By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Forum House Ad Zone

Horizontal Bandsaw Problems - -Advice Please.

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Nigel Graham 206/04/2021 22:25:11
2260 forum posts
33 photos

The badge says 'Alpine' but it's one of those cloned, one-for-all, horizontal and (for the brave or foolhardy) vertical, Taiwanese band-saws.

New-to-me about 3 or 4 years ago but from a model-engineer I know would use tools properly, it gave good service until very recently. I had made a proper trolley on castors to replace its near-useless wheels and handle, and replaced its motor about 2 years ago when the original suddenly failed.


The blades have started running obviously out-of true, with a distinct twist, and in a shallow arc across wide work.

The block holding the tensioning pulley was very sloppy in its guides. I improved that a bit but it is not designed for adjustment. Also, a grub-screw that adjusts the wheel's tilt had been contacting the bearing-slide out of the dimple provided for it.

I cleaned and re-set the guide-rollers (sealed bearing races) as they appeared right, but when running the blade was still twisting and eventually snapped, even though not heavily worn.

The broken blade had become rolled to a shallow channel profile so I assumed I had set the guide-rollers too tightly.

I fitted a new blade - that was always difficult and hazardous. This time it was possible only by removing both guide-assemblies, fitting the blade to the pulleys, closing the door and only then tightening it; before re-fitting the guides. I set the guide-rollers fairly open, as seemed necessary for the blade to be tangential to the pulleys.

On both pairs, only one roller is adjustable, by rotating its eccentric axle. It does not look as if the other can be moved.

It all seemed OK, but sawing even a piece of 25 X 10 mm hot-rolled steel, the blade was clearly twisted, cut at a vertical angle and came to rest about 5 or 6mm off the cut end. Luckily the work-piece is a blank for further operations , and its ends are not critical.


Where have I gone wrong, please?

It seems not to matter how I adjust it, but I may have missed something. (I do not have the manual for it.).

Might it respond to re-building the tensioning assembly to keep the pulleys aligned? Not sure how...

Is it likely that the machine has in fact worn beyond practical repair?

Martin Connelly07/04/2021 07:59:35
2178 forum posts
227 photos

I have fallen foul of the overtightened guide rollers and ended up with a distorted and prematurely snapped blade so don't feel too bad about it, you are not the first and probably will not be the last.

Tension is sufficiently important that industrial machines often come with means of setting it correctly and it is usually a lot higher than you would expect. I have seen them with hydraulic piston tensioning operated by a screw driving a piston in a pressurising pump and a gauge with a narrow pressure band marked on it. I have also seen screw operated ones with parallel stacked Belleville springs where the operating screw has coloured bands on a collar and there is a pointer on the frame to line the bands up against. As the tension is increased the springs compress and the screw and collar moves to the point where the pointer indicates correct tension. Where they were not fitted with an inbuilt system like this you bought a band tension gauge to check the blade. A gauge like this is probably not cost effective for occasional home use but a saw in regular use that is having blade changes weekly benefits from getting the tension right. If the blade does not twang when plucked it is probably too slack.

Martin C

Edited By Martin Connelly on 07/04/2021 08:03:36

Clive Foster07/04/2021 08:31:57
3172 forum posts
113 photos

Sounds like you have run into the same sort of issues that my Alpine bandsaw suffered many years ago. I got mine maybe a year or so after they hit the market and, after a deal of tweaking got it to work OK.

Maybe 7 years or so later it decided that it wouldn't play ball. No amount of fiddling, cursing and adjusting would make it behave for more than a cut or two. After snapping a couple of blades in short order I took a careful look at the geometry and decided that neither the blade guides or tension adjuster were working in the correct planes or lines.

I made a new set of 4 eccentric carriers for the blade guides with the maximum amount of shift that could be accommodated. Found some proper bolts to hold them on instead of the standard soft screw things. With all four adjustable I was able to get a much cleaner run between the pulleys so the blade wasn't so forcefully twisted as it came off and on the pulleys.

