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Friday, October 28, 2011

DIY Tool Upgrade: adding a 3 h.p. Baldor motor to the Delta 14" Band Saw

My Delta 14" band saw is one of (probably) hundreds of thousands of similar 14" band saws around the U.S. and the world.  The Delta 14" is perhaps the most common starter band saw of the past few decades.  Mine was a gift from a friend, whose father had put the old 14" in the garage after replacing it with a bigger, more powerful saw.  Many woodworkers graduate from their 14" band saw once they get serious about cutting through really tough, thick pieces of wood, such as when re-sawing, which is the process of slicing thin sheets of stock from the face of a thicker board.

Re-sawing allows you to make your own veneers and book-matched panels, which are so much more visually appealing than non book-matched panels, it's worth
investing in order to be able to make them.  But do I need a bigger saw than my Delta 14"?  No, I don't.  For one, it has a riser block on it, giving it a re-saw capacity of more than 13", allowing me to make book-matched panels up to 26" wide, which is very wide for any panel on even the largest cabinets.

The reason most woodworkers upgrade from their Delta 14" is power, not capacity.  My 14" came with a 3/4" hp motor.  New 14s come with 1 or 1 1/4 hp motors.  With the riser (a common option that adds 6" to the stock height capacity), a Delta 14" is tall enough to pass a 13" tall block of wood between the table and the bottom of the blade guide.  But all that capacity is mere fluff and window dressing, appealing to the eye but representing no such capacity in reality, given the paltry horsepower ratings on the stock motors.  My saw's stock 3/4 hp motor was completely inadequate, but even the newer models don't have the juice to re-saw through 13" of hardwood stock. 

To make clean, burn-free cuts in 13" of hardwood stock, the experts say you need at least 2 hp, if not more.  So when I got the chance to snap up a 3 hp Baldor motor for only $20, I jumped on it.  My plan was to replace my band saw's 1 hp motor (which itself was a replacement of the stock motor) with the 3 hp motor.

Now, most of the people I spoke with told me the Delta 14" can't handle 3 hp.  But my research online, as well as conversations with Woody at Rockler in Cambridge MA, and Louis at Iturra Designs in Florida, told me otherwise.  I ended up choosing pulleys (from Grainger) for the motor and band saw drive shafts that gave me a speed of 4600 fpm (feet per minute), which is 150% of the stock speed of 3000 fpm.

This higher speed is only possible with the powerful motor.  Slower speeds are specified for the Delta 14" because the motors can't cut any faster than that.

Installing the new motor required removing the stock motor, and bolting a 15"x15" piece of 3/4" plywood in its place, using the slots intended for the stock motor's base plate.   I then bolted the new motor (which is huge) through the plywood, using jig screws and knobs to tighten the motor to the plywood.  The motor was wired through a heavy-duty flip switch, which is mounted to the saw's base, right where the switch for the original motor used to be.  Few power tool upgrades are easier than this one. 

Apparently, there is the chance the band saw tires will flap at the bottom of their rotation if the rpm of the band saw wheels goes up high enough.  I haven't had that problem at 4600 fpm, but if I do I'll glue the tires onto the wheels.  A friend suggested I check to make sure the band saw's wheel bearings could handle the torque when re-sawing thick stock.  But after doing a little re-sawing, I don't think the bearings will be a problem.

In fact, my little Delta 14" band saw works like a dream with its new 3 hp Baldor motor.  I couldn't be happier.  Interestingly, I found that there was much less heat generated while cutting than with the lower-powered motors, as well as less noise, less blade deflection, and less washboard on the wood. I fed 6" thick cherry stock through the saw (re-sawing 1/2"-thick boards from the block), and was able to feed 30" of stock in about 45 seconds, with the blade tracking well.  This is about 3 times faster than with the 1 hp motor.  Also, the drift angle of my blade was the smallest it has ever been.

...and - no kidding - the dust thrown off the cut was much finer than the dust made by my old 1 hp motor.

I highly recommend ANYBODY who has a band saw to upgrade the motor to the biggest hp you can find.  If you want to do any re-sawing, the time you'll save in jointing, sanding, and even feeding stock will be cut dramatically.  If you watch and wait on Craigslist long enough, you'll find a 3 hp motor (or bigger) that doesn't break the bank...at all.  And when it comes time to choose the blade speed (fpm), check out this post about band saw upgrades, which has a link to a great band saw PDF article.

Now, would I consider going above 3 hp, say, to 5 hp?  We shall see.   I'll be re-sawing some 13" thick stock soon enough, and get the chance to put this DIY upgrade to the test.  The next upgrade is more likely a saw with a bigger throat, because I think my Delta 14" finally has the motor it was meant to have.

I broke in the new motor on some 6" cherry.  The wood might as well have been butter.

1 comment:

  1. have same under powered delta and was wondering just how big a motor to get. thanks for the info.