Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review of the Laguna Italian-Made LT-18 Bandsaw

I recently upgraded to a Laguna Tools Italian-Made LT-18 bandsaw.  I've used it a lot since recording this multi-part review and like it even more now.  At the time of the recording, I had used it for a couple weeks.

Part 1 is a tour of the saw itself.  The "Italian-Made" is important as this saw is completely different from the LT-18 3000 series also from Laguna Tools.  This tour isn't a point-by-point comparison though a couple key points are compared to show just how different they are.

The tour also covers the DriftMaster fence.

Part 2 gives a tour of the Laguna Tools Ceramic Guides and shows an easy way to calibrate them.  On various forums I've seen people say they like the guides but find them finicky to adjust.  This method is very fast for me and I'll explain a couple key things to watch out for.  The Laguna Ceramic Guides were a key feature for me in a bandsaw.  That meant buying a Laguna bandsaw or one where the Laguna guides could be retrofitted.

Part 3 shows how to set the drift angle on the DriftMaster fence then does a number of resawing demos to show how consistently thin you can rip stock.  You'll get to see how clean and consistent the Resaw King blade and Laguna Guides can make a cut.

A woodworking friend Chris Wong is simultaneously posting a review of his new Laguna LT-16 3000 series bandsaw.  What's cool about Chris, among other things, is that he's from Port Moody, British Columbia.  This means you can easily find his site by Googling "Chris Wong the moody woodworker from Canada" :)  (Seriously! try it!)

Grab the Alder, er, popcorn!  (is it just me or does Alder smell like popcorn when cut?!)


  • Mark Rhodes said...

    Good review Paul, I could of done with one of those today, I have a very crappy Kity(French made) that struggles with 3". I'm book-matching some sycamore for some door panels, and its pretty much taken all day. Italian machinery is very well thought of over here, and is now par for the course in a lot of workshops.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    When I was catching up on your blog, I saw the mention of these Sycamore doors. Looking forward to seeing that... you'll have to top those drawer fronts of the Ash build :)

    I've heard others complain about their bandsaws being barely capable of doing a short resaw and I wonder what the cause of that is. My previous saw was 1.5hp, but I was able to resaw 12" stock pretty regularly (Walnut, Sapelé, Poplar, Red Oak, Maple). What's the tooth geometry on your blades? Too many TPI? Not enough 'gullet'?

    But I can see why the Europeans think highly of ACM bandsaws; really like this one! Will like it more after I made a dust shroud under the table :)

  • Mark Rhodes said...

    I think it's exactly that Paul, I just have a standard blade, and the guides aren't great. In fact they are made from beech!!! I'm hoping to upgrade this year to a bigger machine that can handle 12" re-sawing, mine on a very good day with a new blade can only do 4.5".

  • Vic Hubbard said...

    I laughed my ass off at the remark to find Chris's blog. You've got me thinking this is my next bandsaw. I have the DriftMaster on my Rikon Deluxe and although it works, it is far from ideal. But, I may keep my Rikon for other stuff and have this larger one for resawing only. Great tutorial, Paul-Marcel!!!

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, Vic.. I had the DriftMaster on my Rikon 14" Deluxe for years, too. It works, but becomes a "DriftMaster with bandsaw attached". Just tricky to get the universal mounts in a position to not screw up changing the blade.

    I intended to add another video on installing the DM on the Rikon, but, ha ha, I had to rerecord the whole thing... didn't realize that shirt had gotten torn under the arm during a recent hockey game :) A few too many peeks at my pits for a release.

    Anyway, the 14" is still here awaiting a pickup from Marty in California so I still have a chance to make it.

  • James said...

    Great review Paul! Man that Bandsaw is just dead sexy! Not in the Fat Bastard "I'm dead sexy" kind of way more like Elizabeth Hurley.

  • Anonymous said...

    Hello Paul-Marcel. I missed the second and third LT18 video, and just caught up. I was wondering if there would be any negatives to removing the plastic shroud altogether on the upper ceramic guides. Seems it would make adjustments much easier. Of course, there may be a good reason not to remove it other than it makes a nice display case for the ceramic guides. Bottom line, you’ve got one very impressive bandsaw!


  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Dean, sure you could remove the cover. Turns out there are a bunch of screws to remove to do so; once I got them calibrated, i didn't care to remove the cover. It's not really a guard either so I dunno what it's purpose is.

    And I agree with you, James, the Hurley edition :)

  • Ralph Boomer said...

    Why did you decide on the Laguna brand 12" planer/jointer ? Are you still waiting for your mobile base? Do you plan a review? I am looking at several combo machine options.

    Ralph Boomer

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Ralph,

    Actually, I decided on the Laguna 16" jointer/planer with Shear-tec head. The Shear-tec or equivalent was a requirement for me; if I was going to settle for a straight-knife jointer, I would have just stuck with my straight-knife PM20 and hand-planes. I got the 16" since I couldn't see myself going to a 12" planer. If that was the case, a 12" dedicated jointer would make more sense and keep my extra lunchbox planer or spring for the 12" lunchbox from Steel City (I think) that has a spiral head on it.

