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Tool Test: Bandsaws For Resawing

Tool Test: Bandsaws For Resawing
By Randy Johnson; Art direction: Vern Streets; Photography: Staff and Mike Habermann; Lead photo: John Hamel

Resawing can push a bandsaw to its limits, so it’s important to get one that can handle the job.

Bandsaws are well known for their ability to cut curves, but they can also perform the unique function of wide resawing. The ability to resaw can add a whole new dimension to your woodworking. You can save money by making your own thin lumber, or produce bookmatched panels (Photo 3). With the right machine you can even make your own lumber (Photo 2)!

One of the questions we hear most often from woodworkers shopping for a bandsaw is, “How will it perform for resawing?” We focused this test in response to that question.

Our test concentrated on bandsaws that have a resaw capacity of 9 in. to 12 in. and are priced between $350 and $1,350. Within this field we found 17 machines; ten 14 in., one 16 in., and six 18-in. Among the 14-in. bandsaws, we included only those that could saw 9 in. or greater or had a riser block kit available. A riser block (Photo 1) typically adds 6 in. to the resaw capacity, giving most 14-in. bandsaws 12-in. resaw capacity. At $50 to $100, a riser block kit is an inexpensive way to gain that extra resaw height.

To test the saws, we resawed 8-in.-wide hard maple and 8-in.-wide pine boards. We used new 3/4-in.-wide blades. We pushed the machines pretty hard to get some separation between those that could cut it and those that couldn’t. For those that did well, we pushed even harder using hard maple boards as wide as 12 in.

Resawing Needs Power
Power is the biggest factor affecting a bandsaw’s ability to resaw. Machines in our test group had ratings from 3/4 to 2 hp (Fig. A). We found that 1 hp is the minimum needed for resawing. You can resaw on the 3/4-hp machines, but they are slow and likely to test your patience. (See Workshop Tips, Easier Resawing, page 23, for a way to deal with an under-powered bandsaw.)

Power is important, but you also need adequate blade speed. Machines with blade speeds of 3,000 sfpm (surface feet per minute) or higher performed best. Some machines have multiple speeds, but this is not an advantage because these speeds are well below 3,000 sfpm and easily bogged down.

Resaw Capacity - You May Not Need the Maximum
Resaw capacity is measured by the amount of space under a fully raised upper blade guide (Photo 1). How much capacity you need depends on the kind of work you plan to do. If you’re making lumber from logs, a machine with 12-in. capacity is best. If you want to make bookmatched panels for cabinet doors, a machine with 9-in. capacity is probably enough. That’s because two 9-in. panels glued together, plus 4 in. for two side stiles, equals a 22-in.-wide door.

A Rigid Frame and Sturdy Base are Best
The heavy demand resawing puts on a bandsaw can create machine vibration, blade chatter and even frame flexing. These problems can, in turn, result in rough and uneven cutting.

We found two features that helped minimize these problems; frame style and base style. There are two distinct frame styles; welded-steel and cast-iron (Photo 4). All of the welded-steel frame machines had a very solid feel during resawing and did a good job of dampening vibration under a heavy resaw load. Among the cast-iron frame machines, the Delta and Enco resisted vibration best.

A sturdy base also helps dampen vibrations. For this reason we favor the closed- and the floor-base styles over the panel- and open-base models (Photo 5).

Resawing Requires the Right Blade
It’s very important to use a blade that’s fresh and sharp when resawing. If you don’t, you’re likely to get excessive blade wander, chatter and a slow feed rate. The width of the blade is also important. A 3/4 in. to 1-in.-wide blade with 3 to 4 tpi (teeth per inch) is a good choice. (For more information on bandsaw blades, look for our Bandsaw Blade Tool Test in the next issue of American Woodworker.)

Dust Collection is a Must
Resawing produces a lot of sawdust so good dust collection is essential. All but one of the machines have some sort of dust port. Some are located under the table, others are found in front or behind the lower wheel (Photo 6). Port sizes vary from 3/4 in. to 4 in. in diameter.

We hooked up a shop vacuum to the machines and found dust collection to be only fair on machines with dust ports less than 2-1/2-in. in diameter. That’s because the actual opening on the machine was smaller than the dust port and this restricted air flow. Larger ports on the larger machines worked best when hooked up to a central dust collection system. If your bandsaw lacks adequate dust collection, check out Workshop Tips, “Better Bandsaw Dust Collection,” page 16.

Other Features
There are four styles of bandsaw blade guides; cylindrical blocks, square blocks, ball bearings and Euro style. For purposes of resawing, we like the Euro-style guides because they do an exceptional job of supporting wide blades (Photo 7). But if you plan to use blades under 1/4-in. wide, we’d recommend the block-style guides (Photo 8) fitted with nonmetalic blocks, such as Cool Blocks (about $12 from Woodworking FasTTraK, 888-327-7725). This style allows you to capture a narrow blade between the guides with no chance of damaging the teeth.

