Laguna Tools LT-16 Bandsaw
by Mike Levy

LT-16General Description

This 16 inch saw is manufactured in Italy by a company called Meber and imported by Laguna Tools. It has a welded steel frame, a 9 inch resaw capacity (which can be increased) and a 1 horsepower motor. Supposedly this machine is a cut (pardon the pun) above the commonly available 14 inch Delta and Jet machines, and in some respects it is, but it is certainly not without defects in both design and manufacture. When all is said and done, however, it does a fine job of resawing, which is mostly what I bought it for.

Laguna Tools shipped the saw promptly after I placed the order, and it arrived bolted to a pallet with a heavy cardboard box around it. Upon removing the box, I noticed that there were small areas on the machine and motor where the box had actually abraded the paint off down to the bare metal during shipping (there was no other protective packing material). A simple plastic bag thrown over the machine would have prevented this. Otherwise, the machine's heavy gauge steel frame and panels are very nicely painted both inside and out, with nicely rounded edges and corners. The doors operate smoothly on substantial hinges, and are snugly latched closed with large knobs. The saw weighs about 50% more than the garden-variety 14 inch machine, but is not so heavy or large that, after removing the table, two guys couldn't wrestle it into the back of your Subaru station wagon. Two instruction manuals were included: one from the manufacturer and one from Laguna Tools. Some important details are missing from the manuals; for instance, neither one mentions exactly how the three bolts behind the lower wheel serve to adjust that wheel's tilt, or whether there is any adjustment for moving the wheel in or out.

The Saw Table

I quickly noticed that the surface finish of the saw's table was extraordinarily rough. This is not to say it was not flat (well, it's not quite perfectly flat but it's close enough), or had heavy tool marks, but rather, the cutting tool that was used to surface it tore the cast iron and left a rasp-like finish. The Laguna Tools manual acknowledges this and suggests sanding the table with a Scotchbrite pad: I did this and it quickly smoothed up the surface.

The height of the table is quite low, which is no problem for resawing, but forces you to uncomfortably hunch over when trying to cut along a marked line. One could mount the saw on a couple of 4x4s, utilizing the mounting holes in the base of the machine, which would raise the table height to a somewhat more comfortable level. The table tilts up to 45 degrees, and a simple adjustable bolt located under the left edge of the table acts as an accurate stop for the normal horizontal table position.

The Fence

The optional single-piece cast iron fence that came with the machine clamps very rigidly to the simple steel angle that serves as the fence guide rail. Adjusting the fence to compensate for blade lead (the tendency of the saw cut to drift off to the left or right while sawing) is done by adjusting the angle of the guide rail; however, the adjustment is limited and insufficient for some blades. I had to extend the adjustment slots with a file. Some of the adjustment occurs where the guide rail pivots and is held by a nut; I replaced the nut with a knob, making a wrench is unnecessary. The fence clamp screw immediately began scoring the nice paint on the guide rail whenever I would move the fence or clamp it; I put a plastic cap on the end of the screw to prevent this. As received, the fence sits at an accurate 90 degrees to the table surface.

The Trunnions

The table trunnions (the semicircular brackets that support the table and allow the table to tilt) are heavy-gauge steel rather that the usual cast iron, but they hold the table quite solidly nonetheless. The trunnions are clamped in position with four bolts; three of these have knobs, whereas the fourth one is a hex-head bolt. The manual claims there is no room for a knob here, however, I easily installed one--it's just a little smaller than the other three and of course dispenses with the necessity of having to use a wrench to tilt the table. As received, the guidepost that carries the upper blade guides keeps the thrust bearing a constant distance from the back of the blade as the guidepost is moved up and down, but required a little bit of shimming so that the side blade guides would move parallel to the blade as the guidepost is adjusted up or down. Also, I lined the guidepost receptacle on the machine frame with very thin Kapton tape--this smoothes up the sliding action a little and keeps the paint job on the guidepost from quickly becoming scored. I also found that it is necessary to firmly clamp the guidepost into position, otherwise it remains slightly cocked to one side and out of alignment.

The Blade Guides

These are the so-called Euro guides, and the two side bearings and the thrust bearing are identical units, consisting of a wheel mounted on a shaft that rotates in a bronze bearing. Two of these units are mounted in threaded housings with their faces opposed, thus forming the side guide assembly. The threads provide micro-adjustment for blade clearance, however, there is no such mechanism for micro-adjusting the position of the side guides behind the tooth gullets, or for adjusting the position of the thrust bearing, one having to make due with simply sliding the appropriate assembly backwards or forwards and clamping it down with a lock knob. The blade guides require no tools for adjustment and the blade guard need not be removed when the blade is changed, which is very convenient. I found that two of the side guide bearings were not true to the threaded shank that allows for micro-adjustment, so that in general, the opposing side guide faces were not parallel to each other. Laguna Tools has exchanged these for a new pair which run much truer. Now here's the most glaring design defect on this machine: in order to provide clearance for tilting the table, the lower blade guides are mounted five to six inches below the surface of the table, thus resulting in a large distance without blade support. On a practical basis, however, I have found that when resawing with a 1/2 inch blade, the alarmingly low mounting position of the lower blade guides has no effect that I can notice on the final result. When working with a 3/16 inch blade, which of course is much less stiff than a 1/2 inch one, I found that the lack of support could allow the blade to deflect back to the point where the rear of the teeth start to contact the side guide bearing surfaces. Having access to a lathe, I was able to machine a simple auxiliary thrust bearing assembly which I mounted using a conveniently placed unused hole in the front trunnion. This places the auxiliary thrust bearing two inches below the table top and provides much better support for narrow blades.

The Wheels

The cast iron wheels are balanced and run true. The bottom wheel has the pulley machined directly into the wheel's hub, which is a nice feature. With a 1/2 inch blade installed and tensioned, I checked to see if the upper and lower wheels were coplanar (I made a simple straightedge from 1/4 inch Masonite for this purpose). They were not coplanar, but the adjustment bolts for the lower wheel and the tracking knob for the upper wheel quickly remedied this. Now, each time I change blades, I quickly check the wheel alignment with my straightedge. Any necessary adjustment is easily made with the tracking knob, and the blade tracking is very stable. Of course, it is not absolutely necessary to use coplanar tracking, but I find it a very reliable method.

So far, I have resawn 8 inch thick oak with good results. The 1 1/2 horsepower motor provides plenty of power, and once the saw has been finely tuned up, it will cut nicely uniform thin sections. The saw will take up to a 1 inch wide blade, but I find that a inch blade works just fine for resawing. If you later decide you need resawing capacity greater than 9 inches, you can retrofit a set of upper Carter blade guides to the machine (available from Laguna), which I am told increases the capacity to 12 inches. Actually, I found that by turning the upper blade guide assembly upside down (so that the thrust bearing is below the side guide bearings), the capacity of the saw can be increased to 10 inches at no extra cost. The machine has two 4 inch dust collector ports, and my 1hp dust collector connected to either one of these captures 99% of the sawdust that the machine generates (and believe me, resawing generates a lot of sawdust).