Proper setup of your bandsaw can have profound effects on the quality of cut and on top of that it a great bandsaw setup can keep you from pulling your hair out.
Setup with a quality very sharp blade and the perfect setup, you should be able to slice through 8″ deep stock with the precision of a veneer slicer.
Purchase the Perfect Blade:
Until I purchased the Woodslicer Blades, I had difficulty with sawing consistent back and top plates, even when the saw was setup properly. The Wood Slicer Blade allows repeated results with minimal waste. After all, if I can get one more set of back and sides out of an expensive piece of exotic wood, it pays for the blade 4 times over, and I’m not kidding about that either.
The Wood Slicer Blades from Highland Hardware and really is not that much more expensive than garden variety blades. So pick one up and you will see what I mean.
When I talk about bandsaw setup, I am referring to the bandsaw blade being set to properly and efficiently be restrained by the guide blocks. Also, for re-sawing top and back guitar plates, we want to dial in as much tension as the blade can reasonably take. This usually means to set the tension above the suggested tension indicator (which are notoriously inaccurate). The higher the tension, the less deflection you will have on the blade and you will have less blade drift.
Blade drift is the single most frustrating problem that you can have with a bandsaw re-sawing project. There are many causes for blade drift – here are the most obvious:
Dull or poor quality blade
Blade unevenly sharpened
Blade tension inadequate
Stock feed too fast
Bandsaw fence set improperly
Set the Blade Tension:
The best way to set the blade tension is with a blade tension gage. This can be a problem for a small shop or if you are just occasionally resawing, because these gages can cost upwards of $300.00. So what do you do?
What I did and still do is to use some rules of thumb to set the blade to high tension during the brief re-sawing of 4 to 6 set of backs and sides and then relax the blade to normal for all other shop operations.
How high is high enough tension? A good place to start is to set the tension gage to the next higher blade size than the one you are using. In other words if you are using a 1/2″ wide blade, set the tension to the next wider blade or even to the second one above the 1/2″ blade. Keep in mind that this is only for brief re-sawing. This should not cause any problem or failure to you saw or to a quality blade either. After all your saw is constructed to handle higher tension anyway, because the tension scale can go all the way to a 1″ or even wider blade on the larger units.
Another method you can use: Do this after you complete the next step of setting the guide blocks and stop bearings properly. Set your blade tension as described above and make the depth of cut to about 6″. Now with the saw off, (of course) deflect the blade sideways with a finger. If it deflects more than 1/8″ to 1/4″, crank in more tension. Do this until you get it the tension right.
Setting Guide Blocks:
Chances are your bandsaw will have either guide blocks or bearings to keep the blade inline, or a combination of both. The theory behind these blocks and stop bearings are to restrict the blade from deflecting from pressure of sawing. You will have 8 distinct adjustments to make. 4 at the top and 4 at the bottom. The guides should capture the blade and keep the blade from moving backward or from side to side. The blocks should be set close enough so they barely come into contact with the blade. I usually use a thick piece of paper (like 24# paper), for this. The blade should NOT be in constant contact with the guide blocks.
In the photo above notice that the side guide blocks are capturing the blade with the blocks being located slightly behind the teeth of the blade. This of course means you have to set the Stop bearing to keep the blade from being pushed back. This can be seen at the top of the picture where the bearing is set to the backside of the blade so when the blade runs freely the bearing does not turn, but it does turn when cutting pressure is placed on the blade.
Purchase a good set of Guide Bearings:
This can be an expensive way to go, but it is the ultimate in bandsaw setup. The bearing cost will vary depending on your bandsaw size and manufacturer, but you can expect to pay at least $200 to $300 or more for this setup. Hands-down this is best upgrade you can make for your saw. Don’t put these on an inexpensive saw though, while vastly improving your cutting, there are too many negatives for the saw to justify the cost of this upgrade. The best guides I know of are Carter Guides. They make guide kits for most of the new and older model bandsaws. I purchase a set of Carter Guides for my Jet 18″ bandsaw and it made resawing much more accurate.
So there you have it. With proper blade capture with the guide blocks and stop bearings and proper blade and high blade tension you will have a re-sawing setup second to none.
There will be a follow-up article to this one on the actual re-sawing of guitar plates.