Powermatic - PM1800 18" Bandsaw (Rating: 4)

Apoligies for the long post but here goes.

History: About a 1-1/2 year ago I picked up a Steel City 18" bandsaw from the local Woodcraft and about a year ago also picked up a Powermatic 14" bandsaw. The intent was to use the SC as a resaw machine and the PM for the balance of the tasks. Have been happy with both of them. I had been stocking up on rough saw boards, many wider than the SC could resaw.

So I started looking around and reading everything I could find on the web on larger machines when the ads started coming out for the New Powermatic PM1800. I had not made any headway in making a decision on which machine I would end up with, when a few weeks ago I was visiting my local Woodcraft Store and they had one on the display floor. They had it on a mobile base so it served a dual purpose of sales display and for use in their classroom space.

My first impression was, "this thing was huge". They gave me the nickel and dime tour of the saw and all it's features. I have to say my eyes started to glaze over (which the LOML standing next to us, immediately picked up on) and all she said was "How in the world do you plan on getting this thing home????". When they said the magic 15% off, no shipping cost, well what can I say. SOLD! I asked them to go ahead and order one (on Saturday), the order actually went in Monday morning and it came in on Thursday.

So Friday morning, I hooked up the trailer and off we went. They used a fork lift to get on my trailer and it went on pretty easy. It took more time to secure it with straping and tiedowns that it took to put it on the trailer. Be forewarned the shipping crate is nearly 8' tall!

The bandsaw is bolted to the pallet with four lag bolts. There are open wood crate sides and top that serves to protect the saw from accidental damage, but it is not structural in nature. I was able to secure the strapping to the back bone of the bandsaw to stablalize it enough for the 50 minute drive home.

I had used an engine lift to remove most of the other large tools from my utility trailer in the past, but due to the size it and after having seen it in person, I realized the engine lift was not going to work for me. Since it was only going to be the wife and I to get it off the trailer by ourselves, I cheated and went up two days before the saw came in and picked up the 1 ton gantry from Harbor freight. It adjusts up to 12', so with 2' to the bed of the trailer and about 8' high crate it just barely fit.

The manual recommends that you lift the bandsaw with two straps under the upper housing. Considering this thing weights 800 lbs, I initially had reservations, but this thing really is built like a tank. It lifted off, with no creaking or bending sounds. Once on the ground I moved with a pallet jack into the shop building.

{Issue 1: The pallet it comes on is "forklift" friendly, but not pallet jack friendly. The bandsaw sits to one side of the crate making it heavier on one side. I since the pallet jack can only straddle the pallet one way, it is a little off balance. It seems that this is not unique to tool pallets that I have received in the past.}

The sides of the crate are nailed to the pallet and it is awkward to pound it free. Also, with the side being almost 8' high, unless you have a 16' ceiling, you can't just "lift" the crate sides/top off in one piece. So if you are planning on taking it off without damaging it, I suggest you do it outside. Also, keep in mind that the I have a 96" clear height overhead door opening and once you get it on a pallet jack, it just bearly clears by less than an 1". I was told that the gentleman that bought one before me only had a 7'6" clear opening height door and it wouldn't go through. Luckly, he had a tractor with fork attachment and he was able to lean it back at enough of an angle to get it through his door.

The bandsaw comes in a fully enclosed heavy plastic bag to keep out moisture during shipment. It comes almost fully assembled. You will need to attached the rear guide rail (three bolts), the front angle rail (three bolts) and the square rail tube (five bolts) and the assemble is complete. There rest is checking alignment.
{Minor issue: The manual has a slight error; the top of page 11 item 2 says "Tighten two screws with 12 mm, wrench. There are actually three screws you need to tighten.}

{Issue 2: When you attach the front rail tube, pull it away from the table as far out as it will come, otherwise the fence will hit the solid pin that aligns the split table top where the blade is inserted.}

- As is typical of these machines, you will need to provide a plug or hardwire it to a disconnect. The manual suggest connecting the saw (5 horsepower) to a minimum 50 amp circuit (with the note of "follow local codes"). The full load current is 21amps (Like the other PM tools I have with 5 HP motors) and they all run fine on a 30amp circuit breaker connected via a plug and cord (L6-30P plug/L6-30R receptacle).

