for fine furniture makers. The popular tenon is also featured, cut solely on the bandsaw. If none of these appeal to you, this chapter is likely to give you some ideas that will work with other types of projects or designs.



And speaking of projects, Chapter 16 concludes the book with a number of mini-projects you might like to practice your newly-acquired bandsaw skills on. There are projects/ideas for;

  • Wood Mallet

  • Folding Basket (includes hand drawn plans)

  • Dovetail Tissue Box (I'm planning on making one of these myself!)

  • Decorative Deer

  • Painted Shaker Table

  • Wall-Shelf (handy for displaying all your woodworking club winning medals and trophies!)

  • Japanese-Style Marking Gauge

  • Twin-Engine Plane

  • Knockdown Sawhorse (might come in handy)

On page 317 is a simple table with Inches > Millimeters (and Centimeter) conversions and Yards to Meters as well.

It is easy to see why this book is considered the bible of bandsaws. Despite the age of the book, perhaps 95% or more of the information in the book is relevant to today's machines. I would love to see this book re-illustrated with more up-to-date photos simply as a revision and perhaps include some small tabs of information that may be relevant with today's machines and accessories, but despite this, you would certainly be condemned to a life of bandsaw trauma if you didn't have a copy of this book on your bookshelf, or in your workshop. The depth of information is excellent and the knowledge is communicated in a way that most will understand. If I had to apply a rating, I would give it a 9 out of 10. No book is perfect, but this one goes close.

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