Tool Review: 14" Bandsaws
If you're looking to buy your first bandsaw or simply upgrade from a benchtop model, consider a low-cost 14" bandsaw for your shop. Read on to learn what to look for in an affordable saw.
After setting up and fine-tuning the machines, we ripped and crosscut 4/4 and 8/4 red oak at various feed rates, and all models handled the tasks with no difficulty. Because bandsaws excel at resawing--standing a board on edge and cutting off thin slabs--you may use a bandsaw to get more use from prized figured or exotic stock. Most of these saws can fit boards up to 6" wide between the upper blade guides and table, so for our next test we resawed 1/4"-thick panels from 6"-wide oak--hand-feeding the wood as fast as each saw could cut it. Next, we installed riser blocks on models that will accept them (steel-frame saws do not), adding 6" to their resaw capacities. All the saws could power through 12"-wide oak boards at slower feed rates.
Blade guides above and below the table keep the blade from twisting and deflecting side-to-side during cuts. A blade that deflects does not cut perpendicular to the table, so your workpiece might wind up thicker at the top than at the bottom, or vice versa. Some saws showed significantly more deflection than others when resawing. With all the bandsaws, however, we found no significant deflection when sawing through stock less than 2" thick. Adding riser blocks to the saws that accept them didn't affect blade deflection: It was similar to the 6" resaw test.
To test each saw's ability to cut inside and outside curves, we installed new 1/4"-wide, 6-tpi Carter blades, and cut out a block "S" with each saw. Some saws followed the lines so well, it felt as if they were on autopilot. Next, we cut out 1-1/4"-diameter holes, and each bandsaw performed well. But when we pushed the machines to cut a tighter radius, some excelled and others struggled.
Upper and lower blade guides, whether ball bearings or steel blocks, keep the blade from twisting during a cut. The thrust bearings keep the blade from deflecting backward as you feed stock. In our testing, we found no distinct advantage among the various types of guides other than with speed of blade changes. Guide blocks that tighten with thumbscrews prove quicker to set than guides with setscrews that require a hex wrench.
Microadjusters on some saws make it easier to fine-tune among saws with bearing guides. By contrast, to move the lower guide blocks forward or backward on some others, you must remove the table to access the bolts.
Quick-release blade tensioners speed blade changes and make it a snap to relieve tension on the wheels between work sessions. You still have to turn the tension knob a few times to completely remove the blade, but the process is faster and easier than tediously turning the knob dozens of times.
Top Tool: Grizzly G0555
Tools tested: Craftsman 22401, Grizzly G0580 and G0555, Jet JWBS-14OS, Ridgid BS1400, Rikon 10-320, Shop Fox W1706, and Steelex ST1000