Shop-Made Bandsaw Table and Fence Combo

This webpage illustrates how I constructed a combination enlarged table/adjustable fence/sled for my Laguna Tools 18-inch bandsaw.

(Let me express my appreciation for the assistance given by James Haddock in the early stage of developing this project. Let me add, too, that I take a little pride in reporting that my shop-made bandsaw table and fence came in 17th, from among 550 entries, in the "Solving a Woodworking Problem" contest, conducted by Woodworker's Supply, Summer and Fall, 2005.)

I have owned my bandsaw since June 2001, when I retired. When I purchased it, I also purchased a Robland x31 combination machine.

I have been an amateur woodworker for over 40 years, but until 2001 -- I regret to say -- never owned nor used a bandsaw. Today, my 18-incher is the center stationary tool in my shop. Almost exclusively, I resaw and rip all on it, and I dimension most of the  wood, with a preference of recycling "used" wood.

As well, I own a 1970s Delta Unisaw, a 1950s Delta Double-Arm RAS, a 1945 Dewalt RAS and recently I purchased a Hitachi 10-inch sliding compound miter saw, with laser light. And I have just rebuilt a 1950s vintage shaper/router (In the near future I'll post a file on the rebuilt shaper/router.)

Nonetheless, one of the most useful tools in my shop, the bandsaw can, like a table saw do most of my cross-cutting and ripping. It really shines, though, in resawing thick/wide stock or slicing off thin veneer, in cutting curves, circles, tenons, and dovetails like a jigsaw, scroll saw and/or tablesaw, in following templates like a router, and, uniquely, in sawing compound curves. Another asset of a larger bandsaw is it's (3hp or greater) more powerful motor.

The Bandsaw's Limitations

Where the bandsaw lacks versatility, primarily because of its limited table size, -- i.e., the bandsaw's 18" ?throat? -- limits its cross-cutting capacity and ability to cut sheet goods.

And, naturally, the bandsaw lacks the capacity of cutting dadoes, rabbeting, molding edges of boards, and so forth, making it necessary to also have other types of saws in the shop.

The Bandsaw's Strengths

I have heard that Europe's equivalent of osha will not allow stacked dadoes, which means that, for dadoing and rabbetting, for European craftsmen, for dadoing, greater emphasis falls upon shapers and router tables, with a de-emphasis upon table saws. Along the capacity of dadoing/rabbetting/molding, a table saw?s other major attributes are cross-cutting and ripping. However, these latter are operations that are done easilty on the bandsaw.

In other words, you can make the case, as did Gary Rogowski, a Portland-based professional woodworker/teacher, in a recent issue of Fine Woodworking, that a bandsaw is a more important first purchase for woodworkers than a table saw. Would American woodworkers widely embrace this claim, at least to the point of making a bandsaw their choice for first purchase over a tablesaw? With enhancements of bandsaws, I believe they would. Already the market is breaking out of the 14-inch ceiling, and amateur woodworkers are, increasingly, purchasing 16-inch or larger bandsaws.

Now it is true that, in comparison with the polished cuts possible with, say, Forrest blades on the table saw, the quality of cuts on the bandsaw come up short. (Clean up of cuts can be done easily with the jointer and/or planer or performax-type sander.) On the other hand, safety considerations, like no kickback, and the narrower width of the kerf, which means less waste sawdust, give bandsaws specific advantages. But all of these issues are choices each woodworker makes, according to his particular likes and needs.

Taken together, many of the things mentioned above persuaded me that without enlarging the table of my bandsaw, its capacity for becoming a more central tool in the shop was limited. With that in mind, I began experimenting a little, and with experience, have arrived at the model for an improved table/fence/sled combo that you see in photos below. Improvements and/or changes are made as needed, though.

My table/fence cuts accurately, the set-up is quickly adjusted, and using the graphing makes everything easy to read, especially for repetitive cuts.

Costwise, it is difficult to estimate. The parts of the table/fence/sled that you see in the photos cost me considerably less than $100. For the table in this initial version, I used a half a sheet of birch 12-ply plywood, at $40 a sheet. The graph cost under $20. Everything else I salvaged from other items in my shop.

Blades for bandsaws

Bandsaw blade drift presents a key issue to bandsaw users. As I've found in my own experience, each blade seems to have its own personality. Blade drift and dust removal are the chief problems associated with bandsaw blades. This particular Lenox blade -- 1-tpi -- doesn't have a blade drift, and takes care of the problem of removing dust during resawing operations. Earlier, I used a Lenox 2-1/2-tpi blade -- where, because the gullets are not large enough to take care of dust that accumulates in resawing -- the blades ended up breaking too frequently.

(Caution: Do Not Operate a Bandsaw Without Sharp Teeth on Blade)

Building an Enlarged Table and Fence

bandsaw fence infeed view

Photo 1 shows for my Laguna 18 inch bandsaw, (1) an enlarged table, approx 48 x 48 inches, and (2) a fence that combines wood and extruded aluminum.

In Photo 1, note the ruler on the infeed side and on each of the other sides. Useful for setting fence at regular increments for resawing veneer, or just resawing to width. Also note biesemeyer-like track mechanism for setting infeed side of fence.

This "track" I cobbled together from parts cannibalized from an elaborate jig, mostly extruded aluminum, for cutting plywood panels. I purchased this jig at a woodworking show, but found that when set up permanently, for the amount of use I was getting from, it ate up to much real estate in my shop.

The fence consists of (1) a wooden part, that stretches across the table from infeed side to outfeed side, and (2) an adjustable extruded aluminum bar, about 4 inches high. The extruded aluminum fence attaches to the wooden part of the fence, roughly 4? x 1 ? by 4?, with ? 20 tpi threaded bolts. The heads of the bolts slide in a groove in the extruded aluminum. The bolts are tightened with the black knobs, seen on the right of the wooden part of the fence in Photo 1.

I put the fence on the blade's "right" side.

Notice that the fence is on the blade's right side, like most table saws. My early experience (in 2001)  with the blade to the left of the blade resulted in a cut finger, which led me to reconsider how the bandsaw is set up to operate. First, why are fences to the right of the blade? In truth, if evidence other than intuitive -- i.e., experiential -- exists, I am not aware of it. On table saws, "righties" prefer the fence to the right of the blade. If this is true, why not do the same on bandsaws?

So far, this decision has paid off. Definitely no more cut fingers -- but more important -- the "moves" you learn guiding workpieces when ripping on a tablesaw transfer over to the bandsaw.

As evidence that operating a bandsaw with fence on the left of the blade is awkward, check out the image of Michael Fortune (Fine Woodworking February 2008, contents page) doing just that -- using a bandsaw with the fence on the left of the blade -- and tell me that Fortune DOESN'T look uncomfortable. Yes, I may be biased, now, in favor putting the fence to the right of the bandsaw blade, but if  Fortune isn't holding his left hand in what looks like an uncomfortable posture, I'll admit that something really is wrong with me.

(There is no Photo 2.)

bandsaw fence roller bearings

As shown in Photo 3, the wooden section of the fence includes roller bearings to reduce friction. The fence itself adjusts in two ways:

(1) the wooden section is adjustable for blade drift (the three bolts on wooden part of the fence on the infeed side allow fence angle adjustment)

and (2) the extruded aluminum fence is adjustable before and after the blade.

Miter Slots and Fence Stabilizer Bar

On the right of the table, note first, the two parallel miter tracks for a sled, and, second, the adjustable bar, for stabilizing the fence on the outfeed side.

In Photo 3, note roller bearings under fence. When I first installed fence, because of friction between fence and table top, even with plastic surface, maintaining the angle, whether a 90 or a special one for specific blade drift, was dicey. Now the fence  moves with ease, but temporary "fillers" are needed in the tracks where the roller bearings pass over. The two parallel miter tracks are for sled.

bandsaw fence stabilizer

Locking the fence in place is easy. Since the fence is on the right of the blade, on the infeed side, it only has to be prevented from sliding to the right, and this is done with a clamp (also part of the salvaged jig) screwed to the track that the head of the fence slides in. On the outfeed side, the fence is secured from movement by a "stabilizer bar" (the best view is photo 8) secured with a threaded knob.

Attaching Plywood Table to Cast-Iron Bandsaw Table

underside of bandsaw table

The plywood part of the table is screwed onto a frame composed of oak pieces, roughly 1 " x 1" x appropriate lengths. The 1 " x 1" oak pieces that wrap around the bandsaw's cast iron table are attached to the table with 8 " bolts, i.e., two for each side. This "frame" also extends around the outside edge of the table, giving sufficient support to the plywood. The combination of this frame and the 3/4 ' plywood create a strong table. ( A diagram would be ideal, but I am not good with illustrations. See Photos 14 and 15.)

On the top of the approx 48 x 48 plywood is an approximately 1/8" thick plastic "graph" and "ruler". This plastic is included for a variety reasons, primarily to help in measuring for cuts and for adjusting for blade drift, but it also reduces friction. This plastic graph comes from a fabric store.

Tilting the Table Eliminated

I don't "tilt" the table, but with difficulty, it can be tilted. With the sled, using different kinds of wooden "angle squares" that I've made myself, I can make a variety of angled-cuts.

bandsaw fence


Photo illustrates the set-up for the featherboard(s). First, the track that the featherboards slide in is itself held securely in two parallel T-tracks perpendicular to the fence. cross-section for four-sided postSecond, the slot in the track allows the featherboards to be set "before" the blade, and, if needed, "after" the blade, on the outfeed side of the table. The featherboards themselves are flexible; i.e., for ripping, one layer is sufficient, but if needed for resawing thick pieces, the height of the featherboard can be increased by adding needed layers on top of the base layer.

Resawing is Easy

Photo below is the first of several that show the sequence of resawing a rough sawn piece English walnut. The bark is being saw off first, in preparation for resawing into veneer.

bandsaw cutting walnut

Photo below shows the bark cut off, creating an almost square workpiece. However, the two sides are run through a jointer, to flatten the surfaces and make two sides square with another.

bandsaw cutting english walnut #2

Photo on below shows two things,

first the half inch "slab" cut off the English walnut workpiece, and

second, on the right outfeed side, the threaded knob for securing the stabilizer bar.

bandsaw cutting english walnut #3

Photo shows a caliper measuring the thickness of resawn veneer, 1/8" thick, or, as the readout for the caliper shows, one 133/1000ths of an inch. Cutting thinner veneer, to uniform thickness, is easy, if your blade is sharp.

bandsaw resawing and calipers bandsaw sled crosscutting

Photo shows sawing timbers with the sled. Much more efficient than sawing with 10-inch table saw, skil saw, reciprocating saw, etc. Capacity for sawing timber is limited by the size of the bandsaw's throat, and, for longer and/or heavier pieces, capability of holding material steady while sawing. I could have photo that shows that the cut is square.

Photos directly below show 48 x 48 inch sheet of plywood setting on sled in preparation for cutting. This jig's capacity is limited by size of bandsaw's throat, and ability to balance sheet on table. The set-up will saw accurately, though. The half sheet (i.e, 48 x 38 inches) is the unused part of the 4 x 8 sheet used for the table top.

bandsaw sled infeed view bandsaw sled outfeed view

In Photo 13, be assured that the table is level and square with the blade.

In Photo below, the extruded aluminum track is attached to a board that, in turn, attaches to the front of the plywood table top with four 1/4" 20-tpi bolts and knobs. Without support, table top is weakened by the blade slot. The board's purpose is to strengthen infeed side of table.

infeed side of table

Final Thoughts

This machine is the center of my workshop. As well as "resawing", I use it for most ripping operations, and some cutoffs. It is, indeed, a joy to use.