30 years ago my wife and I were in Sears buying a globe for a hanging lamp I had made. While there, I was drooling over the power tools. Craftsman isn’t my first choice for power tools these days, but almost everything I’ve ever bought from Sears was a good tool for the price. The Sears 12” band saw was on sale (of course) for $349. It seemed like a pretty good saw for a small home shop, but it was too expensive for a nice-to-have tool.
While we were checking out, the sales clerk asked if we wanted to enter the Manager’s Special contest. As my wife filled out the entry form (yes, they used paper back then), I told her “nobody ever wins those things.” Three days later, Sears called. I looked at my wife and yelled “I won!” We put the $250 prize toward that band saw. I still have the saw. It still works, even after serving a couple of years in a commercial capacity. When I closed my cabinet shop, I sold all but two of the power tools I owned. Nobody wanted to buy my lathe and I couldn’t bring myself to sell the saw my wife had won for me.
The only thing I don’t like about the Sears band saw is the limited resaw capability. For the non-woodworkers who are still reading, resawing is when you slice a thin strip off the face of a wide board. Don’t feel bad, Microsoft didn’t know it was a word either. If you want to see an example, here’s a great little video.
Still, resawing isn’t something a part-time woodworker does all that often, and band saws with a large resaw capability tend to be expensive, so 30 years later, I was still using that little Sears saw. That is until recently. Back in January, my daughter and I attended a woodworking show where I spied a Rikon 14” band saw on display (and on sale). The saw is designed with a 13” resaw capability. If you watch the video above, you will notice that the man has increased his resaw capacity by adding a ‘riser block’ to his band saw (the black portion). That isn’t an option on a Sears saw, and it’s a tricky operation at best. If the parts aren’t milled very precisely, the upper and lower wheels of the saw will not be in alignment. The fact that the Rikon saw was built for resawing was attractive.
My daughter was the mature adult at the show. I was all like: “It’s on sale, it’s on sale, it’s never going to be on sale again, we have to buy this now!” She suggested doing some research first. I’m not sure where that came from. My wife and I are horrible shoppers when we are together. My wife and I would have been carting that saw out of the show and leaving my car in the driveway for three more months of winter while it was still too cold to assemble the saw.
I didn’t buy the saw in January. I did do some research though, and most of what I found were good reviews. There are a few complaints out there, but positive reviews greatly outnumber bad ones. When my local WoodCraft store put the saw on sale this month, I snapped one up. The only problem I noticed was when they loaded the single 253 lb. box into my Jeep with a fork lift. I don’t own a fork lift.
I’m pretty good at one-man operations. Sometimes, I press my wife into service as a helper, but this wasn’t a job for her. This was a job for machinery, but my wife did help. About a year ago, she was scanning some online tool site and found a great deal on a power winch. I told her that I didn’t need a power winch but she bought it anyway. When she asked me how I got the band saw out of my Jeep, once again, I proudly exclaimed: “I used my winch!” (Video).
I figured that that was the hard part. The base is heavy; the cast iron table is heavy, so I thought I would be able to lift the bare saw onto the base. I thought wrong. The saw itself weighs about 175 lbs. and raising it onto the base is an awkward operation. Once again, the winch I didn’t want my wife to buy did the work. Combined with support from a Little Giant Ladder, I was able raise the saw and slide the base under it. In case you haven’t guessed, my wife is the one who decided that we should have one of those ladders.
The saw is barely operational and I’ve only made one test cut but I think I like it. Maybe after I gain some experience, I’ll write a proper review. Some of the complaints I had read were about the instruction manual. I found it pretty easy to follow, although it left out one small step that required removing something I had already installed. Not a big deal, but I never like marching over the same ground twice.