A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Questions about tools and jigs you want to buy/build/modify.
RD Yazidi
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A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

I've wanted to get into hobby solidbody electric building for a few years and built one Tele from parts two summers ago, telling myself I'd try and build the next one from scratch "in a few months." I don't have much cash or room for tools and I am certainly a lifelong mega-overthinker / -procrastinator.

One significant problem / excuse I've had for not getting started, among many, has been the bandsaw problem. Duly noted: the line item in the MIMF newbie's FAQ re: 14" bandsaw or bust. But even if I could find room for it by hiding it at a friend's house or something, I've been searching the local pawns and Craigslist for two years and have yet to come up with both a trustworthy and affordable secondhand 14-incher. Actually, sellers around here seem to uniformly believe their worn-out, 35-year-old 10" Craftsman saws are still worth 200 bucks.

Also duly noted the advice about getting a decent quality power jigsaw as a substitute, but my impression (wrong, perhaps?) is that you'll need one heck of a jigsaw to satisfactorily cut through surfaced 8/4 body lumber, and I certainly have no idea how I'd really use such a thing to resaw maple for the neck etc.

I'm guessing I might be able to build 2 guitars a year in a VERY good year, so I am wondering - and please don't destroy me for asking - would something like a basic benchtop 9" bandsaw, with circa 4" of max cutting depth, *really* be so completely useless to me? I can afford one of those new, and for not much more / in fact less than a pro-grade jigsaw. The FAQ only says "don't do it;" it doesn't give what I would consider a good explanation as to why, and right now I can't see any reason why it wouldn't at least be able to get the basic job done.

Alternately, because I am still very new to woodworking with a decisively, ahem, "experiential learning style" and I really don't know the world of tools completely (despite a lot of purely academic lurker-study and book-larnin' over the last several years)... are there any viable alternatives to either of these tools - hand tools? some kind of possible use of a router I don't yet know about? anything else? - that would serve the same general purposes that a bandsaw might serve in a solidbody build while only being perhaps 50-75% more inconvenient in usage?

David King
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by David King »

Any of the Bosch style hand-held jigsaws with one of the modern "T" shank blades will work beautifully for this. I like the "Aggressor" blades with ground teeth, they can pierce and come in 4" length. There's also a very narrow and fine blade for tight corners that I use a lot. Skill makes a very inexpensive version of this saw with a 360º scrolling head that works very well. I think I paid $53 for it and it even came with a working dust collection port.

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

Yeah, of course after posting, I now see that there are more than a few affordable jigsaws that can cut deeper than I recalled (thanks for the added recs on blades for sure). I still wonder if anyone can clarify why a smaller bandsaw is such a problem, as I'm theorizing that it would be MUCH easier to manage a relatively large workpiece and particularly easier to resaw necks using even a small bandsaw vs. a passable jigsaw.

Tommy Coleman
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by Tommy Coleman »

I second the vote for a jigsaw. Not ideal of course but they wood totally do the work required. Like David said, blade is a key consideration as is letting the tool cut the wood at the rate it wants to. How would you finish cutting the sawn edge? With a bandsaw you could probably finish the guitar body edge by hand but with a jigsaw you might wanna consider pattern routing to finish the edge.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by Bob Gramann »

The small bandsaws usually have three small wheels instead of two larger ones. In order to bend over the smaller diameter wheels, the blade has to be thinner. It is very hard to set up those saws so that they will cut controllably. After one is successfully set up, it takes a minimum of blade wear before everything changes. The ones I have seen were just not worth the trouble to use them. I have an aged Craftsman 12" saw that I bought used at a very good price that is adequate for small jobs. I also have a decent 18" saw. I use both, often on the same day. Many people are satisfied with a good 14" saw. If I were to have just one, that would be what I would get. Most cheap tools just aren't worth the trouble. I've learned to go for quality every time. Every one of the lessons has been hard.

The jigsaw will do what you need to do this time. Grizzly has a copy of the Bosch that is relatively inexpensive and does the job.

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

Bob Gramann wrote:The small bandsaws usually have three small wheels instead of two larger ones. In order to bend over the smaller diameter wheels, the blade has to be thinner. It is very hard to set up those saws so that they will cut controllably.
I appreciate all of those solid justifications / personal experiences. The bandsaw I've been particularly eyeing is the Ryobi BS904. It uses a 2-wheel design, at least from what I can tell via a brief glance at its innards. It comes with a 62x1/4" blade, can apparently handle blades up to 3/8" wide. I know that doesn't compare to a larger bandsaw, of course. I am already expecting that, were I to go after this saw, the blade would likely need to be upgraded out of the box from what I have read.

I don't know if anything above makes this sound like a slightly more promising purchase for someone like you who has actually worked with these things a great deal.

