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POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw
Well built and loaded with "aftermarket" features
Text, photos & video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 8-05-2007
For many of us, ordering aftermarket pieces to "tweak out" a new bandsaw with the features we really wanted has been standard operating procedure. The folks at POWERMATIC took this into consideration and saved us that additional step as well as a bunch of additional money. Their POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw comes out of the box pre-tweaked so to speak thanks to an impressive set of traditionally aftermarket features that have been factory installed on a very well-built, well-designed bandsaw.
The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw is based on a pair of well-engineered iron castings that make this a very rigid machine. However, the lower casting forms most of the bottom cabinet
and allowed POWERMATIC to add a design feature that has been long coming in bandsaw's; effective dust control.
The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw features cast iron, 9 spoke drive wheels. Their increased weight (over the more common aluminum or pot metal versions) creates a flywheel effect that helps stabilize blade speed when the density of the wood being cut varies. The additional weight of cast iron wheels could be a liability but POWERMATIC machines, paints and even installs the tires BEFORE balancing them dynamically.
POWERMATIC decided to incorporate a 4"-diameter dust port in the lower cast iron case, located directly on the blade path below the table. This eliminates all of the major-league vacuum leaks associated with running a dust chute down through the base cabinet as is so common in bandsaw's today.
Locating the DC vacuum directly in the lower cabinet allowed POWERMATIC to add a perforated insert plate that surrounds the blade with effective dust ports. That means there are far fewer little piles of dust on the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw table.
To help prevent migration of dust through the rest of the machine, POWERMATIC installs a brush that wipes the lower tire during operation. Some dust still gets out of the lower cabinet but the amount is less than I have seen on any bandsaw - by a bunch.
Another dust control feature is the cut line blower system. A small air pump mounted on the motor supplies mildly pressurized air to a nozzle attached to the upper guide assembly. Though it takes a little tweaking to get the nozzle aimed correctly for the cut, it does emit enough air to keep the cut line clear of dust.
Motor and Drive System
The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw is powered by a 1 1/2 Hp TEFC (totally enclosed fan cooled) motor. This motor seems more powerful than most because POWERMATIC uses a true continuous duty horsepower rating rather than the always-suspect "peak" or "max developed" power figures woodworkers at least distrust if they don't disregard them entirely. The PWBS-14 motor comes wired for 110V operation but can be converted for 230V power.
Nicely machined multi-groove pulleys are connected by a Poly V-belt, known to transmit power smoothly with virtually no slip and remarkably little heat buildup. Between the motor being isolated in the base cabinet and the smoothness of the Poly V-belt, the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw shows virtually no vibration during operation. It is also quieter than other bandsaw's I have had.
Table & Fence
The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw makes full use of the blade-to-frame space with an oversized 20 7/8" by 15" overall cast iron table surface. The forward 15" of that pivots on conventional trunnions to 45-degrees to the right and up to 10-degrees to the left. The stationary portion of the table is installed during assembly and adjusted to be flush with the primary surface. The table surface is a comfortable 44" above the floor.
POWERMATIC includes a T-square style fence that locks on both ends. The main arm is made from an aluminum extrusion with two flat sides that allow using it on either side of the blade. The fence comes with a resaw post, another piece usually considered to be an aftermarket (additional cost) accessory. The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw has a standard resaw capacity of 6" but can be increased to 12" with the installation of the riser block kit (#1791217) that even includes a general purpose 3/8"-wide, 105"-long blade!
The cutting scale on the fence rail has two rows of markings. One is calibrated for the bare fence-to-blade distance. The other represents the dimension from the edge of the resaw post to the blade. This is a very handy idea.
A fully functional miter gauge is also included.
Roller Bearing Guides
The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw comes with full roller bearing guides above and below the table. The double row side bearings and single thrust bearing are adjusted using nifty finger-operated dials that make precise settings very easy. Both adjustments are secured with thumbscrews, making them virtually tool free. Adjusting the side bearing to blade distance is done with a hex wrench, turning their eccentric mounting bolts.
