"Man is a tool-using Animal ... without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all"
Posted: Aug 18, 2008
Updated: Jan 17, 2009 - Added note about improved quality; Aug 8, 2009 - Added note on street price

Review: Delta 28-276 Bandsaw

Bargain price not such a bargain

Purchase price: $427 from Lowes

Update Jan '09: Since writing this review, I've heard that Delta has greatly improved the quality of the 28-276. However, I can't confirm this and wouldn't take the chance, especially since the street price of the saw has risen to ~$500. At that price point, I'd lean towards a Grizzly Ultimate 14" Bandsaw instead.
Update Aug '09: Street price is back down to $427 at Lowes. Still wouldn't buy it. The Grizzly is on sale, $469 delivered.

The Delta 28-276 was my first major equipment purchase. I was building a small bridge at our house that had 12' curved stringers. I had inherited a small 9" Ryobi bandsaw from my dad and it had served me well dealing with small stuff, but sawing through pressure-treated 2x6s was just too much to ask of it.

So I went shopping at my local stores. Home Depot had nothing bigger than the Ryobi. Lowes, however, had this Delta in stock at $400. Since it cost more than twice as much as a replacement Ryobi would be, I figured it would be a relatively decent machine.

There's a lot to like ...

There was a lot to like about the Delta. It has several very nice features not found on smaller bandsaws. The wheels are heavy, nine-spoke cast iron, which is supposed to contribute to a more stable-running machine. They were also properly aligned right out of the box, which is not always the case. The table trunnions are also made of hefty cast iron, as is the table. This is compared to the cast aluminum used on many inexpensive bandsaws.

It was mostly very easy to assemble, although the stand is in nine separate pieces with 32 nuts and bolts. Not tough, just tedious and time-consuming. The upper saw comes completely assembled, including the blade. That's nice, but makes putting the saw onto the stand a two-person job, mostly because it's clumsy. And you gotta watch out for that blade ...

The Carter-type tension release is very well designed and easy to use. When you put it into the release position, the blade goes completely slack. This makes blade changes very simple. Some other bandsaws still leave a little tension on the blade when in the release position, making you work the blade off the wheels (and back on).

Blade tracking and tensioning is simple, although reaching the tension adjustment knob way up on top was a bit tough. If you're much under 6' tall, you'll need a little something to stand on.

On the other hand ...

While the Delta 28-276 looks great on paper, there are quite a few issues. Many of them are related to fit and finish, with one serious performance deficiency.

The doors are very flimsy and the catches are poorly made, which makes opening/closing the top a major pain.

The tabletop was very roughly machined, with many very deep milling marks. Compared to the cast iron tops on my other machines, the Delta looked terrible. Even the top of my dad's 30-year-old Craftsman contractor's saw is much smoother.

The saw comes with block-type blade guides vs more expensive roller guides. No surprise there, given the price, and they're easy to adjust. My one real complaint was the lower-guide has one block that's installed on a 45° angle. When you loosen the holding screw, it falls out onto the floor. I really, really don't understand the reasoning behind the design.

Installing the motor was a major pain. The motor hangs on a hinged panel under the stand, so that the motor's weight pulls down and tensions the drive belt. The motor mounting bolts fit into slots in the panel, allowing you to slide the motor so that the pulley lines up with the pulley on the blade wheel. The most difficult assembly task, by far, was getting this alignment correct. It's extremely difficult to reach the bolts and tightening them tends to shift the motor. I'd estimate that 75% of the total assembly time was spent aligning the motor.

The drive belt that came with the saw was, to put it mildly, total crap. It was lumpy and misshapen, I simply can't describe how bad it was.

However, all that pales in comparison to the actual performance of the saw. At $400, I didn't expect silky-smooth performance, but I never expected it to vibrate so badly. Initially, I thought the lumpy drive belt was to blame. I replaced it with a new belt and that helped, but the vibration was still beyond what I would consider acceptable.

Back to Lowes

So, after hours of assembly and trying to tame the vibration, I disassembled the saw, packed it up, and returned it to Lowes. The return clerk asked me if I had actually used the saw because it was back in the box. According to her, everyone else just brings the saw back assembled. Her comment gave me the impression that she's been processing a lot of returns on this saw ...

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