Running the Gauntlet

My well-traveled bandsaw has now done quite a tour: Japan – San Francisco, CA – Gabriola Island, B.C. – Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – and then to Drummondville, Quebec. Yesterday I set off on an advencha to go and get it. Drummondville is about and hour and fifteen minutes drive from the border, and getting to the line took me a little under 4 hours from my home in Massachusetts. I had never been further north in Vermont than the White River Junction, and was a little concerned as I made my way north from there just how hilly and windy it gets in northern Vermont. The highest pass on the entire US route 91, my course for this journey, is 1850′ or so, and that pass is located in the north part of Vermont.

My truck is hardly what you might call a race car, and laboring up some of the hills at 50 mph (80km/h), and noting the speed limit signs which showed that the minimum speed limit was 40 mph (60 km/h), I was thinking I stood some chance of a ticket on the return trip, and started mentally playing out the scenario of what I would say to the cop if I got pulled over for going too slow, what would happen if I had to choose another route, etc. You know how it is. Sometimes I find things to worry about.

I got to the border, and there was no line-up at all. A very quiet place. I showed my Canadian passport and I was through in moments. Another hour or so and I was in Drummondville. It was my first tip back to Canada in nearly 2 years and my first time in Quebec. All that struggle in the reading of Mazerolle’s book has helped my reading of French quite a bit, though I still found a couple of the highway signs bewildering. The signs aren’t bilingual as I had expected, though everyone I came across was bilingual it seemed. That was a good thing because my high-school French is a lost cause, a fossilized shard at best and largely over-written in Japanese.

I pulled in to the trucking depot and found that it was a place designed only for loading semi-trailer trucks, so I was a little apprehensive about how the loading might go, given that my truck’s flat deck is 3~4″ lower than the semi trailer’s floor. That concern was warranted, ’cause the guy with the forklift, coming onto the back lip of my flat deck caused the truck to squish down a bit and that caused the metal plate between the loading dock and my flat deck to slip, which nearly resulted in the forklift pitching off the loading dock in onto my truck, complete with the bandsaw. Fortunately, the driver managed to grind to a halt, but he was stuck, dangling in space. They used a second forklift to tow him and the bandsaw back inside. Whew! It would have made for great photography but it was kinda stressful in the moment and I forgot all about my camera.

Anyway, the forklift carefully dropped my bandsaw at the end of my flat deck and then we borrowed a pallet jack and rolled the bandsaw forward to the headache rack. I wanted it right up against the headache rack and ahead of the rear axle so the front axle could share some of the load. Once in place, I used some timber screws to affix a 3″x4″ batten across the end of the pallet to act as a stabilizer, and strapped it down with a pair of 10,000 lb. ratchet straps I bought just for the purpose. Here’s how that looked as the first strap was in place:

Now, 1500 lbs (650 kg.) barely fazes my truck at all, but with the load so high and therefore somewhat top-heavy, I was concerned that if I came into a corner too fast there was potential to overturn the whole show, which was definitely something I wanted to avoid. To lose my truck and the bandsaw in one moment would be a total disaster.

Here’s a view from the other side:

I added another tie to the left side using a 2-ton come-along. The white perforated board you can see at the bottom of the saw is a holder for the saw’s spare blade. The blades are $400 a pop, so I take good care of them, and they are fortunately quite durable and can be re-sharpened several times. My friend on Gabriola Island, B.C. had packed the saw quite nicely.

My concerns about tipping over were completely unfounded. My truck’s suspension, which is leaf springs all around, is designed for easy flex for the initial part of the movement. That leads me to worry about the tippiness. However, once you load some weight in there, the ride becomes really sweet and the rear anti-sway bar comes into play and the truck is really stable. I could pretty much drive as normal and found that the torque of the 6-cylinder diesel allowed me to go up hills at a decent speed. I was about 5 mph slower than without a load on the uphill,s and only on one hill did I drop to 40 mph. Otherwise I cruised back at 60~65 mph (100~110 km/h). It truly is a sweet truck and the two years of blood sweat and tears that I put into restoring it all seem so worthwhile at such moments.

Then came the gauntlet – the border re-entry (cue sinister music).

I started off on the wrong foot altogether when I inadvertently nosed the front of my truck about 18″ ahead of where it should be in the line-up funnel. That must have caused some buzzer to go off, because the next thing I knew there was a customs person walking toward me and indicating that I needed to back up NOW! Not quite knowing what was happening, I presumed they wanted me to go over to another lane, but as I started to do that I could see that such was not in the mind of the customs officer. He then came over, seemed more annoyed than ever, and gave me a brief lecture, after which I meekly proceeded down the original lane. Again, traffic was virtually non-existent at the border, and as it turned out I was the last thing on the attending custom’s officer’s shift. She seemed a little grumpy as I pulled up, and the first snarling words out of her mouth were, “what is that contraption on the back of your truck?“. That? That little thing? “Uh, that’s a bandsaw,” was my answer. Then it became a round of twenty questions and I didn’t seem to be providing the answers she wanted to hear.

