Opinion: Budget resaw - Get a 1 HP 14 inch saw

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Blog entry by Richard posted 10-13-2020 12:12 AM 562 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

If you want to resaw, spend $400 and get a 1 HP saw. Resist the temptation to “save” $115 by “trying” a 1/3 HP saw. (Prices in effect Oct 2020)

Resawing is the cutting of boards into even thinner boards, or at the limits into cuts thin enough to use for veneers. If you’re looking to start resawing, you’re going to need a band saw, and if your budget is tight, you don’t have a lot of options. I’ve tried two inexpensive floorstanding saws: a 10 inch Wen saw (3962; $285 at Lowes) with a steel frame, a 1/3 HP motor and 6 inch resaw capacity, and a 14 inch Central Machinery (CM) saw ($400 at Harbor Freight) with cast iron frame, a 1 HP motor and 6 inch resaw capacity. (My CM saw is a 2003 model I bought used.) The next lowest cost option today is the Porter-Cable (PCB330BS, $549 at Lowes) which is substantially the same as the CM saw. If your budget is tight, the step up to $549 won’t be justified, so you’ll consider the Wen and the CM.

If your primary use is resawing, swallow hard and spend the extra $115 to get the CM saw. The 1/3 HP on the Wen is not adequate for resawing even 4” boards; pushing it to 6” is almost unworkable. Also, mounting and tracking blades on the Wen is difficult, and I’ve spoiled blades trying to get it right. The CM’s 1 hp is adequate for a 6” resaw, and it’s much easier to mount a blade, get it tracking, and close up the saw. The CM saw has the same guide design as Grizzly: the blade tracks on the face of a thrust bearing, and solid guides are used on the sides. The CM’s table is about 6 inches higher, which is fine for scroll cuts but uncomfortable for resaw. The CM also has the switch mounted on the base, and I don’t like this because you can’t reach it from your position feeding the work piece, and you have to put your face close the blade to reach it. Last, the CM has a miter guide but no fence, and you’ll probably need to make one to get good resaws.

The bottom line is power. The Wen just doesn’t have nearly enough. I’ve used it to resaw boards up to 5.5 inches, and it can be maddening. It may get through it, but only slowly and after many stalls. Each stall causes increased teeth marks. You have to be very attentive and feed very slowly. I found a very aggressive blade helps, but even then I gave up and ended up buying a bigger, more powerful saw.

The CM saw will handle resawing as it comes. You’ll need a guide. For a start you can use a 2×4 cut to a blunt point, clamped on the table as a single-point resaw guide. If you’re like me, you’ll want to make a fence. A simple one should suffice and isn’t hard to make. There are two other changes you might want to make down the road. The switch can be moved up onto the pillar, which is both more safe and more convenient. You’ll have to open the electric box on the motor to put a longer cord, but this is simple. The other change I made is in the table height. For handling heavier or longer boards, I like the table at table saw height: about 36 inches (the Wen is this height.) I laid the saw down, checked carefully, and then used an angle grinder with cutoff and grinding wheels to cut the sheet metal base about 5 inches up.

I admit when I started, I had no experience with band saws and I wasn’t confident I would use one. I actually bought and returned a table top model, and then bought the Wen for $245, thinking this would cut my risk. This was a bad choice for three reasons. First, the Wen lacks the power to resaw. Second, on the Wen it is way harder to get blades mounted and tracked. Not only frustrating, but I ruined a $30 blade before I ever made a cut with it. For the entire time I used it, I was reluctant to even consider changing blades. But last and worse, after really getting a clear idea, I now have both a $285 10 inch saw and a $400 14 inch saw, and that cost way more than just buying the $400 saw right off.

Although it may look intimidating, the CM saw can be broken down to the wheels (remove the table, doors, and guides) and built back up and properly adjusted in just a few minutes. With its wider wheels, this makes mounting and tracking blades both easy and safe. The Wen is MUCH more difficult and so I mounted blades with the table and guides in place. AND the blade guard above the upper guide has only a slit opening, cannot be removed AND it’s a bear to get the blade into and out of it. For blade mounting, I could have saved a lot of frustration, wasted time and ruined blades by getting the CM saw right off. For resawing, I could have made cuts faster with far less frustration by getting the CM saw right off. And, because blade mounting is easy and not doesn’t risk trashing the blade, I could have switched from resaw to scrolling blades (which I never considered once I got a resaw blade running on the Wen) and made more use of the saw by getting the CM saw right off.

Part of the reason I bought the Wen: I didn’t realize I could get a capable saw for $400. Hopefully this post will help a few others avoid the same mistake.

My Wen saw (now relegated to the bowels of my shop, maybe to find use for occasional scroll cutting):

Even with this aggressive 2-3 tpi blade, the 1/3 HP of the Wen stalls out frequently. Notice the slit opening on the blade guard. It’s really hard to get the blade in and out of this.

My Central Machinery 14 inch saw (2003 model) as I got it. The previous owner added casters:

The CM after a few modifications:

New, repositioned switch:

My own fence design:

Shortened base, lowering the table to about 36 inches.

-- Richard - near Philly - frustrated engineer taking it out on wood

1 comment so far

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7855 posts in 2029 days

#1 posted 10-13-2020 05:00 AM

I have a functional bandsaw I’m happy with, so I prefer not to comment on the actual machine I am not familiar with…

Nevertheless its great to hear from a member that is prepared to sacrifice a few shekels for practicality and talk about it.

Thanks for the post.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

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