|Review by Woollymonster||posted 04-07-2012 07:02 PM||8516 views||0 times favorited||24 comments|
Hello! I am not new to forums or new to woodworking, but I am new to THIS forum. I joined mainly to post my review of this saw but looks like a good forum with a lot of information and good people. So hello from Texas!
RobWoodWorker’s post was one of a few reviews that I read (there are only a few out there) before pulling the trigger on this PM 1800 mega bandsaw. Rather than rehashing a lot of the same data, I thought I would just piggy back onto Rob’s post and compare my findings to his. Hope you don’t mind Rob!
My first impression when I saw this thing was the same as his, “this thing was huge”! I first saw one at Circle Saw of Houston, the leading local supplier of “high end” woodworking power tools in the area. Now, Circle Saw ain’t what it used to be, but nothing in the US is. They just so happened to have one of these things in stock. Not on the show room floor mind you, but in the back warehouse wrapped up in a crate, just the way it arrived from Taiwan. If you read the un-crating and setup issue below, you will understand why they left in on the crate. It spans over 8’ tall in the crate and weighs in at over 900 lbs. as packed.
I could have had the store load this beast onto my trailer but knowing I had no way of getting it off when I got home, (60 miles one way through Houston traffic) I opted to pay a $150 delivery charge. The last time I rented a fork lift for such a heavy lifting endeavor, it cost me $250. So I saved $100 this way and the hassle of getting the forklift. The delivery truck backed up into my shop (12’x10’ door) and with their lift gate, hand fork, and a lot of grunting from the 3 of us, we set it squarely onto my shop floor in the approximately desired location.
In addition to the pallet and crating that the machine made the boat trip on, mine was on an additional heavier pallet that the store must have put it on to move about the warehouse. The two gents that delivered it helped me get it off this pallet and onto the floor in it’s original crating. This was no easy task. But with some pry bar levering and a lot more grunting, we got he second pallet from beneath the machine.
The upper crate is a pain to disassemble/remove but a floor chisel and wrecking bar made fairly quick work of it. What you end up with is a pile of useless wood and ten thousand chincy little nails that you must account for and haul off. My plan from here was to use the the end loader on my tractor and the “strap” method outlined in the manual to lift the saw off the final pallet.
Not so fast! The hoist or lift that you use to unpack this thing will need to be capable of lifting the strap attachment point to at about 10 feet. My loader would not go that high. Now what? Well after several more hours of prying, furniture dolly wrecking, scooting, and grunting, I had the saw clear of the pallet and in it’s final resting place (at least for now). I am now 6 hours into the day.
I knew it was going to be a bear to unload and position so I don’t really consider that an issue. With the proper equipment, it would be a simple task. I just refused to buy or build a gantry crane for this one task and did not want to go through the hassle of getting a big enough fork lift to my shop either. That might have been impossible too. But why this saw and other pieces of gear like it are not designed with a fork friendly base is beyond all comprehension. The only explanation is that the people who design, build, and market these products are not users of their products. Being big, heavy, overbuilt, and expensive does not trump superior and logical design and usefulness. This issue will rear it’s head again a little later in the day.
My first issue: According to my 4’ Johnson, the shop floor upon which my saw resides (right next to my Delta Unisaw) is level. However, the PM1800 rocked on its base unacceptably. Base is manufactured warped/unleveled? Bent during unpacking? Probably will never know. I have no doubt that I can lag screw the base to the concrete (as the manual states) and pull the base flush with the floor. But, without the ability to safely lift the machine above the floor, this is not currently and option. I solved the issue temporarily by placing the free Powermatic rubber mat I received the with my purchase under the saw to act as a gasket. Its stable for now. Some heavy duty adjustable feet at each corner would have been nice.
I had a 50A circuit near, so I wired it into it using 10/3 AWG cable. The easiest task so far. This big motor is definitely not a “soft start” motor. When you hit the switch, it comes to life with a loud ear-shattering screech. I don’t know if that is the drive belts or the blade slipping on the wheels or what but it has been my experience that noises like these are not good in the long run for machinery. I have not had any dust collection issues. I don’t have a central dust collection system in my shop but use the Delta 50-850A 1.5 HP, 1200 CFM Dust Collector with Canister. It has way more than the 400 CFM requirement and gets every spec of dust out of the saw. Now the issue is to get quick connections that will go back and forth between the PM1800 and the Unisaw. Standards? They don’t exist.
