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Beat the band (saw)

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In July of last year I related how I changed my band saw blade, and was shocked to see how dull it had gotten. It happens so slowly, you don’t notice till you put on a new one.

At the time, I noted that we regularly do obvious maintenance on our tools, but some things change slowly over time – like the gradual dulling of a blade – and we just don’t think about it. And if we do think about, it’s next to impossible to remember the last time we changed it. Sure, a long session of milling hundreds of feet of rough stock, or damage by hitting a nail or something is obvious; gradual wear isn’t.

Well, I tried something last July that has worked like a charm. Whenever I put on a blade I write a brief description and the date on the inside of the top access door with a grease pencil. The description doesn’t have to be long; just blade size and pitch should do it. For example, something like 1/2” 4TPI, followed by the date, does the trick. Change blade types and sizes often? No problem; there’s a lot of room inside that door.

I have a tendency to leave one blade on the machine all the time unless I have to change to a wider or narrower blade for a specific task. When I do, I put an end date for the blade I’m taking off, and then pick up that blade’s “history” when I put it back on.

The bottom line is that you can tell at a glance how old a blade is. And speaking of specific tasks, should you use a blade for a rough job – say milling a lot of rough stock – jot down a note by that blade’s history. Even just putting an asterisk by it will remind you that you gave it a real workout for a particular job. Finally, when you retire a blade, delete the blade’s history; grease pencil wipes right off the glossy paint with a rag. Once you get used to keeping a blade history, you’ll never again allow a blade to get dull.

Of course, you do still have to open that access door once in a while to check the date.



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