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Axminster AC1950B Bandsaw Review

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RichardG

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I needed to replace my old Dewalt 3 wheel bandsaw as it was very limited and well worn. I looked around for a used one for a several months but without travelling 100's of miles nothing came up in sunny Norfolk so I decided to take a punt on the Axminster AC1950B as it seemed to be getting good reviews on the Axminster site and you have the Axminster easy returns if not 100%.

Initial impressions were very good. The table was ground flat and being able to change the blade without removing guide was really nice. The ceramic guides seem to work well although the sparks you occasionally get was a bit of a shock. The bottom guides were fiddly to set, particularly if you needed to move the side guides backwards or forwards as you had to access an internal bolt which was hard to get to. The fence was excellent, accurate and easy to lock and remove. Adjusting the table angle is also good and smooth with dual trunnions. The 550W motor also seemed well suited to the machine.

On the downsides the upper blade guide adjustment was quite sloppy once unlocked and you had to carefully hold in position before locking it off otherwise the guides would be in the wrong place. The more serious issue and the reason I decided to return was the rigidity of the frame. I found that as I tensioned the blade the tracking changed and putting a square on the table you could see the top twisting as the tension went on. Whilst the square was in place I found I could twist the top by several mm easily by hand. I think this saw may well struggle to tension a 12mm blade properly.

As I've now sold my old bandsaw I have a machine void. I think I'd be better off buying an older used model, perhaps something like a Startrite 301 (sods law dictates that one just sold in Norwich!). The other option is the Record BS250 but I suspect it will be very similar to the Axminster?

Oh well, kudos to Axminster for their no risk purchases and such easy returns, not sure if Record do the same for any of their machines?
 

Simon_M

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Hi Richard

I have the previous version of the AC1950B bandsaw which is the HBS250N and they are both 10" bandsaws.

The AC1950B is Axminster's most popular bandsaw. It may not be the best (some of the Trade bandsaws are truly excellent), but it strives to be "good enough" for the Hobby person who is now a little "Crafty". IMHO, Axminster were really "Crafty" as they switched production from Taiwan (maker of machine tools e.g. excellence) to China ROC for some of their less expensive (more bang for the buck) bandsaws.

They would probably say it's "normal" for the frame to bend a little and for the tracking and the tension to be somewhat dependent on each other (at the price point you paid). You should be able to setup the tracking (once) and then adjust the tension correctly if you replace the blade. Each blade will be cut to length but may be +/- one tooth of the next so the position of the amount of adjustment to get the same tension varies. Too much attention/focus is put on either the tracking or the tension being "exactly" right when really the focus should be on having a decent blade...

They took away the one feature which is common to "better" bandsaws, namely good upper and lower support with 3 bearings top and bottom. I looked to upgrade my Hobby bandsaw to a Trade one. In the store they will immediately point out that all their "good" bandsaws are like this and when you ask why they haven't upgraded the "better" ones, they pull a face. Of course they will (or did) offer upgrade kits e.g. replacement bearing support and a better fence) - but it should be "excellence as standard". I'm sure buyers are not so price sensitive that they wouldn't accept a better machine for £10-£20 more (if offered one).

It's really about remaining competitive e.g. some of the Record bandsaws also don't use bearings and instead use metal discs e.g 250s, 350s and BS400. Whilst it is possible to operate a bandsaw without any bearings (theoretically), most users especially if they cut irregular/circular shapes do require some kind of good lateral support. The design of bandsaws has not evolved for a while, but the desire to cut cost persists - so draw your own conclusions...

On my HBS250N, you can replace all the bearings for £5-£10 complete especially if you buy from a motor factor shop (they are common parts). You are not "beholden" to Axminster for their "special" ceramic supports. So you stand a reasonable chance of having a machine in 10+ years that is as good as the day you bought it (or you can inexpensively fix it) and so not be obsolete.