Rob states: “Alignment is pretty straight forward.” I would agree. This is the biggest bandsaw that I have ever owned but not the first. I also grew up working in mills that used production grade American made power tools. So the whole set up went without a hitch until I got to the Thrust Bearing adjustments. The TB is one of the big advertising points that PM (Walter Meier) uses to hype this saw. The upper and lower TB’s have 3 possible settings; an un-grooved position to the left for “general blade usage” (comes in this position), a center V-groove for small blades, and a outer flat groove for using big thick blades. Great! Sounds awesome.
Second Issue: In order to move the Thrust Bearing to the three available grooves, you need a 4mm hex wrench to undo a chincy little screw in order to slide this thing by hand. What?!! After all the hype about overbuilt, no tool, quick adjustments and blade changes? So if you are going from a big blade to a tiny little 1/4” or smaller and want to use the V-groove, expect to do a lot of fiddling. You will need to put on your glasses, get a drop light, and get on the floor to move the lower TB horizontally. Its not easy to get to, its not fast, and how long will that little 4mm hex screw last?
Third Issue: You cannot move the lower TB all the way to the left to access the flat groove (far right grove on the bearing) because it hits the bracket its mounted on! Design flaw? Yeah! So after working my way to the third level of customer support at Walter Meier (a QA guy), his answer was; “We worked for a week to figure that one out and the solution is to pull the bearing off and turn it around. They were installed backwards at the factory.” Really? We had the parts schematic out and seemed straight forward. OK, I’ll play. The upper and lower bearings will now be opposite of each other but whatever. So after setting up my snap ring pliers, I pulled the bearing off and turned it around. Incidentally the snap ring sprung out of shape when I opened it up far enough for it to clear its groove. Great, I thought. Now I’m going to be down because of this little 2 cent part. But I was able to reshape it using a pair of channel locks. Yes, this procedure puts the flat groove in line with the blade but now the far right area of the bearing is unusable for the same reason. It hit its mounting bracket. This is definitely NOT a fix for this issue and not something you are going to be able to do for a blade change. I turned the bearing back around and for now, at least, the two left most groves are the only ones that are usable. And its still a pain to adjust for those two slots.
Rob States: “Out of the box the supplied 3/4” blade tracked dead on. No adjustments at all.” This was not the case for me. After meticulous set up, I thought I would jump right in there and re-saw a 12” board. I had about a 2’ section of finished 12” select white pine so I moved the fence to split it down the middle and put the factory edge to the fence. Much to my surprise the blade tracked completely out of the work piece after about 5” of cut. Well thats not good at all. A big expensive saw that boast a massive 18” re-saw capability cant re-saw a 12” board? I tried several smaller pieces with the same results. The blade had bad “lead”.
I went to bed that night exhausted and dejected. Next day went out and meticulously went through all the set up again. As Rob said, the trunnion that runs the table tilt is a little sloppy. It’s massive and smooth, but sloppy. I found my 90 degree setting a little off (less than a 64th”). I fixed that and just know that every time I use the table tilt, I will have to put a square to the blade. The only other thing I did was add some more tension to the blade. Much more than the scale indicated. Everything else was set dead on. This time I jointed one side of a 2×4 and re-sawed a 1/8” thick piece of veneer off the rough side. This cut tracked true and the piece was fairly uniform throughout (be it only about 2.5’ long).
So I’m making progress but I’m a long way from the claimed 18” re-saw capacity. I know this is only a 3/4” blade and the blade is junk. This is an “issue” in itself. Any saw should come from the factory being able to operate at it’s claimed capacity, quality blade included. This one does not. I bought this saw for its massive re-saw capability. It will take up to a 1.5” blade. However, I have not been able to find anyplace that makes a quality carbide 1.5” blades in 160 inches. Maybe someone can point me in the right direction. I do have a Woodmaster 1.25” bi-metal blade on order from Action Industrial. These blades are not something you can just walk into a store and purchase around here. They must be special ordered.