The casting surface under the tension adjuster was neither smooth, flat or in line with the screw. I filed it back flat and square to the screw. I imagine the top wheel is supposed to just sort of hang down on the tensioning screw and be pulled into alignment by the blade tension. With the original skewed surface under the knob this clearly wasn't happening.

Its still not the most wonderful performer in the world but its back to working OK and blade life is reasonable.

As as been frequently said good quality blades are essential.


Andrew Tinsley07/04/2021 10:14:50
1611 forum posts

Clive is dead on the money, my Alpine responded to the treatment that Clive suggests. When I first got it, the performance was rubbish and it stayed in a corner for maybe 25 years. I needed the space so it was either make it work or dump it time. It is now surprisingly good and I am very pleased with it.


Emgee07/04/2021 10:18:38
2444 forum posts
291 photos


Here's a link to 1 of many you tube videos that may be helpful.



Brian Wood07/04/2021 10:53:04
2578 forum posts
39 photos


I cured my Axminster 6 x 4 bandsaw of equally bad habits by going back to basics and aligning the blade guides against a tensioned wire. The wire was snugged fully into the right angle of the flange on both top and bottom wheels. However, before I was able to set things up that way, the blade guide blocks were clamped up crudely on as cast surfaces so these had to be milled flat and at right angles.

On my machine the blade runs between sealed ball bearings on either side of the blade and one running on the back of the blade. The work which had the greatest influence on blade life and truth in a cut was getting the geometry right against the tensioned wire.

It now cuts correctly on demand and with a bi-metal blade in place [10 tpi for most work, 14 for pipe] the blade life is excellent. Prior to this work blade life might have degenerated to one blade for each job..


Martin Connelly07/04/2021 13:47:07
2178 forum posts
227 photos
This video shows a blade tension gauge in use and explains how it works. The interesting thing is that it is all based on the blade length change due to correct tension. So in theory if you know the length of your blade and the required tension you could calculate how much a tensioning screw of a given pitch needs to be turned to go from the taking up slack position to fully tensioned. It will not be as accurate as a professional gauge but should put you in the correct ballpark for blade tension.
Martin C
Howard Lewis07/04/2021 15:30:55
6301 forum posts
15 photos

My 4 1/2 bandsaw used to break blades and cut in arc, until the tin spacer between the bearings went throughb the bottom bearing and seal.

having breplaced bearings and seal and made up a substantial spacer I then wemt through the machine.

Both pulleys were skimmed to reduce the run out, the blade guiderollers were adjusted in both vertical and horizontal planes., and the tracking adjusted.

Cannot recall at this distance whether or not I bushed the Idler wheel.

I also made a tension meter, as designed by Jacques Maurel, and the subject of an article in Engineering in Miniature in June 2016. Having set the tension using this, unless I force the cut, it is straight, and blades wear out instead of breaking.

At the time, as a test, I cut a disc about 1/16" wide. The thickness differed by an incredible, and very probably unrepeatable, 0.001" So the time spent in fine tuning was not wasted.

It is not a perfect machine, after all it is relatively cheap, but it now functions well enough for my purposes.


oldvelo08/04/2021 07:03:16
295 forum posts
56 photos


An excellent guide to setting up a bandsaw

Bandsaw Setup


Nigel Graham 208/04/2021 12:45:13
2260 forum posts
33 photos

Thank you All.

It does look for your various comments that the machine is recoverable.

The tensioning arrangement is rather crude, and its simple tracking-adjuster works in only one plane.

I think now the real fault on my saw is the tensioning-pulley's stub-axle carrier tilting sideways, pulling the blade too far out of line for the guides to cope with it. Consequently, the guides cannot not work correctly and may even be making the effects worse. It would explain why I had to take the guides right off to be able to fit a new blade, and possibly why it was so difficult to make the blade stay on the pulleys even then.

The carrier is a very loose fit in the slot in the casting, so it can twist. Its keep-plates take out some of the twist, but are not enough on their own and might be intended not to align the carrier but just hold it with minimum shake. I may need make and fit either thin horn-plates, machined from steel-angle, and adjustable, or a new carrier-block.