    I got the mobile base a week later, but it was the day I was leaving for a trip to California. Since I've been back, my day-job has me working 60 hours/week so I'm struggling to just find time to keep my vanity project filming.

    This weekend, though, my neighbors are back in town and should be able to get it on the base so I can get it to a plug :) I have drawers to make for the vanity so I'll use this new j/p to joint and plane the stock. Drawer stock is a pretty good test since it's thinner.

    If you have specific questions, post them here and I'll see if I can answer them for you after testing out what you're asking about.

    The one thing I think I'd prefer from a Felder vs this Laguna is that the Felder lifts the tables from the front to tip them to the back. Laguna you grab the tables and tilt towards you. For my shop, it isn't a huge deal although I think the Felder method is better. But when I looked, I couldn't find a Felder with a Shear-Tec-like head.

  • john said...

    Did you ever just figure something out and were so excited you wanted to tell the world. You're it and I figure you might be a vehicle to disperse this technique.

    I have and LT18 as well. I have a $250 plus resaw king blade as well. I have never sent it back to have it sharpened because I didn't have a box big enough to hold the 158" blade when it was folded into three loops. There are many youtube videos on how to fold bandsaw blades into three loops. I could never figure how the blades were folded when I got it from Laguna, which was more tightly looped. That was until today!!

    The technique is this. I use the standard one hand technique, step on the blade grab the top with up turned hand and rotate it down with a wiggle. Walah, three loops.

    To make the additional loops and smaller overall diameter, repeat the process. Take two of the loops and make them smaller, almost as small as you can. This leaves the third loop as a big loop. It is about the size of 14 inch bandsaw blade. Now do the process again, foot on the single bid loop, upturned hand on the top of the three loops and rotate and wiggle, WALLAH!!!! Six loops with a reasonable diameter. A 158" blade fits into a medium flat rate box. Easy to ship to laguna. The blades are also much more tightly wound and easier to store.

    This is probably something everybody else was aware of but me. Hope this helps. Sounds like a video to me.

    John S.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    That's awesome, John! Have to admit that I haven't sent back a blade for this LT-18 yet. Have done a lot of resawing on it, but still nowhere near needing to send it back. I did get 2 blades when I bought this saw so I have one while a blade is out for sharpening so I can cheat and look at the other one, but I like your idea. Bet it will work.
    For me, the day I uncoiled the first blade was scary; that's a lot of 1.25" blade and it has a lot of spring in it. It uncoiled easier than I thought, but I seriously considered just throwing it out on the lawn and letting it spring out mid-flight.

  • Michael Vestel said...

    Paul-Marcel, thanks for the detailed video reviews...

    I was settled on the Laguna after i saw your review, but after reading the price, thought i'd understand the reason for the $1150 difference between the italian and the asian 3000 versions. i read more and could not get a clear indication, but knew you had a reason. could you share that...

    Thanks. Michael

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Michael,

    I have to admit that I also spun around in circles trying to decide if the Italian-made version was worth the premium. I'd say that took a good month or more of casual research.

    If you read Chris Wong's review of his Chinese-made LT-16, there were some machining issues. Over on talkFestool's bandsaw section (yes, they long left the Festool-only world!), others had issues with different phases of machining like the welds or even blatant parts missing. While parts missing or the kind of returns Chris had to do could be considered "sweat equity" to save the difference, the saws are completely different. I actually dislike the naming Laguna uses because to me it implied the exact same saw, one made in China, one made in Italy. But they are completely different saws both with 18" wheels.

    The spine of a bandsaw is one of the most important parts of the saw since it separates two heavy wheels in high-tension during sawing. Based on photos I saw of the two saws, there was no comparison to the Italian-made saw. My only complaint is the lack of an under-table dust port, but my fix in a subsequent video makes it a non-issue and only costs around $5 in PVC board and maybe 20 minutes to install.

    So I am the last to bash on Taiwanese products or even some Chinese products (the importer sets the quality standard; kids will get away with what you let them get away with!). That said, however, when I look at the Chinese LT-16 at my local Woodcraft and compare it to my LT-18, there's a world of difference in construction quality.

    Whether that merits the price premium for you, I can't say. It took me awhile to decide, but I don't foresee another bandsaw upgrade so it was worth it.

    Hope that helps; if you have specific questions about this saw, let me know and I can maybe snap some pictures or whatever.

  • Nako said...

    Hey Paul-Marcel,
    I'm waiting for delivery of my LT18 Italian BS and am eager to begin preparing the prefered location in my shop. This location has a height restriction due to a bulkhead and has 79 1/2" clearance. I can move it out a foot or so into a full ceiling height space for full depth cuts when the guide bar extends above the upper cabinet. I was wondering if you would be so kind as to let me know what the total height is from the bottom of the base to the top of the door closer switch? Thanks in advance for your help.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Nako,

    Some numbers to ponder :)

    Total height including the AC-300 casters: 82" (hair under actually). My casters are between 3" and 3 1/4" where I measured it so it looks like without casters, you'd be able to put it under that bulkhead.