So the jury is still out until I can get a quality blade on this machine. For now I will rate it at two stars mainly because of performance out of the box. When I get the new blade, I will update my results and possibly give it a more favorable rating. But for now, it performs no better than any of the other cheaper models. Way cheaper. Unfortunately, I think that everything being outsourced overseas (other than wrecking our economy for ever) has these machines being built and designed by people who do not use or understand them. I have seen none that can hold a candle to the old American made machines that have gone the way of the dinosaur. I looked for a couple of years on eBay, Craigslist, etc. to find some US made iron but was unable. I broke down and bought one made in Taiwan. I hope I don’t regret it.
I agree totally with Rob on all his pros/cons and his suggestions for improvement with the additional issues noted above. His assessment was very thorough and well written. Another exception for me was that I had no issues setting up the rails, fences, and sight gauge. That all went together just fine.
Your experience may be different. Better I hope. And I hope mine gets better.
My follow up: May 11, 2012
I said that I would post a follow up to my review when I got some decent blades on this saw. I have and here it is:
I am currently working with a Woodmaster Bi-Metal 1.25”, two Timberwolf 3/4” (different TPI), a Timberwolf 1/2”, and a junk 1/4” built at one of our local stores.
One big issue: The biggest issue that I seem to have solved with this saw was the gross blade lead/tracking problem. Even though the manual stated that the table was set square to the blade at the factory and should not need user adjustments, it was not even close. I knew this was the case after using the straight line free hand cutting method to measure blade lead. I knew that the table had to be askew when it took all the lateral adjustment available to to set the rip/re-saw fence so that it would cut fairly straight.
But accurately measuring the table against the saw blade for square is difficult because the blade is small and it also gives when you put a straight edge against it. So a bigger blade is better for this test. I installed the 1.25” Woodmaster and found the table was mounted on it’s trunnion to be out of square from front to back by about 1/4”. No surprise there given the way it was cutting. So the next task was to loosen the four bolts that hold the table to the trunnion and square the table to the blade. This is easier said than done but after a lot of fiddling, measuring, test cutting, rinse and repeat, I got the table squared up to the blade.
I then went back and re-squared the fence in all three axis and performed some test cuts. I took about a 3’ section of 2×12 I had on hand from China Cheapo and re-sawed a couple of relatively thin veneers from the face. Then re-sawed the board in half with no problem. Hallelujah!!! The saw will now cut straight! The results of the cuts were very usable. I don’t recommend test cuts on construction grade lumber. A 2×12 does not make saw dust. It makes saw paste. I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning sap/pitch out of all the guides, tires, etc. How Chris Schwarz ever made work benches out of this stuff is beyond me. I did some tracking test with smaller boards, some dove tail test cuts, and some free hand circles with no problem. Impressed?
On another note: The 1.25” blade is a bear to remove. I wrestled for a long time to get it out of the narrow slot on the left side. I know I had to do some damage to the blade tips. There is just not enough clearance there to get the big unwieldy blades out. I also don’t see how you could use the 1.5” blade on this saw (even if you didn’t have to remove the fence rails) because the 1.25” covers the width of the tire. And good luck getting that one out of there. So if you feel like paying $5k for a saw to be set up as a permanent re-saw tool and don’t mind going through all this other hassle, this one will work fine. You will not find blade changes as casual as advertised by any stretch. Changing small blades is easy.
Another issue: I fixed (I think) the ear splitting screech heard for about 5 seconds after you hit the ON button. Again, the manual states, “The weight of the motor should be enough to tension the drive belt adequately”. Its not. It is not clear just how much tension should be on the belt. The manual says “1/2 inch of play” but neglects to mention how much force it takes to get that 1/2 inch. I just set mine so it does not screech anymore. Maybe some belt dressing is in order. I don’t expect this flimsy little belt to last very long but we will see.
The other flaws that I and others have uncovered will just have to be lived with I suppose. Given the astronomical price, design flaws, difficulty of blade changes and set up, lack of out of the box performance, I would still have to rate this machine at TWO STARS.
Other opinions may vary.