Almost any bandsaw can slice smooth scrollwork through inches-thick hardwoods; most can cut cabriole legs 'til the cows come home. But when it's time to resaw wide—really wide—stock to bookmatch panels or maximize the yield from thick boards, you need a bandsaw with lots of blade above the table, plus the ponies to punch through all that wood. We put six premium-priced bandsaws through their paces to see which get the job done best.
Bringin' the power
One lesson we learned right away: Don't rely on horsepower ratings as the sole measure of a bandsaw's cutting power. Efficient transfer of power from motor to wheels to blade relies on more factors than simply motor size, and some saws do this well with lower-rated motors.
To discover each saw's true power, we put them through an extreme test of resawing 12"-wide hard maple—the greatest common capacity among the machines—as fast as we dared push it, timing each cut, and then averaging five trials. Four saws (Grizzly G0513X2BF, Grizzly G0514X2B, Jet JWBS-18QT-3, and Shop Fox W1729) powered through each cut without bogging down. The General International 90-240M1 and 4-hp-rated Rikon 10-346 slowed a bit, but never stalled. Bottom line: All of the tested bandsaws have sufficient power to handle this task.
Resawing reveals crucial differences
After tuning up each saw to compensate for blade drift (when the blade fails to cut parallel to the fence, easily adjusted by tweaking the rip fences) we outfitted them with new Timber Wolf 3⁄4 " 2/3VPC resaw blades. Then, we resawed multiple thin slabs from an 8/4 maple blank, using a slow but steady feed rate. Most of the saws cut slabs that varied in thickness 1⁄32 " or less, an acceptable amount. But the blades on the Jet and Rikon saws deflected more than that. So we searched for solutions.
We discovered that by tracking the blade on the Jet's crowned wheels more toward the rear, as shown below, we could resaw within that 1⁄32 " range. That trick did not, however, work on the Rikon's flat wheels. When we attached the resaw pivot bar to the rip fence and cut along a marked line on the board's edge—steering by hand—the deflection disappeared. But this method also leaves rougher surfaces on the workpieces—and more cleanup at the planer or drum sander—a net loss about equal to the original amount of blade deflection.
Next, we tried different blades on the Rikon and got acceptable results. So if you experience deflection that you cannot resolve by tweaking the saw, try a different blade: It might solve the problem for you.
Blade guides hold the key to a bandsaw's performance
The easier it is to adjust a bandsaw's guides, the more likely you are to change blades when situations call for it. The General International, both Grizzlys, and the Jet have bearing guides and a single thrust bearing behind the blade (above) that excel when resawing with wide blades. Of these, the Jet proved easiest to set, thanks to tool-free adjusters on all guides. Blade guards on the General International, Grizzly, and Shop Fox saws impaired access, making upper-guide adjustments more difficult.
The Rikon bandsaw uses European-style, non-spinning disc guides all around, shown above, and the Shop Fox combines disc guides with a thrust bearing, below. These two setups proved fussy to set, but performed better during curve-cutting than the bearing guides.
Rikon makes blade changes easiest with the blade slot extending from the center of the table to its front edge. With the other saws, the slot extends to the table's right edge, requiring you to pivot the blade 90° after clearing the guides.
Table the workload
All of the saws have cast-iron tables measuring 17–191⁄2 " deep, and all but the Jet (19") are at least 235⁄8 " wide. They all have a miter slot to the right of the blade, and all but one stand 371⁄2 " from the floor, a comfortable height for most folks. The Rikon table measures 331⁄2 " from the floor, a good height for resawing boards 12" or wider, but a backache-producer for curve-cutting and typical ripping.
We like the table on Grizzly's G0514X2B best because it locks solidly and has a massive rack-and-pinion tilt mechanism, shown below. Jet's table lacks a rack-and-pinion adjuster and, despite two trunnions with separate locks, frequently came loose when placing boards on the table. But if you let the table rest on its 90° stop (beneath the left side) and avoid putting heavy weight on the right side of the table, you can sidestep this problem.
In a close race, two saws inch ahead
Frankly, we were a little disappointed, given the price range of these saws, in their collective performance and capacities, compared to some of the premium 14" bandsaws we've used. We just expected the gap between those classes to be more significant. That said, these are certainly no duds but, rather, worthwhile machines you should have on your radar for their power and horizontal throat capacity.
No single machine stood out as the clear front-runner, so we awarded Top Tool honors to two saws: the Grizzly G0514X2B and Jet JWBS-18QT-3. The Grizzly cut fastest, cut cleanly, and has the tallest fence, best table system, and our favorite blade brake. The Jet has the most intuitive and effective blade guides as well as a user-friendly blade tension system, and almost as much power as the Grizzly.
At $1,350, the Grizzly G0513X2BF delivers a good mix of cutting performance with features, earning the Top Value award.
All six test bandsaws have:
■ 17–19" cast-iron wheels
■ Prices from $1,350 to $2,300
■ Motors prewired for 220 volts
(except the 110-volt General International 90-240M1)
■ Rack-and-pinion upper guideposts and quick-release blade-tension levers
Grizzly G0514X2B, $1,725
Likes: Sharing many features of the G0513X2BF, this taller, heavier saw cut quickest overall (by a slight margin) in our power testing, resawed with less than 1⁄32 " of deflection, and required the least adjustment for blade drift. Its heavy-duty rack-and-pinion table stands out from the group for ease of tilting and locking. Its electronic brake stops the blade in less than two seconds at shutdown.
