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Changing a (Bandsaw) Tire

I’ve got a Grizzly 17″ bandsaw, which I acquired used earlier this year. While I’ve used bandsaws in the past, this is the first time I’ve had to actually maintain one. The machine is simple, really: two large wheels that propel a continuous blade past an adjustable table. There are guides for the blade to ensure that it tracks straight while making a cut; they are fairly straightforward to understand and adjust.

Besides those basics, I’ve also had occasion to adjust the blade tension, change the blade and change the blade speed for various applications. I realize there are folks out there who love setting up and calibrating woodworking machines, but I’m not one of them—I’d rather be cutting wood than fiddling with the saw.

The lower bandsaw wheel with the new tire just installed.

The lower bandsaw wheel with the new tire just installed.

So, I was dismayed a few weeks back when suddenly the blade on my bandsaw kept slipping off the top wheel (scarring a workpiece in the process). On investigating, I saw that the wheel is wrapped in a neoprene tire that helps to grip the blade and keep it tracking true. On mine, the tire had worn, hardened and stretched; it was slipping on the wheel itself, making the blade fall off.

Replacement tires are pretty cheap and come in packs of two. I figured the new tire would slip on as easily as the old one came off—hilarious in retrospect. The new tires, in fact, are very difficult to stretch and install.

I looked to the internet for advice and discovered that most people faced with a tire replacement for the first time assume that the tiny tire they’ve received is for a much smaller saw. My thoughts exactly.

As far as advice was concerned, those experienced with the  procedure suggested warming up the tire, usually in a bucket of hot water, to make it more flexible. The warm water does make the tire easier to stretch, but it also makes it slippery. When I tried to install the hot wet tire, it just slipped off the back of the wheel at the point of greatest tension, smashing knuckles and sometimes worse.

It would be helpful if the wheel was easy to remove. In that case, it could be mounted on the bench, away from hazards, and the stretching done without the fear that the entire machine may be pulled over. In the case of my saw, however, a special puller is required to remove the wheel from the axle. I has already waited days for delivery of the tires, and I couldn’t wait another week for a puller to finish the projects in the queue.

It was an effort, but after half an hour or so, the upper tire finally slipped on, which got me back into production. I hung the second tire on the wall “for another day” and went back to work.

Yesterday, though, I was changing the blade and realized the lower tire ought to be replaced before it fell off and ruined another workpiece. It’s easier to get leverage on the lower wheel—I could sit on the ground and use my feet to push against the machine. About five minutes in, though, I hit on the idea of zip ties to hold the back of the tire in place while I made the final strech. It wasn’t a perfect solution (I still had to take care to keep the tire from slipping.) but it shortened the job considerably.

I am cautiously hopeful that the replacement tires will last me the life of my saw, but at least now I know the trick to making the job a little easier.