Our team has students from a few different schools, and all of our machines are at one of the schools. However, now we are looking into getting some light machines into one of the other schools not only for robotics but for a couple engineering classes at that school as well.
So, we looked around the space we have and we though that some bench top machines may be the best option. We were looking at possibly a bench top Band Saw and Drill Press.
I know a number of different teams have these types of machines in their pits at competitions. My question is… how is the power from bench top machines, the band saws in particular. Most of them are made for woodworking, which worries me trying to cut aluminum. I’d like to be able to cut at least 1/8" aluminum and idealy 1/4" aluminum. What type of bench top band saw does your team use if you have one? What thickness of aluminum can it cut? Does it cut straight? Thanks.
The 10" Delta bandsaw that Cory pointed you to will work fine for cutting aluminum. The trick is to use the correct blade. What you want is about a 14TPI blade for non-ferrous metal. In a pinch I have made do with 4-6TPI “skip tooth” blades but they are not ideal. When picking out a bandsaw it might be helpful to check around locally for what size bandsaw blades are available in your area. Narrow your saw selection to what blades are available quickly. Invariably the blade will snap at the most inopportune time and when you don’t have a spare handy. Unless you are equipped with a box of blade stock and a bandsaw blade welder to make your own you will most likely need that replacement blade late some Saturday night when it isn’t available. Keep spare blades in your shop.
In addition to the 10” bandsaw that Cory mentions, Delta also has a couple of 14” models that would work nicely as well depending on your budget. The advantage to the Delta machines is that they are available from Lowes so if you have a Lowes locally you can probably find them in there and the correct length blades to match. What are not so common locally are blades to cut aluminum rather than wood.
A year or so I snagged a great deal on a great Hitachi CB13F 12” bandsaw from Lowes on clearance for $200. They are now a bit hard to find but if you can find one I can tell you for certain that it works great on aluminum. I have cut up to ½” 6061 plate and bet it could cut thicker but I have never needed to. The nice thing about my Hitachi saw is that it takes 80” blades. Sears/Craftsman used to sell a model 22432 12” bandsaw that was almost identical to the Hitachi CB13F. This makes finding a local replacement 80” blade made to cut aluminum a snap. I just head to the Sears in the mall and grab some of these. I usually by 3 or 4 at a time when I get down to my last blade on the saw. They last a good while. I think we went through about 2 or 3 this build season and we used the bandsaw a LOT.
As far as a benchtop drill press, we have a slightly older model of one of these but without the laser. I personally don’t see the big need for a laser on a drill or saw but I guess they are all the rage these days. I personally have a radial benchtop drill press from Harbor Freight for $150 (they no longer sell that model) and either do just fine. We must have drilled a few thousand “lightening” holes with that old Delta benchtop drill press over the build season and it never missed a beat. For a benchtop drill press just head to your local Lowes or Home Depot and get whatever benchtop drill press you can afford and have the space for. They aren’t that complicated of a machine and they are all about the same. I would recommend getting the largest you can though. Those really small ones are just too small to be real useful.
Finally, if you can find an older used Delta bandsaw I think the quality was better than the new stuff but I guess that is the case with any power tool these days. They just don’t make 'em like they used to. Too much plastic these days. I would much prefer to have a sturdy tool over a laser line. I know how to use a square and a pencil and can make my own line.
This is more a function of properly setting up and adjusting the saw, as opposed to an inherent quality of the saw.
A band saw is easy enough to set up correctly, but I have rarely seen it done (outside my own shop). You cannot just put on a blade and go, all of the guides must be adjusted, and checked frequently as they do drift a bit, especially on smaller machines.
Even a small benchtop machine will perform well if adjusted and operated properly. And, like DeepWater wrote, choosing the right blade is critical for best results. Don’t be afraid of changing the blade for different cuts, a band saw isn’t “set it and forget it” like a table saw.
