Warren Brownell's Gilliom / woodgears bandsaw

Warren Brownell writes:

Hi Matthias,

Here are pictures of a rebuild of the 18" Gilliom saw I originally built in 1975. I had disassembled the saw and just brought the Gilliom parts with me when I moved to Hawaii a few years back. I've been a big fan of your site for a while and was never happy with the vibration in the upper part of the old saw, though I have to say, it always got the job done. So when I started the rebuild, it was a pretty obvious choice to me to put the old Gilliom parts on a glue lam frame following your basic design.

I just made the first cut with the saw this morning and it works beautifully. With a solid frame I felt confident to upgrade from the old saws 3/4hp 1725 rpm motor to a 1 1/2hp 3450 rpm motor. I switched the old 2 1/2" motor pulley to a 2" which was the smallest pulley I had around. The blade is moving quick and it cut a piece of 3/4 plywood faster than I'm interested in feeding it in. The Gilliom saw was designed to saw at 2000 blade feet per minute and I'd imagine the new saw is over 3000 fpm.

My goal was to use as many of the old Gilliom parts as possible. The Gilliom bearings and shift are bolted to the lower frame which puts the pulley on the opposite side of the frame from your saw. I cut 3 extra inches off the shaft. The doors close with the hanger bolts and wing nuts from the old saw.

I splurged on a pair of urethane tires. They're not supposed to need glue but I was concerned they could slide off (they are really slick). A thin film of urethane glue solved that problem. The tires and a hand full of nuts and bolts were my only other expenses. The frame is made from resawed wood left over from a friend's ceiling and the plywood is left over from the kitchen cabinets in my house.

The saw is sitting on a 16" high base and stands 6' 3" (1.9 m) tall, plus the adjustment knob on top. I don't know what it weighs but it was all I could do to lift it up on the base.

I have some koa stored under the shop so the next project is to unbolt the table and make a bolt-on sawmill attachment similar to Rudolph Baumueller's. I'm confident the saw will have no problem turning the koa into lumber.

I went old school and drew out plans on a sheet of shelf paper. Your plans are behind on the wall for reference. The upper part of the frame is made from some tongue and grooved pine left over from a friends ceiling project.

The lower frame is from a packing crate.

I did a dry assembly with drywall screws to make certain that everything was going to line up ok. The Gilliom shaft was too long and I cut it later.

I made an assembly jig out of plywood so everything would lay flat and I'd have room for the clamps. I also used the drywall screws from the dry assembly to line things up. There were small irregularities in the thickness of the pine that gave me a few hassles. If I'd thought of it I would would have run everything though the thickness sander first. But it all worked out ok anyway.

Here everything is glued up, the upper plywood piece is screwed and glued in place and the holes are drilled to attach the Gilliom shaft and bearings.

I put a blade on with a little tension to get the bearings on in the right place. The shaft had to be square to the frame and the back of the blade running straight with the vertical part of the frame. I also checked the location of the lower blade guide so there would be the correct clearance between the frame and the blade. That determined how much of the shaft would need to be cut off.

I widened the front of the saw to give more support to the bolt on table. I wanted to be able to remove the table and bolt on a sawmill sled similar to the one Rudolf Baumueller has on his saw.

There was discussion in the Gilliom builders group a while back about adding a spring to the upper wheel adjuster. The thought was that if you eliminate the natural flex that the old saw had it would be good to add a spring. This made sense to me so I bought a spring from Grizzly. It's the same spring they use on several of their bandsaws in this size range and it seems to be doing the job. It does make the wing nuts on the tensioner obsolete. If I were to tighten them now it would lock the vertical position.

The belt guard is held on with wing nuts on three pieces of 1/4" all-thread that I threaded into 3/16" holes.

The dust port is the end of a 3" ABS plumbing fitting with a short piece of 3" pipe glued into it. The 3" pipe fits snugly into a hole drilled with a 3 1/2" hole saw. My 4" vacuum hose is a tight fit on the plumbing fitting.

The switch is in place ready to wire and the saw is ready to have the wheels put on. The hanger bolts and wing nuts that hold the doors closed are from the old Gilliom saw. The 3/4" X 4" pine wheel surround is attached with glue and 3" deck screws countersunk a couple inches into the edge of the pine. The motor is 1 1/2 HP 3450 rpm. Gilliom cautioned against using more than a 3/4 HP 1725 rpm motor but with the extra frame stiffness this saw handles the bigger motor fine.

The Gilliom ran at 2000 blade feet per minute. Jim Wheeler over at the Gilliom builder's yahoo group did the calculation and figures this saw at 3300 fpm. A major improvement!

I'm also pushing the old design with a wider blade. Gilliom maxed out with a 1/2" blade and I'm running a 3/4" blade. This is pushing the design of the Gilliom blade guides but since the 3/4" blade is much thicker and stiffer it seems to be working.

The underside of the bolt-on table. Hinges, tilt mechanism and aluminium stiffener are all from the old Gilliom saw. The aluminium was the back guide for a fence and stuck out 3" past the edge of the table. I still have the parts to build the fence but since they've been sitting around for almost 40 years it's probably not happening. I was tired of bumping into the aluminium so I set it back even with the table edge.

The table bolted onto the saw. The piece of hardwood in front is the "stiffener" from the old saw. The notch cut in the top was for clearance for a piece of hardwood that stiffened the table. Gilliom suggested using a sink cutout for the table which I did on the original saw. It gave a nice smooth Formica surface and I kind of miss it. Gilliom has the tightening knob in front but on this saw I moved it to the back so it wouldn't interfere with the lower door.

The back blade guard was my own "invention."

Back blade guard in place.

View of the lower blade guide.

Finished saw. It's standing on a 16" tall box. Total height is 6' 3" plus the tensioning knob. The Gilliom aluminium strip on the front of the table can be removed by loosening 4 wing nuts to change the blade.

Warren Brownell, Volcano, HI

Matthias Comments
I never used a Gilliom saw myself, but from the design, with all the difficult parts provided in the kit, I think it was a pretty easy to build saw. The main caveat seemed to be that it wasn't that stiff. Retrofitting a laminated beam frame into the old one would be very awkward, so building an enclosure around a laminated beam frame makes more sense.

I'm told the Gilliom company still exists, but they have absolutely no web presence, so it's hard to be sure. The kit wasn't that cheap, and with cheap import bandsaws, I think the kit is much less attractive. Though, if you can build a bandsaw without a kit from scratch, that changes the equation again.

More about Gilliom manufacturing

More about bandsaws on my woodworking website.