Wheels & Tires

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Delta's well-designed tension-release lever takes off enough tension for you to change the blade.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

The "14" in a 14-inch band saw refers to the wheel diameter. Tires are the rubber rims around the wheels that protect the blades' teeth and provide needed traction.

Each saw in the group had a well-balanced wheel with an adequate tire; any misalignment or balance problems would have affected proper blade tracking, which was fine on all the saws.

Yet, while all the wheels and tires worked, Laguna's worked the best. They're heavier and wider than the others and this mass really threw the blade through the work, giving the saw excellent stability and great power.

Dust Collection

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Band-saw blades don't cut parallel to the table, so Laguna's adjustable fence is a great feature.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Band saws create a lot of dust, but because the blade teeth remove material through the bottom of the work, little of it goes airborne; however, without good collection, it will pile up on the table and collect in the lower housing. Each saw tested, except the Laguna and the Ridgid, has a 4-inch dust-collection port. When each of these five saws was hooked to my 1,100-cfm dust collection unit, most of the dust that would have accumulated in the lower housing was removed, but dust still piled up on the tables.

Dust didn't pile up with Laguna's machine. The dust collection port is close to the source–directly underneath where the blade passes through the table. It has an odd-sized port (3-1/8 inches), but it accepts a 3-inch hose connector (sold separately) that I then stepped up to a 4-inch hose. I have a similar system on my own band saw, and it's efficient.

Ridgid's port was sized to mate with a 2-1/4-inch shop-vacuum hose. Despite the location of the port, just under the table, and even using a large shop vac, it didn't collect as much dust as I would have liked. When the hose was stepped up to 4 inches and connected to my dust collector, performance improved somewhat.

Blade Tension

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Laguna's well-placed dust collection chamber keeps the work and lower blade housing clean.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Conventional wisdom cautions woodworkers to take the tension off band saw blades at the end of the day. I don't believe anyone actually does this, though tires and blades would last longer if we did. The Bridgewood, Delta, Grizzly, and Powermatic come with a quick-release tension lever. Delta and Bridgewood worked best because I could relieve enough blade tension to change the blade without making any further adjustments. It was still necessary to fiddle with the blade tension knobs when changing blades on the Grizzly and Powermatic saws.

Ridgid, Jet, and Laguna lack a tension lever and employ a blade-tension knob. All were easy to use and the lack of a quick release was not a problem.