Tool review: Deluxe 14-inch Bandsaws
Deluxe 14" Bandsaws
Choosing to purchase a 14" deluxe bandsaw says a lot about where you are in your woodworking journey. You're ready to move to a machine capable of tackling all curve-cutting, ripping, crosscutting, and resawing tasks in even the thickest and hardest wood species. Thankfully, you don't have to jump to a pricey 18" or larger bandsaw to get these attributes. This class of 14" bandsaws--measured by wheel diameter--does it all.
Ample resawing capacity. Start your search by focusing on the widest board the saw can rip standing on edge. Get as much capacity as possible, because you'll never wish you had less. Having the ability to rip a wide board into thinner pieces opens up greater project options, such as bookmatched door panels or thin slabs laminated around a curved form. Resawing allows you to maximize the face (showing surface) of a prized piece of wood, such as spalted maple or quilted mahogany.
A one-piece steel frame found on three of the bandsaws in this test provides 10-14" of resaw capacity. On the other hand, three of the C-frame saws--which look like big cast-iron C-clamps on bases--resaw only 6" out of the crate. But if you install an optional riser block ($70-$120), shown at right, you'll double that capacity. Though a C-frame saw, the Jet JWBS-14DXPRO comes standard with 12" resaw capacity built into its column; no need for a riser block. The C-frame Powermatic includes the riser-block kit as standard equipment.
Plenty of power. Cutting curves or ripping stock up to 2" thick won't challenge the power of any 14" bandsaw. But when you resaw--especially hardwoods 10" or wider--you need power in spades. For this, look at two factors. First, the motor should be rated at least 1 hp, but go bigger if your budget and shop's electrical capacity can handle it. (Bandsaws powered by 110-volt motors top out at 1 1/2 hp; anything greater requires a 220-volt circuit.) In our testing, the 3-hp Laguna 14SUV dominated the power showdown.
The second power factor: the wheels that drive the blade. Cast-iron wheels outperform aluminum ones because their greater weight generates more momentum to power the blade through a cut. This weight also dampens vibration, resulting in greater accuracy and cut quality. Of the tested saws, all but the Delta have cast-iron wheels.
More things to look for
Quality blade guides. A bandsaw with great power and cut capacities but lackluster blade guides is like a Mercedes without power steering. Adjustable blade guides mounted above and below the table prevent the blade from twisting or wandering side-to-side during cuts, greatly enhancing accuracy. The best guides prove easy to set and adjust, because you'll do this every time you change from one blade width to another.
The tested saws feature three types of guides, shown at right: steel blocks, ball bearings, and ceramic contacts. All held blades true enough in our curve-cutting and resawing tests, but we like the ceramic guides best because they completely eliminated blade twisting. (Although it wasn't a big problem, the other guides allowed slight blade twisting when we cut circles less than 1" in diameter.) The Laguna guides contact the blade at four points on each of the upper and lower guides, twice as many contact points as the other saws. The steel blocks created more friction--and potential blade-damaging heat.
Now look at these user-friendly features
Comfortable table height. Table height on five of the seven tested saws ranges from 42" to 44". Find a working height that's comfortable for you without hunching over, then look for a match. Our 6'-tall tester found himself bending down to use one saw's 35 1/2"-high table; he liked a 40"-ish table height best. If you plan to add a mobile base to your saw, remember it will add an inch or two to the table height.
Accurate, adjustable rip fence. For straight-line cutting, a rip fence proves a vital accessory, and all but two saws include one. All the fences include adjustments to compensate for blade drift (when the blade fails to cut parallel to the fence). Four of the saws' rip fences can be used in two dimensions: upright for resawing tall stock, and low and flat, shown at right, for reaching underneath the blade guides on thin, narrow rips.
Reliable tension scale. On these deluxe saws, we hoped for more-reliable blade-tension gauges, but found we could rely on the scales of just two saws. So it's a good idea to know how to set the tension without the scale. Our tester used the flutter method, where, with the blade guides pulled back and the saw running, he loosened the blade tension until the blade fluttered side-to-side. Then he tightened it gradually until the flutter disappeared. All of the saws have quick-release tension levers that relieve enough tension to change blades, and then return to your previous setting without tedious cranking and checking the blade tension as you go.
Effective dust collection. Dust buildup on the rubber tires of these saws reduces blade grip, so it's important to hook up the saw to a dust collector. Each of the models in this test has a 4" port next to the lower wheel; these proved most effective on the steel-frame models. Doors on the C-frame saws did not seal as tightly, reducing dust-collection effectiveness.
Commit your tool $$ to these resaw kings
For this article, we reviewed the Delta 28-206, Grizzly G0457, Grizzly G0555X, Jet JWBS-14DXPRO, Laguna 14SUV, Powermatic PWBS-14CS, and Rikon 10-325.
Not surprisingly, the $1,495 Laguna 14SUV proved itself superior in this seven-saw field, earning it our Top Tool award for 220-volt models. Try as we might, we could not bog down this 3-hp workhorse, even when resawing 14"-wide oak and ash. If your shop's not wired for 220 volts, or if you can't afford the Laguna's price tag, go for the Rikon 10-325 for $900. It's our Top Tool among 110-volt saws.
If both of these fall out of your price range, then look to the Top Value Grizzly G0555X. Add the optional riser block and you'll have a saw worthy of any shop for less than $800
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