I’ve maintained for years that the most versatile machine in the shop is the band saw. I’ve seen and gotten a lot of tools, but my mind hasn’t changed.
When I was just getting started, I had the usual assortment of hand tools and small power tools like a jigsaw and circ saw. But once I started getting serious my first major tool was a 14” band saw, and it changed absolutely everything about the way I worked.
For many, I suspect the favorite, most versatile tool is the table saw. A table saw makes rip cuts, but you can also do that on a band saw. On the other hand a band saw can make any curved cut you want, which a table saw can’t. You can resaw on a table saw, but not very wide, plus a table saw takes a huge kerf out of the workpiece which is undesirable for book-matching. A band saw resaws wide stock with ease in a single pass, with minimal kerf waste. With a jig, you can cut perfect circles on a band saw. And for making a really quick cut just to trim a bit of waste off before working the piece further, the band saw requires almost no set up or adjustment to make the cut. Ditto if you’re just breaking down scrap. Band saws don’t kick back, and burning is easily controlled. Their blades are easy to change, especially with today’s quick tension-release levers.
Now, I’m not planning on getting rid of any tool and letting the band saw take over. Every tool I own gets a workout, and some are better suited for certain tasks a band saw can’t perform. But when it comes to a single tool that does the most different types of cuts, the band saw is king, at least for the way I work.
So, what’s the most versatile tool in your shop, powered or unpowered, hand-held or stationary? No, you can’t be cute and say it’s your ingenuity, your computer, a sharp pencil (or its eraser) or a clock that gives you an extra hour of working time, nothing like that. I’m talking literal tools here.