Band Saw Blade Life in Hardwood

Thoughts on sharpening, lubrication, alignment, blade quality, and other factors that affect how long a bandmill blade will stay sharp in heavy use. February 24, 2008

I have a Timberking 1220 mill and am a satisfied Timberking owner. However, when milling white oak, I have had very poor band life. Some bands will only last through one log and part of another (new bands). They cut everything else fine and if I stick to softer woods like cherry, maple, elm, ash, etc, I can cut a whole day with one band. But with white oak they just don't last. Are there better bands on the market which will last longer than those sold by Timberking? They saw ferrous metals with bandsaws in industrial purposes, so someone else must be selling a better band. Advice anyone?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Please tell us what you mean when you say that they do not last... dulling, wandering, breakage?

From the original questioner:
They get dull, start to wander, and then just will not cut. I have had one start to go off at a sharp angle. I will then back off the cut and try a new cut and it just gets hot, and won't cut. I use dish soap and water as a lubricant. I usually have it at a steady drip. With pine and spruce logs I have used Pinesol and water. I have only had problems with swamp white oak as far as poor band life. I have never broken a band. The swamp white oak I was cutting were clean logs, debarked, from the center of woods, blown down in a storm and sat for a year before I skidded them out. They have no foreign materials in them. I was cutting 1x10's and 12's which were clear or had 1 or 2 tight knots in 2 of the logs. I have 4 more logs from the same clump of similar quality and intend on cutting them up because they are very nice for my woods, but was hoping to find bands which would last longer.

From contributor R:
I upgraded to a TK B-20 a little over a year ago. You may have an alignment problem and it only shows up in hardwood. Two hours is a good run life for a blade in hardwood, and can drop to one depending on how your blades are resharpened. My machine from the factory was a miss-alignment mess. It was so bad my blades were cracking on the back side and breaking. Great machine now and cuts hardwood great. I will send you a contact number and will be glad to explain how I align mills. Usually if you go back to the basics you will find your problem. Are your blades new or resharpened? I have about 40 TK blades and if my mill is set up properly, I have no problems.

From contributor K:
I have been running new TK blades. I have not had a problem with cracking or breakage. When sawing softwood, such as cedar, birch, or even soft maple, I have had blades last the better part of a day. When sawing elm, ash, red or black oak, they last probably a half day, usually more than 2 or 3 hours. With the white oak I was sawing, it took probably an hour to cut the one log up and slab the next. I would be more than happy to get additional info on mill setup. The motor/belt pulley alignment was not correct on mine from the factory but I got that set right and have not had problems with that since then. The bearings for the rollers were not greased either and I spun one and had another freeze up. A replacement and greasing did wonders. This was all in the first 5 or 10 times of running the mill. I would appreciate additional info on setup for the mill. I have cut ash logs up to 28" in diameter on the mill and black oak ones about the same.

From contributor S:
Are you running enough water so the blades aren't gumming up? That would make them cut bad in a hurry.

From contributor O:
Unfortunately, some woods are a real stretch for thin kerf bandmills. White oak is one of them in my opinion. I've had the same problem as you with extremely hard woods like white oak and hickory, and have had better success with Timberwolf blades... I use a wider and heavier kerf blade when sawing dense wood, and they seem to stay sharp longer. I'd say if you have no problems cutting other species, you don't have a mill problem. Call Suffolk Machinery, and they'll guide you to the right set, width, and tooth profile for the wood you want to saw. If that doesn't help, then I guess you'll just have to chalk this up as one of the limitations of thin kerf sawing.

From contributor M:
I have had similar problems with TK blades as well on the B-20. Not an alignment problem here as I already eliminated that possibility. I am still trying other brands. Cook's Supersharp have been inconsistent. Some seem to last forever, even through seasoned beech and hickory, while others have broken while not even in wood. Not sure what to make of that. I haven't called Cook's back yet. They looked to have been kinked. Anyway, next are WM and Simonds. Keep me posted if you find a brand that works well for you.

From contributor L:
I use Cook's Supersharp and am really pleased with the performance and long life. Great people to do business with also.

From contributor O:
Thanks for the input. I think I am going to order some Cook's blades and see how they work.

From contributor R:
When changing brands of blades, be sure to check your mill for proper blade tracking, especially the heavier blades from Timber Wolf (Suffolk Machinery). It's a real pain in the back side to keep adjusting the tracking from one type of blade to another.

As for Cooks, I sent 12 blades one time to be resharpened and when they returned they had a burr rolled out of the gullet almost as wide as the tooth set. I ran a lot of Lennox blades on my previous mill and they also did fine. I try never to run my blades over two hours, or when I hear the engine start pulling hard, I change them. You may also check your v belts on the band wheels. The set that came on my mill lasted about 110 hours and I started getting all sorts of cutting problems and was blaming my blades. I put a set of Gates v belts on it and they lasted about 15 hours. I found a super belt made in Germany and the name brand is Jason Industrial Inc.

Contributor S has a good point. I have even had oak gum up and I cut mostly pine that has the sap running out both ends of the log.

From contributor T:
I too run a Timberking 1220 and have been through everything you are experiencing. I saw 7 days a week and when I'm really loaded with work, saw between 500 and 1,000 BF a day. That's a lot for a manual mill!

Timberking blades are too thin (.042) and not very good steel. I highly recommend you switch to Timberwolf's (Suffolk saw company) 13'9" x .045 x 3/4 pitch blades. I find it best to run them as the same tension marked for Timberking's blades. Timberwolf recommends you run much less tension, but I found this not to work.

I only run these blades and have about 40 in cycle right now, and they're on about their 5th sharpening and still run as good as new, if not better. I also recommend you stock up on guide bearings and always have about 10 on hand. Napa part # for them is 1621DCTN. These aren't the best bearings, but the only ones that fit the stock setup. The seals sometimes crack and sawdust gets in, so every time you're done sawing, spray them with WD40 so they don't seize up. Normally I can make bearings last up to 2 months if I take care of them.

Check on your mill on the tensioning handle and where the threaded rod goes through the metal plate and into the wheels sliding adjustment. Many mills were welded improperly and the rod wasn't centered through the hole, making it rub and eventually strip. TK is providing a kit to fix this, but I just fixed it myself.

From contributor S:
I have a B20 and used to go through guide bearings every couple of months until I drilled a small 1/8" hole right in the seal and grease them with a needle nose grease gun at the end of the day. I've been running the same bearings for over 3 years now, around 3000 hours. If you do that, turn the bearing around as you grease.

From contributor B:
Ive not seen anyone mention tooth hook angle. Softwoods can use a hook angle of up to 13 degrees. But less of an angle works better in hardwood. We saw a lot of oak much of it already dry - and we are using the Wood-Mizer DoubleHard with 9 degree hook angle. They also make one with a 4 degree hook angle for extra hard and frozen woods. Weve been only sawing oak red and white for the last several days using new Wood-Mizer DoubleHard blades with 9 degree hook angle. By doing some backwards math, I figure were averaging over 1,000 bf before pulling the blade.

From contributor J:
When sawing hardwoods like white oak, ash, hickory, the 4 degree Wood-Mizer blades seem to work best. The 4 degree blade is especially good in aged (dried out) hardwoods. I don't expect to get more than 500 to 600 bd. ft. per blade when sawing dried out logs. Make sure you run some lubrication (I like water and Pine-sol). They also work well when sawing yellow pine with large knots. They don't seem to wave as much at the knot. Call Wood-Mizer - they will sometimes provide a tryout (promo) blade. The set should be about .023-.025 depending on blade width and thickness, also check the blade flatness. If it isn't flat, the sawblade will wander in the cut.