Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The right tool for the job

The first power tool I really learned to use was a bandsaw, since my first extended experience with power tools was when I learned to build stringed instruments in college. Maybe a Dremel tool was first, now that I think of it, but the fact is that bandsaws are essential to luthiery because they can make cuts like the ones above, where I started making the maple cap for the gourd banjo I'm working on.

This is a nice old cast iron bandsaw that my friend Wayne found in his barn and sold to me when he was cleaning out old stuff before he moved. I thought it was rusty and possibly hopeless, and it sat in my basement for five years until I needed to make a curved cut in rosewood for a guitar bridge, and I discovered that it was just very, very dirty, but the bearings were greased and the motor still worked great. Mechanically it looked a bit vintage but still it was a very solid tool. The blade was even sharp. But I recall that when I was cutting the little part, it seemed to heat up a lot and burned the wood. I finished that part by hand and (odd for me) put the experience out of my mind, until last month when I tried to cut out the banjo spine. The blade was really smoking and not really cutting at all, so I found other ways to make the spine and determined that I must get a new blade.

It was when I got on the Internet to find a new blade that I found out that the 78.5" length of the blade of this saw is associated with meat-cutting bandsaws. Oh, so that blade was sharp, it was just designed to cut frozen meat, not maple. The mechanism is precisely the same, however, and now that I have a sharp new wood-cutting bandsaw blade I can at last get some work done with this thing!

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