New Vertical Band Saw for the Shop from Silver Manufacturing Co. -or: How to Convert a Wood Cutting Band Saw to Metal Cutting

***NOTE:*** (This project was accomplished without permanently modifying or altering this old saw. No holes were drilled, and it can be returned to its original configuration at any time)

I have been looking for a cheap vertical bandsaw for the shop to replace the 4X6 vertical/horizontal saw I sold just before I acquired the Johnson Horizontal band saw a while back. Good as that saw is, I can’t cut with it in a vertical position, and can’t cut contours. Cheap vertical saws that are capable of cutting metal are scarce as hens teeth. This is a wood saw now, but will soon (hopefully) be a metal saw.
This was my first look at the saw that was listed in a Craigslist ad as: “Old cast iron band saw, $200”. The owner stalled a few other buyers that called about the saw until we could get together. After he turned the saw on to show me the straight as an arrow tracking, he made a couple of cuts. I paid him the asking price before the price went up, then he gave me some of the history of the saw.


He had owned the saw for 30 years, buying it from his mentor who had also owned it for 30 years (it was old when he bought it). He had replaced every bearing in it back in the 80s, and they are still in great shape. I spent a good deal of time trying to find something wrong, (never did) and just chewing the fat with this guy. He knew I appreciated the saw, and I think he saved it for me. We discussed what history I had dug up on OWWM about what I thought the saw was, and then he helped me remove the table and motor for transporting.

Here it is sitting in my shop. With the table and motor removed, the saw weighed maybe 400-500 pounds. I had brought an appliance dolly with me and had strapped the saw to that, and just tipped it into the back of my pick up. With the previous owners help, we had it loaded in less than an hour. I offloaded it by myself, and it all went pretty smooth.

Serial # 11836; date of manufacture unknown. From what info I have been able to get from, it is made by Silver Manufacturing Co. of Salem, Ohio somewhere between the years of 1890 and 1954. The bases made after 1910 where totally flat, so I suspect this one dates from 1890-1910. If anyone can give me a better time frame, I would appreciate it. Silver was a split-off company of the Silver & Demming Manufacturing Co. and was later sold to The Crescent Machine Co. All of these companies shared members of the board of directors, and had a very cooperative relationship.

Heres a shot of the wheels (20″). The old owner replaced the tires and bearings a while back. That starter switch on the left side of the table is sitting on the auxillary table that stays level when the main table is tilted.

Heres the motor, a 1 1/2 horse 220v single phase 1750 RPM motor. It was gone through a few years back, and real smooth.

As luck would have it, Alan Weber posted this blade welder for sale on the CAMS Email server the week I bought the saw, and I took that as a sign, and bought it. I picked it up at his place in Richmond Virginia, and was glad I hadn’t brought alot of money with me! He has way too many toys for sale, and I’m sure I’ll be back there soon. I have some Ebay coil stock in a couple of varieties coming, and will do some experimentation soon.
My main purpose in buying this saw (aside from just needing a new toy) was to cut metal, and this is a wood saw. The blade needs to feed at less than 200 feet per minute (100 would be better). I had considered a 3 phase motor with a VFD (variable frequency drive) to slow the motors speed, but a couple of CAMS member who have dealt with this problem before convinced me that gear reduction might be a better solution. So this is what looks like it might be the “final drive system” of the saw in the near future……………

These are a pair of Variable Pitch or Constant Velocity pulleys scavenged from the dumpster at work. We use these to regulate speed on gear reduced screws that carry a pretty good load. When the belts start to squeal, they change the belt and pulleys. I’m betting that after I scuff the pulleys up, they will handle the low loads a bandsaw would have (even at a higher speed).
These pulleys can be spread, which changes the ratio. One opens, which closes the other. There is a pretty good visual here:

The plan is to mount these between the existing pulleys on the saw with a jackshaft, with the ratio reduced with step pulleys, to slow it down enough to cut metals, and be able to change the variable ratio on these pulleys enough to cut some wood when needed. These pulleys kinda dropped in my lap, and they were free, so I can’t resist the challenge. I’m pretty confident I can turn this into a metal saw that can still cut wood without changing pulleys. Any input is appreciated, as this will be uncharted territory for me. I’ll update this as work progresses in between other projects. More to come…………

Eric was good enough to send me a pic of the infamous U.S. Gov’t Do-All Band Saw’s split pulley system so I could see how the big boys do it. I’ve got to get over there and see it up close for sure. Thanks Eric!

