Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Rikon Bandsaw Model 10-345: Big Problems

Woodworkers spend a lot of time figuring out what to buy. This post is for those considering a bandsaw.

I have never been more disappointed in a tool purchase than with my Rikon bandsaw. Nor can I imagine a more complete failure of a piece of equipment and in a company. It's a sorted story and it ended in completely junking the entire saw. A brand new saw, less than a year old, is now a couple of hundred pounds of scrap. I hope this cautionary tale keeps you from making the same mistake. If you're thinking about a Rikon bandsaw scratch it off the list now.

First, I am a weekend woodworker. I don't spend hours on my equipment, but I do spend a significant amount of time figuring out what to buy. I want it to be good equipment. I've been around tools and equipment most of my 50-years and I'm no slouch at using and tuning them.

I bought the saw at Woodcraft and brought it home and set it up. The most immediate problem was blade movement; the blade jumped significantly. To rule out an existing blade problem, I went and bought a replacement blade and also a large resaw blade. The replacement blade made no difference and the resaw blade had severe jump - in excess of 1/4" - perhaps as much as 3/8". I called Rikon and Rod, the Vice-President, had me attempt to adjust the bottom wheel. I played with this fussy adjustment for quite some time to no avail, but I did get a good feel as to the adjustments effect. I called again and Rod said he would send a new bottom wheel. The new wheel arrived and it was the wrong wheel and didn't fit. I packaged the wheel up. Rod sent another wheel. This wheel fit and I put it on, but the saw was no better. I called Rikon again. Rod sent another wheel. The third wheel performed no better. I called Rikon again. At this point it didn't seem like much more could be done and Rod said he would send a new saw out. It may sound like an easy fix; however, it wasn't. After a while the new saw arrived and after spending quite some time getting the old saw off my mobile base I unpacked the new saw, wrestled it off the crate and back into the mobile base. Reusing the palate, crate and packing material, I re-crated and re-packaged the old saw, wrestled it out of the shop and set it outside for shipping. This took most of an entire weekend - it's not easy to lift and lower 400 pound machines many times over. After what turned out to be a many month process I was looking forward to a good, working saw. I later found out that the first saw's upper wheel was not straight; something I had mentioned to Rikon and found in my own extensive troubleshooting. My gauges told me the top wheel was out of round.

The new saw was better, but far from perfect. But, having gone through so much hassle with the old saw I decided I might live with the new one. However, large resaw blades still hammered the rear bearing. I mostly used very small blades in the saw and it performed ok. I rarely had a large blade in the saw and only resawed a couple of maple boards. The saw was plenty powerful for that task, but the blade tracking or wobble was an intractable problem.

Summer came and I spent little time in the shop. However, cool weather came back around and migrated back to my favorite cool weather activity; my shop. My son was using the saw with a 1/4" blade to cut 1/4" plywood for a sword he was keen on making for Halloween. I was with him and he was on the saw for a while. Upon stopping the saw it would not restart.

I checked everything and couldn't find a problem. I got the meter out and checked the breaker - nothing. I checked the outlet - everything was correct. I took the switch out and checked both poles. Again, everything appeared to be fine. I took the motor cover off and checked the motor. Both poles had continuity from the motor leads to the plug and both sides were getting correct voltage on a 20 amp breaker. The motor had failed! I actually thought it was the capacitor, but my electrical knowledge doesn't extend to motors. In case I missed anything I moved the saw over to the tablesaw outlet - nothing. I was incredulous and pretty pissed-off. I have spent more time troubleshooting the saw than using the saw and it had eaten into my limited shop time and now I had no saw at all. I had spent months, literally, screwing around with the bandsaw from hell and now something new.

I wrote Rikon - Rod - an email. I waited and didn't hear anything. Finally, I called and talked to someone else. I then got an email back from Rod blaming me for the wheel problem and the motor problem. I quote, "We attributed the upper wheel issue (on the first saw) to be caused by excessive blade tension and/or leaving blade tension on for extended periods of time. Your current wheel issue coupled with the motor capacitor failure all but confirms excessive blade tension." The problem with this so called theory is that I received BOTH saws with the wobble problem. I barely even used the first saw and hadn't spend much time on the second. I couldn't have and didn't create the problems on the first saw and certainly not the wobble on the second saw. The second issue is that I couldn't really put a large blade on the second saw because of the wobble, so I most often used a small blade which uses little tension. The over tension idea is pretty over-baked. Especially, for as little use as the bandsaw experienced.

I replied to Rod's email writing this all down and heard nothing back. I sent another email a week or so later and Rod wrote back telling me they'd repair the saw if I shipped it back to them! I couldn't believe it. The motor bolts on with three bolts and Rikon wants me to ship it back! They want me to ship the saw a second time, but now pay the shipping, build a palate and shipping box and move the saw all over again. I'm reliving the first nightmare.

Rikon refused to send a new motor, refused just sending the saw back, and generally refused to be any kind of a partner with this problem. It is astoundingly difficult for me to lift and move this saw. Let alone box it and ship it.

Does anyone need any scrap steel?

Do you really think this saw is a "best value" on Fine Woodworking or Woodworking magazine? Or, for that matter, anywhere? It may appear a good value, but 400 pounds of scrap steel in a small shop is significantly valueless.

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