Tool Review: Laguna 18BX
Trusted bandsaw gets a big brother
Laguna Tools’ 14bx bandsaw has gained a following as a great midsize bandsaw, and now there’s a big brother tracking in its footsteps: the 18BX. With 3 hp, an 18-in. throat, 16 in. of resaw capacity, a 20-in. by 26-in. table, and more than 400 lb. of mass, the 18BX brings serious capabilities to the woodshop.
The new saw includes one of my favorite features of the BX line: a very effective disc brake, which can help prevent injuries from silent, coasting blades. Dust collection is also very effective, with a 4-in. port directly below the lower blade guides and a second port at the bottom of the lower wheelhouse. To facilitate blade changes, a magnetic strip on the hinged blade guard makes it easy to open and close. The blade guides offer great blade support, though the lower guides are a bit awkward to access.
The 22-3⁄4-in.-long extruded aluminum fence has a 5-3⁄4-in.-tall face for great resawing support and can quickly be reconfigured to present a 1⁄2-in. edge to allow the guides to be set close to thin stock. The fence also has a T-track at the top for a flip stop to glide in, and the stop moves easily and locks securely. Unfortunately, I had to tweak the fence to make it square to the tabletop, and it wasn’t flat across the vertical face. However, I’ve been assured by Laguna this hiccup will have been taken care of by the time this review is published, and a company representative told me Laguna will replace any problematic fences that were shipped before the problem was found.
Overall, the 18BX is a lot of saw for the price. And if you add the $175 mobile base, it can be easily tucked away until some serious sawing summons the big boy.
—Contributing editor Roland Johnson wrote the book on bandsaws (Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Bandsaws, The Taunton Press, 2014).
I recently purchased a Laguna bandsaw. It took over a month to get everything that I ordered. The saw came with about 8 scratches in it. While I attribute this to the shipping company I can't help but wonder if the saw couldn't have been in a box as opposed to just being wrapped in plastic. It was a frustrating experience and required several phone calls to the company. I even had to call one time to ask about the blade I ordered with the saw that did not arrive for over a month after ordering the saw because I had to call the company about three times. To their credit they sent me replacement parts to the scratched up pieces, one of which I am still waiting for. It's been two months now. They also allowed me to choose from 3 gifts to make up for the troubles, which I appreciated. The saw is outstanding I must say. However I don't know if I will ever buy anything from the company again due to poor communication and complete lack of paying attention to my order.
The 14 BX I have in my shop is a great tool, but the fence has the same issue. I didn’t take it up with the company, as I assume it is the way it is, and the price it is for a reason (which is still a steal for what you get). I remedied this by using some double stick tape to attach a squared piece of mahogany scrap to the fence. I found the adjustments fussy, but with patience received reliable results. I also noticed the clamping pressure to lock the fence in position on the sliding handle affected the flatness of the fence.
I have owned the “old” 18 inch Laguna bandsaw for about 14 years. I think they stopped making it. Now it works well. I had to take it apart and fabricate a part. Laguna seemed interested, at first, but then really could care less about me or the problem. I ordered the Resaw King carbide blade and it took 3 blades to get one that was functional. Bent teeth, missing teeth, teeth ground wrong. All visually obvious. (Save your money). I have dealt with Laguna a number of times as I have purchased about $10,000.00 worth of equipment for my shop. (No Joke). Each purchase customer support got worse. From my experience you can not trust them to be there to help. My advice, look at other brands if you want trusted customer support. Well I got that off my chest!
I've had this saw--the Laguna 18BX for 4-5 months now (September 2019). I would not buy it again. Should I start with the good? Okay. The frame is rigid, the motor is pretty strong, the wheels seem balanced, the brake works okay, but you have to reach forward with your foot to step on it.
The rest: The table was a few thousands of an inch higher on the rear side of the split, which is enough to catch the edge of a flat piece of wood. Laguna sent me a replacement. The upper guide post movement was off from being aligned to the blade; I fiddled for a long while with the mounting bolts, which are not made for easy adjustments, and got it almost right. Blade changes are inconvenient with the table split on the side, the poor clearance around the lower guide, and the fence mounting bar getting in the way, along with the narrow slot on the frame post for inserting the blade.
But the thing I really hate is those guides that the reviewer seemed to think gave "great support". They are difficult and fussy to adjust, but it gets worse: the lower guide is impossible to see where the blocks contact the blade, and it's impossible to get more than a two finger grip on the knobs that tighten its adjustments, which is not enough to get them tight. But even on the upper guide, with the blocks as tight as I can get them, they easily slide away from the blade when cutting curves, making them nearly useless when cutting a moderately tight curve with a 1/2" blade. The "no tool" guide setting is a weakness, not a strength. I never found using an allen wrench to be any sort of problem on the many saws I've owned.
So its either get rid of this saw, or get more invested with a $305 set of Carters--the only replacements available. And part of why I bought the saw (after reading the FW review above!) is that I prefer block guides to rollers for cutting curves. Grrrr.
@turningfool what would you look at getting instead? I agree with your evaluation, but not sure what to look at as an alternative.
I was able to get the guides to stay put on the Laguna by tightening the knobs with pliers. That defeats the purpose of the "no tools" adjustment, but it improved my relationship with the machine.
At the time I purchased, I had also been looking at the 18" Jet. And there are the Grizzlies, but I have no experience with their bandsaws.
Update 6/2020: After getting tired of needing a pair of pliers to get the guides to stay put, I spent $300 on a set of Carters. Much easier to adjust, but I had to get roller guides when I had wanted to use blocks on this saw. Today I put a new blade in and was reminded again of what a pain blade changes are on this machine. Got the guides reset and the tension well adjusted. Checked that the blade was tracking. Ran the saw, then turned it off and stepped on the brake. The blade flew off the wheels (I had the doors shut) and got jammed between the upper wheel and the tension spring mechanism. It had a kink when I got it out.
I more than ever regret buying this pain-in-the-ass machine. Makes me wonder if the person who wrote the review got paid for it. By the way, I have had two previous Laguna bandsaws made by Meber that I was happy with (once I changed the "Euro" style guides). This is nothing like them.
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