6 Tips for Cutting Curves on a Bandsaw





Introduction: 6 Tips for Cutting Curves on a Bandsaw

Cutting complex parts with tight curves safely and accurately on a bandsaw can be challenging, but is fairly easy with some practice, a properly tuned-up bandsaw, and a couple special tips and tricks... enjoy!

What you need:

- A bandsaw

- A thin blade (1/4" recommended)

- Drawing of your cut lines (printed if necessary)

- Supplies for transferring the drawings to your material (see step 2 for methods)

- The material you are cutting into parts (I was using 1" plywood)

Step 1: Tip 1 - Set Up Your Bandsaw

Tuning-up a bandsaw is a process that involves changing the blade properly, centering the blade on the crown of the wheels, setting the guides and thrust bearings, tensioning the blade, and squaring the table. The difference between a well set up bandsaw and a poorly tuned bandsaw is huge. The photo above shows two cuts - one is a relatively clean and smooth cut, one is irregular and burned - you can guess which one was tuned properly and which was not. Believe me - it is worth the time to go through this process!

This Instructable won't cover the tune-up, so I highly recommend watching How to set up a Band Saw video with master woodworker Michael C. Fortune (via Fine Woodworking Magazine) to see exactly how to do this.

Step 2: Tip 2 - How to Transfer Cut Lines on to Your Material....

If you are making up the shapes as you go, just draw directly onto your material with a pencil. If your shapes need to be accurate to your plans, you'll need to print them full scale and transfer them onto your material.

** For parts larger than 8.5x11, FedEx/Kinkos does black and white prints (up to 36" wide) for a very reasonable price.

There are several transfer methods to choose from:

With a soft pencil, on the backside of the print out. Tape the print in place on the material and trace the lines with a ball point pen. The pressure from the metal pen tip will press the graphite from the pencil onto your material, leaving visible lines when you remove the print-out.


In a well ventilated area (spray booth or outside), flip the print-outs over and spray a thin coat of spray adhesive (sometimes called spray mount) onto the back of the paper. Wait about 10 seconds for the adhesive to tack, place the paper, and firmly press the back until it is stuck on. After cutting on the bandsaw, the paper should come off pretty easily. I recommend a mild adhesive for paper, as some of them are really strong. Also, don't breathe the over-spray... it is pretty nasty stuff!


If you are lucky enough to have access to a vinyl printer, this works great! I printed out the parts at Pier 9 on the Epson (up to 49" wide!), cut them into smaller sections to make it easier to apply, peel, stick, and you're ready to cut.

Step 3: TIP 3 - Cut Big Sheets Into Managable Sections

It can be really difficult to maneuver a large and/or heavy part on the bandsaw, especially if the bandsaw has a small bed or a narrow throat (the distance between the exposed blade and the vertical column of the body of the machine). Using a jigsaw, I cut the sheet into about 5 parts, considering the throat limitations of the saw in our shop, which has a 15" throat depth.

Step 4: Tip 4 - Relief Cuts for Tight Curves

This is one of the most helpful things you can do to prevent the blade from binding as you make a tight radius cut!

Make a straight cut up to the line in the waste part of your material, and back it straight out. Do this everywhere that looks like it could make the blade bind. Now as you cut down the line, the waste material will not get in the way and cause your blade to drift off the line. I would do this for any curve smaller than a 2" radius, the more, the better.

Step 5: Tip 5 - Cut on the Outside of Your Line

The thickness of the blade is roughly 1/16", called the blade "kerf". This is what the machine turns into sawdust. Ideally the kerf is removed from the waste material, not the part you are keeping. For more accurately cut parts, direct the blade to the waste material side of your line and try to preserve the line as you cut, rather than cutting on the line.

Step 6: Tip 6 - Always Move the Cut Forward As You Turn the Material

When cutting curves, never turn the material unless you are also pushing forward as you make the cut. If your cut is drifting badly off the line, turn the saw off, back your material out after the blade has stopped moving, and start the cut over. Don't try to overcompensate by twisting the blade - it is flexible and can break or be pulled off the wheels.... Good luck and happy cutting!



