Cabinet saw shopping (long)

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My quest for a new cabinet saw ended Thursday. It's not in my shop yet but the order is placed. I want to thank all who knowingly and unknowingly assisted me in making my decision. (SWMBO didn't think I would ever decide)
I went with the Delta Unisaw, left-tilt with a 30" Biesemeyer fence, purchased locally from Woodcraft on their "10% off day." My reasons are many and I will expound on them below. Those that don't care can stop reading here. [g]
The possible choices in order of decreasing price and theoretical superiority:
1) General 650-T50. Widely considered to be the best saw with the crappiest documentation and customer service. Dealers are essentially non-existent. Only available with a 50" fence. Finely ground tabletop. Lousy dust collection. Top fully assembled when delivered. Built in North America. Reported to have "massive" trunnions. (Ever notice that "massive" always precedes trunnion when table saws are mentioned. Sort of like "Powerful" House Ways and Means Committee.) An email to Wilke Machine asking whether a 30" fence was an option was answered almost two weeks later. They offered to "modify" to 30". Cost was $1,850 plus $200 shipping charge! An email to an alleged dealer in Arizona was never answered.
Info sources. FWW No. 136, June 1999; Wood Magazine Oct 2003, private email-Wilke.
2) Powermatic PM-66. Relatively pricey. Many issues with quality of cut, miter gauge slot badly machined and general fit and finish issues. Finely ground tabletop. Table inserts are junk. Lousy dust collection. Can be had with 30" fence although without a right side cast iron extension. Right side laminate table is trouble. "Massive" trunnions. Built in USA. Available locally (Tucson) from Woodworkers' Source.
Info sources. FWW No. 136, June 1999; Wood Magazine Oct, 2003, private email-Jack Loganbill-see:
http://thewoodshop.20m.com/g1023s.htm
http://woodmagazine.com/wood/dgroups/viewThread.jhtml?forum 9&threadU3942
3) Delta Unisaw. The original American standard. Company is a nomad moving from owner to owner. Made in USA although some production moved? or moving? offshore. Can be had with 30" fence although without a right side cast iron extension. Right side laminate table is problematic. Cast iron extension can be purchased separately. Many issues with tabletop flatness. Top not as finely ground as other saw in class. Excellent dust collection and quality of cut. Blade guard sucks. Available with a "real" Biesemeyer fence. Tech support hard to reach. I got one question answered after six transfers and 10 minutes of wait. Gave up on another call. Available locally.
Info sources. FWW No. 136, June 1999; Wood Magazine Oct, 2003.
http://woodmagazine.com/wood/dgroups/viewThread.jhtml?forum 9&threadU3853
4) Jet. Considered to be the best of the imports. Excellent fit and finish. Nicely ground top although main table has a thick bevel on front edge and iron wings have none. Not well advertised but can be had with 30" Biesemeyer clone fence and two iron table extensions. Some quality of cut issues. Poorly written manual. Available locally from two dealers at competitive prices with home delivery. A strong contender.
Info sources. FWW No. 136, June 1999; Wood Magazine Oct, 2003. Dealer visits.
5) Grizzly. The mystery saw. The mystery is whether you will get a good one in one piece or not. Comes with a 30" fence and two iron extensions. Some owners love them and some wish they'd never seen one. A lot of saw for the money and often no more tweaking to get running than saws costing twice as much. Some quality of cut issues. Some fence issues although this is (supposed to be) being addressed. (How do you know?) Motor failures. Delivery is problematic. Lots of damaged saws are reported.
Info sources. FWW No. 136, June 1999; Wood Magazine Oct, 2003, private email-Jack Loganbill-see:
http://thewoodshop.20m.com/g1023s.htm
http://woodmagazine.com/wood/dgroups/viewThread.jhtml?forum 9&threadU2982
I mentioned what and where I bought, here's the why.
I really wanted a short fence. The trend is to 50-52" fences with huge tables. I could park one of these in my garage/shop but actually using it would be a problem. I spoke to a Delta rep at Woodcraft and asked about this trend and why they didn't do an "X" saw package for the short saw. He replied that he has a short one too but today woodworkers want big tables, now with routers installed and he expected that they will soon offer table-mounted TV sets too.
The short fence requirement and their dealer problem eliminated General.
Powermatic is the "gold" standard, but it seems more so with people that don't actually own one. When I visited a local dealer and indicated that I could afford one if there were compelling reasons, he showed me a Jet. Too much money for no obvious superiority.
I shopped for a Jet at Tool Crib (aka Amazon). I've bought a lot of stuff from them, but the guy I spoke to couldn't have been less knowledgeable or helpful. As far as he knew Jet offers 52" fence versions only. Not so.
Woodworker's Source was *very* helpful. They showed me their Jet setup in the shop and offered to "build" whatever Jet system I wanted. They had competitive pricing, actually had the machines in stock and offered free delivery to my shop plus I have a $100 coupon burning a hole in my pocket. It was tough to not buy here, especially with the promise of local follow-on support.
Grizzly was just too iffy. This is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that I didn't want to regret. A few hundred dollars more are lost in the noise after a few years.
This left Delta. There are a lot of detractors, however, the saw is a proven design with parts and service widely available. It reportedly has a quality of cut second only to General; the industry standard Biesemeyer fence and excellent dust collection.
I shopped Woodworker's Supply for this saw, since their catalog actually shows the "build your own saw" option and I've successfully done business with them in the past. When I couldn't find some prices on their web site for accessory packages, I called on the telephone.
The sales guy couldn't find package prices either and quoted me the individual piece prices. When I said that that didn't seem like a package deal to me he got testy and more or less hung up without trying to close a deal. I emailed some folks there with the info that they had web site problems and Woodcraft's 10% off sale and their sales guy's attitude made it difficult to consider shopping with them.
I got a response that they would beat any local dealer's price if I would call back. I emailed again and asked for a written quote and shipping methods and costs and got back a list of catalog prices with another request that I call back. I know why they didn't want to put it in writing but I was the customer and I had other options.
Back to Woodcraft. Earlier in the week they offered the sale price without waiting for sale day. Since I wanted some other stuff I waited until Thursday. SWMBO went next door to clothes shop. I had my aforementioned conversation with the Delta rep and finalized my decision to buy a 36-831LA. Sales tax of 5.6% will offset much of the discount, but for the money I get eyeball-to-eyeball service and a one-year "if I'm not happy bring it back guarantee." Plus they'll deliver it to my house for $15 for "gas money." At the current price of gasoline that's not much more than it would cost to drive my 454-powered Chevy 4X4 into town. [g]
SWMBO returned just as I was paying up. She asked whether I had also bought that dovetail doodad I'd been thinking about (Leigh D4). I said, "No". She said, "Why not?" I said, "Add a D4 to the list."
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On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 09:13:53 -0700, Wes Stewart wrote:

