The blade I ordered for the new shop addition finally arrived. Great! The saw was assembled just waiting for the blade, in a few minutes it would be cutting profiles in cherry, or so I thought. At this point I had no idea of the great challenge that lay ahead. Although, when the saw came out of the box with the factory supplied blade installed, tensioned, and tracking in the center of the wheels that should have been a clue that the road ahead might be rocky. I have never seen a bandsaw shipped like that. The factory supplied blade is usually packaged for the customer to install and adjust. I now know that the factory installs and adjusts the blade because it is a trying and complicated process.
Before getting to the guide adjustments the blade must be tensioned and tracking properly in the center of the wheels. Most bandsaws have only two adjustments. A tension adjustment, and a tracking adjustment on the upper wheel. This saw has a third tracking adjustment on the lower wheel. This can be seen in the above picture. This lower adjustment allows the lower wheel to be adjusted in two planes, up down, and side to side.
The first step is to remove the factory installed blade. Since the table is slotted towards the front the fence guide rail must be removed so the blade can pass through the slot. That explains why the guide rail was attached with wing nuts. I don’t particularly care for this setup, but I noticed that all of the Rikon bandsaws are made this way, unlike the usual slot coming out the side of the table as seen on most saws. However, this was not a big problem. With the original blade removed I installed the new blade and re-installed the fence guide rail.
It was time to adjust the tension. I did. Then adjust the tracking. I did this, while rotating the wheels by hand. When done I noticed that the blade was not in the exact center of the lower wheel. This slight tracking error is not a problem. My 14” Delta has been like this since it was new. It is most important to have the blade tracking dead center on the top wheel. Bandsaw wheel tires are usually crowned and when the blade does not track in the exact center of the upper wheel you get the condition commonly referred to as “blade drift”. You are often instructed to set your fence to the “drift angle” to compensate for this. In my experience if the blade is tracking in the center of the upper wheel, and the blade is sharp, this problem does not occur. With these adjustments made I closed the doors and started the saw. BANG! The blade popped off the backside of the wheels as soon as the saw was started. This was the beginning of several very frustrating hours spread over several days because of other time demands.
What I learned was that all three adjustments are inter-related. Thus when adjusting one you are changing the others, though to a much lesser degree. Also learned was that the blade did not track the same under power as it did when rotating the wheels by hand. Most of this frustrating time was spent learning this. Once learned the adjustment process went relatively quick.
With the blade installed and adjusted it was now time to move on to adjusting the guides. I chose to adjust the lower guides first because they appeared to be the most difficult. To make this process easier it is best to remove the table. So off comes the fence guide rail again. The table is held to the trunion with four bolts and it is a quick and easy job to remove these. With the table off adjusting the lower guides is a snap. Simply follow the instructions and you will be OK. Don’t let the side guide bearings come in contact with the blade. I set them about 0.003” away using a piece of paper as a feeler gage. Done. Next I set the rear guide bearing, or should I say tried to. There wasn’t enough movement in the bearing carrier to allow the bearing to touch the back of the saw blade. The rear bearing and carrier assembly was removed from the saw and the adjustment slot was ground about 3/32” farther forward. (see above pic) This unit was re-installed on the saw and the adjustment set. And the table and fence guide rail were re-installed. Next the upper guides were adjusted per the instructions and all went smoothly here, even the rear bearing adjuster worked as it was supposed to.
Next the saw was turned on and a fine India stone was used to dress the back and rear corners of the new blade. This helps when making tight radius cuts. The dust collection was hooked up to my shop vac with an appropriate adapter, as can be seen in the upper picture above. A test cut in 1” cherry was made as can be seen in the lower picture above. The cut was as expected and the saw performed flawlessly. The machine runs very smoothly with no noticeable vibrations and sounds good with a solid hum. It is definitely not a toy. Finally a lot of ten totes were cut from their blanks and the 3/16” 4 TPI blade performed flawlessly. I couldn’t be more pleased. This machine will do what I purchased it for and save time.
You might wonder why I didn’t return the saw? After all, the problems I encountered certainly shouldn’t have been. My reasons for not returning the saw were simple. First I needed the saw. It was a web purchase and it would have taken weeks to get it replaced and I doubt the next one would have been any different.. Second I got a very good deal on it. At more than 40% less than the high priced version I was willing to spend some time and frustration on the machine.
I can’t say that the high priced versions of this saw are exactly like the one I bought even though, after close examination, the only visible differences are the colors. The more expensive machines may have better bearings and closer manufacturing tolerances, but I wouldn’t spend the money on one to find out. So, I can recommend this machine with the understanding that you may have to put in some extra time and frustration to make this saw work as it should. But, with patience and care you will end up with a very solid machine. One that is far superior to the little toys that I found in the big box stores.
As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment.