Gazette Archive 3/13/00
Tool Review: Rockler Bandsaw Table
I will break this into sections, then have an overall view at the end. The saw I am using for this review is a General #490, 15" with the factory optional fence. I'd like to thank the good folks at "Rockler Woodworking" for supplying this product. The following reflect only my impressions and may not reflect the views of others
I love new stuff so no sooner did the package arrive, then I was in the studio tearing at the tape.
My first impressions were that the table was well packaged with separate bags for each assembly sequence. The fit and finish on the table, fence and other parts was excellent and with the exception of one screw that wasn't tightened all the way, every thing was in good order.
Although I rarely use the instructions, I do scan the pages to get a feel for where I'm supposed to be during the process. Here I feel they could use a bit more detail. Some folks DO read and follow each step religiously. This would leave one scratching their heads as the instructions are lacking in detail. One part arrived in a separate bag, and not until I looked at the web page did I have a clue into what they sent me or where it went (it was the resaw attachment , at least that's what I used it for!)
I inserted the bar into the miter slot on my table and positioned the top as instructed. I then marked the holes, removed the top, fastened the bar with the screws and installed the threaded rods that are used to keep the top secure. When I tried to put it back on the saw , the existing fence rails got in the way and needed to be removed. Once secured, the first thought was "wow, this is big", but the second was "wow, its thick!" I ended up loosing 1 1/8 " of resaw capability. I also noted that in order to change the blade I would need to remove the top, then go through all the normal procedure.
Ok, time for the fence, which consists of an anodized "angle " welded to the lock and glide mechanism. To this, a piece of melamine is attached with "T nuts" to form the fence proper. Assembly was easy, as was putting it on the table. Slides fairly well but it goes on the left only and has a maximum opening of 5 1/2 ". (I checked my old fence and it allows 5" to the left of the blade and 9" to the right.) It was square to the table surface and has thumb screws to align it to the blade. There are grooves in the upright portion to accept "T" bolts for stops, resaw pins, etc. etc.
Time for a test drive.
After inserting the table insert ( actually a square of MDF , so its easy for us to make lots of fresh ones!) as instructed, I noticed it fell below the table surface. A quick check shows .024" below. With the downward force from the blade this will be a trouble spot. I removed it and shimmed it flush. I found some scraps and set the fence for a few test cuts. The table and fence being Melamine, are very smooth so friction wasn't a problem . The oversized table was nice. I then installed the resaw attachment and cut a 4" high piece of Maple 3/16 thick. Again, all the smooth surfaces were excellent and friction wasn't a problem.
Time to try the circle jig. The instructions are good so I was off in a flash but, was disappointed with this one. The idea is excellent but the execution is terrible. It involves a small piece of aluminum that has a pin in it and rides inside the anodized track that is at 90 deg to the miter slot. A set screw is placed in the slot to limit the travel of the pin towards the blade. The pin is set into the center of the work, then the work is laid on the table and the small aluminum bar must be set into the track. That was ok for the most part but the bar being too sloppy made its travel erratic over the screws in the bottom of this track. To make small circles it must also pass through the miter slot and is too short to do this without binding. With an hour in a machine shop and a little more thought, this little jig could be a winner. It does cut perfect circles but it's too fussy for any more than two or three before I'd toss it and make my own.
Overall my thoughts on the table were positive. Nice surfaces and finishes. Some design improvements I'd like to see are a bolt with closer tolerances on the fence lock and maybe a Teflon strip on the face for smoother operation, resizing the insert hole to a standard depth for 1/2" MDF, clearer instruction and a redesign of the circle jig ( I've already got a better one I'll have made by next week )
If you own a low end bandsaw , without a fence , and use it for mostly small cutting , occasional resawing, hobby and curved work this is for you. The large table is a blessing and the overall quality very good. This table will "work " if needed but won't like being abused.
If you are like me, have a fence and
use the bandsaw for heavy resawing, ripping large quantities
of lumber and even trimming up large bowl blanks out of green
logs, it will spend time on the wall and be put into service
when it's needed