- Alignment is pretty straight forward. I did notice one design change from the photos in the manual. Figure 21 on page 15 of the manual refers to a circular plate (D).The plate has been changed to a inverted cup shape cap, which appears to be much stronger.

- Out of the box the supplied 3/4" blade tracked dead on. No adjustments at all.

{Issue 3:When you align the fence down to be parallel with the table top, you may have to do a modification if you want the fence less than 1/8" above the table top. If you try to lower the fence down to 1/16" from table top, the indexing/magnifier attached to the fence guide rail will rub against the guide rail tube. Adding washers to the top of the fence guide rail, where it attaches, will raise it up enough to clear the front square tube guide rail so that the fence can have minimal clear above the tabletop.}


-Heavy duty structure, massive cast wheels that run super smooth.
-More horsepower than you could ever need.
-Two speed pulley so you can run it at 1800 SFPM or 4200 SFPM.
-Nice heavy duty fence.
- Two position adjustable fence (horizontal/vertical)
- Quick release three position blade tensioner (tensioned/resting/removing)


-Higher Price
-It is definitely heavy and even on a custom mobile base, it is cumbersome to move. Recommend finding a place for it and leaving it there.
-Could have added a few more finishing touches (See list below)

After setting the machine up and running a few boards through it, I sat down and reflected on what Powermatic could have done to make the saw top in it's class. It seems to me they got it right, but stopped at about 95%. To take it to 100% may have raised the price, but if I had to pay a little more to get an 100% percent machine, there is no question, I would have. This is not a machine that most folks are going to go out and buy, not only due to the size, the fact that is most likely overkill for most needs, but also considering the higher price.

Here are a few issues I would have like to have had PM address: (take it with a grain of salt, my needs and wishes are certain different than others.)

- Dust collection is ok. Doesn't get it all.

- Upper dust collection outlet is awkward to get to and attach a hose clamp.

- The resaw pin could be taller considering you can resaw up to 18". Perhaps having a pre-drilled and tapped hole in the top of the pin to add an extension could work.

- The fence should have predrilled holes for attaching an aux. fence for tall boards when resawing.

- For the price of the machine, I think they should have included a larger mitre gauge, similar to that furnished with the PM2000.

Issue that came up during the alignment procedure that could have been improved:

- Add a screw knurl knob to the top and bottom rear thrust bearing to help with adjusting front to back spacing.Right now you loosen a wing nut and push/pull the rear bearing into position. Turning a bolt to move the block backward/forward would have made it easier to setup.

- Add a second locking knob for the bottom side bearings. There is only one on the left now for locking both sides. When you get one side adjusted over and then lock it down, it shifts the one on the other side slightly, so you need to do it multiple times to both in alignment. The top bearings have individual locking knobs. This should have been include for the bottom bearings as well.

- Change the configuration of the under table lower blade guard to gain better access to lower bearings for adjustment. It hinges to the left and is still in the way. If the hinge had been set at a 45 degree from the horizontally, the blade guard would then swing down and to the left and be completely out of the way.

- Add a view window in the lower housing to match the upper housing one to verify blade tracking on lower wheel is also correct.

- Increase spacing between front of cast table top and the rear of front guide rail square tubing. Currently there is only 1-1/4" of clearance, and it should have been made to slightly more than 1-1/2" for accommodating the widest blade of 1-1/2" slipping in and out.

- The solid fixed bearing between the two moving bearings on the side guide bearings should be smaller diameter to eliminate rubbing against the blade.

- The geared wheel for adjusting the table tilt is sloppy.

- The screws holding the round handles that lock/latch the upper and lower doors either need to be longer and a lock nut added to the inside of the housing or some "lock-tite" needs to be used on the screws. The screws that hold them in place will eventually work loose, as they did for me after repeated opening and closing the upper wheel door cover.

- For the price range, adding an adjustable neck light, similar to the one provided on the smaller Powermatic 14" bandsaw would have been a nice feature.

All in all, I find it to be a great saw so far. The changes I would have liked to see primarily deal with the alignment procedure accessories. If you just put a good heavy carbide blade on it for resawing and don't switch blades often, then most of the extras, are not a big deal. But if you routinely switch blades, these extra features would certainly come in handy. Now I just need to get a good deal on a 1-1/4" carbide resaw blade.

As there are already many photos on the web, I did not include them. But if anybody would like a close-up pic of any part (inside or outside) will me more than happy to take them.

Hope this helps others. Rob