I think my first move is to measure where everything both should be and is relative to each other, then dismantle the tension-pulley bit by bit, assessing what parts are worn in what way.

Clive Foster08/04/2021 14:22:38
3172 forum posts
113 photos


As I recall things design of the top wheel mount is such that it just hangs on the tension screw with a certain amount of play so the blade tension can pull the wheels into alignment.

The keep plate at the back has a tilt adjustment so the wheel axles can be made to point in the same direction.

The blade tension applies inside the saw some distance away from the keep plate so when all is copacetic the blade tension pulls the wheel assembly into the saw until the keep plate sits hard against the casting. Although there are no properly positive fixings things ought to be pretty stable.

Effectively the blade tension does all the work. Simple, cheap and no accurate machining needed but the blade tension line needs to be correct. Darned if I can recall whether there is any mechanism to vary the top wheel position relative to the back of the main casting. Have a feeling I ended up doing "something" in that area.


Nigel Graham 208/04/2021 16:58:38
2260 forum posts
33 photos

Thank you Clive.

Yes, I've found the tilt adjustment. It's just a grub-screw, and it fairly obviously should engage a hollow in the block holding the axle. Only a scar on the steel showed it had clearly been missing the hollow and the block was twisting across the plane of the tilt.

When the tension is unwound, the wheel and axle assembly can wobble all over the place, making me think that as a result of wear the belt pulls itself out of alignment. Take the guides right off and the blade is an appreciable distance from its intended path. It also twists incorrectly, so something is preventing the guide-rollers from threading the blade properly.

vic francis08/04/2021 19:39:36
77 forum posts
7 photos

Hi Nigel, I had the similar bandsaw; I found that a thin layer of cork glued onto the drive wheel gave friction and cushioning drive... not only did the blades last longer and needed far less tension... but always cut material dry...


Nigel Graham 208/04/2021 22:04:18
2260 forum posts
33 photos

Thank you for that link, Oldvelo. I have saved it, will print it to form the workshop instruction s.


Interesting suggestion, Vic.

I used at work a long time ago now, a large, vertical-only Starrett bandsaw, and that had an equivalent, rubber tyres on the wheels. It was used for cutting anything from small pieces of aluminium-alloy plate to two-foot squares of quarter-inch gauge-plate, so I had to change blades back and forth fairly often.

(A hacksawing machine dealt with all the bar stock down to sizes too small for the machine's ill-conceived vice, which was three pairs of geared, vertical rollers. I used a circular-saw - toothed, not abrasive disc - for the smaller sections.)

Edited By Nigel Graham 2 on 08/04/2021 22:07:27

Nigel Graham 213/04/2021 15:30:46
2260 forum posts
33 photos

Well,, I am not yet fit enough after my fall a week ago to be safe doing any machining, but I have just spent an hour or so fettling the band-saw, guided by the information in the link Oldvelo cites several massages ago,

I printed off the article, edited to remove the writer's (John Pitkin's) blokey chat, to have it at hand. There were differences between the saws he is familiar with, and mine, but not significant.

The drive unit appears all in good condition, which was a relief. No side-play or end-float in the pulley-shaft, a tiny amount of axial movement of the pulley on the shaft - but the grub-screw was loose. The pulley seems to rotate all-square.

So far so good.

Then discovered the spacer between the idler pulley and the block holding its stub-axle is no more than a sawn-off bit of thin-walled steel tube much larger than the axle! That should not matter much, but I modified a fibre-washer to fit (ish) inside it for centralising.

Next, aligned the pulley for slant as far as the machine allows, to tend to pull the blade back to the flange.

Then refitted the blade. Not new as advised as I am down to the last one, but it has cut only one small piece of steel so far.

A precaution I took, I have not seen anyone else mention, was to clamp a board across the bow to restrain the blade if / when it springs off during the servicing. I adjusted the pulleys as he advises, as far my 'Alpine' machine will allow, but still found fitting the blade extremely awkward.

