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The machine in question is my Yates American Y-30 Snowflake Bandsaw.

I had been using this saw as you see it on the trailer for a number of years. It only needed a set of guides and I had it running as my primary resaw. I ended up buying a big Wadkin PBR earlier this year and decided I should go through this saw to clean it up both in appearance and function.
Now to be clear, the saw was running fine. I decided to take the upper wheel off the saw so I could get the guards off and have them powder coated. Now I’ve rebuilt a number of Yates American bandsaws. They always use two taper roller bearings on the upper shaft. These are pretty much arranged the same as the wheel bearings on a car. I was surprised to find out that this particular saw used an entirely different arrangement. The upper shaft had two double cone tapered roller bearings. In essence this is four bearings on the upper shaft. Here are some exploded views of the bearing assembly:

There was about 5 LBS of grease in the housing between the bearings. Once I got it all cleaned up and washed the bearings out, I realized that the bearings were pretty badly worn. It’s easy to see looking at this race:

No big deal, I’ll just order up some new bearings. I called my favorite bearing house (Bearing Depot in Middlesex NJ). I told them I had a Timken 359D that I needed to replace. Long pause…

Are you sure on that number?
I cant find anything. Can you double check the number and get back to me?

I went out to the shop and took some pictures of the bearing and e-mailed the bearing house. They called me back the next day saying that this bearing wasn’t available.
Ok. I’ve been pretty lucky finding new old stock bearings. I checked my usual sources and located two sets at a supply house in Kansas City. I booked the order on-line and waited. A day or two later I got an e-mail from the supply house stating that they didn’t really have the bearings (it was a problem with the inventory database not being updated).
Ok. keep searching.
After an exhaustive search, I was able to locate the bearings in two locations. The first was Amazon.com. They had them for $411 each. These were minus the 354A races, but those were readily available from a number of sources for $16.00 each. That’s $886 + shipping. The second source was Nanjing Bori Bearing Co. in Nanjing China. They had the complete setup with the races for $76.00 each + shipping. Shipping was $86.00 (express), and there were some fees associated with using PayPal. All in, it was $279. I was able to speak on the phone with the sales manager (Emily (surely not her real name)). She confirmed the bearings were in stock and could be shipped right away. Now I will admit that I was somewhat hesitant to buy three hundred dollars worth of bearings from an unknown source in a country where I would have little or no recourse to the law, but I eventually talked myself into it. I went ahead and placed the order. Three days later I got a call from UPS asking me what was in the package. I told them and they confirmed that the shipment would clear customs that evening and be delivered the next day.

Now I fully expected to receive a set of bearings made in China that met the same spec as the Timken bearings. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and found this:

This was a very pleasant surprise. Two completely match sets of Timken bearings, races and spacers for a third of the best price I could find here. The service was exceptional and given the language, distance and time zone barriers, Emily went above and beyond in making this deal work. It looks like I’ve got another good source for hard to find bearings. I’ll probably try running some of my precision bearing needs through this source. The ABEC 7 seven bearings are pretty expensive from my traditional sources. Maybe I can save some money on these as well.

So… back to the question: “When is it OK to buy bearings in China for a classic American Old Woodworking Machine?”
When you can get the same bearings at a third of the price you’d pay here in North American.

One thing I want to be very clear on.. I don’t equate “Made in China” with inferior quality. I think you can get very high quality goods from China. You can also get cheap crap. The same is true of US manufactured goods. The real problem is that we (all of us) really like our cheap crap.

4 Responses to “When is it OK to buy bearings in China for a classic American Old Woodworking Machine?”

  1. Dave Kumm says:

    Interesting. I have a bearing guy who deals directly with Chinese suppliers too. When I want a regular P4 or P5 sealed or shielded bearing for a reasonable price, he comes through, generally with NSK which are made in various locations but not China. While I don’t know if the is a great reason for a precision bearing, he has found them at about the same price or less than a standard from Accurate. It will be tempting to try to go direct to just learn the process. Thanks, Dave

    • The owwm says:

      I don’t deal with Accurate. They are alright, just haven’t been a reliable source for me. I’m going to try these guys out on my next P4 order. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  2. dave kumm says:

    Please do. The 77 bearings, 6311 and 6307 in P5 shielded wer 50-60 apiece through my guy and I’m sure he made a profit. Standard pressed steel cage and shielded. Tough to find shielded or sealed with a phenolic or brass cage. My theory is that if P4 or P5 the inside and outside dimensions are more concentric which allows for standard clearance rather than C3 to reduce runout on radial bearings. Might be all wet on the logic. Dave

  3. Clyde Leitold says:

    Owwm Arthur, I also have a 30 ” yates bandsaw. The info on those bearings will probably come in handy. I’m saving my project for winter. great detective work. An old iron greeting, thanks Clyde. PS I think I’ll have Jeff at northfield crown, balance, and put new tires on my wheels.

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