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    20 Discussions

    Hello Sir

    I want to make a bandsaw box from 6 inch thick wood block. But my bandsaw gets jammed during curve cuts. it is 350 watt machine and the blade is nearly 5mm wide. is it under powered or the blade is too thick?


    2 years ago

    Thought I might add a comment here. Instead of spray adhesive I use the old rubber cement that we used in kindergarten. The paper peels off easily when your done and the rubber cement left behind will roll up in a ball with your finger. You have clean fresh wood to work with. I also do a lot of relief carving and this process works great

    You can still buy this cement at most Arts & craft stores. I buy it buy the quart and put a small amt those plastic containers that are use for catsup, butter etc.

    Happy Crafting!

    1 reply

    Another old-school pattern-transfer method uses double-sided adhesive tape to stick the paper pattern to the wood to be cut. This works great and does not discolor the wood.

    I don't understand why you couldn't use a jigsaw. Could someone please explain.

    The relief cuts are a good idea.

    2 replies

    while using a jigsaw is great for thin wood, on thicker wood blade easily flexes and gives non 90 degree edges,also it has more likelyhood of blades grabbing the wood and jumping out of its supports

    You certainly can use a jigsaw, but it will be much slower, especially when cutting thicker wood. Personally I find a jigsaw to be a pain to use because of having to lean over it to see where it is going, whereas a bandsaw gives great visibility. Also I don't tend to cut my bench as much with the bandsaw as I do with the jigsaw.

    You do have to be able to justify the cost difference. I just spent almost as much on a big bandsaw re-saw blade as I paid for my last jigsaw, however, slicing down 6" (15cm) by 6' (2m) logs into 4"X4" (10cm) would have been a chore with the jigsaw.

    I print my pattern on paper and stick it to metal with a non-toxic glue stick. Pretty sure it would work as well on wood. The pattern pulls or rinses right off easily at clean up.

    1 reply

    Another way is to print your mirrored pattern on transparent acetate sheet. Then apply it, face down, to the wood and squeegee it all over with a credit card, or similar.

    You do need to make sure it doesn't move, so I use sticky tape to hold it in place. On some surfaces, you may need to do it twice, making sure the two patterns line up, which isn't difficult, because the sheet is transparent.

    Since the inks doesn't get absorbed by the acetate sheet, you can use the same piece over and over again, by just rinsing it under the tap.

    You can transfer laser prints onto work by printing them in mirror, taping them into position onto work face-down, and lightly wiping acetone-soaked rag over print.

    On tight outside turns, you can proceed a short distance into the scrap-side with a straighter cut to remove most of the waste, then back up to do finish cut. This scheme can be used repeatedly on long outside curves. On sharp curves, after cutting relief slots as explained, cut part out 1/8" oversize, then re-cut to size. For very tight internal cuts, you can use the saw as a "power file" to finish the profile.

    Thanks a lot! I've been using band saw for years, in fact I've been selling band saw for about 35 years and never imagine about easier relief cuts...

    I have been a band saw user for years and proof that you can never stop learning. Have you seen the Alex Snodgrass video on setting up the Bandsaw. Amazing results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGbZqWac0jU Thanks for you article.

    Wow. You're a band saw ninja. Looking at those pieces, I would swear you had used a scroll saw if you didn't have the pictures to prove otherwise!

    For those who want to take playing with a band saw even further, look into the Carter Stabilizer guide.

    I have a Powermatic 14" with bearing guides. They do a great job of keeping the blade where it belongs. However, even with my band saw "tuned" scrolling through thick blocks of hard wood rarely produces a square cut. However, even though the Carter Stabilizer single upper bearing replaces both the upper and lower bearings, cuts in six inch and thicker wood can be pushed out either side (no taper).

    Additionally, since the Stabilizer doesn't use lower guides, the blade can flex. You can make tighter turns without trashing your blade. However, it might scream at you in the process.

    I use 3/16" blades often and, my tendency to flinch aside, I can get a 3/* radius cut.

    Excellent info! A finely tuned bandsaw is one of the most useful woodworking tools.

    Relief cuts! Super helpful tip. Worth the price of admission ;)