I tensioned the blade as he said - to ring when plucked or tapped. Is that right though?


Then refit the guides - which involves forcing the blade a long way from tangency.

Pitkin advises a small swarf-clearance gap - about 0.01" - between the blade and the adjustable ball-bearing races acting as the outer guides. That made the blade run hopelessly out of line and angle, and try to climb out of the guides.

These machines are made quite well but designed rather crudely; and it's hard to see how they can possibly twist a spring-steel blade though some 45º, off-line, between each pulley and the vice, with any accuracy.

It won't even cut a bit of wood square, vertically, and at the end of the cut the blade stops well away from the cut surface.

My assessment is that guides are too crude to align the blade correctly, so the slightest wear or tiniest error stops anything from working properly. They certainly cannot be adjusted to the blade's natural line.

I cannot decide if the guides are supposed to be several mm inside the tangent, or if the problem is the pulleys have lost that off their radii by wear.

Oddly, this seems to have all occurred only quite recently and rapidly, so possibly it reached a tipping-point in knackered-ness.

I've tried all sorts - set the guides tight or (as Pitkin says) loose, tilting the top pulley more or less, adjusting the edge-guides in or out...



Can this machine be returned to cutting parts for bolted fabrications to sufficient accuracy not to need unintended milling afterwards? (As it probably could in the past.)

Or it a write-off for any but the roughest work?

Oily Rag13/04/2021 20:01:04
540 forum posts
184 photos


I think you need to re-read what Pitkin 'Bloke' said about the side guide clearance. When I looked it said:-

"Adjust the blade guide SIDE BEARINGS with about 0.005 to 0.010” clearance."

He then added that:-

"The manual states .001 clearance. That is much too tight. You do not want the rollers on the bearings compressing the blade. There needs to be enough clearance to allow sticky metal filings and chips to pass between the SIDE BEARINGS without jamming the blade and stopping the saw. Insufficient blade to bearing clearance will lead to premature blade failure."

Then he went on to the back up bearing:-

"The manuals state .002 to .003” clearance for the BACKING BEARINGS. There is no reason to fiddle with these bearings trying to get them perfect. Simply adjust them so they barely touch the back of the blade."

I run my 6 x 4 adjusted as this Bloke recommends, probably with 0.006 to 0.008" side clearance, and with the backing bearing just contacting the back of the blade in free running.

My biggest problem was the point he made about the set of the teeth running hard on the drive and idler wheels - I removed the wheels and increased the chamfer to give clearance for my 'low tpi' tooth blades (a 10/14 vari cut). This alone gave the biggest improvement after endless adjustments had me feeling I was a puppy chasing it's tail. This was done over 12 years ago and my saw cuts true now as it did after the re-work. As I use Starrett bi-metals I can't afford to be wrecking blades all day long.


oldvelo13/04/2021 21:22:56
295 forum posts
56 photos

Hi Nigel

Does the spacer-washer on the idler pulley allow it to align with the drive pulley check with a straight edge on the drive pulley.

A thin wire round the pulleys then pulled tight on the half the blade width line the blade runs on the pulleys is the true run line of the blade that allows the blade to be twisted.

The guides must not be deflect the wire out of line from this datum line.

A minor adjustment only is to allow for the wire to blade thickness variation .


Clive Foster13/04/2021 22:09:48
3172 forum posts
113 photos


Whatever the type, size or style of bandsaw it is fundamental to correct operation that the blade guides act only to bring the blade into the cutting plane and stabilise it to run true. The mechanical alignments must be such that the wheels are properly coplanar so that the blade itself runs true when free running or air cutting.

Something most easily seen when setting up a respectably sized industrial quality vertical bandsaw like my 14" throat Startrite.

The savage twist imparted to the blade by the guides on these small saws, and consequently high forces involved make it hard to separate out wheel alignment issues from guide ones. If there is sufficient travel on the adjuster it would be advisable to verify that the wheels are properly coplanar without the guides installed. Failing that the wire at half blade width technique advised by oldvelo must be used. Effective but, perhaps, not as intuitively obvious to the neophyte as folk experienced in its use may believe.

