Tool Test: 14-in. Bandsaws
Great for curves and for resawing, these saws are the perfect fit for a home shop
Synopsis: A 14-in. bandsaw is the perfect size for woodworking, fitting in most shops without trouble. Tool guru Roland Johnson tested the latest batch of 14-in. saws, using them to rip, cut curves, and the most important test—resawing wide boards. Resawing requires a lot of cutting height, a strong motor, and a guide post that doesn’t flex. So for this test, we limited the field to saws with a 1-1/2 hp motor or larger that can resaw 10-in.-wide boards without a riser block. Johnson used the saws to cut curves, make ripcuts, and resaw wide boards. He changed the blade, and adjusted the guides. He also checked features such as dust collection and the fence, which have a direct impact on the saw’s performance.
Models tested include: General International 90-170B, Grizzly G0457, Hammer N3800, Jet JWBS-14SF, Laguna 14 SUV, Laguna 14/Twelve, Oliver 4620, Powermatic PM1500, Rikon 10-325, Rikon 10-351, Steel City 50114, and Steel City 50155G.
The bandsaw may be the most versatile machine in the shop. You can use it to cut curves and joinery, to rip boards (rough and milled), and to resaw. Bandsaws come in a range of sizes, from benchtop models to industrial giants. But the perfect size for many woodworkers is 14 in. It’s the first bandsaw most of us should get, and could be the only one you’ll ever need. A 14-in. bandsaw’s small footprint fits easily in most home shops.
I’ve tested a lot of bandsaws, and I’ve never found one that couldn’t rip or cut curves. The real test is resawing wide boards, because it requires a lot of cutting height, a strong motor, and a guide post that doesn’t flex. so I tested only saws that can resaw boards at least 10 in. wide without the addition of a riser block, and that have motors of 1-1/2 hp or more.
I tested the saws like I would use them when making furniture. I cut curves, made ripcuts, resawed wide boards, changed the blade, and adjusted the guides. I also checked features such as dust collection and the fence, which have a direct impact on the saw’s performance. Read on to see which saws made the cut, and which ones fell short.
After all of the tests were complete, two saws stood out. The Powermatic 1500 and Laguna 14/Twelve are both great saws, and earn Best Overall honors. The Laguna also is a Best Value, sharing that title with the least-expensive saw in the test, Steel City’s 50155G.
Best Overall and Best Value: Laguna 14/Twelve
Street price: $1,097
The Laguna is full of smart features. No tools are needed to install a blade and adjust the guides. It has the largest throat of the saws tested, making blade changes much easier, and the aluminum throat plate has leveling screws. The guides are ceramic, a welcome feature on a saw in this price range. The motor is wired for 110 volts, a plus for those without access to a 220-volt circuit.
Best Overall: Powermatic PM1500
Street price: $2,900
This is a great saw all around. All of the important adjustments are made without tools, and the guides can be set accurately with ease. Tracking the blade is simple, too, due to the window in the upper housing and yellow tires on the wheels. The 3-hp motor easily handled the resaw test—better than all of the other saws.
Best Value: Steel City 50155G
Street price: $700
This saw does an excellent job resawing, and has very good dust collection. Although blade changes and guide adjustments aren’t as easy as they are on the Powermatic and Laguna 14/Twelve, they aren’t difficult either. The 1-1/2-hp motor is wired for 110-volt power, so this saw can be used on a standard house circuit. The lamp and mobile base are convenient additions.
Video extra: How to Change a Bandsaw Blade
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