Four years ago, 228 bought a benchtop Ryobi 10" drill press and 9" band saw from Home Depot when they were having a sale on them, for use in the pits at our competitions. Although [our local] Home Depot usually doesn’t stock the metal blades for the band saw, we’ve always had good luck with finding blades at Lowe’s.
We’ve never had any problems with the tools either for their intended [intermittent] use in the pits and during busy days in the build season when all of our other shop equipment is being used. They’re pretty decent tools, but many of them contain a little too much plastic for me to recommend them for heavy (ab)use in a shop environment.
If I was going to purchase “primary” tools for a shop environment, then I’d go with the traditionally high quality/heavy duty brands like Craftsman, Delta, DeWalt, or Milwaukee to name a few. My father and I personally buy all Craftsman tools for our home shop whenever possible, as their high quality and lifetime warranty are well worth the few extra bucks.
I have a delta 8" bandsaw at home I think. I haven’t been home in 4+ weeks but When I have the “metal blade” on it which has a higher pitch (more teeth) it had ALOT of trouble cutting aluminum becuase of how slow it turns. To cut through one piece of 1/4" x 3" aluminum it took me like 20 minutes. But I took that blade off and put the “wood” balde on and it works fine now. There is no unusual wear on the teeth or anything like that. I have cut 1/2" aluminum what that blade and it works fine.
We have both a band saw and drill press, but both are full sized. We thought about going bench top, but realized that our build room may not be permanent, and that we may not get to keep the tables that we are currently using. Both of these devices are powered on a regular commercial room circuit; No special power is needed. We have no problem cutting 1/4" aluminum.
Now for the interesting bit. We went to Lowes when they were changing their display items. We got the band saw and drill press that were on display for a great % off (don’t want to post number because I don’t want to hold Lowes to this.) This made the full sized machines cheaper than the bench top machines. We love our drill press and band saw!
I can get specific model #s when I go back to the shop on Monday.
I have an older HF $40 drill press (green and all metal) and it is fine except the chuck is a real piece o’ junk and I broke the power switch after a long while. But I’ve had this thing 6+ years probably. I’ve run some big bits and hole saws in that sucker though, and plenty of power. Works fine. I looked at the newer HF $40 drill press and it looks fine too. Only real problem with both of them is I noticed the quill has slop in the head casting. I mean, it’ll drill fine. But, its not for real real precise drilling.
We have the saw and cutting station and it is extremely nice and works well cutting nearly anything. We made keys in seconds for several teams at LV and because of the angle of the blade it can cut a fairly wide swath.
It really is an amazing piece of equipment and the batteries last quite a long time. We cut everything from aluminum plate to steel rods for axles with it…
Its not real cheap but it is easily transportable and provides a nice platform to cut things on.
Take a look … a word of warning though… if you get one and take it to a regional EVERYONE will want to use it…
We liked that feature…
For anyone that is interested in the Lowes Delta benchtop power tools you might want to check out your local Lowes ASAP. I was in Lowes tonight and they seem to be dumping their stock of Delta stationary tools (drill presses, bandsaws, belt sanders, etc.) and replacing them with another tool brand. Lowes seems to do this every year or two. I bought a Delta 4" Belt/6" disk sander for $79 that was regular $99. The Lowes guy said to check back tomorrow (Saturday the 19th) and they were going to drag all of their Delta tools out into the parking lot and put them on sale even cheaper to clear the shelves for the new brand. I don’t know what they are going to have but it might be worth a stop by your local Lowes to see if they have anything you might want. The store I was in tonight had 9" bandsaws, 10" drill presses, and the 4" belt/6" disk sanders all for $79 each. The 9" bandsaw and 10" drill press looked pretty ideal for a small pit setup. They had other stuff too like table saws, planners, etc. but I wasn’t really looking at them at the time. Just a heads up. YMMV.
15 feet by 5 feet by 1 foot ! that ain’t large… that’s HUGE!
What you making that needs that much travel for?
Be cool seeing some pics of it!
I’m sure others would be interested in seeing that beast too.