The Go-To Builder: West Coast fabricator chooses one brand for all its band saws

Above: The V-21/26APC from Hydmech is an automatic vertical band saw with the ability to miter from 60 degrees left to 60 degrees right

December, 2023- When it comes to selecting a band saw, Tony Strenke, president of Advanced Tower Components LLC, just needs to determine the specific model from the machine tool builder that is his go-to choice: Hydmech USA in Conway, Arkansas, and Hydmech Canada in Woodstock, Ontario.

“It’s always been Hydmech in my shop and I don’t think we’d ever buy anything else,” Strenke says. “They’re far superior in my eyes, and they’re affordable.”

After having worked for about a decade in the steel fabrication business, Strenke says he decided to launch Advanced Tower Components in 2005. As the name implies, the Salem, Oregon-based company manufactures steel components for cellphone towers, from bolts and brackets to mobile towers, or cells on wheels, as well as turnkey solutions for site concealment and stealth installation projects. In addition, ATC has a structural steel division at its 50,000-sq.-ft. fabrication facility, with an additional 8,000 sq. ft. of office space, Strenke notes. “In the last two years, we’ve done some very massive jobs.” One was a YMCA building that required about 1.5 million lbs. of steel.

The approximately 30-person company also has a satellite warehouse in Kent, Washington, he adds, and is considering opening a third facility in Honolulu, in a state where ATC already serves a solid customer base. Strenke estimates that having a physical presence in Hawaii will attract additional customers. “Plus, it’s a good place to vacation.”

A MANUAL START

The first Hydmech saw ATC purchased was an S-20 manual horizontal pivot band saw, Strenke says. ATC also acquired a new Hydmech S-23A automatic horizontal pivot band saw along the way, as well as a used V-18- 45 vertical band saw that the company sold to make room for a new V-21/26APC automatic vertical band saw purchased last year. The heavy-duty vertical saw has a 26-in.-high by 21-in.-wide capacity, a 10-hp motor and cuts with a 1½-in. blade.

ATC runs a single 10-hour shift five days per week. Stan Khrul operates the three band saws. Strenk says the manual saw is out of the way and used for “odds and ends. [Khrul] takes very good care of the saws, almost like they are his.”

ATC uses its latest band saw to cut up to 24-in.-thick structural beams and 72-, 84- and 96-in.-long pipes with outer diameters of 23/8 in., 27/8 in. and 3½ in.

Previously, ATC outsourced sawing of the large structural workpieces, which cost $20 or more per cut, and some beams required up to 100 cuts. “It’s not a lot, though it adds up when you’re having somebody else cut your material. The reason we bought it was so we could cut the bigger materials and take on bigger jobs.” Strenke says Khrul was quite pleased when informed that the company was purchasing its latest Hydmech. “I told him we were getting the 26 and he had a smile on his face from the East Coast to the West Coast.”

Of course, later Khrul had the opportunity to run the saw. “Right after we got it, I asked him if he was happy with it,” Strenke says, “and all he told me was, ‘Tony, this is the Cadillac of the Cadillacs.’”

     ATC’s two automatic band saws are positioned about 5 ft. from openings the company made into a wall to direct the workpiece material through from outside on rollers. 

One productivity boosting feature on the V-21/26APC is it can bundle cut, Strenke points out. “Now, instead of cutting a pipe or two, he’s able to cut a full lift of pipe. We go through many thousands and thousands of feet of pipe a year.”

The two automatic band saws run side by side and are positioned about 5 ft. from openings ATC made into a wall to direct the workpiece material through, Strenke explains.

“We have little overhead doors that we open up in the morning and all the materials that he runs through the saws come from outside on rollers,” he adds. “He has materials running through both of them simultaneously. He keeps them both very busy.”

FULL OF FEATURES

The automatic vertical band saw has a host of standard features, with more than two dozen listed on Hydmech’s website. A prominent one is automatic programmable mitering with “go to” angle functionality from 60 degrees left to 60 degrees right, with the head tilt controlled hydraulically. Strenke notes that the capability has proven beneficial when miter cuts are required.

In addition, the machine can be ordered with about a dozen optional features. The chip bucket with pump, for example, helps make cleaning the machine easier to perform and easier to keep it clean, according to Strenke. The operator cleans the machines after every shift.

The optional minimal quantity, or mist, lubrication system also enhances machine and shop cleanliness, he notes. With mist lubrication, the system sprays a small amount of fluid onto the saw blade and the material being cut to help decrease the heat in the cut while also lubricating the blade Strenke adds that when the new band saw was installed, ATC relocated its S-23A saw, which uses flood coolant. “We cleaned the floor, and it was quite the mess that we had to clean up.”

Conveyors, another option, move material into the automatic band saws, Strenke says, but the pieces are removed manually after being cut. Although Khrul, the operator, has extensive sawing experience, the person installing the equipment conducted a day of training followed by about two days with a different trainer, Strenke notes. After installation and training, the vertical band saw was quickly up and running, aided by user-friendly, graphic icon programming that makes programming angles simple for the operator.

Strenke says Advanced Tower Components is set for now when it comes to band saws, but there’s no question which machine builder will provide the next one when the need arises. “My relationship with Hydmech is that I would never use another saw in my shop.”

    Graphic icons make programming angles simple for saw operators

Advanced Tower Components LLC, 503/540-0777, http://advancedtowercomponents.com/

Hydmech USA, 877/276-7297, http://hydmech.com/