Introduction: Make a Portaband Into an Vertical Band Saw
A protaband is an amazing tool! It cuts all sorts of materials (metal, platic, wood) in a much faster, cleaner, and generally more controlled way than alternative cutting tools (sawzall, jigsaw, scroll saw). The right way to use a portaband saw is to secure what you are cutting and hold the saw as it cuts. Unfortunately, this is not always the most efficient way to do things and I often found myself wishing the saw was fixed and I was controlling the material. This is my solution.
This is my fast/easy/portable/using scrap materials solution. For better designed solutions, check out these vertical mounted portabands on the Internet:
Step 1: The Portaband
This is a portable band saw. A portaband. While most tool suppliers make them now, Milwaukee was one of the first. Mine is battery powered, but most on the market plug into the wall. The two main concerns with making it vertical will be fixing it to a base plate and controlling the trigger in a safe manner.
Safety is very important, especially when using tools outside of what they were designed. Modifying power tools is how people get maimed and die. If you are responsible enough to buy a tool, you should be responsible enough to know your limits in using it. Please think through any modification you do and what risks there may be before starting a project like this.
Step 2: Misc Stuff You Need
-To mount the saw to the base, longer 10-24 machine screws with washers. I used 1" SS
-To remove the cut guard and fasten the saw to the base, 1/4" drive socket and bits (torx and P2)
-For the trigger control foot pedal, zip ties.
-To fix the sag in the base, a scrap pine 1x3
-To make table, 2 saw horses
-Not pictured, for the pedal controlled trigger:
scrap plywood, 3/16 steel rod, and duct tape
Step 3: The Cut Guard
The black, stamped metal is the cut guard. The blade rotates so that as the material is being cut, it is pulled into this guard. This is a safety design to protect you and the material from jumping around which also makes for much cleaner, more controlled cuts. The vertical base plate should be where the cut guard is, so the blade cuts down into the base. I removed to 3, 10-24 machine screws holding on the cut guard and will use that to mount the saw to the base.
Step 4: The Base
The base is a scrap piece of 3/4 birch plywood--the cheap (quality) stuff found at Home Depot. Any rigid ply with a smooth side should work fine.
-I started by notching the plywood to fit the base of the saw. This doesn't need to be precise. I used a speed square to draw the lines and a circular saw to cut them.
-I then used the portaband to cut the slit for the saw blade. My thought was to essentially make a 'zero clearance' guide to keep the blade as straight as possible. It works pretty well, except that small slivers of wood can get caught in between the blade and the base.
- Now that I had an idea where the body of the saw wanted to be, I used the saw's cut guard as a template for the screw holes. I drill holes for the 10-24 machine screws (3/16", I think) and then used a 1/2" drill bit to countersink the hole so that the screw head and washer fit below the surface. This is important so they don't catch on the material you cut.
-The saw gets mounted to the base in a similar fashion as how the saw's blade guard was removed
Step 5: Trigger Control
The saw is mounted to the base. The base is clamped to saw horses. Next, I made something to turn the saw on and off. I decided on a foot pedal control because it would be safer than fixing the trigger always on and it would also conserve power (battery power, in my case). An added bonus is it allows proportional control so long as your saw's trigger is proportional.
Step 6: Pedal Control
Keeping it simple and using what I had on hand, I took a scrap piece of plywood and bent a 3/16" steel rod to connect it to the saw's trigger. I duct taped the rod to the bottom of the plywood. The length of the steel rod will depend on how tall the saw horses are. I purposefully made it a little short as I wanted to fine tune the pedal using zip ties! Two zip ties are used. The first goes snuggly around the trigger so that it wouldn't fall off. The second is used to fine tune the length of the pedal to adjust the 'feel' of it. The rod is overkill. A clothes hanger or a piece of rope would work just as well.
Step 7: Tweaking the Design
I had to fix a small problem: The plywood was not rigid enough to support the weight of the saw. It was slightly bending, bringing part of the plywood off plane. This also messes with the squareness of the blade. My pedal trigger control would compound the problem.
I used a scrap pine 1x3 to shim up the saw, taking some of the weight off the plywood. Not an elegant solution, but it worked.
Step 8: Final Thoughts
It works! I like the pedal control a lot. The biggest limiting factor in this vertical band saw is inherent in portaband saws: Cuts longer that 5" are tricky because the body of the saw will get in the way of the material. Portabands are designed to cut industrial stock materials like pipe and unistrut. They are not designed to cut long lengths of sheet wood or metal.
I am very happy with my vertical adapter jig for my portaband saw. I taped everything together so it is very portable/storable. Setup takes less than 5 minutes.
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