The Best Way to Set Up a Bandsaw!
Video - July 6, 2017
Back in 2007, I posted a video on Bandsaw Setup. The method I demonstrated was one I learned from other woodworkers as well as numerous books and manuals. While the method works perfectly, it overcomplicates things and employs a couple of unnecessary steps, namely achieving coplanarity of the wheels and eliminating drift. Four years later, I became aware of a video from The Woodworking Shows featuring Alex Snodgrass and his simpler (and nearly foolproof) method for bandsaw tuneup. I have since become friendly with Alex and asked him if he’d be willing to come out to my shop to film his setup method. He agreed and here we are! I can say without a doubt that this is the BEST way to set up a bandsaw.
Install the blade and apply just enough tension to keep the blade securely on the wheels. Use the tracking adjustment while turning the wheel by hand to line up the deepest part of the gullet with the center of the top wheel.
You can usually ignore the tenon meter on most bandsaws as they are notoriously inaccurate. Instead, tension the blade until your finger is only able to deflect the blade by about 1/4″. This test should be done at the back of the saw where nothing can get in the way of the blade. The amount of pressure you apply to the blade shouldn’t result in turning your finger white. If that happens, you’re pushing too hard. After the tension is set, make sure the blade is still tracking properly with the gullet in the center of the top wheel.
The front of the side guides should be located about 1/16″ back from the deepest part of the blade gullets. You don’t want the side guides to contact the cutting teeth of the blade since the teeth flare out at a slight angle. This adjustment is made to both the top and bottom guides.
Adjust the thrust bearings carefully so that they do NOT rotate while the blade moves, but they DO begin to rotate as soon as light pressure is applied to the blade. Spend the necessary time to get this adjustment just right. Of course you’ll do this adjustment to both the top and bottom guides.
Just like the thrust bearing adjustment, the side guides should be as close to the blade as possible without actually touching. So when the blade moves the bearings should be stationary. When a slight amount of pressure is applied to the blade as its moving, the bearings should spin.
Using a 2×4 or 2×6, make a partial cut into the face of the board. Turn the saw off, flip the board around and try to get the blade to slide into the cut slot. If it slides in easily and without resistance, we know the table is 90 degrees to the blade. If it doesn’t slide in, make adjustments to the table and cut/test again. The wider the board is, the more accurate this test will be.
The fence can be aligned parallel with the body of the blade using nothing more than a ruler. Be sure the ruler is resting on the body of the blade between the teeth. With a long enough ruler you can easily align the fence by eye. Alex shows us the F.A.S.T system which is a simple and convenient way to do this same task.
Since the overall goal of this setup process is to prepare for resawing, a good test is to slice off a thin veneer from a jointed and planed board. In our first test cut we were able to slice off a piece that was .016″ or just over 1/64″. This is way thinner than anything I’d ever need but it’s pretty cool to see that the saw is capable of making such a delicate cut.