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My goal was twofold: First, to determine what kinds of woodworking jobs these diminutive, affordable band saws are capable of.
A word before we begin: The great majority of power tools these days are made overseas by OEM (original equipment manufacturers) factories that build each model to the specifications of the company that’s going to put their name on them.
The 9″ Craftsman BAS230 has a couple of features that distinguish it from its rivals, including balanced wheels. The Craftsman has plenty of power to tackle all the basic band saw cutting operations, crosscutting, ripping and even doing light resawing of hardwoods.
To stabilize its running blade, the Craftsman BAS230 is fitted with the exact same ball-bearing thrust bearings and steel pin friction side guides (both above and below the table) as found on the Central Machinery and Ryobi saws. The bright blue and yellow Ryobi BS903 band saw is sold exclusively through the Home Depot chain of building supply stores, and comes with a very generous three-year warranty. One feature the Ryobi BS903 shares with similar-looking 9″ models is its blade tension release lever. Performance-wise, I honestly had trouble distinguishing the Ryobi’s cutting abilities from its similarly built competitors. Dust collection ports, located at the bottom of the lower wheel housing, are built into all of the saws in this test. The steel pin friction side guides on the Skil 3386 are slightly larger in diameter than similar models. The Skil’s overall build quality seems good, and the saw features a guide post made of cast alloy that feels very solid.
The 9″ Skil 3386’s miter gauge features a bar with a T-shaped profile, to keep it from lifting in the slot. Much like the Central Machinery and Ryobi saws, the 3386’s table tilts for beveled cuts via a geared trunnion. Despite this shortcoming, the Skil performed very well in all my cutting tests, and could even resaw an oak strip as wide as its maximum cutting depth (3-5?8″) without stalling. The 9″ Central Machinery 96980 band saw sports a nice cast-iron table that mounts t the frame via a handy geared trunnion assembly.
Central Machinery is the Harbor Freight company’s house brand, sold through its stores, catalogs and Internet sales.
Switched on, the Central Machinery band saw has good overall power and runs smoothly, with an acceptable quality of cut. Just about every description you could give of the Craftsman 21400 is true for the RIKON 10-305.
RIKON’s 10″ model 10-305 has a nice, extruded aluminum guide post that adjusts and locks with hand-friendly controls.
But when I resawed the same piece of 4-5?8″-wide red oak I had cut with the 21400, the RIKON slowed to the point of stalling.
Most benchtop band saws in this test, including the 10″ Craftsman 21400, have an adjustable brush that prevents sawdust buildup on the lower wheel’s tire.
The Proxxon Micro Saw is by far the smallest, lightest, most easily portable and stowable saw in this bunch.
The JET is by far the most extensively equipped band saw in this group, with more bells and whistles than any other model, including its own pressed-sheet-metal stand (you can remove the stand to use it as a benchtop tool). The JET’s ball bearing blade guide assemblies are like those found on the other 10″ models, but the upper guides on the JET allow tool-less adjustments. The JET’s rip fence is nicer than on any other band saw in this test, with a large locking lever and a cursor window that makes it easy to set precisely for rip cuts and resawing chores. I’ve done a few dozen tool tests in my time, but few have left me with more head scratching than this one.
Ultimately, the benchtop band saw that’s best for you depends greatly on what your real needs are: If you’re a puzzle maker, model builder or hobbyist that often tackles small-scale projects, I have little doubt that the Proxxon will serve you well.
Considering all this, I think the best benchtop band saw for the average small shop woodworker should be compact and portable, capable of decent cutting performance and offer good value for the money. I have the 10″ Craftsman and I will tell you I am returning it (this is the second one I have purchased and exchanged in a month). I have found the Craftsman, while not in the same cutting league as bigger saws, to be a reliable tool. The ones I’ve used in the past have proved to be more toy than tool, with poor blade tracking and barely enough power to chew through thin softwood stock. Second, to pick the best of the bunch for this magazine’s “Best Bet” designation, awarded to the tool that demonstrates the best blend of features, performance and price. This helps explain why three of the four 9″ benchtop band saws I tested — the Craftsman, Central Machinery and Ryobi — have virtually the same welded steel frame, base and overall design. Although many woodworkers feel that ball bearing side guides are better, to tell you the truth, I didn’t really miss them on these small saws.
