Shopping for a Bandsaw

      The perennial question: an economical import, or some second-hand American-made iron? April 13, 2010

I might be in the market for a new bandsaw. I have a 14'' Grizzly that all of a sudden has lost its power and is slow to wind up to full speed when it is turned on. I might put a new motor on it because it's really big enough for what we do. But I'd kind of like to have a 17 or 19 inch one with a 2 hp motor. If I go that route, I am looking at the Shop Fox version because I can get it local, which means no freight, or maybe a Grizzly. I have several Shop Fox and Grizzly tools and have been well satisfied with both. Are there any other brands out there that I should consider that are in the same price range, which is around a thousand dollars?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
It's hard to beat the 17" -18" Grizzly bandsaws that are around $1000. They may be the best tool Grizzly sells for the money. Jet costs a lot more and doesn't appear to be as good.

From contributor D:
Mini-Max makes great bandsaws. We love them and they are reasonably priced.

You say you have other Grizzly tools... I was wondering about their 36'' wide belt sanders - do you have one? How do you like it?

From contributor O:
Sounds like your drive belt could be slipping. That would cause a slow start and loss of power under load as well. Check to see if it is tight first before replacing the motor.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for mentioning that - I hadn't thought of it. I'll check it out.

I don't have that widebelt. I recently bought a 26'' Shop Fox drum sander, and love it. I have two Grizzly shapers and a 6x80 edge sander, and this bandsaw. I am very well pleased with Grizzly tools.

From contributor A:
14" bandsaws are a complete waste of money in my opinion. Everyone I've ever seen, regardless of brand, has had an add-on riser block. That costs money. The new sized blades cost money. At the end of the day now you have an underpowered 14" saw not capable of resawing 10" because its motor is half the size necessary. By the time people spend the time and money, they might as well buy a 17" or 18" off the shelf.

From contributor J:
I can't imagine ever spending full price on any of those Asian imports when for the same money I could buy something like a used Delta 20" bandsaw, and have a machine with some capability. Of course there are plenty of better machines out there, though likely slightly more expensive. If you can really get by with a 14", I'd still look for a used older Delta or Powermatic. But that's just me.

From the original questioner:
I understand your way of thinking. I have been keeping my eye open on the Machinery Gram from WOODWEB. Thing is, I bought a new Powermatic 3520B lathe a couple of years ago. Made in the good old USA, not far from here in LeGrange, TN. Paid about 3 thousand for it. I'm very happy with the machine but every single box of it had Taiwan stamped on it. Turns out it was just assembled here. Kinda like DeWalt tools are supposed to be made in Pennsylvania, but every piece is made in Mexico. I would try to buy American if American was American. But I do understand your way of thinking and agree with it.

From contributor A:
The 20" Deltas are just under $2k used. Maybe you could pick up a contributor J special for $1k and it's 3 phase, has worn out tires, the blade guides need replacing, and it's begging for a paint job. It was made in 1989 in the USA but you don't really need a 20". Plus you've got to ship it or pick it up for $200.

I'm all for buying good old American cast iron; however, it's a hell of a lot easier to buy a brand new Grizzly. It's also a big improvement over the old 14". You've got to get a fantastic deal like $500 on a 20" to make it worth it in my mind.

From contributor J:
Are you saying a new 17" Grizzly will be a huge improvement over his old 14" Grizzly? Or a new 19" Grizzly? If it's the latter, why would a 20" be too big whereas a 19" would be a huge improvement? And if it's the former I'm not so sure going from 14" - 17" would be all that huge of an upgrade. Not sure exactly what you're trying to say.

My 2002 Delta Bandsaw which still had the packing grease on the table when I bought it in 2005 cost me $875. I plugged it in and haven't spent a dime since, except for new blades. Average price for a used American made version is under $1k, throughout the lower 48 anyway.

I also didn't bring up the old "buy American" issue. My Delta is not American made, it's made in Taiwan. As is my Powermatic line boring machine and drum sander (which I recently sold). Neither of which have significant quality differences from my American made Powermatic shaper. It's not so much where it's from, it's that you get what you pay for. The inexpensive Asian imports are inexpensive for a reason. I've bought several machines that fit this category over the last decade and regretted every one of them. The more expensive versions (like some Powermatic stuff) might not be the best on the market, but can still be very respectable machines.

I know used equipment isn't for everyone, and of course it depends on what type of machine you're buying. But for your basic woodworking equipment, I can buy much more machine than I could ever afford new.

A couple points I'd make:

1) This is a professional forum for guys who make a living with their equipment. Therefore equipment gets a lot of use, and maintaining equipment (like replacing bandsaw tires and/or guides if needed) is a part of the job.

2) Because our equipment gets a lot of use, lighter duty machines will wear out faster, thereby generating more downtime and less productivity. Heavier duty machines run longer and thereby produce more... Better return on investment.

3) Many of us will upgrade our machinery over time as we grow our businesses. I can turn around and recover most (if not all or more) of my total investment from every used piece of equipment in my shop. The few pieces of new equipment I've purchased lost 50% of their value within several years.

Like I said, used may not be for everyone, but there's more to consider than what it costs up front, and where it came from. The fact that the questioner may replace a Grizzly 14" (which may still be repairable?) with another Grizzly or Shop Fox, makes me think they're really just disposable machines?

From contributor V:
I agree with contributor J on his comparison of contemporary Asian and older, generally US made machinery. Contemporary Asian is marketed to the expanding hobby shop/beginning pro. The ads even mention things like "What the Pros Use!" Therefore, many of the buyers/users have not used real mill equipment and have no yardstick to measure the difference in quality. If it cuts wood, how different can it be?

The difference is long term use, parts and electrical parts. Powermatic can skirt some problems since their quality control is directly under their supervision, and they are using good US made electrical components. Other firms do this with varying degrees of success. Some Asian companies fail at parts, while some US excel at this.

Older US or German or Italian equipment - say form the late 60's to the early 90's - is very durable and parts are easy to get (stock type bearings, belts, guides and electrical components). This type of equipment is going for unbelievably low prices at auctions all over the US.

Even if you buy it and have to change bearings and a few other things, you end up with a real machine that will last forever and actually hold its (used) value. No Asian will do that.

Look at Ex-factory for price ranges, and then go to Industrial Recovery - IRS - to see what is coming up. Both companies are reputable and are sponsors of WOODWEB's machinery page.

My personal standard for equipment is that you receive it, set it up, and then put it into daily service. It should then be like your electrical or internet service - always there, always ready, with no fiddling or fussing. The machines need to work for us, not the other way around.

From contributor W:
After you check the belt, take the cover off the back cap of the motor (usually held in place by 2 or 3 screws from the side). There should be a centrifugal switch under that cover. Blow it out real well and make sure no dust is trapped under any of the contact points.

From contributor X:
Saving time means saving money. For my purposes, I use a 24 inch whose throat opens to the left. Standing next to it is a 36 inch whose throat opens to the right. Both band saws are old. I found my cuttings easier and faster when I used both, thus saving me time and helping eliminate mistakes. I also have a 12 inch in a different part of the shop, thus saving me a distance to walk.

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