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Rikon 18" Bandsaw (2005)
I purchased this bandsaw after owning a 14" saw for many years. That saw performed flawlessly for me, but when the new Rikon was released for a very competetive price and it did well in all its reviews, I took a hard look at trading my 14" saw for the 18" Rikon. Before I knew what happened I sold my 14" Jet, Woodcraft put the Rikon on sale, and there was a new 18" bandsaw in my shop.
I had always kept a big MiniMax or Laguna or Agazanni bandsaw on my long-range tool wishlist, but the prices on those saws are prohibitive for a hobbiest like myself. This Rikon seems to have the price-to-performance equation set perfectly for me. It's priced far below the MM/Laguna/Agazanni saws, offers much (but certainly not all) of their performance, and seems to have its close competitors (Griz G0513, Jet 18", etc) out-spec'd on features.
Since this saw is new to the US Market I'll go into a bit more detail in this review than I normally would. If you want a quick bottom line without reading all that follows, I'd say I'm very happy with the saw and would buy it again given the same choices.
- 2 Hp motor provides plenty of power. Even resawing 10-12" lumber does not slow the motor down one bit. I can't imagine why you'd need more power.
- Heavy cast iron wheels provide added inertia which helps during resaw operations.
- Large 21" x 19" table with two miter slots provides good support for workpieces. I didn't even realize how nice of a feature this was until I compared the table size on my 14" saw to the table on the Rikon - huge difference.
- Beefy steel trunnions do a fine job of supporing the table.
- Rack/pinion adjustment of the table tilt angle is much more convenient than manual "bump-and-pray" tilt adjustments.
- Micro-adjustment screws in the table support assembly provide controlled fine adjustments to make the table square to the blade.
- Two 4" dust collection ports do an admiral job of controlling dust. Even during resawing the dust is captured well.
- The built-in brush on the bottom wheel keeps the tires clean and free of dust.
- The quick release blade tension arm is handy for blade changes. I still don't release the tension at the end of the day, but the quick-release does make blade changes a bit easier.
- The blade changing slot comes out through the front of the table instead of from the side. This makes blade changes easier than on my previous saw since the blade comes directly off the wheels and out of the saw instead of coming off the wheels and then having to make a turn to work through the slot in the side. That's probably confusing to read, but you'll understand when you change your first blade.
- Beefy spring that provides plenty of tension for bands up to 1-1/2" wide. I had no problem tensioning a 1" wide resaw blade, and there was more tension available if needed.
- Two speeds built into the saw. I'm not sure if I'll ever use the low speed, but it's nice to know it's there if I ever need to cut metal or plastics.
- The fence is nice for rip and other "flat" cuts. It is easily moved and secured, there is a magnifying bubble that makes it easy to see the measuring tape, it can be adjusted for drift or alignment with a few bolts, and it can be removed from the rails at any position. It has a small bit of deflection at the rear of the fence when pulled with a good amount of force, but nothing that is a concern for sawing operations. There is also a point-resawing attachment provided for those that prefer to resaw in that manner.
- The two windows in the upper door make it easy to see and adjust the blade tracking and tension without opening the door.
- 18" of rip capacity for wide boards/panels.
- Double-wide guide bearings provide great support for wide blades.
- The rear thrust bearing guides are positioned 90 deg's to the blade so that the back of the band rides on the outer race of the bearing (see pics below). This provides a wide support surface and puts the blade force more in line with the bearings than compared to my previous thrust bearings which got a bit scored over the years.
- The heavy weight of the saw and stiff backbone make it very stable and minimize vibration during operation. The wheels are balanced (evident from drilled holes in the back side of the wheels). That all contributes to a smooth sawn surface when used with a good blade.
- Rikon's customer service was very helpful and promptly returned calls.
- 2 year warranty provides a little extra peace of mind since the saw is relatively new to the US market.
- Extremely good value when benchmarked against it's competition.
- Did well in the recent Fine Woodworking and American Woodworker reviews (links below). Earned a "best value" award from FWW.
- Guide bearings have no micro-adjust, and they are a little finnicky to set to a precise location. It's something I've gotten used to, but life would be easier with a micro-adjustment feature.
- Guide bearings are adjusted with allen wrenches. My previous saw used thumb-screws to tighten the guides, so it was a quick tool-less operation. Since you need allen wrenches for the Rikon it's a little less convenient. They have at least provided on-board wrench storage, and that keeps them close at hand, but not needing any tools would be better.
- No foot brake to stop the blade when the saw is switched off. On high speed the saw will coast for over 15 seconds before coming to a halt after power is turned off. There is a significant amount of inertia in the cast-iron wheels, and it takes time to bring that inertia to a stop. This is by no means a huge deal, and many saws in it's class also do not have brakes, but it would be nice to have a brake available.
- The fence is a bit short for resawing tall boards. While I've successfully used it for 10" and 12" resaws, it would be a easier if the fence was taller. I'll probably eventually make an auxillary high fence to support wide resaws.
- The saw's size and weight made it a bit challenging to get into my basement shop.
- No mobile base is built in or available from the manufacturer, so if mobility is important to you it will need to come from an after-market mobile base.
- At the time this review was written, the smallest blade the saw can handle is 1/4". I don't often have the need for smaller blades, but I do occasionally make bandsaw boxes with a 3/16" blade. I suspect I'll do fine with 1/4", but that could be an issue if you need to cut extremely tight radii. Rikon is working on releasing a kit that will allow the saw to handle smaller blades, but until that's available it could be an issue depending on your sawing needs.
- The manual is mediocre. It was obviously translated into english, and several design changes to the saw occured after its publication.
- To reach Rikon's customer service you have to leave a message and wait for someone to call back.
- Very little information is available on Rikon's web site.
- A good review posted on Saw Mill Creek (link) identified an issue with the upper wheel tracking bolt dimpling the wheel carriage. I'll be monitoring my saw for similar symptoms, but so far mine is "dimple-free".
Overall, the "likes" far outweigh the "dislikes". I'm very happy with this saw, and would buy it again given the same choices.
Update after one year of usage:
I've now had the saw for a year, and I'm still happy with it. I've had a couple hickups along the way, but overall the saw is performing well. The handle that locks the upper wheel tracking mechanism broke when I cranked it too hard, but Rikon customer support sent me a new handle under warranty in no time (along with a new throat plate they threw in for nothing). I've also been trying to reduce a bit of vibration in the saw, but I think most of it is related to it sitting on a VERY out of flat floor. I've made a couple attempts at shimming the base, and I finally added 4 wooden "feet" to the corners of the base with bit of rubber under each foot. That helped a lot, but I still needed to shim the floor to keep the feet level. I recently replaced the drive v-belt with a link belt and that took out the 99% of the remaining vibration, although the link belt is a bit noisier than I'd like.
In the last year Rikon has updated their website a bit and has revised the users manual for the saw - both address "dislikes" I commented on above. I'm still not seeing any issues with "dimpling" like the guy on SMC. Rikon has already released an updated version of this saw, but unfortunatly the priced has been increased slightly as a result. And finally, it's good to know I have another full year of warranty support left.
© Copyright 2006 Chris Billman