Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hot Rod Band Saw

Sounds like a good name for a rock and roll band, doesn't it? Well, no worries, in spite of the fact that I've been looking into taking guitar lessons, I'm a long way away from setting up amplifiers in the garage.

Instead, in the spirit of my strangely ever-popular "how to cut corrugated sheet metal" post, I thought I'd share a little band saw mystery I recently solved. Maybe somebody somewhere will find it as useful someday.

I was having trouble re-sawing while working on the blanket chest. (Re-sawing means you split a board into two or more thinner pieces. I could do it on the table saw, but it is safer on the band saw.) A single 4' length of cherry was taking me up to 20 minutes to cut, which surely didn't seem right. If I tried to go any faster the motor would bog down and the blade would stop altogether.

So I did what any librarian's child would do: I tried looking it up. I searched books.  I searched Fine Woodworking's excellent website. I searched the internet via Google. But while I found many wonderful tips for how to re-saw a board, there wasn't anything obvious I was doing wrong to make the saw go so slowly. And slow it did seem to be, since whenever I'd watch a video of someone demonstrating how to do it, it only took that person a minute or so to saw the same length of wood.

So I thought I'd soup up the saw a little to see if it improved performance. I bought a fancy fence and adjusted it for blade drift:

I bought a 1/2" 3 tpi (teeth per inch) blade made especially for re-sawing, and I tightened that sucker until it wailed like a guitar string on high-dollar dreadnought when I plucked it.

I made sure my work piece was fully supported on the outfeed and that I stuck a shim in the cut so that the wood wouldn't close in on itself and bind the blade:

And I added a featherboard on the table to keep the piece tight to the fence:

And while all of this helped, the time it took to saw only dropped from 20 minutes to 14. Now, I may be a bit slow on the uptake from time to time, but it didn't take me the full 14 minutes to deduce that I still had a problem.

I had it figured out in twelve.

So I trolled the internet some more and finally ran across this post on Woodweb, in which someone mentioned checking to see if the belt on the motor was loose.

I know next to nothing about motors, so this made me a little nervous to contemplate. In fact, I didn't want it to be a motor thing at all. What if the belt was loose? How would I know? And what would I do about it? Would it all explode and start a fire if I messed something up?

So I put out my own question to the cyber cosmos, on the Fine Woodworking forum called "Knots," hoping against hope that somebody would tell me that a) it wasn't the belt drive, and b) it was something else I had not yet thought of, and c) whatever "b" was would be easy to fix.

And although I got a speedy and polite response, the answer turned out to be d) none of the above.

It was clear that there was nothing left but to pop the hood of the saw and have a peek. And brothers and sisters, lo and behold, that old belt was looser than the hips of a grand champion hula-hooper. Not only that, the solution to tightening it was immediately clear: the bolts on the motor mount were also slippy and the motor had creeped forward.

I don't know if everything had loosened over time or if it came that way from the factory, but I suspect it was a little of both. In any case, I pulled the motor back until the belt was reasonably tight, made sure the pulleys were aligned properly and everything as square, tightened it all down and voila.

A re-sawing monster was born. The saw also ran quieter and with much less vibration. Plus, nothing exploded or caught fire while I was working on it, which I always consider a bonus.

I went back to the Knots forum to let the kind gentleman who replied to my original post know that I'd fixed the problem, and there another helpful person suggested I look into getting a Power Twist Link Belt. Doing so, he allowed, would quiet the machine's vibration even further.

Well, I was feeling pretty sparky and full of myself by then, so I ordered the fancy belt and put it on, and lo and behold, it did in fact make it even better. Plus, it looks kind of cool:

Re-sawing a 4' board now takes about a minute, as it should. And when I turn the saw on, it digs out like a tricked-out V-8 hemi Trad Rad reacher with mag wheels and some awesome tuck and roll.*

I'm thinking of painting flames on the sides.

*Hot Rod Slang from the website "Hot Rods and Classics"

Note to the FTC: I have received no remuneration for reviewing the Power Twist Link Belt. 


  1. Ain't you suppin. We need you here in NC now that you've mastered motors. We're still haulin shine and every rpm counts. Way to go!

  2. AnnA--LOL! Well, that brings back the memories. I can still recall the day my uncle took me out into the woods on his farm and showed me some stills some people had set up. Of course, by the time we got to them, the revenuers had already been there and busted them up...

  3. Another great informative post! I will keep this bookmarked :)

    I find it very amusing and fortunate that I started following your blog for gardening which I'm loving (that because you've an xtracycle! and I like bikes) and now you've gone to woodworking which I'm very interested in! Reading all the info and steps you posts makes me a little less intimidated of my dad's tools every week. I may actually try to use them one day ;)
    Thank you so much!

  4. i think i see a whole new reality/DIY show in the works... PIMP MY WOODSHOP. move over garden world report, bikegarden's comin' to town.


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