However, one thing I have repeatedly heard about cutting out bodies with a jigsaw is that they are very difficult to control for this kind of work and have problems with blade deflection at the back of the body / around curves, requiring a much larger boundary of safety around the body contour on the initial rough cut. As with everything being discussed on the Internet, though, I've seen a wide array of opinions on this topic.
Tommy Coleman wrote: With a bandsaw you could probably finish the guitar body edge by hand but with a jigsaw you might wanna consider pattern routing to finish the edge.
I'd expected I'd have to pattern-route even if using a bandsaw for the first rough cut. It sounds like for many folks who are using jigsaws for their bodies, the saw adds enough of a "safety margin" that there's an add'l intermediary step of spindle sanding or other trim-down to the line before pattern routing is possible for them. I'd already planned to obtain a couple of routers and a belt sander; not sure if I could use a belt sander in a pinch to carve things down closer for final pattern route.

David King
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by David King »

The ground jigsaw blades will leave a much smoother cut than even the best bandsaw but user skill will determine how true the lines are. Bosch did make a table for their jigsaws with the blade coming up (inverted). I haven't seen them for sale in 20 years but you could fashion your own version.
I usually do it by cutting over a plastic 5 gal pail so if I hit the edge of the pail I hear it right away and it won't damage the blade. The scrolling feature on the Skill jigsaw is handy because the blade can rotate to cut in whatever direction you push it so you don't have to maneuver the saw handle in all kinds of awkward directions.

David King
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by David King »

Home Depot sells a rigid brand oscillating belt/spindle sander that you might find extremely useful.

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

Interesting. I was wondering if "jigsaw tables" were possible / even advisable.

I have heard nothing but good things about that "ROSS" (which seems to be the colloquial acronym on at least one other amateur-luthier-populated forum for that particular Ridgid unit). It is a little out of reach budget- and storage-space-wise right now. I am thinking I will have to make do for awhile with a handheld belt sander. That all said, I've aggressively been trying to talk another friend into buying a ROSS so I can "borrow" it...

Nate Scott
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by Nate Scott »

I don't recommend a cheap small bandsaw. My first was in this category. On a good day it made acceptable cuts in 1" stock but it didn't have many good days. The rest of the time it gave me fits with unsquare cuts, broken blades, and tracking problems. If you go this way, give yourself plenty of margin for cleaning up cuts with other tools.

Have you looked into community shop resources in your area? My first couple of instruments were built largely in the amazingly equipped shop at the local community college. Maybe there's a school or co-op you could use.

Hand tools can be a reasonable option if they are fairly well made and in good condition.

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

David, I am curious what the model number of your Skil saw might be. I haven't yet been able to locate one with the scrolling head. The Progressor blades (I think that's what you meant by "Aggressor"?) do sound very promising.

Nate, I do have access to a few friends who have reasonably well-stocked shops, including the big ol' bandsaws I can't really afford, and I *am* planning to make use of this option when I can, but for a few reasons, not least of all being largely incompatible schedules, it's best if I can mostly do the work on my own and on my own time / with my own gear. Obviously if it were anything near easy to get my pals to let me in and try my hand on their tools, I would have gotten a little farther along on my first from-scratch axe by now. I admittedly have not looked into community college resources but I suspect they'll largely be closed off to me in this area.

I know there surely must be a way to rough-cut a solidbody guitar body / neck blank using hand tools but I must say that I certainly haven't seen anyone / any threads recommending nor outlining this approach. I'm sure that it takes absolutely forever to cut out a body blank even with a hand tool reasonably suited to the task.

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

And David, your suggestion re: jigsaw tables led me down the Internet rabbit hole to this. The real deal is quite reasonably priced, to the point where I wonder if it's even worth thinking about DIYing something equivalent with a roller guide, and of course it can do more than straight cutting. Either way, it's pretty clear that *this* sort of setup could quite probably solve the Bandsaw Problem, so a coincidental but very real thanks to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvvPfduksNY

edit: Hrm, maybe not as optimal solution as I might hope - maximum thickness of workpiece 1.57 inches. :(
Last edited by RD Yazidi on Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

David King
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by David King »

RD,

Here's a part number to the table insert for the Skil jigsaw.
3100-09-x-bench-jigsaw-insert-plate
The scrolling jigsaw is SKIL 4490-01 5 Amp Orbital Cut Scrolling Jig Saw. It's not a petite tool, considerably fatter than my Bosch. I will say that the scrolling feature may get in the way of absolute precision though that's hard to judge. I was using it for cutting out electrical box openings in solid wood baseboards close to the floor so it was an indispensable attribute.
Yes progressor might be the right name to those blades -it's been a while. I'd suggest you start with their T101B blades and see if they don't do everything you need. For very tight radius cuts in thinner wood then their T101AO blades are the ticket but they will deflect easily if you don't take your time and pay attention.