Our favorite blade guard assembly is the one-piece guard with a rack-and-pinion adjustment for raising and lowering (Photo 9). Several saws have a telescoping blade guard that is also simple to adjust. A column-mounted switch, hinged wheel covers, an easily accessible tensioning knob and a
rip fence are also features worth looking for.

In choosing our favorites, we considered a saw’s ability to do wide resawing in hard and soft wood. We balanced that with an eye towards user-friendly features and general bandsawing.

The Laguna 16 in. and the Jet 18 in. won Editors’ Choice awards. Both have Euro-style guides and welded-steel frames. The Delta and Jet 14-in, 1-hp saws are our Best Buys. These saws both accept riser blocks and have 12-in. resaw capacity. Other machines we considered for Best Buy were the Lobo 18 in. and the Grizzly 18 in. They both have welded-steel frames with 2-hp motors, good dust collection and easy-to-adjust rack-and-pinion front blade guards. But they both lack a blade-tension gauge which could lead to over tensioning. Lobo’s lower blade guides were difficult to adjust and the Grizzly 18 in. had more vibration than the other welded-steel frame machines.

In selecting a saw, don’t overlook its electrical requirements. Some require 220 volts and some 110-volt saws have pretty high amperage requirements. Make sure your work area has the necessary wiring and circuitry. Check with a licensed electrician if you’re in doubt.

Laguna LT 16 in.; $1,345

• 1-1/2-hp motor
• 3,600 sfpm blade speed
• 12-in. resaw capacity
• Welded-steel frame
• Optional nonmetallic block guides available
• Two 4-in. dust ports
• Prewired and fully assembled
• One-piece front guard.

• Requires 220 service
• Lacks rack-and-pinion guard adjustment.

Jet JWBS 18 in.; $1,099

• 1-1/2-hp motor
• 3,000 sfpm blade speed
• 115 or 230 volts
• Welded-steel frame
• One-piece front guard with rack-and-pinion guard adjustment
• Well-designed rip fence included with saw.

• Only available with Euro-style guides
• Only 10-in. resaw capacity.

Delta 28-280 14 in. with riser block; $790

• 1-hp motor
• 3,000 sfpm blade speed
• 115 or 230 volts
• 12-in. resaw capacity
• Closed base
• Accepts nonmetallic guide blocks
• Heaviest cast-iron frame among the 14-in. saws.

• Front blade guard difficult to keep aligned
• Small dust port.

Jet JW14CS 14 in. with riser block; $650

• 1-hp motor
• 3,000 sfpm blade speed
• 115 or 230 volts
• 12-in. resaw capacity
• Closed base
• Telescoping front blade guard
• Accepts nonmetallic guide blocks.

• Small dust port
• Micro-adjustment knobs on bottom blade guide are hard to access.

Upper Blade Guide
12" resaw capacity

Riser Block
1 A riser block can be installed on some 14-in. bandsaws. It’s an inexpensive way to increase their resaw capacity from 6 to 12 in.

2 Twelve-inch capacity is particularly useful if you plan to make lumber from logs with your bandsaw.

Power is important when it comes to resawing. We tested bandsaws with 3/4- to 2-hp. motors. We found that 1 hp. is a minimum requirement for wide resawing in hard wood. A 3/4-hp saw will cut but may test your patience.

3 Bookmatching lumber with unusual grain patterns is one of the many wonderful applications of resawing. Once resawn, the two parts can be glued together and used as a decorative door or cabinet panel.

Welded-Steel Frame & Cast-Iron Frame
4 Two frame styles. During heavy resawing the welded-steel frame (right) resists vibration better than most of the bandsaws with cast-iron frames (left).

Open Base, Panel Base, Closed Base, Floor Base
5 A sturdy base helps to dampen vibration during heavy resawing. Closed and floor-style bases do the best job.

Bandsaws with riser blocks, Bandsaws without riser blocks
6 Good dust collection is important when resawing. The 3-in. diameter rear dust port on this Powermatic provides good air flow and also helps keep the hose out of the operator’s way. Several machines had dust ports that could accept a shop vacuum hose but the actual opening behind the dust port on the machine was small and restricted air flow.

Rear Thrust Bearing
7 Euro-style blade guides do a great job of supporting wide blades with side bearings, and are easy to adjust.

Adjustment Knob, Side Bearings
8 Square, block-style guides work well for supporting wide blades but are also capable of supporting blades as narrow as 1/16-in. wide. Micro-adjustment knobs are
a big help when fine-tuning the position of your guides.

Rear Thrust Bearing, Micro-Adjustment Knobs, Square Guide Blocks
9 A one-piece guard system with rack-and-pinion height adjustment makes raising and lowering a simple matter. This set-up also keeps the guard from crashing to the table when the locking knob is loosened.

Height Adjustment Wheel, Locking Knob, One-Piece Guard

Reprinted with permission from American Woodworker magazine, ©2001 Home Service Publications, Inc., an affiliate of The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Suite 700, 2915 Commers Drive, Eagan, MN 55121. All rights reserved.