f my bandsaw were a human being, I’d owe him an apology. My bandsaw is a tool which I have frowned on for many years. I have a drill press which I call Elvis because it shakes, rattles and rolls like no other tool I own. While my bandsaw isn’t as offensive as Elvis, it still shakes and has been a disappointing purchase. For some, the bandsaw is the center of their power tool universe; the most versatile power tool in their workshop. My table saw gets this honor while my bandsaw receives the ultimate put down. It stands in a remote area of my workshop and collects dust, or rather the sawdust from the other tools I regularly use.
But, whenever I contemplate using this tool, there is always this thought: I need to work on it; give it a tune-up. But my bandsaw is a tool which doesn’t make sense to me. I once saw a blog post where the woodworker viewed his bandsaw in much the same way and a tune up yielded miraculous results. It is time to get my bandsaw working better.
The Breaking Point
It took a potentially dangerous situation to get me to this point. I was using my bandsaw (a Jet JWBS-14DX) a couple of weekends ago to cut a pattern in some oak boards for my father when little black things began falling onto the board. I immediately identified this as a problem in the making. A few more pieces of black stuff appeared and I turned off the saw. After opening the bandsaw upper door, I saw the blade riding on the front of the wheel and the tire coming off the back of the wheel making it rub against the inner pieces of the saw. I repositioned the blade and turned the saw back on. Almost immediately the bolt for the upper wheel came off and started bouncing inside the saw causing my woodworking session with my father to end.
After thinking on this sorry situation for a while, I determined this problem didn’t just happen that day. It had to have been developing for a while and since I rarely use my bandsaw, it is likely that this tracking/tire problem has been brewing for a considerable length of time. It also occurred to me that I should periodically check my tools and ensure they don’t need a tune-up (avoiding a potential safety issue). So, while I have always been disappointed with my bandsaw, even a little attention on my part would be helpful.
The first thing I had to do was replace the tires on both wheels. Time for a trip to Woodcraft which is less than a 10 minute drive from my home. I picked up new tires and a new blade.
Getting the new tires in place was an ordeal. These stretch over the wheel and even following the instructions to warm these tires via hot water, getting the tires on the wheels took all the strength I could muster. For the bottom wheel, four times I thought I had the tire in place only to have it slip off (resulting in a few choice words). But, I finally got both tires on. Later, I found this video and wished I had seen it prior to putting the new tires on. It’s a pretty good video.
Up next: Installing the new blade which should be a piece of cake, except it wasn’t. I could not get the tension mechanism to work. For those of you who don’t know, the blade slips onto both wheels and there is a lever on the saw which moves the upper wheel upward causing the blade to tighten against both wheels.
I first thought that I had inadvertently loosened the tension on the upper wheel too much. But, no matter how much I adjusted the tension, it would not tighten the wheels to the blade. After some research, I discovered this bandsaw has a potential design flaw in the blade tension assembly causing it to bend or crack over time. Dinner time was approaching, so this issue would have to be resolved another day.
The next weekend, I devoted much of my Saturday towards repairing the tension problem. During the week, I watched this video several times…
First I had to determine if the part in question was actually broken in some way. I needed to inspect it which meant I’d have to disassemble the upper part of my bandsaw following the video above.
I was not sure if the old blade tension assembly was actually damaged since I could see no crack or nothing bent, but I also did not know what else to do, so I ordered a replacement part and within a week I had it installed.
But, after installation, the tension problem remained. And, I could find no report of a similar problem on the internet. I tried every adjustment I could think of. There were times when I literally stared at my bandsaw hoping the problem would become obvious. I asked the staff at Woodcraft and at the monthly Alabama Woodworkers Guild meeting. Nobody could explain this issue. It was almost like the blade was too big. There was at least a 1/2″ gap between the top of the upper wheel and the bandsaw blade. I concluded that the old tires were much thicker than the new ones, but I find it hard to believe that difference translated to the lack of tension I was seeing.
In the end, I put the original tension assembly back on my bandsaw and lowered the collar which the tension mechanism contacts which in effect raises the wheel upward. I kept lowering this collar until I got the proper tension. But, I still can’t explain why I had to do this.
This repair has been going on for the last three weekends. I am happy about me being able to fix it vs. having to pay someone else to repair it; an option I was considering since Jet has a repair center in my area. And I am happy about being able to return the part saving $150.00.
But, the bandsaw renovation is only half-finished. In part two, I’ll explore some ideas to remove the shake I am experiencing as well as build a fence for it following an article in Fine Woodworking magazine hopefully turning this frowned upon machine into a shop favorite.
* * * * *
Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).