Advice on Woodworking Machines: Go Metal

We needed an additional band saw for our bench room. We have several chair classes coming up fast, plus we use my old 1980s Rockwell band saw so much that there are times we need to have two band saws running simultaneously. 

My first instinct was to buy a second old USA-made Delta band saw and restore it. But I honestly do not have time to restore a machine now.

Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.

So I bought a metalworking machine instead.

One of the odd little facts about machinery is that metalworking machines are built far better than their woodworking counterparts (and have a price tag to match). A 14” band saw for woodworking might cost $1,300, while its metalworking cousin will cost $2,300.

I first learned thiskl in the 1990s when working in the Popular Woodworking shop. We had a Wilton belt/disc sander that was built like a tank. All the controls were metal – no plastic. It ran smoothly and was insanely powerful. The machine’s trunnions were heavy cast iron. One day I looked up the machine in a catalog and discovered it was designed for metalworking.

When I looked at the equivalent belt/disc sanders for woodworking, they looked like toys. Plastic controls, sheet-metal trunnions and aluminum where I would have preferred cast iron.

From that day on, I got a taste for metalworking machines. (Manufacturing tools for Crucible also pushed me along this path.) When I bought a belt grinder for our shop, I made sure it was designed for metalworking. Sure it cost about three times as much, but it is more than three times better than its woodworking cousin.

And when I started shopping for a 14” band saw, I went right to the metalworking section. I settled on a Jet 14” band saw that is designed for both metalworking and woodworking. It has massive castings, heavy trunnions, metal controls and carbide blade guides. It weighs 110 pounds more than its woodworking cousin. 

FYI, I am not oblivious. For years I owned the Jet 14” woodworking band saw and was completely happy with it. It was the best 14” cast iron band saw I could buy at the time. But its metalworking cousin is another animal entirely. 

Why am I telling you this? I love old iron. Most of our machinery was made back when I wore diapers (or my parents were in middle school). But sometimes buying and restoring an old machine is just not possible because of where you live, your skills or the time required to do the restoration right.

When that’s the case, here’s another option to consider: look at the metalworking machines. There isn’t always one available, but in some cases (especially with band saws, sanding machines, lathes and drill presses) there’s another line of machines out there that you might not be considering.

— Christopher Schwarz


No votes yet.
Please wait...