They Say It Can't Be Done...
If you've been watching many how-to videos on segmented bowl turning, I think you'll also see that everyone scoffs at cutting accurate ring segments on the band saw.
Well, I promise you - it is possible. A table saw is NOT required for this art!
This post will explain what you need to know in order to cut accurate segment angles on your band saw.
The final segmented bowl I was able to build and turn is an extremely tight and accurate piece. The design was kept simple and the wood species were kept cheap, because this was a first attempt. This finished turned Red Cedar & Pear wood segmented bowl is on sale, now. Click the photo above to see the listing.
Why Segmented Bowls?
Wood blanks are expensive from the stores, and seasoning our own, found wood takes some time. Using segmented rings, I am able to make some pretty bowls of almost any size up to my lathe's swing of 16", for the cost of a few planks and a lot of glue... and a bit more time and sweat.
Since my table saw was currently serving another purpose as a wood seasoning rack, I was left to test all of the math involved on my band saw. It went surprisingly well, actually.
After a few tests on some scrap and a bit of adjustment to compensate for the band saw's inherent inaccuracies, I was able to whip out perfect 8 and 10 segment rings on some pear and red cedar boards I found on sale at Wood World .
How Many Methods Are There?
Like with anything, there are several ways you could go on the band saw. The most popular method is taken from those who use the table saw -
The Wedgie Sled Method
There are some great videos online about making "Wedgie Sled" fixtures for your table saw. There are only a handful of videos showing how to do this for your band saw. The best I found was Blue Star Industrial Arts' video entitled "Cutting segments on a band saw. Yes a band saw".
His video is a no-nonsense walk-through of how he built a wedgie sled for his machine. I was very tempted to go this way, since it opens up some advanced complimentary segment angle cutting. I will probably eventually go with this, as I advance beyond what I am currently able to do.
But, it wasn't necessary this time!
The Miter Set Method
The second-most popular method of cutting accurate segments, on any tool, is to simply use your miter gauge and fence. Accurately dialing in the angles can be rough. There are several ways around this, but a tool called the "Miter Set" is the most accurate.
Izzy Swan has an awesome and comprehensive video on the use of this tool, called " Flawless Miters Made Unbelievably Easy - Miter Set". You can find the Miter Set at Rockler, being sold as the "Miter Set Segments".
I am here to tell you... it's well worth the price.. But, there are other ways. Grab a $1 30-60-90 plastic angle from Dollar Tree, if you have to. It could be just as accurate,. but you will just be limited to a couple numbers of segments.
You Can Guess Which Way I Went
I decided to skip the wedgie sled solution and go with a simple Miter Set. Using the better miter gauge from my table saw helped.
Amateur Tip #1: Use an accurately fitting miter gauge.
If you do not have an accurate miter gauge, then you will have trouble on the table saw, as well. Get one.
Once I was sure my miter gauge was adjusted to the perfect angle, it was time to try my first ring from some scrap. I chose a straight board and cut it down to size and began.
And, My First Lesson Learned
My first ring was terrible. It was so far off, it would take more effort than it would be worth to use the "split the ring in half and sand the halves flat" trick that some segmented turners use. I puzzled over what I could've done wrong that made it so far off. I re-adjusted the miter gauge and tried again.
Towards the end of cutting the second ring's segments, I realized that my board was sliding down the miter fence towards the table fence, with I was using to reference from. Duh!
Amateur Tip #2: Do not reference off your table fence, as it has likely been adjusted for blade drift.
Table saw and band saw table fences are truly different beasts. We go to great lengths to make sure our table saw fences are square to the blade. This is what gives accuracy. This is due to the table saw blade being very stable and deflecting very little at its high speeds.
Band saw table fences, properly adjusted for "blade drift" are hardly ever perfectly square to the blade.
Instead, use a separate reference point (just a scrap piece of wood) clamped to the table at your starting position. Clamp the board you are cutting to the miter gauge fence as best as you can, referenced for length from the tip of the reference board, hold it tightly, and move ahead towards your blade...
No matter what size blade you have installed in your table saw, it will want to deflect if you go too quickly. Of course, using a wider blade will minimize this a bit, but it'll still want to happen. That is the nature of the band saw blade teeth. They are set with a wide kerf to allow you to make radial turns in wood.
Amateur Tip #3: Push the board you are cutting through the blade slowly.
Finally, Some Accurate Rings!
And, I mean TIGHT! Using this simple process, along with some general understanding of the nature of the tool-at-hand, I was able to cut many different sized rings with any number of segments I wanted, all on my band saw!
I got the hose clamps and glue out and got them together and ready for the next step.
And, Now for Some New Challenges....
I soon realized that I would need a ring surfacing solution, before gluing anything up. Hand sanding, even with a power sander, is never flat enough. I tried using my #4 plane, but there just isn't enough surface to keep it registered properly all the way around.
So, it was time to build a poor-man's 12" disc sander.
I grabbed some scrap ply, cut crude 13" circles from it, glued them together, mounted that onto a large face plate, and turned it true. Then, I added some cheap 12" sanding discs from Harbor Freight, and voila...
Yes, that is a very old Shop Smith with a speed reducer. It has been a real beast but very easy to repair when it has failed, so far. I love this machine. It might be nice to properly stand while I turn, someday, though. ;)
Next came some education about turning large bowls.
I was not going to be able to reach all the way inside using my longest tool rest of 8 inches. So, I began with the bottom and a few rings, turned those, glued more, turned those, etc.
That might have been a great plan if I were more skilled at my smoothing cuts. I'm not. I had to find a lengthy enough tool rest with a 3/4" post to fit this old ShopSmith. I explored making my own, a bit. Rick Turns has a great set of videos about making one on the cheap with silver brazing.
I finally found and bought Woodcraft's modular tool rest system. I was nervous about applying these sorts of torque forces to something that screws together, at first. But, so far it has worked wonderfully.
You can see the massive reach this tool rest has. And, it feels very solid. I have been using it on all of my bowl turning, since. The only gripe I might have is the black powder coating they used on the metal. The finish is bumpy, like the new tactical weapon paint jobs. This is no good for smooth, even tool sliding.
I may try to file it down, one day. I am not sure what type of steel is under that paint. If I do find out, I will update this post.
So, there you have it
I was able to make a segmented ring bowl with some very tight joints, all using my band saw and a homemade disc sander. I can't wait to try another one with a bit more curve in the design and some more thought-out segment patterns.
Have any suggestions about what I should try next? Agree or disagree with something you've read, here? Just want to say "Howdy"? Please leave a comment and I promise to respond.