Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bandsaw Happenings

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.

All for this round - see you next time.


  1. Seems a thorny problem, Chris, I'll pay special attention to your solution in future posts. Keep up the great work. Cheers, Duane.

    1. Duane,

      thanks for the comment. I hope to arrive at a good solution to the issue, but even in the worst case scenario where dull blades get tossed, it is a tooling cost billable to a job and nothing more.

  2. Hi Chris.

    It seems odd that there are no sharpening services closer to you that could do a good job.

    A solution could be to get your own sharpening machine, but the eternal problem of high quality means a high price probably exists for that type of machine too. And beside having more machines for stuff like that takes up place and limits the time available for woodworking.

    I ended up buying an old Vollmer Cana E sharpening machine to use for my sawmill. It does a super great job compared to when I filed the blades myself. And being an engineer I enjoy the 100% mechanical machine.

    Hope that you find a solution.

    1. Chris,

      By the way,
      Thanks for providing the link to Metamob, now I have finally found a source for some new blades for my mulesaw. As far as I could make from the page, a brand new reciprocating sawblade for the mulesaw is something like 40$!
      I think that I'll try to order a new blade or two and see how they will work.

      I actually ended up buying an extra blade sharpening machine, because the Vollmer is kind of hard to adjust to a new blade. There is not possibility of running a "test cycle" by hand before starting the action, so I ended up breaking a grinding wheel once...
      The other machine is easier to test, so I use that one for sharpening my dads circular blade for the firewood saw once per year, and I also have a friend who gets a blade sharpened once every year or so.
      It is not big business, but the machine was only like 275$, so in 10 years time or so it might have earned its cost.

      A great thing about a dedicated machine set up for your own blades (like my Vollmer for the large circular sawmill) is that all the settings are exactly as when you removed the blade from the machine, so there is zero set up time. Just mount the blade in the machine and flip the start button.
      Earlier on - I once in a while waited a bit longer than I should before sharpening, but now I can get it done in like 15 minutes from stopping the saw till I am back in business.
      But if you have to adjust the machine to sharpen other peoples blades all the time, your own "turnover speed" will be greatly prolonged.


  3. Jonas,

    i was equally surprised by the paucity of sharpening outfits here who could handle 4" wide bandsaw blades. On the west coast (BC, I mean) there is generally more 'sawmilling' going on, so finding places to sharpen large blades is no problem. shipping blades across the country however is going to be too expensive I think, especially if there is a border involved.

    And I have also realized the space issue with a bandsaw blade sharpening machine. It have concluded it would have to reside in the basement of my house in fact. I haven't had time to even start looking into that though, having devoted energy of late to acquiring, ah, a different machine. More on that in a post to come sometime down the road. Those Vollmer sharpening machines are pretty sweet - lucky you!

  4. Just gotta say, I love the unambiguous markings on those gauges.


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