When I was first examining the guides on my saw, I noticed that they were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Actually, they seemed to be a mismatched set.
The guides on my saw are the type that have an asymmetrical pair on each the top and bottom, with one coming from the left, perpendicular to the blade, and the other coming from the right at a 45-degree angle.
I have seen this configuration before, but what was new here was that the perpendicular guide was a small wheel, with a groove on the outer circumference that the back of the blade would ride in; and the 45-degree steel guide wasn’t touching the blade at all.
After digging through the manual, I found that this wheel guide was the “fretwork guide”, meant to support the back of a blade too narrow to be held by the steel guides. This meant that I was missing the horizontal steel guides that I would need for a regular (3/8″-1/2″) blade.
I started looking online for information about Cool Blocks and ceramic guides, having heard that these were the best for guiding the blade and keeping it from overheating due to the friction of the guides rubbing against the blade, however, being a relatively rare European saw, I would have to order custom blocks, which would be tedious and expensive.
I am a regular reader of woodgears.ca, and had seen an article regarding using hardwood blocks as guides. This seemed cheap, easy, and reversible, so I thought it would make a worthwhile experiment.
Wanting to do a little more research on this concept and general bandsaw theory, I bought The Bandsaw Book and found a couple interesting facts: 1.) Wooden guides can provide excellent support for the blade, although they wear out quickly; and 2.) Steel guides do NOT cause blades to overheat (the wood being cut generates far more heat, and the guides are only making contact with a very small portion of the blade).
Armed with the confidence that I could do no harm; I cut out a set of guides from some white oak I had laying around, saturated them with Johnson’s Paste Wax, and tested the cut.
It was terrible! The blade immediately started cutting at what must have been 20-degrees from parallel to the table.
I started to worry about whether the guides would work, but then I remembered: I’m using a saw with chewed up tires and the cheapest Craftsman blade that fits, I should probably address those problems before I start trying to fine-tune the cut.
<To be continued in Part 4: The Wheels and the Blade>