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Some bandsaws, mine included, have guide blocks to help prevent the blade from deflecting. Guide blocks look like this:

Guide blocks on a band saw

Image credit: Rockler

Other bandsaws use roller bearings instead. They look like this:

Roller bearings on a band saw

Image credit: Rockler

It seems to me the roller bearings are the superior choice and would have several advantages:

  • They will rotate as the saw blade moves, keeping the blade cooler, and thus the blade will last longer.
  • They should not wear as much over time
  • They should be quieter

Is there anything guide blocks are better at than roller bearings? Is there a reason to prefer guide blocks in some situations, but roller bearings in others?

EDITED TO ADD:

jdv gets to the crux of the question in the comments. Is there a situation where blocks outperform bearings (or vice versa, really) where it affects the cut? Or blade life? Are there other factors I'm not thinking of? Obviously in either case, you need to have a properly tuned band saw. Are there perhaps cases where you can't tune one as well as the other -- for example, do guide bearings work better for wider blades?

  • I'm not sure rollers will always be quieter. Also, you can probably get guide blocks with PTFE or graphite that transfer to the blade and become very lubricious and quiet - and bearings should also get occasional lubing. I would also guess blocks are easier to set up - set them to make contact with the blade and clamp down. They'll wear away to provide exactly the amount of clearance they need. – aaron Oct 25 '18 at 19:26
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    Interestingly I don't think this is easily answerable. But, yes, your assumptions about bearings may not be well founded. Bearings will wear out. Bearings always wear out, and when they do, they scream. It certainly isn't the case that bearings are always "better" then blocks. Ideally, what we would want is some info about what guides work better with kinds of material, cuts, blades, etc. Even then, such answers will be mostly opinion...? – jdv Oct 25 '18 at 19:48
  • @jdv, that is exactly what I was intending to ask: Is there a situation where blocks outperform bearings (or vice versa, really) where it affects the cut? Or blade life? Or other factors I'm not thinking of? – Katie Kilian Oct 25 '18 at 19:56
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Factory bearings in any but high end band saws are generally not the best. Guide blocks made from plastic are not very good either. Good, aftermarket bearings, such as the ones from Carter are very nice, as are a good brand of guide blocks, such as Cool Blocks or ceramic blocks.

Either one needs to be maintained. The blocks more so than bearings, but the blocks are cheaper than a good set of bearings. The blocks tend to work better on narrower blades. I have Cool Blocks on my small band saw that is running a 1/8" - 1/4" blade most of the time, and the Carter bearings on my larger band saw that typically has a 1/2" - 3/4" blade. Both work much better than the factory guides.

The blocks are nice for the smaller blades because they allow for good tracking without risk of damaging the teeth. On the larger blades, the blocks tend to wear faster (need to be readjusted more often), and it is typically not an issue keeping the bearings away from the teeth.

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  • You can also make your own blocks using oil and some scrap hardwood. – ratchet freak Oct 26 '18 at 9:52

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