A guide to bandsaw heat and the value of ceramic guide blocks


In case you were wondering, ‘Orange Is The New Black’ is a little show on some streaming service called Netflix. It’s about a woman who’s imprisoned and her subsequent struggles through…prison. Apparently it’s pretty good – 16 Emmy nominations and the most watched program in Netflix’s history has gotta count for something. 

But what does this have to do with bandsaws? 

Bandsaws have copped a bit of flack over the past few years. Whether it’s cheap and nasty table top models, dodgy bearing guides or enough drift for the Fast and the Furious, some of this criticism has been deserved.

But there are still substantial reasons to buy a bandsaw and manufacturers that give the industry a good name. A great bandsaw can be a fantastic all-rounder, allowing you to take on scroll cuts, long cuts and beveling with impressive accuracy, while a tall cutting-height can allow significant deep rips, all with a comparatively small kerf.

Good-quality modern bandsaws also have a range of excellent safety features and are much quieter than table saws (which is a god-send in crowded workshops or small back sheds, trust us). For beginners, they’re also a bit less intimidating than a table saw, not to mention easier to set up and a massive space-saver.

But whether you’re a beginner, a dedicated hobbyist or an avid professional, there is one factor that turns a bandsaw from a good option into a necessary addition for any workshop, and makes spending that little bit extra worthwhile: their versatility.

A good-quality bandsaw can cut just about anything with the right blade. Feel like cutting concrete? Cast-Iron? Plastics? You can use a variable-speed bandsaw to cut aluminium, brass, copper, metal or a slab of pork at Christmas. Even Caesarstone benches are no match for a good bandsaw.

If you’re the sort of DIYer who wants their capacity to be limited by their objectives, not their equipment, this makes a bandsaw an obvious choice. However, like most woodworking equipment, there’s a lot of substandard gear out there that promise a lot but deliver very little. 

This brings us back to Netflix. To call something ‘the new black’, or even ‘the new orange’, is a pretty big statement. 

It can’t just be good, it has to be a game-changer, especially when the product you’re referring to has re-invented a range of solid, reliable orange bandsaws. 

The Sherwood Black range showcase everything that’s good about the bandsaw’s future. First and foremost they’re built to last, featuring cast iron wheels and tables and multiple dust extraction ports.

They’re also powerful; ranging between 1400 and 1900 W of peak power with blade speeds of up to 914 m/min. Then there’s the attention to detail. Quick-release tension knobs, carefully designed and quality-powdercoated ergonomic handles, foot or electronic brakes and winding blade adjustments that are a pleasure, not a pain.

But the reason why these bandsaw’s are genuinely special? They address the most underestimated issue in bandsaws today: heat. 

The biggest issue that wears out a bandsaw blade has nothing to do with cutting or abrading, it’s heat. Otherwise they’re just dealing with sawdust, which isn’t a very abrasive material. 

As your bandsaw blade passes through your workpiece, it heats up. The ceramic blocks underneath this bandsaw take the first shot at absorbing the heat, then as the blade comes back around, it goes through the upper blocks and cools again. If you can take this amount of heat out of the blade, it can last up to 70% longer. 

When you’re talking about smaller blades, the cost of replacement is marginal. But there’s also the cost of downtime of taking it off, buying a new one and putting it on. If you’re cutting with a very hot blade, it can expand and increase in length, becoming loser and giving you a poorer cut. 

The heat is then being passed through the machine, which wears out the bearing guides – these spin around and get hotter and wear out as well. If you’re doing deep rips, you’re generating a lot of heat and if you’re doing this in a large saw cut you can very quickly stuff up a piece of material. 

As we all know, some of this material is bloody expensive.

The Sherwood Black range feature heat-absorbing ceramic guide-blocks that were designed by NASA as the material for the tiles on a space shuttle, to help them re-enter the atmosphere without burning up. They’re built by a company called Space Age Ceramics and now Timbecon are offering an upgrade kit to install them on any bandsaw.

This range are reinventing what people can expect from a bandsaw. They’re not just some utility you pick up on special at Aldi and can use to cut out a few jigs before it packs up. These are the pride of your workshop, designed to restore pride to an embattled segment of the industry.

Who knows, if they’re really popular we might even make a TV show about them…