Well, because of the 20% off sale/war that was going on between the
two Borgs, I picked up one of Delta's Chinese 14" Bandsaws - in spite
of the generally bad press it has received here. I figured if it was
that bad, I would just rebox it and return it. $300 bucks doesn't buy
much these days - or does it? This will probably be the last shocking
review of the 2003 year - you won't believe how this unit worked out.
First of all, the shipping cartons were not smashed, crunched or
otherwise mutilated. Considering how the unit is packed, this is an
important point. Any mishandling would probably result in damage.
After unloading this thing from a pickup truck and moving it into the
shop on a hand truck - by myself - I can tell you this is one heavy
sucker. My scale said 262 pounds - you would be smart to get help
moving it. Of course, a big chuck of Chinese cast iron isn't worth
much these days unless it works.
Upon unpacking all the various bits and pieces and confirming that it
was all present and intact, I began the leisurely 2 hour job of
assembling the unit. Everything fit fine, no surprises, no drilling
out holes, no missing parts. Kerosene made short work of the minimal
amounts of goop on the machined parts.
When placing the saw itself onto the stand, I noticed that the lower
wheel had a lot of lateral runout. "Bummer", I thought, it IS a lemon
after all. So after a cursory alignment of the guides and blade
tracking, I powered up the unit and sure enough, it vibrated so bad
the table rattled against the 90d stop. My heart sunk into my shoes.
Keeping in mind that I don't like Chinese products, and generally try
to avoid them - it has gotten to the point that you just can't buy
much of anything these days without getting that damned Made in China
sticker on the box. I knew what to expect with this unit, so it was
not a surprise. But the castings, while a little rough, were not that
bad. The sheet metal, while a little sparse, does what it is supposed
to do. I was impressed to see that the blade covers were hinged, and
the bearing and guides were standard Delta parts. In fact, everything
about the unit is pretty standard. Even the huge MIC motor, which can
be wired to run on 120 or 240, is a standard baseplate and woodruff
keyed shaft design that could be replaced with ANY equivalent motor.
So, I thought, maybe I can massage this turd and make it work. My
demands for a bandsaw are not extreme - and the worst thing I might
want to do is cut down a few 10" oak logs.(!) Generally, though, most
of what I want to do is cut round tabletops and the odd bit of joinery
and specialty shaping. And for $300 bucks, I can afford to throw down
with a little post manufacturing tuning and modification.
So, with my trusty dial indicator in hand, I set about the task of
improving it's dismal performance. First, I removed the tires from
the wheels and checked lateral and radial runout. The top wheel was
pretty good at .003" radial and .004" lateral runout. The bottom
wheel, however, measured a pathetic .060" lateral and .003" radial.
It became clear where most of the vibration was coming from. So,
seeing as how Delta wouldn't get a replacement wheel here for a couple
of weeks, I decided to take matters into my own hands and true the
wheel the best I could. I caution the boys and girls in the audience
NOT to try this at home, unless very familiar with aluminum and how
easily it cracks. Slowly working around the wheel, with a dial
indicator, I trued the wheel until the runout was reduced to .006" and
decided to stop before reaching the point of diminishing returns.
Then I carefully removed any flashing from the wheels, cleaned and
replaced the tires. The poorly formed, red plastic tires that come
with this unit are bad - there is no denying this, but for a few bucks
you can replace them with better tires - I believe they are also
standard. Although they are supposed to be slightly crowned, I used a
cabinet scraper to smooth out the horrible lumps and improved their
smoothness. I then insured the motor and pulley alignment, and placed
an old dryer belt tensioning spring on the motor bracket to slightly
tension the belt. (Yea, I'm a packrat! So sue me.) Replaced the
blade, adjusted the guides, and powered up. Wow - what a difference!
