Wednesday 11 July 2018
Any 'proper' workshop setup needs a big bandsaw to cope with all kinds of requirements: deep cutting, tenoning, shaped work, etc. The stumbling block often isn't space as bandsaws use quite a small footprint – but cost. So the Warco range and in particular the 16in model I tried out here, are very attractive in terms of cost and quality and well worth considering. The throat depth in particular really helps if you need to cut awkward curved shapes and avoid strategies like turning the workpiece over to avoid throat depth limitations. Equally, cutting deep timber with no less than 250mm under guides is excellent for any purpose although you may need outfeed support with such heavy loads.
Assembly of this machine doesn't take all that long, it's just common sense that is needed. The cast iron table isn't too heavy and once bolted in place, setting it perpendicular to the blade just involves adjusting the bolt that acts as a zeroing stop underneath. The fence runs on an extrusion at the front, which also acts as a table clamp to keep the split casting level across the blade slot.
Inside the casing there are decent sized bandwheels with a slightly cambered rubber covering. They appeared to be 'co-planer' – that is level with each other; there isn't any means of adjusting this and none was necessary. The upper wheel can be tilted and is moved upwards to tension the blade, the tension indicator wasn't accurate but to be honest, they rarely are. Instead tighten the blade until you get a slight 'strumming' musical note when the blade is flicked. The machine comes with a 25mm wide skip-tooth blade but you will want to acquire a selection of blades to suit different jobs. One handy feature of this bandsaw is a de-tensioning lever so the blade and wheels can be left to rest until the next job. The doors are safety micro-switched, but thankfully, there is no full-time electronic brake, so you can still track the blade by hand to get it centred on the wheels before switching on.
Extraction-wise there are two ports and both ports should be used for good dust removal as bandsaw cases are notorious for blocking up with compacted dust. The lower case, which will be the one to clog up, also has the drive belt, pulleys and tensioner with a two-speed option.
Getting a bandsaw up and running sweetly is one of the things I really enjoy doing. The Warco has bearings for both side and thrust. Once the blade is tensioned and tracked, the guides can all be shuffled in gently to make sure the blade isn't pushed to one side and then a slight gap left in front of the thrust bearings. A test run then shows the bearings running behind the tooth line and also whether any bearings are spinning with no-load applied. These can then be drawn back until they cease to spin and the machine is running quietly.
With a tough, rigid folded steel case there is no vibration or flexing; the machine has plenty of power and a good smooth, flat table with easy tilting. The fence is easy to use and rigid but the scales are inaccurate – just ignore them. The mitre protractor is handy for crosscutting or tenon shoulders. All in all, this is a very easy machine to use with plenty of years of service ahead of it.