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Seven Steps to Tuning Your Bandsaw
Brad Kirkaldy from Noble Machine identifies seven key steps to tune your bandsaw and improve blade performance and life.
By Brad Kirkaldy, Noble Machine
Date Posted: 12/1/2010
Keeping your bandsaw running in top shape is fairly easy. But it does take some intentional effort to ensure top performance. You have to tune your saw on a regular basis to get the most use out of your blades.
Over-tensioning, poor wheel alignment and a host of other maintenance issues will adversely affect the life of both blade and machine. Keeping your saw in tune is a must in order to avoid losing money in the form of frequent blade changes, poor performance and premature equipment failure.
Here’s a seven-step process to bring a saw into fighting trim. While some of these methods may exceed the capacities of your in-house maintenance go-to guy, most of these suggestions are things that any of us could and should attempt for the sake of smoother operations. It is best to repeat this tune up procedure on a monthly basis:
Step 1: With the saw blade removed, spin the wheels or pulleys by hand, checking for signs of bearing wear. Wheels should spin smoothly and without a trace of wobble or play.
Step 2: Check wheels for “round.” Rig a business card or similar reference object parallel with the tread within 1/4" from the edge of the wheel and spin the wheel, observing if the distance between the wheel and the card varies appreciably.
Step 3: Check wheels for proper balance. This is a little tricky to determine in the field, but a vertically-mounted wheel should not be coming to rest at the same spot when spun. If balance is in question, wheels with tires can be balanced at a tire store. They typically do not go out of balance during normal wear.
Step 4: If your wheels have tires, check air pressure. Refer to product documentation or labeling for recommended pressure for your machine. A typical target pressure for your saw wheels is 50psi. Generally, under inflation is far more problematic than over inflation. Your tires should be solidly firm with a crown along the center of the tread.
Step 5: Stretching a string or straightedge across two wheels, check for alignment. The wheels must be oriented on the same plane for the blade to track properly.
Step 6: Install the blade and check blade tension. Refer to product docs or labels to determine recommended tension for your blade. Some machines are equipped with a tension meter; otherwise a tool that measures surface tension is a necessity.
Many operators will increase tension on the saw blade to correct a tracking problem instead of addressing the underlying source of the problem. Increasing the tension often will resolve the symptom, but the over-tensioning introduces new, more sinister problems such as premature blade and bearing wear.
Restoring the tension to the prescribed lbs. surface tension value (typically 12,000 lbs.) improves performance. A properly tensioned saw will deflect no more than 1/4" when pushed with the palm of your hand. Tracking problems, if they still exist after this tune-up, should be repaired by a technician.
Step 7: With guide bearings removed, it is time to make the final tweaks to the blade tracking using the adjusting set screws or similar hardware employed by your brand of saw. A saw blade should track on the crown of the wheels as they spin. When satisfied, replace the guide bearings 1/16" away from blade. These bearings are meant to be guardrails and only contact the blade infrequently.
If any of the tests you perform reveal anomalies like bearing wear, you should have your machine serviced by a competent repairman. Increasing surface tension may mask the problem for a little while, but your saw will never work as it was designed until all these factors are working properly.
(Photos courtesy: Noble Machinery, Co.)
Brad “Bandsaw” Kirkaldy is a 30-year veteran of the saw business. He is currently a partner at Noble Machinery Co., Inc., which manufactures the Pallet Hawg band saw as well as refurbishes many brands for resale. For more information on improving your bandsaws, contact Brad at 800-348-0703 or email@example.com.