By all accounts, roller bearing guides are the most common aftermarket accessories added to bandsaw's Because POWERMATIC includes them on the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw, you effectively save around $150!
Another traditionally aftermarket piece is the Carter Quick Release arm that comes as standard equipment on the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw. The Quick Release arm has three positions, full tension, relaxed tension and full
release. The full tension setting is self-explanatory. The relaxed (middle) setting is designed to relieve enough blade tension to prevent damage to the tires and wheel bearings when the saw is not in use. The full-relaxed position is for changing blades though I did have to turn the tensioning handle a few turns to actually get some blades off. I suspect this variance comes from small differences in actual blade lengths.
Because the Quick Release arm works independent of the tensioning block, operating it does not lose the original tension setting. This also allows dialing in the precise tension needed for the blade, a handy feature when using reduced-tension blades such as those from Timber Wolf.
The Quick Release arm has a bright orange ball on its end that has a special purpose. When the Quick Release arm is in the relaxed or full-relaxed positions, that ball hangs near the blade to be clearly visible to the operator. In order to use the saw in a de-tensioned state you have to ignore this blatantly visual warning.
Many of us add a work light to our bandsaw's to help see cut lines clearly and to make more accurate guide setups. The POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw comes with a nice built-in light that uses a 40-watt bulb that produces plenty of light without glaring at you or heating everything in the vicinity up. The work light is wired into the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw system but has its own switch so it can be used when the saw itself is not running.
Being able to move machines around the shop is important to many woodworkers, especially one with the versatility of the bandsaw. To that end, I installed the POWERMATIC #2042377 mobile base during the initial assembly. This fully welded base fits the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw base cabinet (curved front) perfectly, rolls easily and with a single free turning caster on one end, steers effortlessly. The caster has a step-on wheel lock while both fixed wheels have screw-in locks, operated with a knob. All three locks are effective and keep the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw very stable when engaged.
In the Shop
Assembling the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw and adjusting it for use took the better part of a day. I should note that I like to take my time and get everything right the first time, a goal that was easily met because all of the parts fit and worked correctly. That time was expanded due to stopping to take photos for this review.
Installing and adjusting the stationary portion of the worktable took the longest, particularly getting it perfectly flush with the main table surface. However, that is a one-time task and was worth the effort. I did have to adjust the blade guides slightly and the blade tracking on the drive wheels required a tiny adjustment but that was the extent of the setup process.
In use, the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw shows no sign of lacking power. Blade speed is very consistent regardless of the material thickness being cut. Blade tracking is also excellent, in part because of the roller guides but the solid construction of the entire machine is a major contributing factor.
The high-end bearings used throughout the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw and the dynamic balancing of the drive wheels add up to an exceptionally smooth running machine. That smoothness of operation also contributes to the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw being a remarkably quiet machine. Easily the loudest sounds come from the blade cutting the wood.
Dust collection on bandsaw's has been a bad joke in woodworking as long as I can remember. There are no such giggles with the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw because its dust collection system actually works! Plugging a 4"-diameter dust collection hose into the lower cabinet directly over the blade path makes all the sense in the world but I notice most manufacturers have yet to experience this revelation.
During the evaluation of the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw, lots of wood was cut. The amount of dust found inside or out of the upper and lower cabinets was remarkably small. Even the dust pressed onto the drive wheel tires is minimal because the brush POWERMATIC installs is effective and positioned correctly.
The roller guides are easy to set up and work very well. Throughout the evaluation, blade tracking was very straight and repeated well through de-tensioning and re-tensioning cycles. The effective dust system keeps contamination of the rollers to a minimum. After many hours of use, I had to clean a bit of pitch from the rollers once and that was after cutting up a bunch of pine.
With a street price of around $900.00 (7-25-2007) the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw is a better deal than it appears. If you begin adding up the cost of all of the features included on the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw that you have to pay extra for with other saws in this class, the deal gets better yet.
Remember that all those features are installed on an exceptionally well built, well designed machine that handles more jobs right out of the box than any other bandsaw I have seen. If accuracy, durability, ease of use and value are important to you, the POWERMATIC PWBS-14 Bandsaw should be at the top of your must see list.
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