What's the Best Machine for Ripping?

His tablesaw produces curved rips, so a shop owner wonders: should he buy a ripsaw, a bandsaw, or what? August 19, 2013

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
When I was young, I owned a Makita bandsaw and it came with a 2" carbide tipped blade and thirty two years later I seem to recall it was really nice for general ripping of 8/4 solid hardwood. Now I use a cabinet saw, three horse, splitters, chipper, guard and the hardwood comes out of the rip curved. I don't rip a lot of lumber, but when I do I would like to walk up to an economical band saw and rip - is this a good idea?

I have done some research and there is a two horsepower 14" band saw with a 12" re-saw capacity and a max 3/4" blade. Would this work as well as a tablesaw?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From Contributor S:
If you are looking at buying a machine dedicated to ripping lumber, even up to 3", look at a ripsaw. You can find old monsters for a reasonable price. Bandsaws are a lot more versatile but I find they are too much of a hassle to change blades. A band saw cannot straighten a crooked board, a good ripsaw can give a glue ready face.

From contributor D:
Grizzly sells a good glue line ripsaw, maybe more expensive than what you are looking for, but gives years of worry free service.

From Contributor O:
If the 8/4 bows as it being ripped on the tablesaw then most likely it is tension in the wood and the same thing would happen if ripped with a bandsaw. The tension can be from the way the tree grew, or much more likely stresses set up during improper drying. Look up casehardening for a start. There are even some simple tests you can do to determine if it will be a problem. Try better lumber from a better source first.

One of my employers insisted on buying the lowest quality 8/4 poplar on the planet. We had so much trouble with stress (we were re-sawing for molding blanks), that some pieces could not be used. I ended up testing two random pieces before we would allow the truck to be unloaded. Half of what was brought in went back.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. I own a business now but earlier in my career I worked at a place that made solid wood raised panel doors. We started off using a table saw then a gang rip saw and you are right it works well for ripping. For the amount of solid we do now I cannot justify the expense or afford the space, we already have four tablesaws of varying sizes on the floor.

As far as changing blades I don't plan on it, I have a smaller band saw stuffed in the corner it hasn't been turned on in years. I am sure you are right about the wood twisting and warping anyway but probably not to the same extent as the length of the blade would keep the wood cooler as it rips and the added bonus of a thinner kerf saving material and a small footprint.

Why is this in the business forum you ask? I am trying to determine the economic feasibility of the idea of using a band saw for ripping, if it is an ok idea for what size of band saw should I buy. Too small and it goes in the corner, too big and it is overkill and expensive for what I need it for.

From Contributor O:
I would suggest a resaw type bandsaw with a power feeder. I had a 12hp Wadkin resaw with 3" wide blades and it was fed poplar 2" to 6" thick at about 40 f/p/m, and it worked just fine. We were splitting 8/4 and 6/4 for molder blanks. I realize that the bandsaw (with feeder) will only follow the surface and not impose a straight line on the stock. It will not make straight stock out of bowed edges, wane, etc. A straightline ripsaw will do that, as its name implies. Without a feeder you need to rig up fences and tables. Narrower blades will have drift so operators will need to adjust for that. I see more complications than solutions.

From Contributor H:
If you go the bandsaw route then get one with at least 24" diameter wheels. I went from my old Hitachi resaw with 16" wheels (if I remember correctly) to my current saw with 18" wheels thinking that would solve the problems associated with small wheels. It did not. I wish I'd gone up to 24". Wheels that are too small stress blade steel and you get less life out of them. Also a power feed is a must for resawing but there could be some complexity in setting one up for ripping stock. None of this answers the viability question. Personally unless there is a specific reason to do so I'd rather rip stock on the tablesaw.

From Contributor J:
Some good advice so far in this thread. I am a furniture maker and almost always work from thick (8/4 to 12/4) wood. While my needs are likely different from yours as I don't require high volume in short periods, I do almost all my ripping on my trusty bandsaws. I'm not sure you'd be successful with a 14 inch saw regardless of horsepower as they are just not designed for that level of duty. I've got an old no name 24 inch cast iron beast that I run a 1 3/8" carbide tipped blade on and I can cut all day long and achieve nearly glue ready surfaces right from the saw. I also have an 18" saw that I use for cutting veneer. This one is set up with a power feeder and again a carbide tipped blade.

From contributor D:
What if you bought a Festool rail saw and an assortment of different lengths of rails with joiners to put two or more together? The smaller one has plenty of depth to cut through 2x4ís and you can buy rip blades specific for what you want to do. You might want to take a look at the larger one if you plan on occasionally ripping something more than 8/4. Plus, you'll end up with a tool you might find useful elsewhere in your operation for less than $1,000, complete with the all the bells a whistles you could possibly want. It takes up much less space than the other options stated thus far.

From contributor F:
My thought is to upgrade one of your tablesaws and use that for ripping. You mention you have four saws. Are you using the best one for ripping? Or actually maybe a better way to put it is - are you using the most suitable saw? For a lot of heavy ripping I'd want at least a 5hp motor and 12" or larger blades. Mounting a power feeder will give you a poor manís ripsaw that'll get a fair amount of stock through and save you a lot of energy. As an added bonus you donít need to expend any more space to it than you already have! A bandsaw with infeed and outfeed tables is going to consume a fair amount of real estate.