Unlike a table saw which has to overcome a lot of friction, a bandsaw doesn't need too much power e.g. you will have 3 - 24 teeth in the workpiece (ideally only 6-12) and a bandsaw "works" by exerting a downward pressure on the table - within reason all bandsaws (above a certain level) will be OK - they are quite simple. For best results you probably need a blade matched to your needs (ask for help in getting what you need) e.g. a Tuff blade - made in Wales e.g. don't expect to use the same blade to slice thin veneers or rip wide boards and then use it to cut round bowl blanks - it doesn't work long-term.

As the owner of the HBS250N, I see three issues with the AC1950B: the frame is not as substantial as the previous model - it needs a weld down the centre of the frame and should be more "box" section than "pressing". The use of bearings is both effective and low cost to maintain - which are "missing" and the aluminium support for the blade could better maintain the position of the blade to the thrust supports (aka bearings on most machines). It's no good to say that when changing the height of a cut, that the support (being out of alignment) also needs the thrust to be adjusted because it's not realistic to assume that the average user will continuously "fettle" their machine - life is too short. On the HBS250N you can loosen and adjust two bolts that align the column - so as it rises and falls with the gaps between the two side bearings will (with adjustment) remains constant. It's still aluminium (better ones are steel) but it works very well.

I'm not trying to put down the AC1950B because for the price it's still a "reasonable proposition" however, I think most users will imagine that with careful attention to setup, they too can achieve good results, consistently. Whilst you might assume each new model will improve, I tend to think they catch the gullible (all too easily duped). Record Power seem to be moving their machines to a higher standard so in time I expect this one to be sidelined and replaced to remain competitive e.g. no more 250s or 350s without bearings . Probably not what you wanted to hear.
 

RichardG

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Somehow missed your reply, thanks for your thoughts, I agree with your comments. My big issue was the tension / guide alignment. It was a pain to have to correct the guide alignment every time you changed the cut height and/or tension.

My current aim is to try and buy a used Record BS350 and then upgrade the guides. The Record appears well made with a good power motor but the guides are a let down. There’s a Record demo day at my local supplier so I’m going to have a chat with the reps to see if there are any upgrades/ new machines coming. A BS300 Sabre would probably suite me but I doubt they’ll ever make one. I have some projects coming up where I’m going to need a decent bandsaw for resawing so I may end up having to splash out on a BS350 sabre which seems to be the best new I’ve seen under £1000. It’s overkill for me really but I can see the point buying a new BS350 and then having to upgrade the guides...

Richard
 

RichardG

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Thanks, I’ve looked at those useful posts, works on a used saw but on a new saw at £700 (show price) + £50 new guides plus time versus sabre at £950 (show price) work already done with other upgrades as well, I think the extra £200 is probably worth it...I’ll see if I can get my wallet out at the show!
 

MikeJhn

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Agreed, on a second hand saw it is a good upgrade, but not worth it on a new saw as there are better alternatives that have correctly oriented guides already fitted, it shows the cheap options that some manufacturers take.
 

Simon_M

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Axminster have bearing upgrade kits in the range £40-£70 and reviewers say they are not difficult to fit, but not as simple as unscrew and replace. At least one of the kits is from the previous range of Hobby bandsaws. Their target market has to be other manufacturers e.g. Record Power because their own Trade and Jet lathes already come with bearing support.

At Yandles show recently, there was a Laguna bandsaw, also with ceramic thrust supports on show - interesting competitor to RP Sabre 350? The idea is that they will never need replacing, unlike bearings, because they shouldn’t wear. None have been needed so far, but replacements will be available for £80 a set as there is a very slim chance a braking/shattered blade could damage them.
 

RichardG

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I’m still not convinced by these ceramic guides. Bearings can be bought today and anytime in the future from many suppliers. Will you be able to get a Laguna guide in 10 years? Hopefully they are designed so at least you could swap out for a piece of hardwood if not. I guess time will tell.
 
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