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How Fast Should a Band Wheel on a Portable Sawmill Turn?
These two questions are very good questions and are asked frequently. Everyone who sees has to imagine how fast a saw turns, regardless of who invented the saw.
I will reveal from experience some tried and true facts. I will give a few myths that are not true and have very little, if any, relevance to the band speed calculation formula.
First you need to consider the horsepower of your chainsaw. I will give directions. The reason we consider horsepower first is because we need torque to keep the saw machine running at a constant speed.
Sawing logs is like a truck carrying a heavy load up a long hill. A truck cannot pull a hill in the highest gear it has or can use to run. He needs to downshift to a lower (slower) gear to get the torque level up the hill. With a band saw it is wise to measure the pull of the saw as if we were pulling up a long hill each time.
While considering horse power, note that if the band sawmill has hydraulics and the pump is increased to get power from the saw engine, you will loose 5 to 10 horsepower. For example a 25 hp manual sawmill will cut faster and stronger than a 25 hp with a hydraulic pump that robs horse power from the blade.
If I’m making a decision about how fast to make a band saw I’d rather stay safe and turn the blade slowly and have high torque, than turn too fast and have low torque.
Another consideration in band sawmills with 30 or more hp, is friction. When the blade exceeds 5,500 fpm it must deal with a high level of friction on the body of the blade. In the past we thought we had the hp and torque we could spin the blade and see fast. Over time we realized that this was a mistake because of the argument.
In some sawmills we run up to 7,000 fpm. This causes a lot of friction and when the saw blade gets into the wrong joints or hard surfaces the blade will cut badly. In the same wood we slowed the band down to 5,500 and the sawing problem went away.
You might think it would slow down production. It really took production and the blades lasted longer, all because we increased our torque and decreased friction. When the friction is dropped the bandsaw blade is more stable.
The power of your saw is the biggest factor in determining how fast the saw turns. There are other factors such as wheel diameter and wheel rotation. In the guides you will notice the advance of the hp quickly the bandsaw blade can rotate the wheels of the band to a certain point and I believe you have to be careful when you exceed the maximum point.
Note: All speeds are given in fiet per minute (fpm) for Gas or Diesel engines. When considering electric motors be aware that they have 25 to 30% more torque than gas/diesel motors.
Here are some guidelines: 8 hp max speed 3,500 fpm, 12 hp max speed 4,000 fpm, 16 to 18 hp max speed 4,500 fpm, 25 hp speed 5,000 fpm, 30 hp and more max speed fpm 5,50.
Another thing that doesn’t correlate to speed is tire size, but remember that tire rotation does. If the wheels are true round they can run at high speed. I will add that big wheels only have advantages when they are true all around. Note this: the 18 inch wheels if true is better than the 30 inch wheel if it is not true.
Should the speed change for Frozen Logs?
Yes, we have shown that it will help when the band turns over 4,800 fpm. It will give you better results in seeing frozen logs to slow the band down to 4,800 fpm or less.
I believe what happens in frozen logs when the tooth touches the cut area, the strip is cut and the moisture that melts slowly under the impact and friction and the dust that passes through the blade gullet will freeze back hard against the body of the blade and act as a brake pad compressing the body of the saw blade.
This causes heat and causes the belt to stretch and cut incorrectly. Slowing down the blade of the bandsaw under these conditions allows the tooth to get a bigger dust bite and the bigger dust will not pass through the gullet as easily as before.
Every little help we give ourselves here is good. Also at a slow speed the band does not have a level of friction to deal with and will not heat up too much, and this will keep the band strong, as hot metal is weak.
The formula for calculating the saw wheel circumference (the length around the wheel in revolutions).
The diameter of the bandsaw wheel X 3.14 = _____ then divide by 12 the total is ft and inches.
Example 26 inch bandsaw wheel: 26 x 3.14 = 81.64 so dividing by 12 is 6.80 feet around the wheel. So if I want my band to run at 5,500 then I divide 5,500 by 6.80 = 808. 808 rpm is the speed at which I want to turn the wheel shaft of this bandsaw.
Conclusion: A bandsaw blade needs constant speed and torque more than it needs speed. If you set the speed to match the horsepower and torque you will have a great cutting team with the saw.
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