Ryobi Band Saw Review,
The BS903 9" Bandsaw
The Ryobi band saw is a small, inexpensive piece of equipment, designed for the woodworker that is tight on space (or budget) and doesn't need to do much heavy duty work. Ryobi specializes in providing affordable power tools for the masses - tools that provide you with the capability to perform certain tasks that you don't do everyday, without breaking the bank.
Their tools are popular with homeowners, craftspeople, and value-conscious contractors. Ryobi Power Tools is part of the Techtronic Industries Co. (TTI), which also lists such tool brands as Milwaukee and Homelite as part of their portfolio.
At the time of this writing, there is only one Ryobi band saw model available, the Ryobi BS903 (EDIT: Another model, the BS904 is now available). The BS-903 has a 9" throat capacity, and a 3-1/2" resaw capacity. The table tilts from zero to 45 degrees and measures 11-3/4" x 14-3/4". The saw comes with a 2.5 amp motor, which seems to be a popular size for inexpensive 9" bandsaws. It will accept up to a 3/8" blade, and has a 2-1/2" dust port.
There are a number of nice features that have become common in this class of small band saws, and the Ryobi band saw has many of them. It has a rack and pinion blade guide adjustment, a blade tracking sight window, and a quick release blade tension lever. It also comes with a flexible work light and a sliding miter gauge, but does NOT come with a fence as some earlier models did. One uncommon feature that the Ryobi bandsaw has is a sliding table extension to support larger workpieces.
New Ryobi tools are sold exclusively at The Home Depot, but there are other places that sell reconditioned Ryobi products. On the Home Depot website, the Ryobi Band Saw BS903 averages 3.8 out of 5 stars, with 66 reviews at the moment (April 2013). 84% of current owners on the Home Depot website would recommend this small band saw.
The Ryobi bandsaw works great for small craft or hobby work, takes up very little space, and it's hard to beat the price. Many owners comment that it is a great value if you are looking for an inexpensive band saw for small projects.
As with anything else, there are some flaws and negative experiences. One common suggestion is to go ahead and buy a good quality blade to replace the one that comes with the Ryobi bandsaw. I have found this to be almost a universal suggestion though, no matter what brand or type of woodworking saw you are buying. The correct length replacement blades can be a little tough to find though, and there is not a huge selection out there.
Some Ryobi bandsaw owners reported excessive vibration, but this can usually be corrected with a little time, effort and patience. Several owners found that the saw required a fair amount of "tinkering" to get everything adjusted and set properly. I imagine that many 9" band saw buyers expect the saw to "just work", straight out of the box.
Going through the setup and adjustment process can be time consuming and tedious, and many new owners just aren't willing to spend the time and effort to get everything just right. Even with band saws costing 5 to 10 times as much as this one, I have found that it is common to have to spend some time getting everything adjusted and set properly.
Another possible issue really boils down to what you are wanting the bandsaw to do. If you are trying to resaw thin veneers out of 3" hardwood, a table top band saw is not what you need. Some owners reported that the Ryobi BS903 lacked power and precision when working with hardwood, and I believe they were probably trying to do things that really required a larger, more powerful (and more expensive) bandsaw.
The Ryobi band saw (and likely any other table top band saw out there) lacks the power and the rigidity to give you a good result when trying to do precise work with a thick piece of hardwood. This is a small band saw that is somewhat limited in power. It works great on thin stuff, but it is not designed to power through thick hardwood.
There aren't very many reviews outside of the Home Depot or CPO Tools websites, but I did find a few. One owner found that the 9" size limited him somewhat when trying to cut curves on large boards, and wished he had a 12" bandsaw instead. He also said that the Ryobi bandsaw was particularly sensitive to dull blades, and that the cut would wander if the blade was dull. Otherwise he was really pleased with the saw.
Another owner said that " ...If you are willing and able to do what is needed to get all adjustments right ... the Ryobi band saw will be a valuable addition to your work shop." One more owner used it mainly to cut 1" cedar and said "...it did fine, much easier than a jig saw. If you're not expecting too much from it, it will serve you OK. I would buy it again".
Sidenote: If you are thinking about getting your first bandsaw, or need help tuning up one you already have, I recommend getting a copy of either (or both!) Lonnie Bird's The Bandsaw Book or Mark Duginske's The New Complete Guide to the Band Saw. These books will help you to understand the features and capabilities of a band saw, and guide you through choosing the right types of blades, adjusting and maintaining your saw, and what to do when things go wrong. Both books have excellent ratings on Amazon, and are recommended by lots of folks in the woodworking forums.
The 9" band saw class is an entry-level tool, and they are priced accordingly. There aren't really many other good choices in this price range. The SKIL 3386-02 is very similar in features and price, and currently gets 3.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 8 reviews. There is a 9" band saw available from POWERTEC and another from Harbor Freight that have good ratings, but they both are eerily similar to a Craftsman model that has poor reviews.
Overall, the Ryobi BS903 is a good choice for a small band saw. The Ryobi band saw has features and specs that are similar to most others in its price range, and the owner ratings for the Ryobi are considerably better than for most other 9" band saw models. As long as you have realistic expectations for an inexpensive, table top band saw, the Ryobi BS903 won't disappoint. You really can't beat the Ryobi band saw for the price.
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