A few questions about tuning up my old iron bandsaw

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Forum topic by TheWoodenOyster posted 09-04-2014 10:26 PM 1331 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2138 days

09-04-2014 10:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bandsaw

Hey everyone,

I was lucky to snag a 1965 Powermatic 81 20” bandsaw earlier this year. The thing is stout and has already done a lot of work for me. It is a little rough around the edges and I’m sure could really be hot rodded into a kicka$$ saw. I’d like to do it justice by tuning it up some so that it will really perform the way I know it can. I would say I am about average as far as power tool knowledge goes. I can clean stuff up, lubricate, make adjustments, wire motors, etc.

So here is some info about what is going on with the saw.

1. The wheels spin very smoothly, though I can hear the bearings? in there.
2. When the saw is turned on, it sort of screams at weird intermittent times. Not continuous, just weird little bursts of screams, then they sort of die down and go away and come back again.
3. The blade has a decent amount of wobble to it, not too bad side to side, but surprisingly bad front to back, which I find kind of weird.


1. Do I need to mess with the bearings, or does this matter?
2. What the heck is going on with the screaming?
3. I know I probably need to get some guides and such, but I think there is a deeper issue, possibly worn out tires? If so, I know some stick on and some don’t. Some are rubber, some are urethane. Are new tires something to consider and do you think they would fix the blade wobble?

Blade is tensioned correctly, for the record. I use the saw for anything and everything, from curves in 1/2” thick material to resawing tall stock. As far as how much I want to invest, I wouldn’t have any problem putting $300 or $400 into the saw over time, though probably not all at once.

Let me know what ya think. Thanks

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

7 replies so far

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2808 days

#1 posted 09-04-2014 11:56 PM

I am far from the greatest expert out there. For that you need to post this on the forums, and will probably want to regardless for procedures on bearing replacement etc.

However to answer your first question, YES you need to replace bearings. As in immediately. Not next month, or when you get around to it, but right now!

Regarding your second question. If you are very lucky, the screaming is from your belt losing torque when the motor starts up and this can be fixed by replacing the belt and/or motor/drive pulley. If you are slightly less lucky the screaming is from the bearings tearing themselves apart. If you are unlucky, the screaming is from your bearings destroying the shafts they are on and thus destroying your saw.

Tires can be had for your saw, both rubber and urethane. There are a lot of threads out there about which is better. Opinions vary widely in this. I personally use urethane tires and have been happy with them. There are also a number of opinions about crowing tires. If your tires are not crowned this could be the cause of your blade wobble. Ditto for if they are crowned but done badly. Additionally the blade wobble could be caused by your wheels not being co-planar. It could also be caused by using bearings way past the point where a replacement should be employed. If your tires looked cracked or worn they should be replaced. If they are spotless without any cracks or worn grooves then I wouldn’t bother replacing them. Though personally if they did not have a crown I would crown them.

Hope that helps.

View DocSavage45's profile


8725 posts in 3046 days

#2 posted 09-05-2014 01:41 AM

My first thought was “Bearings!” It’s an old saw and old things need tlc? If the bearings are visible you can try a couple of things which I learned about while rehabbing my scroll saw. You can buy, if you don’t have, a grease gun. I would use some WD 40 which is to remove moisture and you can flush the bearings this way. Then insert the needle valve with some synthetic lube until it is full.

This might hold you for awhile, but replacing worn parts that run a few thousand miles might not be a bad idea.

I would also replace belts and align the saw. Bunch of good YouTube videos for tuning up a band saw. I know I watched a lot of them . LOL!

Do one thing at a time and test the saw. A good way to learn and rule out problems?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3851 days

#3 posted 09-05-2014 01:43 AM

Have you tried another blade?

Some blades are peculiar. New blades generally won’t be.

Regarding bearing diagnosis and replacement decisions,
read this:

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2138 days

#4 posted 09-05-2014 02:42 AM

Ugh. Sounds like I might need new bearings, or at least I might need to work on my bearings. Are there any videos or audio recordings that anyone knows of that demonstrate bad bearing noise? I found a bunch for vehicles, but not for tools.

Tires are an easy fix that I think I will probably do soon.

Loren- blades are new Lenox blades that I got with the saw when I bought it from the previous owner, so I don’t think that should have anything to do with it.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View MrUnix's profile


7051 posts in 2402 days

#5 posted 09-05-2014 05:32 AM

Answers above are spot on. Replace your bearings now and hope there isn’t any damage. Easy job. Screaming is probably from them as well. As for blade hop, you need to determine the cause.. if it’s not the blade, then you need to open up the covers and turn the wheels by hand to see what is going on. If you need new tires, for a 20” machine, you are pretty much limited to rubber. And if your wheels are not crowned, you will need to crown the tires after installing.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2687 posts in 3125 days

#6 posted 09-05-2014 01:18 PM

I had noisy bearings on my GO555 band saw and found the bearings to be fine but the shaft that the bearings supported was badly worn. I replaced that $9 part and it runs like new. I use my band saw only for re-sawing so I use 1/2” carbide 3 TPI re-saw blades and they work well. I get them at: Sharp blades are a must!

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2138 days

#7 posted 09-06-2014 12:16 PM

Hey guys, so some good news after checking over the saw yesterday.

1. The motor isn’t burnt out. That was another post, but good news nonetheless. I’ll never mill any 150 pound logs freehand by myself again.

2. I took the blade and belt off and spun the top and bottom wheels yesterday. They were both dead quiet and very smooth. I think I must have been confusing the guide bearing noise with actual wheel bearing noise. Been looking at owwm and it sounds like replacing the bearings is never a bad thing, so I might do it when I have a little more extra cash on hand. But for now, I think I can at least be sure that they aren’t doing any further damage.

3. Looked at the tires. I think they have been crowned in the past, but it looks like the crown has pretty well been smushed out over time. The good news is that I think they still have enough life in them to recrown them and continue using them. They aren’t cracked or dry. Been reading about crowning on owwm too. Those guys are serious about their machines. It’s like crowning tires is a whole nother religion!

So, I think I am going to recrown the tires, put a fresh blade on and see how things look. I’ll keep troubleshooting from there. I might need to get some guide blocks…

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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