As some readers may be aware, I have a couple of Hitachi bandsaws, one being the li'l one, the CB75, and the other the big brother, the CB100FA. I've been very happy with these two machines over the years and intend to stick with them long term.
Recently I have made a key improvement to the smaller bandsaw in the area of dust collection. The machine does have a dust port on one side, but whatever it fails to collect has simply dropped through the machine's insides to fall out a rectangular hole on the bottom of the machine. Over time, a mini-pyramid of dust forms, and I have found it is a little awkward to clean up with any ease or speed. Usually I have to drag the saw out of the way to get at it all.
Last year, I bartered some antique Japanese carved ranma I had kicking around to the local sheet metal guy, and he fabricated a couple of items for me, one being an item for the milling machine, and the other a dust collector box for the bottom of the CB75 saw:
It fastens to the bottom of the machine with a few sheet metal screws, and in order to connect to the dust collection piping, an extra lateral was required from Air Handling down in CT, along with a short length of hose:
The fabricator added, thoughtfully, a little hinged hatch so as to be able to remove any wood slices or chunks that happen to fall through:
As for the larger bandsaw, I have been finding the blade situation a bit of a struggle of late. I have had one Hitachi factory blade, which came with the machine, however when dull the only recourse I have had for getting it sharpened on the entire eastern seaboard is a place up in Maine, and they only do a so-so job. A couple of years back I bought a couple of Skarpaz blades from the west coast, which cost about half of what the stock blade costs, and work decently except they have a much wider Stellite tooth size, which makes for a wider kerf, which sucks. And, the sharpening place in Maine doesn't do any better of a job with those blades. I asked Skarpaz about doing blades with narrower teeth, and that seemed to be something outside their wheelhouse.
A few months ago I ponied up the $400 it takes to buy a second Hitachi factory blade, but for some reason the one I got just wasn't as good as the original, and seemed to dull prematurely. I was unimpressed, especially given the cost.
A few months back a reader contacted me to discuss re-saws in general, and mentioned that they had found a supplier of bandsaw blades for re-saws in Romania of all places, an outfit called Metamob. They're sorta new on the scene, I guess, having been in business since 1994 - which is longer than I have!
A while afterwards, I contacted the company, and dealt with a fellow named Czeles, who has impeccable English. A very impressive company, all in all. They offer several different qualities and types of blades, both regular and tipped. After I selected the top of the line 'MetaPrecision' blade type, they asked me a heap of questions about my machine and work (size of wheels, profile shape of wheel surface, rpm of machine, pitch, type of materials I sawed, etc.). In the end I selected 4 blades, two configured for softwoods, and 2 configured for hardwoods. I hadn't planned to buy 4 blades at the outset, but the shipping for one blade was quite expensive at more than 300€, and shipping 4 blades cost essentially the same so it seemed the better choice.
The stock Hitachi blade produces a 1.6mm (0.0629" (about 1/16") kerf, however Metamob were able to offer even thinner-toothed blades. I went with three blades with 1.5mm kerf (0.0590") and, experimentally, one blade with the narrowest tooth they could put on the 0.8mm saw band, at 1.3mm (0.0511").
The package of 4 blades arrived just the other day:
They were in good shape, however the packaging, in just a single layer cardboard box, was insufficient I thought.
The outside one in the bundle was the 1.3mm tipped MetaPrecision:
The 0.8mm saw band is made in Germany, and is the same one Skarpaz uses.
I did one last cut of some Burmese teak for a 3rd project currently in swing, and then opened up the CB100FA:
A thorough cleaning followed, and then the new blade installed without hiccup, or hiccough if you prefer. The machine has two gauges, one for positioning in and out:
The other is for blade tension:
All looked good after a test run, so time to see how the blade cuts:
That's a thin kerf:
And the finish was excellent - the only mark came from leaving it parked in the cut while I took the preceding two photos:
Works for me. We'll see how it does over time.
I still have a dilemma as far as bandsaw blades go. I cannot bother shipping the blades to Maine any more, as it costs $125 in shipping and the results have not been good enough. I could ship to Metamob, where I am confident they would do an excellent job, but international shipping costs make that a prohibitive option.
Seriously, without a solution I have to consider these blades as disposable, which is a little hard to stomach given their cost. I can't store dull blades indefinitely, they take up a lot of space. The Metamob product is about half the cost of the Hitachi, and seems excellent so far, so maybe I'll just have to order them in sets of 4 or more once every great while, and toss them when they get dull. It's a tooling cost, plain and simple.
Still, I have started thinking about whether it would be feasible to obtain a decent blade sharpening set up for tipped bandsaw blades. Definitely open to suggestions from readers.