If you can use a blade sans guides to get things running true its relatively easy to fit the guides and adjust for minimum force and minimum deviation from the free running, wheel to wheel, condition.

Objectively these saws are just too small for the blade size. Not enough room for the essential twist without excessive forces.

The bigger versions have always been much less problematical. Even the early ones whose build quality was as price constrained as the 4 x 6 ones discussed here.


Nigel Graham 213/04/2021 22:22:51
2260 forum posts
33 photos

Thank you Martin -

I did follow his advice, with a print of it with me in the workshop.

Going through it in his order...

- The drive end is fine - I needed only re-tighten the pulley's grub-screw.

- The idler pulley's stub-axle slide wobbles all over the place, apparently by design.

- The teeth do not run on the pulleys, so we're all right there.

- I can not set the guides as he advises though.

Their "fixed" rollers push the blade well away from tangency, but is that normal on these machines?

I know the rollers must not be tight on the blade, but on mine, any clearance lets the blade twist and wander all over the place, and cut at an angle.

Setting the rollers to just touch the blade lessens that effect but loses the swarf-clearance; and the blade is still not perpendicular to the machine bed.

So whatever I do makes no difference. Nothing makes the blade run properly.


I wondered if I had over-tightened the blade, but slackening it to just "off-twanging" makes no difference. Others refer to special tension-gauges but it shouldn't need anything more than a six-inch rule to measure the mid-point deflection.

However, I saw that tightening the guide-frames' clamps pulls the guide-frames appreciably sideways, setting the blade even further out of line and angle, adding to the other errors. That is not repairable.


Has this band-saw had it? Though second-hand to me, it did work well; but has it become merely a blade-ruining bar-lopper for rough work like welded fabrications?

Trouble is the nearest available to me is either the same with a different colour and name at a bit under £400 or what looks a slightly better version, with swivelling head rather than vice, at nearly £500 - and I am not sure if that's with or plus VAT. From there is a £1000+ step up to professional levels and prices.

Edited By Nigel Graham 2 on 13/04/2021 22:25:29

Nigel Graham 214/04/2021 09:58:35
2260 forum posts
33 photos

Oldvelo, Clive -

I did try to test the wheels' plane, but on my band-saw it's almost impossible to measure because the top (or idler) pulley can and does swing very loosely sideways.

The drive pulley can be set inwards or outwards but by only a millimetre or two, but that end of the machine all looks in good condition, including no run-out at the wheel rim, tested as John Pitkin advises. So we'll take this wheel as the reference-level - it can't be adjusted anyway.

The top-pulley's bearing-bush and axle are in good condition, and the tilt adjustment, a grub-screw though the block holding the axle, works properly.

However the axle block has nothing to prevent it rotating several degrees each way in its guides, which are no more than retainers. This sloppy fit and lack of any side-control are apparently by design; forcing the blade to keep the pulley co-planar with its companion.

The top pulley's axial adjustment is a very crude spacer behind the wheel - just a bit of furniture-grade steel tube. I have no idea if that's original. The face of the pulley bush is flush with the axle-face so can be adjusted only inwards, by a new spacer, with washers on the outside. (A new spacer made for the purpose would be better, and easier to make, than trying to shorten a scrap of tube.)


I don't understand why the wheel's depth on its axle should start giving trouble now. I think something else has gone wrong.


I'll try the wire test, but that can only work if I can set the wheel's depth correctly.


Assuming the above is possible, I've still the problem I found yesterday. This is the bars holding the guide-rollers fit so loosely in the frame that they swing outwards when I tighten their clamps, pulling the blade further out of line. This appears incurable.

All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter and get a free digital issue.

You can unsubscribe at anytime. View our privacy policy at

Support Our Partners
Rapid RC
Eccentric Engineering
Eccentric July 5 2018
Subscription Offer

Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest