My workshop had only ever seen a 14″ bandsaw but one month ago, I upgraded to an LT16-3000 from Laguna Tools Inc. While setting up the saw, I ran into a few problems with the Chinese-made saw but once it was operational, it worked as I had expected. (For the record, I believe that the overall quality of product is determined by quality control, not the country of origin.) (Fellow blogger Paul-Marcel reviews his new Italian-made LT18 on his blog, Half Inch Shy.)
The LT16-3000 is a 16″ bandsaw (16″ diameter wheels) that weighs approximately 450lbs. The weight comes from the heavy, welded steel frame, cast iron wheels and table, and big motor. The Leeson motor is rated at 3hp and runs on 220V, single-phase power. Though the motor is rated at 16.5 amps and the label on the bandsaw’s frame states 12.8 amps, the saw peaks at a much higher number during startup due to the weight of the cast iron wheels and tension of the blade. For that reason, Laguna recommends running it on a 30-amp breaker. The motor is controlled by a magnetic switch and there is a microswitch on the foot brake.
The 132″ blade (131-1/2″ fits as well) is tensioned by a levered knob on top of the cabinet that is easy to grip. Inside the top cabinet is a tension gauge. The gauge is unlabeled and Laguna instead recommends that the blade be tensioned by feel, looking for 3/16″-1/4″ of deflection 6″ from the wheel’s tangent. Once the blade is properly tensioned, the tension gauge can be marked to reference the blade being used in order to properly reset the tension when changing blades. A large lever on the back of the saw releases the tension in a controlled manner. Tracking is adjusted with two knobs on the back of the saw as normal.
The two doors that cover the cabinets are on lift-off hinges, allowing unrestricted access to the guts of the saw. There are windows in the upper cabinet and door to track the blade or view the tension gauge. The lower cabinet has a sliding cover at the top right corner. It is the gray part with two slots in the front. When extended, it seals the cabinet to increase the effectiveness of the dust collection.
The sliding cover needs to be lowered so that the lower door can clear the knob used to lock the table in place. The 16″ x 19-1/2″ cast iron table has two T-slots in it (though no mitre gauge is provided). To assist with tilting the heavy table, it is equipped with a hydraulic strut and rack and pinion adjustment.
Also controlled by a rack and pinion is the upper guide post. (One thing about my last bandsaw that constantly frustrated me was that every time I adjusted the upper guide post up or down, I also needed to adjust the guide blocks. That is not necessary with this saw.) If the guide post isn’t quite inline with the blade, adjustments can be made.
Laguna’s ceramic guide blocks are well-known and have a good reputation. They provide a lot of support for the blade, preventing it from moving laterally or backwards and twisting. The new Laguna guides use convenient plastic knobs to lock their position. It’s a great convenience that most of the adjustments on the saw require no tools; however three extra-long, ball-end hex keys are provided to make the few adjustments that do require tools. They can be stored in the on-board tool holder.
Setting up the saw was not difficult but it didn’t go as smoothly as it could (should) have. The most obvious problem was the half-machined trunnion support bracket. The dealer replaced the part.
A less-obvious problem was that the anodized aluminum throat plate had a set screw in a mis-tapped hole. Unfortunately, the replacement provided by the dealer was warped and needed to be straightened with my vise.
There was a third problem that could not be easily detected until a blade was installed. Part of the upper dust chute located just below the table protruded too far and could have easily come in contact with the blade. I solved that by grinding it down with a rotary tool.
The last problem I had was driving some small machine screws that secure a tool holder to the frame. The holes had been drilled and tapped before the machine was painted so the threads were filled with paint. I thought that I could use the machine screws to clean out the paint but ended up stripping the machine screw’s head. I should have first used a tap to restore the threads in the frame of the bandsaw.
The accessory DriftMaster fence without difficulty. With the saw fully assembled, the next step was to hook up the dust collection by running 4″ flex hoses from each of the two 4″ diameter dust ports and connecting them with a wye. One port is located to the right of the saw frame just below the table and the other at the bottom left corner of the lower cabinet.
When hooked up to a dust collector, dust chips are adequately contained. The upper port is well positioned and a 3/8″-thick piece of plywood run into the blade (while hand-turned) creates a sort of zero-clearance insert to keep the majority of the dust from getting into the lower cabinet. The bottom port keeps the lower cabinet pretty clean.
In the month I’ve had the saw, I transformed a large stack of small logs into lumber. I’ve been running a 1″ carbide-tipped Resaw King blade and used it to mill green (freshly cut) apple, holly and yew as large as 11″ diameter. All three are quite dense but green wood does tend cut more easily than dry wood. I’ve also resawn dry hardwoods as thick as 8″. Nothing I’ve cut has slowed the saw down.
I press the “ON” button and the saw smoothly powers up, reaching full speed in about two seconds. Throughout the cut, the saw has plenty of power and cuts predictably straight. When the saw is shut off it takes about 15 seconds to coast to a stop, due to the inertia of the wheels. If the foot brake is applied, the blade stops in fewer than three seconds. At the end of each day, I relieve the blade’s tension with the quick release lever.
This saw is well-designed and sturdily built. Between the Laguna ceramic blade guides, carbide-tipped resaw blade, easy-to-align DriftMaster fence, steadiness of the machine and smooth power of the 3 hp motor, the cuts are reliably straight and clean. There isn’t much else that I could ask for from a bandsaw. With this set-up, the LT16-3000 has the ability to handle any resawing tasks I may have. Above all, it is easy to use and I know that it won’t let me down. From now on, my table saw will see much less use.
Read about my experience with my local Laguna dealer, Canadian Woodworker, Ltd. HERE.