Bandwheels and Blade Wear

A spirited discussion on blade life in bandsaw mills, including tips on sharpening schedules. June 28, 2005

I saw some marketing material from Cooks Saw recently, and read there that bandwheels with belt inserts on the crown aren't very "true" and tend to cause premature wear on bandsaw blades. I'm not sure whether to believe this or not.

They said that their bandwheels are machined as a solid unit,including bandwheel, mount, and bushing, and that because of this they get very close tolerances. This in turn keeps bands from vibrating and wiggling on the wheel and that this makes them last longer. I don't know whether to believe this or not. I haven't been sawing long enough to know whether that's true or not. Does anybody have any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
I'm not a machinist, and I haven't done any side by side comparisons of belted vs. steel wheels, but my Timber Harvester, which is the saw Cooks more or less copied for theirs, runs v-belts on the wheels. I use Simonds Red Streak, and often have to discard the blade before it breaks due to the fact that it has been re-sharpened so much it gets too narrow to fit in my setter.

From the original questioner:
I have a TH too, and I swear they are almost identical. How long do you keep your band on before you pull it off to sharpen? I've been having trouble with blade life. I think they should last longer, but they don't. I definitely don't get as much life out of them as you seem to, and I'd like to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

From contributor B:
How long I leave a blade on depends entirely on what the logs I am sawing are like, but I average about two hours of use or approximately 500-600 board feet. I pull the blade when the engine starts to work hard when cutting or at the first sign of deviance. A de-barker makes a huge difference in prolonging blade cutting life.

The brand of blade you use also affects overall blade life. Simmonds Red Streak seem to last the longest for my uses, and I get at least a dozen sharpenings out of them. Munkforksagers cut great, but I only get 5-6 sharpenings from them.

I buy my Simmonds blades from Cook's and use their Cat Claw sharpener to pre-sharpen them fresh from the box and re-sharpen them when they get dull. I wouldn't say to not believe the Cook's literature, they are experts in their field. All I know is that blade life is a non-issue for me.
I'm a huge Timber Harvester supporter, but admit their manual leaves a little to be desired concerning blade leveling and tracking. If your blade is not parallel to the bed or if your guide rollers are rubbing on the back of the blade, blade life will be affected.

From contributor J:
To the original questioner: The Cooks are top notch. To call their knowledge suspect without ever talking to them personally is not fair. I had owned a Timberking for several years before I bought a Cook's Accutrac, and the only thing similar about these mills is that they are both red and have a 4-post head. Besides that, these mills are very different.

As far as the band wheels they're advice is totally dead on. The difference just in mill vibration between a belt insert bandwheel and a balanced steel wheel is impressive itself. The bottom line is if you’re not having problems with pre-mature blade breakage, than there's no need to make a change. My experience talking with other saw millers in my area with belt insert wheels is that they deal a lot with premature blade breakage.

Just take a dial indicator and see how far out of round your belt insert wheels are. A bandwheel that is .015 out of round or more can't be as good to a blade or the mill as a band that is within .005 of being perfect. There are not too many companies that are willing to provide the info that I have read in the Cook catalog.

From Contributor T:
As always I share with my friends many of my hard earned discoveries. Many of you know, but for those who don't know: I started sharpening blades in 1972 (33 years ago) I have hammered circle blades, been a sawyer on circle mills, benched and swaged wide bands, have been running test and experiments on thin kerf band since the late 1980's, and I have invented several methods that have improved bandsawing throughout the U.S.

I love nothing better than help my fellow sawmill brothers. I feel like we all have the same blood running through our veins. As many of you know I will give my hard earned knowledge to anyone and everyone. You will also note that when I write or tell you something that it is from my experience. I have helped thousands of sawmillers even though they have not purchased my products. I hold nothing back when helping my family of sawmill brothers.

Now as to bandwheels. In my writing I seek to share with you what reaches perfection, I will not tell that v-belt sheaves with v-belts on the rim will not work. I will tell you that on the same manufactured sawmill one person is happy and the next is not. When I investigate to find the cause, I always find that the person who is happy has wheels that are truer, and the one who is unhappy has more un-true wheels.

I sell 500 to 600 blades a day to owners of all the sawmill manufactured mills. I hear when there is a problem and I listen. My nature is to solve problems, and that I can do in every problem situation. Because I keep my mind open and listen closely. The solution that I found to solve the hit and miss bandwheel problems was to have steel wheels formed and then grinded true on a machine that I designed specifically for the purpose.

Also, I might add that 80% of the thin kerf industry uses steel bandwheels. Those who have true steel wheels don't break blades prematurely, and those who have un-true wheels eat blades. I will add that I have never seen a true v-belt sheave, and the only reason that it works is that the rubber or urathane acts as a shock absorber. Most v-belt sheaves are .015 out of round, and I have helped customers with v-belt sheaves that were out of round by .050 .

Again, for those of you who are happy with blade life on v-belt wheels, you received the luck of the draw and received more true wheels, and for those who are not happy, you received a bad luck draw. When we at Cook Saw build a sawmill, we remove the luck factor when it comes to bandwheels.

For those who would like to read my published article, you can go here

From contributor B:
To contributor J: I think you misread about the original questioner and my mill brand. We both own a Timber Harvester, which is indeed a very different mill than a Timber King, but shares many similarities to an Accutrac.

From contributor F:
I too have a Timber Harvester I have no problem with the belted wheels, and the solid wheels work very well also.