Like the similarly appointed Craftsman and Central Machinery models, the Ryobi sports a blade tension release lever, something more typically found on full-sized band saws. The Skil uses concentric knobs that are easy to set, and its angle scale is a bit easier to read than the other two saws.

Aside from different colored paint and name plaques, the two saws are virtually identical, including all their adjustment knobs. In terms of cutting performance, that 1-amp upgrade (compared to the 9″ saws) seemed to make quite a difference.
Both the cross and rip cuts I tried with the saw were clean and square, thanks in part to the saw’s smooth-running wheels and tiny ball bearing guides. The JWBS-10OS frame is very similar to the Craftsman and RIKON, but it is set up to take a slightly shorter blade. Loosening the plastic-knobbed handscrews used to lock these adjustments allows you to rotate each eccentrically mounted bearing: Turning it brings the bearing either closer to or farther from the blade.
Even though blade tension doesn’t seem to be particularly critical with any of these small band saws, it’s very handy to have a way to gauge the actual tension of a blade and set it to the manufacturer’s specified tightness. If you often tackle full-size projects, but don’t have the space or budget for a full-sized band saw, then the decisions get a bit trickier. The Skil 3386 has all these qualities, and hence, it gets my vote as the “Best Bet” among these options for a benchtop band saw.
It looked nice, and the light was a great feature, but it wobbled something awful, at any blade tension.
While the Craftsman is still a light-duty hobby grade tool, it at least has steel where it needs steel and the blade tracks straight. But recently, I noticed that several power tool companies were offering small band saws made with much the same construction and features found on full-sized saws.
I examined each saw’s extensive features carefully, and probed its performance by doing a full range of cutting tests to find out how much each benchtop tool could handle. While its welded frame is just like two other saws, its wheels have wider, sturdier looking spokes than the other two. The saw’s large cast-alloy table offers good support to larger workpieces, and is the only table in the group with a fully ribbed surface. Friction pins are easy to adjust and do a fine job of stabilizing the blade during cutting.
It’s a nice feature because routinely loosening tension can prevent a blade from taking a “set” on its wheels, thus helping it to run more smoothly over its lifetime. The BS903 crosscut well using exactly the same little plastic-headed, aluminum bar miter guide as comes with the Craftsman and Central Machinery saws.
Its table is the same size as found on other 9″ saws, but it is a smooth-surfaced piece of cast iron.
Despite the saw’s good features and performance, one reservation I’d have in choosing this over the other models is that it only carries a 90-day warranty, not much compared to the one- to five-year warranties that come with the other benchtop band saws. I checked the blade tension, as well as the tightness of the drive belt, and even swapped blades with the Craftsman, just to make sure that the blade wasn’t at fault; nothing seemed to improve the tool’s resawing performance.
The 21400’s wheels are balanced, for smoother running, and an adjustable brush on the lower wheel wipes sawdust from the spinning tire, to help keep the blade tracking smoothly.
The 21400 had plenty of power to take thick cuts in hardwoods, and even resaw boards as wide as its 4-5?8″ cutting depth.
It’s also the only saw with a permanent magnet DC motor (the same kind used on most portable power tools) that’s only rated at 85 watts — about .7 amps.
I did a little cutting test with the JET, Craftsman and Rikon, resawing a 4-1?8″-wide (the JET’s max cutting capacity) red oak board and timed how long it took each saw to get through the cut, pushing as hard as I could without slowing blade speed significantly. Surprisingly, the JET is also the only 10″ band saw to have a blade tension release lever. Like all the other band saws in this article, the JET has a built-in dust port in the lower wheel housing. The Skil is smaller and, thanks to its alloy frame, lighter and more easily portable than any other saws in this test, save the petite Proxxon. The sheaves have clip weights on them, which suggests they tried to balance them, but it didn’t work.
It doesn’t vibrate or wobble even a little, they did a good job dynamically balancing the wheels and it runs very quiet. Besides varying in features and cosmetics, each saw has its own performance personality, and some just flat-out cut better than others.
Plus, the Craftsman’s wheels have pressedon weights, evidence that the wheels have undergone balancing to help them run with less vibration. This is a practical feature, as the ribs can help keep sawdust from hanging up the workpiece. Unfortunately, the upper guides on the Craftsman mount to the same molded plastic guide post assembly found on the other two saws.