I'd really question whether the heat generated by a saw blade can cause wood to warp? I'm not the expert around here by any stretch but it certainly sounds like hype to me. As mentioned before wood moves because of internal stresses, not because it gets a little warm from a cut. Wood is a fairly good insulator, so how much wood is actually affected by heat generated in two or three seconds of contact with a warm blade? If I had to guess I'd say there's not a lot of heat going past maybe 1/32" of the surface. So the idea that a little heat generated on one edge of say a 4" plus wide 8/4 board is going to cause it to bow a considerable amount.

From Contributor H:
The heat generated by ripping is going to depend upon the feed rate of the cut. I think the heat may drive down the moisture content in the material directly adjacent to the cut but that is about it. I too can't imagine this causing the deformation of the board. I've always considered that to be due to internal stresses from tree growth or drying. A power feed is definitely the way to go on the table saw. I don't use it often but I have holes drilled into our tablesaw for mounting a feeder. If I have a lot of ripping to do I'll put the feeder on the saw.

From Contributor O:
Chicken and egg on the heat issue. Often it is the stresses in the wood that cause it to bow into the blade, binding the blade and causing burning. This is often mistaken as the saw friction causing the bow. A proper saw, with a decent rip blade and a power feeder will rip huge quantities in no time. If the lumber has drying stress it will not stay straight.

From contributor A:
Wood moves every single time you rip, joint, plane, or sand it. It's just a question of how much. Rip a perfectly straight 6" plank in half and neither resulting piece will be straight or flat. It might be close, but you have to assume it will not be and you'll have to flatten or straighten after milling if you want it straight. Take progressively smaller passes while milling so that each pass induces less movement in your workpiece. Contributor O is right, the primary factor is stresses in the wood, not heat generated from the cutting process. The primary advantages of bandsaw ripping, as I see them, are reduced kerf width (assuming your setup doesn't allow much drift) and less binding on wood with a lot of internal tension.

From contributor E:
I bring my material in mostly gang ripped, but have kept a Unisaw with a Biesemeyer fence with a 3 roll powerfeeder setup for several years. The feeder is switched with the saw. Set the width, turn it on, start the material, and catch it at the outfeed, repeat. It works ok but isnít an SLR saw. For the money and real estate required itís a pretty good way to go.

From Contributor U:
For several years we did a lot of resawing of 5/4 lumber, which had been previously been ripped into blanks 2 3/4" and 3 3/4" in width. The blanks were turned on edge and then split with a band saw. We needed to halve the lumber to make 7/16" thick x 2 1/2" and 7/16" x 3 1/2" louvers for our shutters. While we found that due to improper drying from our suppliers, we did get a lot of resulting pieces that were unusable, cutting with another type of saw would have given the same result. We were never concerned with the rough cut coming from the band saw as we were going straight to a 5 head moulder that would plane the boards prior to the shaping knives ever making contact. The band saw had a 3 hp motor and I think 18" wheels. While adequate for the job, bigger would have been nicer. If we had persisted in this practice I would have eventually bought a bigger saw or an actual resaw designed for this use. On a limited basis, I would certainly entertain the idea of using this setup again. How much cutting will you be doing?

From contributor N
Bandsaws won't have the kickback factor, and also won't bind as bad as a big tablesaw blade if you do run into casehardened material. For really thick stock, it also is sometimes your only option.

From contributor L:
GG you didn't say what you were ripping for and what sort of edge you needed after ripping. If you are now getting away with ripping with a 3hp table saw you are most likely not cutting 8/4. We used to rip on a 5hp Rockwell 12/14" with a feed but it was under-powered. Replaced the motor with a 10hp and it was ok but we had to joint the lumber first, often getting chipouts so we would need to rip over the width and then rip the chips off. It was slow and inefficient. We now have a 15hp Extrema SL rip and it's been excellent. With enough power you don't get heating because you feed fast enough. With a good blade you get a glueline quality edge. We normally run at the fastest feed it will go. That's only 99' per minute. On 8/4 we have to back off to about 75 or 80' per minute. It doesn't sound like you would get an old rip saw but if you do they often require a new chain and races.

From Contributor W:
Band re-saw hands down. A tablesaw is too dangerous with kickback/split/pinch and bowing. I had a piece go 6 1/2" up my arm once.

From contributor L:
There seems to be some confusion in terminology. As I use the term ripping, I mean laying a board flat on the tablesaw or rip saw and cutting it into narrower boards. Resawing means to me taking a board and cutting it into two or more thinner boards. Am I missing something here? For resawing we use a Baker band resaw and it works pretty well. For ripping we use the SL rip saw. Those of you that prep a lot of molder blanks probably use a multiple blade rip saw.

From Contributor T:
I agree the rip saw would be the most useful choice for ripping specifically, but not helpful elsewhere. If you can only afford one machine then the tablesaw is the only choice hands down. If you don't already have a tablesaw then you'll thank yourself for buying one.