I then tweaked the guide adjustment collars to eliminate play, cleaned
the bearings of excess oil, grease, and goop, and readjusted all the
guides/bearings again. I checked the tabletop for flatness and was
amazed to find that it was quite good. Diagonally left rear to right
front was .003". Right rear to left front was .006". Running my
fingers over the surface, I could tell there was a spot on the right
rear edge that the cutter had chattered when milled, and left a slight
hump on the very edge. Checking again just shy of this hump revealed
a measurement of .004" So I cut down the edge with a file and ended
up with a table flat within .003" The milling work on the table is a
little rough, primarily where the cutter head first engaged the table
and again where it began to clear. Most of this is insignificant to
woodworking - a little file work cleaned it up pretty well.
Now for the ultimate test! <g> I stood a (old, worn) nickel on it's
edge and powered up the saw, and low and behold - it remained
standing. It danced around slightly until up to speed, but overall,
I'm impressed that it performed this well. I grabbed an old 2x4 and
carved a sliver off the edge. There was a slight amount of lead
(skew) to the cut, as there is with most all bandsaws, but it seemed
minimal - adjusting the fence about 3/8" from front to rear of the
table seemed to take care of it. Now keep in mind that this is the
1/4" OEM blade that has very little hook. I don't know the exact
blade specs, because Delta doesn't provide any, but it appears to be
about 3-5d of tooth hook and small gullets - not a good choice for
resawing. I stood a 1x6 pine cutoff on edge and, after setting the
fence for thickness and approximate lead (I had an old MDF fence for a
router table that fit perfectly). I proceeded to shave off a 1/32"
slice of wood. The cut, although a little rough and wavy due to the
blade design, was fine. There was no burning and although the feed
rate was a little slow, IT WORKED! No problems with vibration or
guide distortion, either. Then I cut a 6" heart shape out of 7/16"
OSB, then of 3/4" MDF. Reduced a bunch of 2x4s and a 3" thick piece
of oak bar edging to firewood. No problems here either - just a nice
searing sound of steel cutting through wood.
Overall, it did a pretty good job, but I can tell that the motor is
somewhat underpowered. I feel I got my money's worth with this unit,
and although I may replace the motor and tires, and install a riser
before investing in any good blades, I am impressed with it's
performance. I will expect Delta to replace the lower wheel, however.
Overall impressions are:
I love the tension arm - although there is a bit of play in the
mechanism when released. When tensioned, it is OK and the blade
tracks properly in the center of the wheels - every time. I had no
problems with this at all.
The table flatness surprised me. The finish table didn't.
The table trunions are cast iron, but could have probably used more
fasteners to the frame (there are only two). This is a primary source
of the remaining minimal vibration. The angle adjustment 'slides'
need to be deburred and the paint cleaned off to insure smooth
adjustment. The table's 90d stop should have the head ground smooth
(to remove the lettering) and possibly covered with a thin resilient
material. (Thin tape?) A slight sound is emitted here.
The frame paint is complete, and the sheet metal paint is great.
The castings are a little rough, but not in any way that matters.
There is a small void or two in some items, like the tension arm stud.
The 4" dust collection fitting is a Godsend! It is actually cast into
the frame, so there are no crappy plastic pieces to break off. It
points perpendicular to the wheels, away from the operator, so it
shouldn't take up shop space. If only it had a tire brush... ;-)
The motor is underpowered, but could be replaced by a standard motor.
It CAN be re-wired for 240v if desired - just don't forget to change
the plug. I have my eye on a surplus 2HP 240v motor, however...
All the mechanism bearings are standard parts, and all of Delta's
various attachments and accessories should fit fine. This was a major
selling point for me - being able to get a shaft bearing from the
local auto parts store 5 years from now is a paramount concern.
The power switch is mounted straight and securely, as are the decals.
The power switch is a little stiff hard to activate, however. It may
free up with use - or I may R&R it for some ajustin'.
The blade tensioning guide is probably not all that accurate, but I go
by sound anyway so it doesn't matter.
The included blade seems rather ordinary, at best - no big deal.
The wheel tires DO suck - but can be upgraded.
So, it's off to Highland Hardware for a Wood Slicer blade, a bag of
zero clearance inserts, a 28-984 riser kit, and a set of cool blocks.
Any other suggestions from the peanut gallery?