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In:In the Shop

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A couple months ago I picked up my first (and presumably last) bandsaw for my shop.  I’ve spent the last decade or so getting by with jigsaws, bow saws, and avoiding certain work that I wasn’t willing to tackle without a bandsaw (resawing 12″ boards for example).  I could have bought something small as a temporary solution, but I hate putting money into something I won’t really want to use.  I could have bought a beefy new saw, but $2,000-$3,000 seemed like a lot of cash for an imported saw and I got several conflicting reports about the performance of Jet, Powermatic, Grizzly, Laguna, etc.  In the end, I found a vintage Rockwell 20″ bandsaw a little over an hour from my house.  It was in great shape, all American made, heavy castings, a large table, 20″ throat… it even came with the fence and miter gauge.  All I had to do was get it home.

That last sentence was not nearly as simple to do as it was to type.  Nevertheless, after about two hours of trial-and-error we had the saw loaded and headed home.  To get the saw off the truck, we backed it into my garage, ran some rope up to the rafters and around some pulleys, then had three guys raise the saw slightly (it’s around 650 lbs) while the truck was driven out from underneath.  The saw was lowered to the floor where it sat for a few days.  Eventually I convinced five friends to come over and help me wheel my new toy around the house, down a steady slope (which was slightly muddy), and into my walk-out basement door which leads into my shop.

The saw in its final resting place.

The saw in its final resting place.

I found the a downloadable copy of the manual (which you can download here: Delta_Rockwell bandsaw manual) and went through just about every part.  There were a few miscellaneous tune-ups to make, but nothing major.  I did upgrade the worn steel blade guides with new ceramic guides.

New guides from SpaceAge Ceramics.

New guides from SpaceAge Ceramics.

Swapping out the side guides

Swapping out the side guides

One minor issue I have is how far the fence rails stick out past the saw.  This isn’t common with bandsaws today, but that’s how this saw works.  I’d like to find (or make) a shorter set of rails and keep the long set as a back-up in case a particularly wide cut needs to be made (which I doubt will happen often).  But for now, I’ll have to live with the fact that the rails stick into my walk way slightly… this also presents a safety issue for my daughters who are often in the shop.  The rails are at the perfect give-your-kid-a-concussion height.

Saw doors opened and fence in place... notice how the rails obscure a good portion of my general path... not ideal.

Saw doors opened and fence in place.  Notice how the rails obscure a good portion of my general path… not ideal.

Once everything was cleaned up, I had a friend CNC a new aluminum throat plate.  The old one wasn’t original, didn’t fit well, and was warped.

Old vs new throat plate

Old vs new throat plate

Top view of the new throat plate.

Top view of the new throat plate.

The last thing I did was install a blade and align the table.

All squared up.

All squared up.

The largest blade and one of the smallest blades the saw can handle.  142" blade length.

The largest blade (1″) and one of the smallest (3/16″ minimum) blades the saw can handle. 141″ blade length.

Now that I’ve had a few months to work with the saw I can confidently say I have no regrets in my decision to go for a vintage saw.  This thing eats lumber like it’s not even there, here are a few examples:

Curved cuts are a breeze.

Curved cuts are a breeze.

4"-12" diameter logs sliced up with ease.

4″-12″ diameter logs sliced up with ease.

Milling a log into lumber...

Milling a log into lumber…

...the resulting surface was flat with less than 1/32" variation over its length.

…the resulting surface was flat with less than 1/32″ variation over its length.

All that remains is to replace the worn out fence faces, I’m thinking walnut.

-WMT

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