When thinking about the purchase of two and three-wheel bandsaws, it helps to understand the unique aspects of both machines.
One factor to consider when buying a bandsaw is the type of machine that best suits the needs of the shop or hobbyist. It is also wise to take into consideration the types of materials to be cut with the machine as well.
There are two basic models available: the two-wheel and the three-wheel bandsaw. Between the two machines, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
A three-wheel bandsaw gives distance-of-cut between the down travel cutting side and the upward return side of the saw blade. This is advantageous when cutting larger wood widths. But because of its three wheels, this type of bandsaw machine has to change direction three times in one revolution. This works to increase wear and causes premature breaking of saw blades from work hardening.
Compared to the two-wheel variety of bandsaw, the wheels of a three-wheel are smaller and therefore use a thinner saw blade. The blade turns in a tighter circle and causes metal fatigue, resulting in premature blade breakage. The small diameter wheels provide less contact area for drive, and slippage occurs during heavy cutting.
Although a three-wheel bandsaw gives a greater throat depth, there are still a few issues. Most use a three-wheel bandsaw with special purpose, ultra-thin bands (such as 1/4″ x 18 TPI for cutting plastics) derived direct from manufacturers on a special-order basis. This means lead times may be long and prices high.
A two-wheel bandsaw is easier to handle. It is easier to align properly and keep aligned during the cutting process. The blade only changes direction twice, so the blade life is 1/3 longer compared to the three-wheel bandsaw machine. Larger wheels produce the Flywheel Effect, which inhibits premature blade breakage.
It also provides more drive surface area to avoid metal fatigue and work hardening. The two-wheel bandsaw gives a more positive result in cutting performance, and they are used mainly on general-purpose applications such as cutting wood and metals.
The two-wheel bandsaw also has the disadvantage of a lot less throat in cutting large-width materials.
Before buying either variety of bandsaw machine, consider these factors. They both have unique advantages and limitations.