Choosing and maintaining bandmill blades

Selecting and sharpening blades for a beginner. March 21, 2002

I am going to be cutting poplar, oak and cherry mostly and am wondering if I should use different pitched blades. I was looking at 7/8" and 1" - does it really matter? What do you use to sharpen your blades? Both the automatic and manual sharpeners are pretty expensive. Can you use a file of some sort?

Forum Responses
Don't use 1" for oak and cherry, but it is great with poplar. 7/8 is a great all-round blade. It works on just about anything. 3/4 isn't good on poplar, but great in oak. I would go 7/8 and stick with that. Years ago I tried filing. That was a joke. A blade is a very intricate tool that has to perform properly. Manually filing is okay for a chainsaw, but not a blade.

From the original questioner:
I don't plan on cutting much because I'm in college and the farm work comes first. My mill is going to be a Timberking 1220, so maybe tops 1,000 board feet a month if I'm lucky. I hope to build a house with it eventually. I think I'll get a box of 7/8" and a box of 1" because I'll probably cut more poplar than anything, so a little speed may help.

You can make a good blade sharpener from a 6" grinder, grinding wheel, and some scrap iron. I got these plans from Suffolk Machine. You will also need a diamond wheel dresser. I built my sharpener when I got my mill in 94 and have sharpened bands with it until there's nothing left to sharpen. In the last year or so I have been dressing the grinding wheel so I end up with a little hook on the teeth and they will out-cut any brand new band. You also can build a setter and all you need for that is a dial indicator. I think everybody needs their own sharpener and setter even if somebody else is sharpening their bands, just so they can alter the tooth angle and set so they can cut that frozen white oak that has been laying around for three years.

Here is the homemade setter. I hate setting bands, so they only get set every 2 or 3 sharpenings unless they are cutting bad or I hit a nail.

If you are only going to saw some of each, get 7/8, 10 degree bands. You will be able to saw just about anything and it will make your life simple. If time is really tight, buy 2 boxes and when 10 are dull send them to Wood-Mizer Re-sharp. It only costs about $8.00 a blade for sharpening and shipping and will save you lots of time and cussing.

Wood-Mizer may have a good re-sharp program, but don't expect them to sharpen blades you bought from someone else. Timberking has a sharpening service too.

The re-sharp program may be convenient for someone who wants to package boxes and worry about UPS. Either sharpen your own or have someone local do it.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I used a cheap 8" compound miter saw to build a blade sharpener. Just put a 1/8 metal cutting type blade on and set the compound angle, put the band teeth up with roller stands for support. Sit in the middle and touch each tooth until sharp. You could make a profile guide later and make a very professional job of your blades.