    If you need to move it, though, it'll be tough to move. The door-close switch is 1 1/4" high by 1 1/2" wide by 4" long so it is a small item to the left of the top door. Maybe you can place that switch away from the bulkhead although I think you're still missing an inch.

    You'll enjoy the saw!

  • Nako said...

    Thanks again and just to confirm, total height including the door switch is 79""? That's cutting it close and not enough room for the mobility kit which adds about 1 1/2" to the total height. Do you think the door switch mechanism can be relocated to the side or back?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    77" with the door sense mechanism removed, which would be really easy to do. You do still need the switch detecting that the door is closed. As it is just screwed in, I'm guessing you could easily relocate the door sense mechanism to perhaps the right side of the saw (side where door closes) or maybe just flip it to be inside the upper housing. I didn't remove mine to see, but it is highly likely to be just two wires going to it... if they were simply connected together, the switch could be removed.

  • Nako said...

    Thanks Paul-Marcel! I will go ahead with my dust collection and power supply preparations.

  • Joel_Spottoms_Harry said...

    Hi Paul, I also have the LT18. but don't really know much about it. Ok I know... Sounds ridiculous. Long story, but I got it with a bunch of other tools in an estate sale. Anyways, I was overjoyed when I saw you have it and did a review! Im just getting to setting it up and trying to clean and calibrate. Do you know how I'd tell whether I have the Italian made model? The plate says LT-18, made in Italy. Thanks, Joel

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Joel,

    If the nameplate says made in Italy then it's the Italian-made version. The other one says made in China. It's regrettable that they couldn't think of a different name for the models. Even tacking on "IM" at the end of LT-18 for Italian-made would have helped.

  • Joel_Spottoms_Harry said...

    Goody. Does that automatically mean it has the ceramic guides? It doesn't have the same knobs or thumb screws as yours in the vid on the column.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    The guides went through some changes over the years I'm told. You should see white ceramic as 'pads' around the blade and likely a white ceramic rod pushed up against the back of the blade.

    If you don't see bearings (kinda hard to miss...) then you likely have the ceramic guides.

  • Robb Logan said...

    Thanks for the detailed video. I am strongly considering the Laguna LT18 3000 and the LT 18 and maybe the 24/17. I read the 3000 series review by Chris Wong and had similar questions for him since I can't find a place to try these saws in person. A few questions:

    1. Do you still have this saw and if so, have you had any issues since the review?
    2. You listed the differences between your saw and the LT 18 3000. Can you describe the advantages to your saw (other than the resaw height and throat)? Do you have any other observations that would help justify spending the extra money for the Italian saw?
    3. Did you have to drill holes in your table to install the Driftmaster? Was it a fairly easy, straightforward process?
    4. I’m also considering the Minimax mm16/20, Powermatic PM 1800/1500, and Laguna’s I mentioned above. At this time would you still make the same purchase or consider a bigger/smaller or otherwise different saw and why?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Robb,

    I still have the Italian-Made LT-18 and love it. Thinking for a bit, I can't come up with something I dislike about it.

    I think the build quality of the italian model is much better than the 3000 series. It isn't that China can't produce a quality product (many high-end brands are manufactured there), but Laguna honestly doesn't do any QC as was apparent in Chris's bandsaw with the poorly machined and even not machined surfaces. I've literally had a Laguna rep say on the phone, "well what do you expect, it's made in China". They save money on QC by hiding behind that statement, and that bugs me. The italian-made LT-18 is relabeled after the ceramic guides are put on the saw. The original manufacturer in Italy does QC.

    I think I might have drilled holes in the side table for the DriftMaster. Pretty sure I did because I remember thinking they should at least pre-drill those to make it "DriftMaster-ready". It is very easy to do, however. I use some cobalt-tipped chisel-point drill bits for drilling metal tables. Only caution... the table is webbed so when you pick a spot to drill, make sure you aren't drilling into one of the webbings because you couldn't really put a nut on the bolt and it's much thicker there. If the drill bit skates on the metal, drill a hole in thick scrap wood and clamp it to the side of the table so you can use the hole as a drilling guide. The adjustable arms for mounting the DriftMaster allow a wide range of hole placement.

    I don't think I'd go for the other saws if I had to buy again. The ceramic guides were important to me; while I can buy them as an after-market add-on for those other saws, that's immediately a $350+ premium. The Minimax would be the only one I'd consider if only because the build quality is supposedly stellar, but my LT-18 is pretty much perfect in that regard as well.

    I would want a larger one "just in case" :) but the LT-18 was the largest I could fit in my shop (watch for height). That said, I haven't had a capacity issue with the LT-18. I wouldn't want a larger bandsaw necessarily for resaw capacity, more for throat clearance.

    Hope that helps...