Some folks here have been known to resaw using a hand saw. In the right hands a bowsaw with the right blade can accomplish amazing feats.
You might just try the inverted jigsaw with a fence and see how far that gets you.

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

Thanks yet again, David. This is all very helpful.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by Peter Wilcox »

My first was done with mickey mouse tools I had on hand. Belt sander to make it flat/thicknessed, jigsaw to cut out the body, sander clamped vertically to smooth most of the edges, a drill rasp to get the interior sections and a trim router for the pickup cavities and neck pocket. Then hand sanding, but not too much more than using a drum sander, band saw, templates and oscillating sander (all of which I now have 5 years later - definitely faster and easier.) The neck was done the same way.

I'm not advocating doing it this way, but it can be done without a band saw. :)
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RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

Peter, if I'm not mistaken, you're the dude who built the Tele out of discarded lyptus and a photocopier. I ran across that build thread on another forum a few weeks ago and it pretty much made you my hero - also gave me the idea to use the clamped-down hand sander for as long as I can get away with it. I do like the idea of using absolutely minimal tools to do my next build, but there are also at least some limits to my thrift-masochism.

Jason Rodgers
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by Jason Rodgers »

If all you're doing is solid-body electrics, I bet you could make it work with some pretty basic stuff, most of which could be found on craigslist (and easily store-able):
- Handheld jigsaw, for shape cutting. This would work on the body contours, and rough neck outlines. Some components would need to have wood purchased close to desired dimensions.
- Oscillating spindle sander. This is the single up-and-down drum in a guitar-pick-shaped table (not the drum that transforms into a belt RIDGID tool). I snagged a Ryobi on craigslist for $60 and really like it. The same basic tool is sold under a half-dozen different names and colors. The belt sander clamped to a bench is pretty slick, though, and much more portable/store-able than the OSS. Either way, it's amazing the clean edge you can get and finesse it to the line with a little practice.
- Hand drill, and a variety of bits. This can take care of basic hole drilling, as well as hogging out chambers, cavities, and pockets. With those fancy sanding drum attachments, you could also do arm and belly bevels and neck shaping.
- Router, and a variety of bits. With templates, you can do all sorts of stuff. And with other jigs (buildable with the other tools), you can do even more, including thicknessing and jointing.
- Hand planes, chisels, files/rasps, and saws. What you can't dimension with the other tools can be done by hand.

With the above tools, you could build a Strat/Tele or a Les Paul (and the various iterations in between), with all of their associated body and neck shapes and joints.

My first tools were a jigsaw, router, hand drill, and I was given a jointer, too. Unfortunately, I didn't make good use of them with the knowledge and skill set I had at the time. Now, I use my drill press, bandsaw, and table saw regularly, because they're the right tools for the job (ie, sufficiently powered), but I could make these other smaller hand tools work for what I want to do if I really had to. Take the time to think out your next move, and do mock runs and practice on scrap when you can. Good luck!
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by Peter Wilcox »

RD Yazidi wrote:Peter, if I'm not mistaken, you're the dude who built the Tele out of discarded lyptus and a photocopier. I ran across that build thread on another forum a few weeks ago and it pretty much made you my hero - also gave me the idea to use the clamped-down hand sander for as long as I can get away with it. I do like the idea of using absolutely minimal tools to do my next build, but there are also at least some limits to my thrift-masochism.
Yes, RD - I am that dude. It was the $100 Tele challenge here - the body wood was alder and the neck lyptus. I posted it on the other forum, since at that time threads here scrolled down off the bottom never to be seen again. I learned from that experience, that patience and attention to detail can go a long ways toward making up for lack of the correct tools, and that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

However, a good band saw has been for me the most fundamental and useful power tool I have. Good luck with your build - you will learn a lot from it.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

RD Yazidi
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by RD Yazidi »

Thanks for the well-wishes, Peter. I learned more from my from-parts build than I did from reading all these hundreds of build threads, so I know I'm just gonna learn a heck of a lot more from the next "deep run."

Jason, yeah, what you describe in terms of bare-minimum tooling is mostly the conclusion I've very slowly come to, although I am still fairly determined to get a drill press shortly as well. I've sort of put that one off for > 15 years anyway... one other thing that has held me up is that I know I really kinda need a router but figuring out what kind has been absolutely maddening. Thanks very much for the helpful advice and further encouragement.

David King
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Re: A dumb newbie's bandsaw problem

Post by David King »

RD,

My advice would be to not buy a used router. Once the bearings and brushes go you'll be out more than you paid for it to have them replaced. If the collet system is worn out you can toss them in the garbage (or sell them on Craigslist at inflated prices to beginners who don't know better).

I'd say a minimum 2.25 HP and either a fixed base of plunge will be handy. Fixed-base routers will be much more accurate for flattening wood or trimming edges. Plunge bases are usually too floppy, best for routing cavities when you need to make several passes to get to full depth.

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