She told me that “you really can’t just show up here at the border with something like that on your truck“. The tone implied that she thought I was clearly deranged. If she only knew how accurate a characterization that is….

Oh, but I phoned ahead and asked about it…” was my weak yet truthful reply. She could seem to care less about anything I had to say at that point, and directed me to park under the canopy ahead and go in and see the custom’s people inside. Things were not looking so good.

There I got another 15 questions from a different customs agent, however I was able to present the scant circumstantial evidence I had brought with me (consisting of an e-mail exchange with the guy on Gabriola in which he is asking me to move the saw, photographs of yours truly near the saw in my old shop, etc). I had unfortunately lost the original sales receipt, and I was really hoping that what I brought with me would be enough. It was – the guy behind the counter seemed satisfied that I had no plans to terrorize the nation with my bandsaw, and my explanation and evidence convinced him of my ownership of the machine, so he said, “you’re good to go.” I quickly collected my papers and slipped out the door before he had time to change his mind.

Yee-haw! That was the last hurdle cleared except for the remaining bit of driving. That drive went perfectly fine except for a bit of stress at one stage when my fuel was running low and I was looking for an exit with gas station that had diesel, but that worked out okay, and I was home by 8:00 pm. A 12-hour round trip, door to door.

This morning, I took the machine out to an old mill in a nearby town where I will store the machine for the short term. They have three-phase power there so I could wire it up for use if I need to, and I probably will do just that in the next week or so.

The next step in the process was getting the machine off my truck and into the mill building. They have a hydraulic lift platform, which was sure handy, along with a pallet jack:

With only a minor bit of drama (the pallet jack and the pallet did not fit each other, so we had to lift with only one side of the jack), the saw was off my flat deck and onto the lift platform:

That’s Bob there in the background, the building caretaker, who was very kind to help me with getting the machine into the building. I could have done it by myself, but it would have taken hours longer.

The big squeeze was getting it through a low doorway – it had to be dragged a few feet – then back again onto the pallet jack and inside it went:

All told it took about an hour or so to move it inside. If I get a solid enough project in the future I would like to rent that space inside the old mill for a workshop (as do a bunch of other woodworkers currently), but in the meantime my saw has a warm and safe place to stay, and can be moved around easily if need be, and even powered up without much fuss:

The only damage suffered by my saw in this move from coast to coast was a small plastic knob on the fence, which had a piece broken off it at some point. I have a full parts diagram for the machine, and since I can determine the exact part number, it will be a simple matter to order a replacement knob through some contacts in Japan in the near future.

Thanks for coming by today my friends.

6 thoughts on “Running the Gauntlet

  1. That's funny. I'm planning to do the same thing as you. I'm going to pick a bandsaw soon in Germany to bring back in Switzerland. Mine won't be as big as the one you got. The story at the border reminded some stories of mine. Because Switzerland is such a small country, you have to buy a lot of things in the nearby countries. And crossing the border is always kind of stressing.

    I'm looking forward to follow your work. Sorry if my English is not perfect, since french is my native language.


  2. Thanks Dale for your comment – good to see you again.

    Alexandre, have no fear about your English skill, as it's better than many native speakers of English I can assure you! Good luck with your trip to Germany and I have my fingers crossed that the border will not be too much of a hassle. I envy that you live so close to Germany where many fine woodworking machines are made and there is lots to choose from on the used equipment market.


  3. Thanks Dale for your comment – good to see you again.

    Alex, you need have no fear about your English skill, as I can assure you that it's better than many native speakers of the language.

    I wish you all the best for your trip to Germany and I have my fingers crossed that the border re-entry episode will not be too much of a hassle.

    I envy that you live so close to Germany where many fine woodworking machines are made and there is lots to choose from on the used equipment market. It must be nice.


  4. Realy interesting story of how the band saw came to be in your workshop at an old mill. Nice to see pics of the outside of the building, adds to my mental picture. Nice truck too, 2 years restoration! That would have been a good blog in it's self. Table's going real well, those supports look the job.

  5. Gordon,

    thanks for your comment. I did a detailed account of the rebuild of my Landcruiser on a web forum. It still needs work and $$$ spent on it, but it is a reliable lump.


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