One of the first things I wanted to take care of was the dismal “oiler” on the lower wheel spindle. It consisted of an open hole and a piece of electrical tape.

The high tech solution is a piece of 5/16″ steel tubing from the scrap bin and a 1/4″ Gits oiler from the


Heres the tubing cut to length, and one end tapered, after a minute on the belt sander.

Here it is installed with a little red Locktite for good measure.
The whole deal took about five minutes to fab. Better than a hole in the base, for sure.

This is the 30:1 gear reduction box I bought on Ebay for $60 (shipped) from a real good seller: ots2. First thing to do was drain the oil.

The oil was pretty rancid, smelled like that whale oil they used back in the 70s. I drained it, re-filled it with spindle oil, and spun it for a while with a 1/4 HP motor to clean it out. I’ll drain it again, and fill it with some good gear oil before I put the saw under load. The next step is to fabricate all the mounts and tensioners to hook up the gearbox and motor to the saw. That’ll be the job for this weekend. More to come………

I finally got a little time to work on the saw again, and thought I’d post some of the progress. I finalized the design, and mocked it up to make sure the pulley system would work and have plenty of room for adjustment. Obviously, this is the gear reduction plan. I decided to scrap the Variable Ratio pulley system, it looked like it was going to be far too complicated, and would have taken up too much space. There was some doubt as to weather it was going to slow the saw down enough, anyway. So far, I’ve been able to make the conversion without drilling any new holes in any of the castings, I felt like that would be a real insult to the old girl. Heres a pic of the new motor mount laid in place for the mock up. I think I’ll have to build some sort of outrigger, to steady the saw when I’m done; the base is real narrow, and has the potential for being unsteady.

This is a motor mount I pulled out of the dumpster at work that fits pretty well with just minor modifications. It will give me 4 or 5 inches of travel for belt adjustment, in case I want to go wth a bigger drive pulley. I will need to come up with some kind of way to mount the motor to the plate for side to side adjustment.

Heres the mounting plate for the reduction box. Its mounted to a piece of angle iron bolted to the saws base. I’ve slotted it for belt adjustment on the mill, and it will have a adjuster. The blue plate is a stand off for the gear box, to space it up off the mounting plate, and allow for belt changes.

This is part of the adjuster for the reduction box mounted on the base.

And a shot of the underside, assembled.

Heres another shot, and one from the top…..

The mount works real nice, and is very rigid. The adjuster works like a champ. I’ll have to turn a handle for it shortly on the lathe. All of the materials came straight out of my scrap bin, so they look kinda rough. Now that I know it will work, I will blow it all apart, and clean it up some with the belt grinder and blast cabinet. The next step is to get to work finishing the motor mount when I can get some time. More later…………

I got a few hours to work on the base for the motor, and thought I’d post a few pics. This is the base with the aluminum braces attached. They are mounted to the base plate with some countersunk allen bolts, like the ones on the reduction box mount. I have a bunch of these aluminum bars, left over from some computer servers I scrapped. They are real stout, and made the base rock solid.

The holes are for the through-bolts that attach it to the base mount.

Here it is mounted; with the braces attached, the base is really solid. I was concerned about the cantilever design, but the aluminum bars really added rigidity to the mount. I’m sure when I get the adjustment rails mounted for the motor, that will help even more. Time to sort through the scrap pile and find some angle to make the rails……

Heres the base completed. I took a short break, and the skies opened up and we lost power (just when I was making good progress). The power came back on and I got some more work banged out.

Heres a shot of the motor adjuster. I have the placement real close, but I wanted a little adjustment in case somebody comes out some whiz-bang pulley that will let me change speeds easier.

Here it is with the motor in it’s final resting place.

