...Did anyone else see the article in the August Popular Woodworking
"Make Drift a Myth"? Basically, he says to get a high-tension spring
and crank up the tension, set ball-bearing guides tight to the blade,
clamp your fence tight and square to the table, and use a
bearing/featherboard to keep your workpiece tight against the fence.
Then "you'll make band saw drift a myth in your shop, too".
Is this realistic for most saws, or did he just get lucky results with
his? (14" w/riser, looks like Delta, $10.99 4 tpi skip blade from
Better band saws will allow higher tensioning of the blade. Laguna advises
to tighten the blade, "tight enough". As many of the band saws became
cheaper to buy and there are a lot of light weight Craftsman's out there,
they became lighter weight and most likely the strength went the same route
as the pricing. I have a new Laguna and pretty much go by the tension gauge
on the saw. Common practice is preached to not rely on that gauge. With my
saw however I have no drift problems regardless of the gauge setting so I go
with what the gauge recommends.
Blade drift is typically caused by tooth set on a blade and or the direction
that the blade naturally wants to turn to when tensioned up. On lighter
weight and less rigid saws there can be "give/flex" in the saw when the
tension is cranked up. If the saw flexes ever so slightly it stands to
reason that the relationship between the top and bottom wheels will change
as far as their coplanar differences are concerned. This deviation will
probably cause a blade to not track perfectly and add to a drift problem.
So saw manufacturers add the ability to change the tilt on the top wheel to
compensate for this. Again, on my Laguna I seldom have to adjust top wheel
tilt on blades ranging anywhere between a 1/4" and 1" in size.
IMHO the low tension blades are an attempt to combat the problem of machine
Laguna uses 10 contact point upper and lower ceramic guides and indicate
that It is OK to have the guides touch the blade if you need that extra
precision. Something to consider on ball bearing guides is that if do run
them up against the blade the saw will become noisier and vibration may
increase as more things begin to move and spin. Keep in mind also that if
you are cutting green wood that the wood dust is going to be more likely to
stick to the blade. When the dust rides back around on the blade through
the bearings you get more noise and a banging sound as the bearings press
the dust harder onto the blade ultimately causing the blade get dirty faster
and harder to clean. With ceramic guides a scraping action is created when
the guides are against the blades and the blades tend to stay very clean
with little to no build up and naturally there is less noise with no moving
Laguna does suggest how to deal with drift when using the fence but again on
my Laguna that is not a real touchy adjustment. My fence may vary as much a
1 or 2 degrees from the parallel with the blade and show no apparent signs
of blade drift.
As you asked, Is it realistic for most saws to be tuned this way? Maybe.
If you have a strong good quality BS probably so, try it and see. If you
have a relatively later generation Craftsman BS like I had or one that is
similar in build quality and strength, NO.
I've not tried to replicate the experiement yet. Need to stop by ace
and pick up the long gate closer and a bearing. I have also considered
some stiff feather boards put up tight and trying a piece of 4" red oak
with a straight fence.
I'd be wary of cranking the tension too high.
My personal exprience (accidental) was that I cranked up the tension on my
Rigid saw too high, and actually caused the rubber on the wheels to stretch
and come off the tires. (its possible that the blade wasn't centered at the
I had to replace both rubbers on the wheels, and once having set the tension
properly, and PROPERLY adjusting my Kreg fence to compensate, I don't have
any problems with drift. I resaw all sorts of Maple/Oak/Mahogany without
A thread on tension several years ago recounted the magazine editor
that was replaced after he touted super tension and repair shops were
flooded with bearing replacement jobs. I switched from Highland
Hardware Woodslicer to Suffolk Machinery about that time and haven't
looked any further.
Sounds to me that you're forcing the work through a blade that will heat and
wear quickly with the guides tight and the cutting angle forced...
IMHO, if the saw is set up properly, there is no need to force alignment of the
fence, etc. and adding more tension to the blade than the saw maker anticipated
would seem to me to be a bad idea.. sort of like putting a motor with more HP on
a table saw so you can plow through wood whether the fence is aligned or not..
I keep hearing about how much trouble people have with drift. I first
started making veneer using a 21" Sawzall at work. This was with a metal
cutting blade, but no worries. I bought a Delta for the house, tried the
same setup. Ruined several nice pieces of koa using the blade that came
with the saw. I switched to a 3 TPI woodworking blade, adjusted all the
rollers and blocks, did some quick experimentation with tension and now my
home saw cuts like a laser. I don't know if I'm just stupid-lucky or what,
but I think the right blade goes a LONG way in getting drift problms sorted
I emphatically agree. I was getting mediocre resawing performance from
my Ridgid 14" with a riser block until I got a Timberwolf 1/2" 3 TPI
skip-tooth blade ($33 at Woodcraft) and now the saw does beautiful
resawing without drift, and cuts thru maple, walnut, bubinga, etc almost
like it was butter.
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