RTFM: Read That Forgotten Manual
*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***
So, I have this band saw. Bought it back in 2004. It’s a pretty standard issue 14 inch model with a ¾ hp motor. It has a nice shiny table. I’ve equipped it with some decent aftermarket band saw blades for resawing and curve cutting, a Kreg precision band saw fence, a brush to get the dust off the bottom wheel and a set of Cool Blocks to replace the standard issue steel blade guides.
And, yet, even with the loving care I put into the saw, it still didn’t function the way I needed it to. The saw would cut very thin materials well – maybe up to ¾ of an inch – with no bogging or struggle. But, once you got thicker than that, the saw had this maddening habit of slowing to a stop. I would have to stop the saw, back the band saw blade out from the piece and start all over again. It was frustrating and dangerous, and I usually ended up turning to my jigsaw to make cuts that probably should have been easily handled by the band saw.
Eventually, the time came where I had to resaw a 5 inch wide piece of ash. I was dreading this step, because I knew it was going to take at least a half an hour to nibble my way through the board, and I wasn’t going to like the results.
That’s when the idea hit me. Before I waste my time, why not break out the manual and see if there was a way to get the saw to work better?
The biggest challenge was finding the manual in the first place. I looked high and low and eventually found it tucked away in a lower shop cabinet with the rest of the manuals. Apparently, I must have been slipping them in the same area for years, but forgot about them. I must have referred to it, because I did have a page dog-eared over regarding band saw blade tensioning and I had written the blade length (93.5 inches) on the front cover.
Armed with my toolbox, I pulled the saw out from its place of banishment (against the wall) and set to work. I discovered quickly that I need to hook up my dust collection system when I use the saw – there were strata of sawdust layers from previous projects. I vacuumed out the cabinet and flipped to page one of the manual. There were plenty of safety tips there – pretty useful stuff.
How to unpack your saw … we were well past that step.
How to assemble your saw… the saw is where it needed to be, perched on top of the stand. That’s good.
Then, I got to the good stuff – how to set the saw up. OK, the motor mounting instructions were interesting, and everything was still nice and snug.
How to set up the drive belt…. It was properly looped over the drive pulley on the motor and the pulley that connected to the lower wheel. Check.
How to tension the belt … OOOH, that’s where I made my mistake! There were carefully written and illustrated directions on how to get the tension right… and I – in my haste to get the saw up and running – apparently ignored them. My bad…
A few turns of a bolt later, I was set up the way I needed to be. I ran through the rest of the set up instructions – slowly – and saw that the rest of the saw was OK. I reassembled all of the guards and covers, plugged the saw back in and hit the on switch.
The previously wimpy saw was now strong. Beefy. Assertive. The ash board didn’t stand a change. I went edge to edge on this two foot long board – taking my time – in about 40 seconds. All told, even when counting the set up time, the cut took about 15 minutes. What an improvement!
So, the next time your tools aren’t functioning the way they should, do a little sleuthing and find that manual. You just might discover that a little tweak or two can turn the agony of defeat into the thrill of victory!
*** Specials thanks to Tom Iovino, a true Shop Monkey, for this post. He will be providing posts on a monthly basis for Eagle America, check back again soon. ***