Another shot of the adjuster. I allowed for about an inch of adjustment in either direction.

A shot from the rear. I still have some trimming to do, and then it’ll take a trip to the belt sander to round some sharp edges, and then a test drive. I still have to address the blade guides, and I’m expecting a new pulley for the gear reducer in the next day or two, so that will keep me busy for a while. More to come……but I’m getting close.

I got a chance to smooth all the rough edges before I went to work today, and just threw some Rustoleum Smoke Gray (my paint of choice) on it when I got home. You can see that it’ll need another coat; thats the Dykem bleeding through.

Thats the reduction box mount and mounting flange.

These are the motor base plates, with adjusting slots.

Heres the new pulley that arrived today for the drive end of the reduction box. It was 13$ shipped from Ebay seller redsheller.

And here it is, waiting on a little drying time (and maybe another coat). I’m pretty anxious to throw the thing “back” together, and see if it will spin the saw, I’ve got lots of projects to get to. The First one might be a decent belt sander; I just about threw my Harbor Fright 4″ belt sander in the trash when I was rounding the corners on this project, but then, it really wasn’t designed for this type of abuse.

Heres the whole mess fresh off the bench (sticky paint and all). Wish I had thrown some paint on the motor mount, It’d almost look like it had been there all along. I suspect the previous owner used Rustoleum Smoke Gray, the match is pretty close.

And from another angle. this conversion was done using ONLY existing holes in the saw’s casting

On a roll, I stuck the upper pulley in place to check alignment, and strapped on some Fenner Power Twist belt. I need to pull a couple of links.

Got ambitious, and dropped the motor in place. Fact is; I wanted to see how close I guessed on the alignment issue.

Pretty close, I’d say. I came up about 6 inches short with the Fenner belt, so Ill hafta order some more. Damn!, I wanted to hear this thing spin, but I’ve come this far I guess I better just hold out, and finish it up the way I planned. The Fenner belt is supposed to reduce vibration significantly, and I’d guess it’ll compensate for mis-alignment to some degree. I guess I’ll reorder some more belt (expensive stuff), and might just see about a 4 groove pulley for the motor to give me a wider speed range (dunno yet). Enough work for tonight……tired.

Well, all the parts came in, and I got to work. I bolted everything up to try it out and the motor spun the WRONG WAY! Now I had been VERY careful during the planning stages of this project, and was SURE I needed a clock-wise rotation (thats what I had). Without that, the blade would turn the wrong way. Imagine how pi$$ed off I was when I turned it on and the blade spun the wrong way. I did what I do in critical situations like this; I blew the motor apart, and cleaned and painted it.

After an overnight dry time, I slapped the motor back together and bench tested it, and it spun the right way this time! If someone can explain the law of physics that changed the rotation of this motor after a good cleaning, I’d like to hear it! Now I’ve got a motor that turns the right way (again), and I’m off to the races!

Heres the first cut. This is the type stuff I wanted the saw for; stuff thats tough to grab in a vise. I find alot of this stuff in the dumpster at work. This is a cover for the electrical stuff on a huge motor. Thats about 15 lbs. of cast aluminum, headed off to be melted down.

This is what it starts out looking like.

And heres how it ended up ten minutes later; small enough to fit in a 6″ crucible.

I’m real happy with the way the saw runs (with reservations). The wheels turn about 50 RPM (I haven’t figured the blade speed yet). Its a good speed for cutting steel, but too slow for aluminum. I either have to put a bigger pulley on the motor, or re-power it. I have this shaper motor (3 PH 3450 RPM) thats available that might just do the trick. If I install a VFD, I think it’d be slow enough to cut steel. I haven’t done the math yet, but I think it might work. Food for thought, anyway while I enjoy cutting the backlog of scrap around here.

I’m not finished by any stretch of the imagination, I still want to improve the blade guides (which work surprisingly well already), and resolve the blade speed issue. I also want to square up the sides of the table, so I can install some sort of precision fence/sliding infeed table, and to reinforce the table where it splits at the blade slot. Plenty of work left to do, but at least its functional after all these months. More to come.

Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve anything with the saw, and was cutting up some scrap today. I was cleaning up and found the Lovejoy pulley I bought for it, under the motor housing. The saw needs a little more speed, and I thought this might just do the trick to give me a little more adjustment.

Heres the pulley. Its a Variable ratio pulley (similar to what I originally wanted to install). It will fit on the motor shaft, and the ratio (speed) will be regulated by the belt tension. The tighter you make the belt: the slower the reduction box will be driven.

This is roughly where it’ll sit.

Here it is, installed. The whole deal took about ten minutes, and it ended up with about 1/4″ clearance between the pulley and the reduction box. In the most relaxed position, the pulley is “compressed”, and at it’s largest diameter. This runs the saw on “fast” speed.

Here it is running at the fastest speed. If I adjust the motor housing to tighten the belt, it will make the pulley diameter “smaller”, and run the saw slower. I picked up 30-40% more speed in the relaxed position, and a little adjustment allows me to slow the saw to a crawl. This really brought the saw to life. Now that I have some flexibility with the speed, I can start doing some experimentation with blades. With the 18 TPI blade I’m running, the cutting time has been reduced. I haven’t tried the 6 TPI blade I’ve been using on thick aluminum scrap yet, but suspect I’ll find the same results. I can’t wait to try the Starrett 6-10 TPI bi-metal that Cutter at Shop Floor Talk has been trying to sell me. More to come……………………


UPDATE 9-12-2014:

After a long period of inactivity, the saw went to a new owner. My Delta saw has been getting enough action so that I wasn’t using the 20″ for anything more than a place to put my coffee cup and I couldn’t bear that. The new owner was actively looking for a “real solid American saw”, and I am happy to see the old girl go to a good home.


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11 replies
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  1. eric hoffmeyer
    eric hoffmeyer says:

    Hi Mick,
    Looks like a similar arrangement to what runs my Do All. If you want to come over and copy how it is set up please do so.
    One item to consider is the strength of the blade guids and the bar that goes up and down holding the upper blade guide (and roller).
    My GUESS is cutting metal requires more force against the blade guide/roller assemblies.
    Anything I can do to assist with this project?

  2. admin
    admin says:

    Hey Eric,

    I had forgotten that Do-All had a similar arrangement (thats probably where I stole the idea). I’ll have to get with you and get a good look at it. My blade guide is pretty stout, but will need the addition of a roller on the backside of the blade. Apparently this wasn’t needed when cutting wood. We’ll have to get together soon, I have a few other projects that I could use your “half bubble off plumb” prospective on 😉


  3. admin
    admin says:


    Please excuse my underestimating the depth of your mechanical depravity, the evaluation process has been re-calibrated.


  4. Rex B
    Rex B says:

    You and I must be on a parallel of some sort. I just finished converting a Jet 14″ bandsaw to metal. Mine was quite a bit simpler. I just used a 30RPM gearmotor, running 1:1 to the original pulley on the bottom wheel. That gave me 114 FPM. Doesn’t get much easier.

  5. admin
    admin says:


    I just made it easier than that! I just came across a 30s-40s vintage Delta 14″ multi-speed wood/metal saw at a great price, that I couldn’t pass on. Your Jet is a direct clone of the Delta, and it sounds like a great conversion. If this Silver hadn’t just about dropped in my lap, I’m sure thats the route I would have taken.


  6. tom angell
    tom angell says:

    Just a short note to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed your input on the Cams listserve over the years. You not only do a great job on whatever you’re working on but you also do wonderful write-ups with great documenting photos. Anytime I see your name on the header I know I’m in for a fun and informative read.

    Tom Angell

  7. karlgabel
    karlgabel says:


    Thanks very much for publishing the bandsaw conversion article in your blog.
    I have a Davis and Wells 20″ that I would like to convert to metal cutting.
    My question has to do with the gearbox. I noticed that the motor for the saw
    was 1-1/2 hp but the 300 series gearboxes from Boston Gear are rated fairly
    low – less than 1-1/2 hp. Did you have any issue with the gearbox / motor
    Thanks very much!
    Karl Gabel
    Henderson, NV

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