The BS903 has a small, clear plastic-covered window on the upper wheel guard (also on the 9″ Craftsman, Skil, and JET).
The gauge is basic, but adequate for the small cuts you’re likely to perform with these small band saws.
To help keep the saw in place during use, the frame is mounted to a base made from heavier cast iron.

Like the fences on the 10″ saws, the Skil’s locking lever secures the fence at both ends of the table. The first noteworthy difference is that the RIKON sells for about $65 more than the Craftsman.
The three saws lack the nice geared trunnion assemblies featured on the 9″ saws, but they do sport nice extruded aluminum upper guide posts.
The guides help stabilize the blade very effectively, resulting in kerfs that are straight and true. The JET’s cast-iron table is much like the other saws, but it includes a pull-out support attached below its outboard edge: really nice if you’re sawing a large panel or crosscutting longer stock.
In contrast, I didn’t care for the JET’s controls for adjusting the height of the upper guide post.
The JET could cut at a pace of a foot every 44 seconds, while the Craftsman took 68 seconds and the Rikon a glacially paced 138 seconds per foot. But its stand-mounted size and relatively high price put it in league with larger, more versatile band saws in the 14″ range.
It has nice, solid guides, cuts with good power and lacks only a small amount of the cutting capacities of 10″ models. I agree with you on the down word spiral in terms of tool quality, with ALL tools, not just Craftsman. I suspect the hubs are drilled a little off of true perpendicular, as I could see wheels and blade going side to side. My cutting tests bore this out, and the BAS230 cut slightly more smoothly than any of the other 9″ saws. The window makes it easier to safely adjust the tracking so that the blade rides on the center of the wheel’s rim. Even though the Ryobi and two similar competitors don’t come with rip fences, I used a clamped board to test their rip and resaw abilities, which were adequate for the scope of work these saws are meant to handle. The 3386 lacks a blade tension release lever, but you can always loosen the blade tension knob at the end of your work session.
Plus, the Skil’s table has scales inlaid at both ends, allowing you to check the parallelism of the fence before locking it. The table attaches to the frame via a nice geared trunnion assembly; the Ryobi and Skil saws have a similar setup.
The only thing I could figure was worth the extra cost is the RIKON’s whopping five year warranty — the longest in this group of benchtop band saws. The posts are very solid, and they adjust up and down smoothly via a rack-and-pinion mechanism. Even though the Craftsman’s blade is the same kind of hook-toothed 6 tpi general purpose blade found on all saws in this test (save the Proxxon), the smoothness of cut suffered considerably with the 21400.
The Proxxon’s construction is quite good, with a rigid cast-alloy frame and a polished aluminum table.
Further inspiring confidence in its cutting abilities, the JET’s 3.4-amp motor sports an aluminum housing and heat-dissipating fins, to help keep things cool during longer cutting sessions. The Craftsman’s low price tag and good performance make it a bargain, but at 65 lbs., it’s not exactly a portable, easily stowable saw. This Skil band saw offers a lot of features considering its low price tag, including a rip fence and a built-in light, which don’t come with any other 9″ models. The next time you buy a new Makita or Dewalt, look where it’s made, either Mexico or China. But the posts also deflect relatively easily and could possibly break if impacted by a sharp blow. I had an issue with the saw’s miter gauge, which has a bar that’s T-shaped in profile, designed to keep the bar from lifting out of the table slot.
To change the table’s tilt angle, simply loosen the table-locking handscrew and rotate a knob to dial in the desired angle. One small pain is that you have to undo four Allenhead screws each time you want to remove the Proxxon’s one-piece wheel guard, making blade changes a bit tedious. I had some other concerns about the fit and finish of it overall, like how the 4 screw holes in the plate were poorly tapped, and how the unit came out of the box with the blade guide jammed in the upright position, such that it could not be dislodged with just the knob (I had to take the knob off and put a wrench on the gear’s flats).
There’s also an adjustable stop for quickly setting the table square to the blade — the position it’s bound to stay in most of the time. The guides on the Craftsman adjust with an Allen wrench and are easy to fine tune for smooth operation (ditto the RIKON).
In my opinion, whether it’s made in China or not, Quality Control is the key word to be used in this comparison.
This doesn’t seem like much, but I did notice the reduction of support, especially when I cut longer workpieces.

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Author: admin | 25.02.2016 | Category: Aluminum Sheds

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