Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

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Hot Brass
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Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by Hot Brass » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:45 pm

I'm looking at good deal on a 16" Jet woodworking bandsaw. However, I want to use it to cut wood and metal. Has anyone made this type of conversion before? The bandsaw is a model Jet JWBS-16B 16" which runs at 3000 SFPM. To cut steel and AL, I need to slow it down, but I'm not sure how much. From the assembly diagram in the manual, it looks like I could replace a pulley to slow the thing down, but I'm not sure if this can be done.

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by GlennW » Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:03 pm

You would want about 150 fpm for mild steel max.

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by gangel99 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:53 pm

I think you might run into trouble with the blades. Take this with a grain of salt because I have a large metal bandsaw and have looked into using it for wood -- the opposite of your situation. Apart from much lower speeds metal bandsaw blades run on steel wheels that are flat whereas wood blades run on steel wheels with hard rubber tires that are crowned. I seem to recall there was a 14" vertical saw that was advertised as working with both wood and metal. If this is one of these I would get the details of exactly how this worked.

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by 10 Wheeler Rob » Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:01 pm

It depends a lot on how much you plan to use it, definetly have to slow it down, and you may find the guide bearings a littly wimpy for the hjob too. The rubber tires will get a lot wear and tear form the metal chips. But if going to cut aluminum mostly you can get a lot miles out of it. You may find that metal blads are not premade in the right length also, and have to sliver solder or get them custom welded. Many people have done what you are thinking about for limited home shop use.

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by randyc » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:14 pm

In addition to the other shortcomings mentioned, I don't think pulley/belt manipulation is going to get the speed reduction you need. You would, as a minimum, require another jackshaft to accomplish that, maybe two, to keep pulley diameters large enough to avoid belt slippage. A better solution would be something around a 25:1 compact worm gear reducer. (A 3-phase motor with VFD controller would be the most user-friendly configuration although you'd still have to change blades and probably re-align the wheels and blade guide bearings when switching over from wood to metal cutting.)

If it is absolutely necessary to cut both metal and wood on the same machine, you'd be better served by approaching the problem from a different direction: buy a metal saw and modify for woodworking, although this wouldn't be a trivial task either ! At least you'd be starting with a rigid frame, a motor with adequate horsepower and heavy duty blade guide bearings. Changing over from metal to wood or vice-versa would still be a time-consuming chore.

Frankly, small metal-cutting bandsaws are dirt-cheap, reliable and fairly light. I'd buy the Jet for woodworking, if it's really a good deal, and spend about $100 for a used, small horizontal bandsaw. (Even new, they're about $200 + shipping.)

Good luck,

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by Hot Brass » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:36 pm

Thanks for the insight everyone. I've decided not to try and tame this beast. I'll get a metalworking bandsaw instead.
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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by spro » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:52 am

Well my input is that it can be done and go for that jet. Mainly for wood. A jackshaft can be put in between the motor drive and the input pulley in such a way that one flips off the belt and it just hangs there and flips the other on-which just hung there. Then you can do stock of 5/8 or more depending upon how much you want to
a: Have your wood bandsaw and guides all adjusted for metal band
b: Constantly change blades for metal blades get clogged and overheat with wood because wood doesn't compute to the way they are made. Metal totally destroys wood blades.
So it's two different machines usually. I did it once and it's now more than two saws.
Often with metal you need really lay into the cut or you burn the blade. Wood wants to eat and breath and there different ways to approach and develope that feel. I found it difficult on the same machine to do either very well.

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by Steve_in_Mich » Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:49 pm

What you suggest is pretty commonly done in home shops, i.e., conversion of a wood cutting saw to be used for metal cutting. It is roughly a 20:1 speed change you want. Someone mentioned 500 fpm for aluminum cutting, really, that's about hacksaw speed for the young I think. I find aluminum cuts quite nicely at about 2,000 fpm. Oh, btw, that aluminum cutting is done using a 4 tpi wood cutting blade in a 12" Craftsman bandsaw on 5" thick gummy stock. I've converted a few of my machines and know several others that do similar. And before you get all bent out of shape about stoughtness of frame, "wimpy blade guides", crown vs. no crown and rubber tire vs. metal wheel face, blades not available, etc., etc. --- Remember this --- bandsaw providers have marketted both wood and metal cutting saws having identical frames, guides, wheels and a variety of blades to meet most any requirement. Older Delta (Walker-Turner, Driver, Rockwell) saws were offered with a gear reduction 2 speed box built into the saw plus step pulleys or variable pitch sheeve and Sears Craftsman offered a speed reducer for the bandsaw. Initially in their 18" commercial bandsaw and later as an add-on for the 12" saw. If it happened before you were born doesn't mean it didn't happen.

I personally have used belt change jackshafts, DC motors and controls, VFD's and 3 phase motors, variable speed hydraulic drive to get what was needed. Sometimes on my saws, some for others at a fee and a few that I modified as the saws passed thru my shop for repair etc..

Go for it!

A more involved modification in saws is the conversion of a meat cutting bandsaw to metal cutting, nevertheless it has been accomplished.
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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by Mid Day Machining » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:26 pm

I had a 14 inch Rigid band saw from Home Depot that was never used for cutting wood. It had a blade speen of 2800 FPM which was OK for cutting aluminum although a little on the fast side. I changed the pullies and the motor, and got the speed down to about 120 FPM for cutting steel and 1800 for aluminum.

I had to put on a motor that had a speed of 1125 RPM. I wound up with a little over $600.00 in the saw, but it was a lot better than buying a saw for $5,000.00 or more.

Don't forget you still have to use the right blade. I used 10 teeth per inch for steel and 4 to 6 teeth per inch for for aluminum.
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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by Peter. » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:42 am

Seen a conversion done by a guy in the UK. From memory he fitted a second motor and connected that to the original with a reduction gear/pulleys. A two-way switch powers either one motor or the other depending on which speed he wants and the non-powered motor just gets dragged along for the ride.

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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by Fender » Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:59 pm

I have a jackshaft arrangement on my Craftsman wood bandsaw and routinely use it to cut steel. Belt slippage can be a problem if you push it too hard. The rusty-colored sheave on the motor rides on ball bearings when cutting metal, and turns about 1/16 of the motor speed. When cutting wood, I take the belts off the jackshaft and lock the rusty sheave to the motor shaft with some pins.
bandsaw a resize.jpg
bandsaw a resize.jpg (25.67 KiB) Viewed 7085 times
bandsaw b resize.jpg
bandsaw b resize.jpg (33.73 KiB) Viewed 7085 times
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Re: Converting a bandsaw from wood to metal?

Post by spro » Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:53 am

Thx for the pics. That's sorta what I did except(same saw) used this big pulley off a washing machine. Still a jackshaft. The motor was mounted to an oak plate hinged to the base. That way it could float for range. A spring under the plate under the tension knob.

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