Ridgid BS1400 band saw
Note: while this review is of the BS1400 model, the owner's manual calls it the BS14002. I do not know if the addition of the number 2 signifies an upgrade or is just the full number not listed correctly in the catalog. The earlier "gray" version might have been the plain, old BS1400. In any case, the one being reviewed here is the orange version seen easily at any Home Depot store, usually selling for about $350.
OK, this is a pretty basic band saw in the old style. It came with the standard metal guide blocks and the usual, right-angle positioned bearing behind the blade. The frame is cast iron, as is the work table. The wheels appear to be cast (not machined) iron, but they seem decently round, and the offset, 3/4-HP induction motor is attached to the lower wheel by means of an automotive type V-belt, shielded by a metal housing. The blade guard and upper guide assembly can be raised or lowered for a maximum cut of 6 inches by means of a single release knob. Ridgid offers a 6-inch extender for those who want the saw to resaw really large boards.
The saw can be wired for either 120- or 240-volt operation. It came configured for the former, and that is where I left things. The manual offers rewireing instructions for a 240-volt hookup. The manual itself is better written than some of the other tool manuals I have seen.
The saw comes with a stand that is decently stiff, with an additional metal sheet under the top surface to stiffen it up a bit. The motor is rubber mounted. Assembling the stand and saw was a relative snap.
I do most of my woodworking out on a deck adjacent to my small shop (I am in north Florida, where this is possible 9 months of the year, with the summer months being just too hot), so I built a wooden platform under the stand, bolted them together, and installed 2.5-inch pivoting wheels on the bottom. This allows me to move the 200 pound assembly easily onto the deck.
OK, now let's get down to the details.
First, the saw vibrated too much out of the box. I discovered that the main offenders were the V-belt and the cast wheels. The belt was, well, junk, with a twist to it and too damned much stiffness. I went to an automotive parts shop and had the clerk (you need a clerk with a good attitude) go into the back and locate a flexible, segmented belt the same length. That solved much of the saw's vibration problem. I have the belt's stock/size number written down somewhere if anybody wants it.
I also installed little clip-on weights to each wheel. To do this accurately you need to remove the blade and V-belt and let gravity swing the wheels down to where the heavy sections are at the bottom. (This operation also allowed one to assess the condition of the wheel bearings.) You then clip the weight on at the top and check again to see if gravity pulls the wheels in any direction after releasing them at different positions. If they do not move they are balanced enough. If things are still off you need larger weights, a second weight, or a smaller weight. I was lucky, and I hit the mark on the first try. This modification solved nearly all of the remaining vibration problem.
I topped off the anti-vibration mods by solidly mounting the motor. Yep, I removed the rubber mounts (which looked like afterthought jokes) and replaced them with a small sheet of properly drilled out 3/4-inch MDF. I also added additional stiffness to the stand's mounting plate by installing an additional and larger sheet of drilled-oout 3/4-inch MDF under the metal surface. Doing this mandated longer mounting screws and large washers below, needless to say. This series of modifications allowed the saw to be butter smooth in its operation. The rubber belts already installed on the wheels were no problem, although I did purchase two spares for future use.
I also replaced the metal guide blocks with some fiber-material "cool blocks" that Ridgid was offering for sale at the time via their phone-order service. In addition, I removed the lower blade guard from the unit, because it appeared to not be needed at all and mainly functioned as a barrier to easily adjusting the lower guide blocks and bearing.
While side-mounted rubbing blocks seem outdated compared to newer-design saws that use bearings in those locations, I believe that the blocks might have one advantage over bearings: they scrape the blade clean as it runs. Bearings might just compress built-up sludge on the blade surface as it runs and gradually pinch it too hard. This is just a theory, of course, with some woods possibly causing more problems than others.
The upper and lower sections of the saw's cast-iron frame are held together by a large nut and bolt, plus large washers. There was space at that junction point for an additional smaller nut and bolt (and rectangular washers that I cut myself), and I installed them to make damned sure that the two sections locked together with little chance of the cast iron being overstressed.
Finally, I expanded the size of the table by adding a wooden frame made out of 2x4 sections around its back edge, right-side, and front edge. The left-side edge got a narrower piece of wood so that the table could still tilt a few degrees in that direction. This wooden frame around the cast-iron table is screwed together and is held in place by additional screws running into the pre-drilled holes in the front and back of the table. The wooden section is kept in cosmetic shape by regular applications of lemon oil. The notch for blade removal in the cast-iron table is continued through the wooden extension section on the right side, with the groove in the wooden pieces held together with a stiff, quick-release crosspiece below. The overall table is now 20 x 18 inches in size, with lines scribed into the wooden extensions to help keep things aligned when doing freehand or fence cuts.
A review I read about the saw said that the optional fence Ridgid offers is not all that good. This is one reason I was not afraid to do the wooden extension modification, since doing it would make it impossible to use the Ridgid fence. I made a fence of my own out of lumber, and if I need a fence I simply hold it in place with clamps, making sure that it is parallel to the lines scribed into the wooden extension sections. Most of my cutting is done freehand, however.
The wooden table expansion does two things. First, it offers a larger work surface. Second, it keeps the edge of the cast-iron table from marring any work pieces.
I removed the 3/8 inch blade that came with the saw and replaced it with a 1/2 incher for better straight-line cutting. For curved cuts that do not involve workpieces that are too large I use a small Ryobi 9-inch model with a 1/4-inch blade. Some of the mods I did on the larger Ridgid model were also done on the smaller Ryobi unit: wood-edged table enlarging and wheel balancing. The little Ryobi is a good saw for craftsman type jobs.
Overall, I think the 14-inch, Ridigid BS14002 model is a good saw, particularly for the $350 that I paid. Yes, I had to work on it a bit to get it up to snuff, but the result is an item that I can use for decently precise work.