Dislikes: Like the G0513X2BF, this machine vibrated more than we'd like, and has the same issues with the rip-fence rail and blade-guide adjustment and accessibility.
Notes: Grizzly offers four lower-priced versions of the G0514 machine with fewer features than this one.
Jet JWBS-18QT-3, $1,940
Likes: Our favorite feature: the dual-bearing blade guides that adjust without tools. The bottom guides have microadjusters, a helpful feature that we would like to have on the top guides as well. The blade-tension release lever has two positions: one for simply minimizing tension when not in use, and another for full release when changing blades. This saw also has plenty of power, an easy-to-use rip fence, a magnetic switch, and, despite having only one 4" port, dust collection as good as the other tested saws, which are equipped with two ports apiece.
Dislikes: The table-tilt did not lock as securely as we'd like, requiring regular checking for squareness to the blade. And when raising the upper guides fully, the cabinet sometimes knocked them out of alignment. Lacking a brake, the blade coasted for 37 seconds after shutdown.
Notes: The power cord does not come with a plug.
Grizzly G0513X2BF, $1,350
Likes: This saw comes equipped with both an automatic brake that stops the blade in less than two seconds at shutdown, and a foot brake for emergencies. In our power testing, this model cut nearly as quickly as its larger sibling, the G0514X2B. At its full 12" resaw height, blade deflection was less than 1⁄32 ". Its cast-iron fence includes a 6"-tall aluminum resaw face that attaches quickly and holds tall stock better than the other fences. The magnetic power switch prevents accidental restarts after an emergency stop or loss of power, and the keyed lockout adds another level of safety.
Dislikes: This saw vibrated more than any other in the test. You realign the rip fence for blade drift by adjusting the fence rail, but it bumped out of alignment easily. Eccentric shafts on the bearing guides mar easily when tightening the setscrews, so expect to remove these occasionally and restore with a file.
Notes: This saw does not come with a power cord. Grizzly offers five lower-priced versions of the G0513 machine with fewer features than this one.
General International, 90-240M1, $2,200
Likes: This saw showed impressive cutting power, despite being the only 110-volt machine in the test. It cuts true with little deflection, even at its maximum 12" resaw capacity. And the rip fence, though only 25⁄8 " tall, switches from the left to right of the blade without altering the fence. The quick-release blade-tension lever operated smoothest among the test group. A rack-and-pinion adjuster makes tilting the table easy.
Dislikes: Lacking a brake, the blade coasted for 22 seconds after shutdown. Eccentric shafts on the bearing guides mar easily when tightening the setscrews, so expect to remove these occasionally and restore with a file.
Notes: You can rewire this saw's motor to run on 220 volts to draw fewer amps from your power source.
Rikon 10-346, $2,300
Likes: You get the greatest resaw capacity (a staggering 19") with this machine but you need to add auxiliary support to the rip fence for workpiece stability. Though deflection was an issue with some blades, others deflected no more than 1⁄16 " at the maximum resaw height, perfectly acceptable for that span. Although this saw slowed a bit while resawing wide boards, it never lost enough to be a problem, even with 19"-wide boards. The blade-tension release is readily accessible from the front of the saw. The table tilts easily on a rack-and-pinion gear, locks solidly, and gives easy access to change blades. The magnetic power switch and blade foot brake add safety.
Dislikes: We like the microadjusters on the blade guides, but too much play in the mechanism sometimes negated the fine-tuning, and the rear thrust discs created sparks anytime blades rubbed against them. When we didn't use the foot brake, the blade coasted for 61 seconds after shutdown. And the LED task light, although bright, proved difficult to position so we could see the cutline.
Notes: The 162" precut blade length was difficult to find at retail.
Shop Fox W1729, $1,970
Likes: Similar in size to the Grizzly G0514X2B but with a 2-hp-rated motor, the W1729 nonetheless nearly matched the Grizz for top cutting speed—and did it with almost no vibration. It resaws with little to no blade deflection. The disc blade guides work well for cutting curves, especially when changing directions (such as S-shaped curves).
Dislikes: The 35⁄8 "-tall rip fence does not come with a resaw pivot bar, so you'll need to attach an auxiliary fence face for resawing boards wider than 8". Lacking a brake, the blade coasted for 22 seconds after shutdown.
■ We found all of the blade-tension gauges unreliable for setting correct tension on all sizes of blades. Instead, we tensioned each blade so it allowed 1⁄4 " side-to-side deflection with the blade guides retracted (below).
■ All the saws include a rip fence that mounts on a rail at the front of the table. But only the Rikon fence face aligns directly with its scale (below), a big plus when using an auxiliary fence because it, too, aligns accurately with no adjustments. The others use cursors that proved fussy or problematic.
■ Although most bandsaws come with a small miter gauge, we almost never need one for bandsawing, and so place little value in them. But the miter slots in the tables do come in handy for holding jigs.
Download 17-19" Bandsaw Full Comparison Chart