The bandsaw is without doubt one of the most useful and versatile pieces of equipment that any woodworker will add to their workshop, with its ability to cut deep sections as well as curved and straight lines. Taking up minimal floor space and with a vast range of Axminster blades available in different tooth configurations and widths, the bandsaw is an almost indispensable asset. The ability to rip, cross-cut, re-saw, cut wafer thin veneers, tenon cheeks, bevels, curves and even circles makes the bandsaw the most versatile machine in the workshop.
Axminster offers a very wide variety of machines, so it can become a little confusing to decide exactly what is the best machine. Each user has their own set of requirements, which could mean that one machine may be more suitable than another. A furniture maker may need a bandsaw with a high fence, large depth-of-cut and powerful motor, suitable for re-sawing or cutting veneers, whilst a turner may wish to cut bowl blanks where the ability to fit and track a narrow blade is more important. Equally significant are a solid table, with an adequate width to the right hand side and good blade guides to counter sideways pressure.
Key features of Bandsaw Construction
The bandwheels are the mechanism by which the power of the motor is transmitted to the blade. Wheels should be well balanced to minimise vibration and for accurate blade tracking, a good quality tyre needs to be fitted to each one. The smaller Hobby rated machines have cast alloy wheels (except the HBS350N) balanced by hand, though the larger capacity Trade or Industrial bandsaws have dynamically balanced alloy iron or cast wheels, which are made using sophisticated industrial machinery. The ‘flywheel effect’ of the greater mass offered by cast iron wheels improves cutting performance as well as damping out vibration and ensures that they are better able to withstand the tensioning forces of larger blades. The wheels are also shod with thick rubber tyres that enable accurate blade tracking.
Modern bandsaw frames are universally made from folded, welded sheet steel, which provides an immensely strong and rigid framework to withstand the stresses created when the blade is tensioned. Were the frame to be of insufficient strength it would distort under load, pulling the top and bottom bandwheel boxes together. As well as damaging the machine, this will prevent the full tension from being applied to the blade. The vertical spine on many of the bigger Axminster machines is triangular in section, making it very stiff whilst the bandsaw boxes are reinforced with additional webbing to increase rigidity and strength. In addition, the gauge of steel used on Trade and Industrial machines is significantly thicker than the Hobby range.
Undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of any bandsaw is the spring and a blade that can’t be tensioned properly won’t cut accurately. It is the spring that tightens the blade and a tensile force of up to 20,000 psi (pounds per square inch) can be applied to the blade when it’s tensioned. The frame of the machine must be sufficiently strong to resist this force and not distort under pressure.
All Axminster bandsaw tables, from the smallest of the Hobby machines to the largest Industrial saw, are made from cast iron. Not only does this material provide a smooth, flat surface but also the large mass helps to absorb vibrations in use. All tables are mounted on robust trunnions and can be tilted from -5˚ – +45˚. This ensures that the blade is easily set at 90˚ to the table surface and the trunnions allow it to be tilted and set to any angle up to 45˚. The largest in the Industrial range have a handwheel operated, rack and pinion mechanism to adjust the table, the result of which is to enable the angle to be set accurately, even one handed!
The main purpose of saw blade guides is to prevent the blade from twisting during a cut. All Axminster bandsaws except the entry level Hobby Series use a pair of good quality ball bearing blade guides both above and below the table that can be easily adjusted so that they just make the barest contact with the blade. A transverse thrust race bearing will also be found at the back of the blade, both above and below the table. This should be adjusted so that it’s clear of the blade by the thickness of a thick piece of paper. The ball bearing guides will also need to be adjusted when a thicker or thinner blade is fitted into the bandsaw.
The bandsaw fences on most Axminster machines comprise a substantial extruded bar complete with a magnified scale lens, which makes accurate setting of the fence to the blade measurement a breeze! Onto this is mounted a deep, rectangular section aluminium fence which can be securely locked in place with a lever. A rigid fence is crucial for accurate, straight cutting whether producing veneers or tenons. Equally important, the fence should be adjustable to ensure it is square to the table and blade.
The motor is the heart of the machine and whilst often overlooked when exploring the other features of a prospective bandsaw, it is nonetheless a vital consideration. All Axminster bandsaws use fan cooled induction motors and the Trade and Industrial machines use either a DC induction or an electro-mechanically braked motor that will stop the blade rotation within 10 seconds when the machine stop function is activated. The motor must be adequate for all the intended tasks, particularly deep sawing when cutting veneers as lack of sufficient power may cause the blade to slow down or even stop and, in an extreme case, the motor may even become too hot, or stall, with potentially dangerous consequences.