So lessee- This is an overview of all the popular cabinet saws, an update on the state of your shop AND a drive-by SWMBO gloat? SOB ;)
--
Joe Wells


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wrote:
|On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 09:13:53 -0700, Wes Stewart wrote: | |> My quest for a new cabinet saw ended Thursday. | |> SWMBO returned just as I was paying up. She asked whether I had also |> bought that dovetail doodad I'd been thinking about (Leigh D4). I said, |> "No". She said, "Why not?" I said, "Add a D4 to the list." | |So lessee- This is an overview of all the popular cabinet saws, an update |on the state of your shop AND a drive-by SWMBO gloat? SOB ;)
Gotta cover all of the bases. But is that "SOB" as in Boo Hoo, or Son of a Bitch? [g]
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Note: Truncation set to maximum
Wes Stewart wrote:

I am cornfused. I had heard that WHM (WMH?) Group had closed the Powermatic plant and it was converted over to a distribution center (center Luigi). Had/have I heard wrongly?

And the gloat? It's the wimmen in your life.
Nicely crafted write-up Wes. I like a guy that does his homework.
UA100
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wrote:
|Note: Truncation set to maximum | |Wes Stewart wrote: |>2) Powermatic PM-66. Built in USA. | |I am cornfused. I had heard that WHM (WMH?) Group had |closed the Powermatic plant and it was converted over to a |distribution center (center Luigi). Had/have I heard |wrongly?
Well, Amazon shows USA for country of manufacture. Of course until a few days ago (after I sent them feedback), they showed USA for Jet too. So I'm not sure [g]
| |>SWMBO returned just as I was paying up. She asked whether I had also |>bought that dovetail doodad I'd been thinking about (Leigh D4). I |>said, "No". She said, "Why not?" I said, "Add a D4 to the list." | |And the gloat? It's the wimmen in your life. | |Nicely crafted write-up Wes. I like a guy that does his |homework.
Thanks. We'll see how it works out.
Wes
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Reminds me of an old story from my first employer. The sales dude spent a great deal of time negotiating with a customer over a $400k mainframe. Finally, with the deal nearly done, the customer mentions they'd like a boatload of PCs and printers to go with it - to the tune of another $800k.
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Well 400k is not shabby, but the moral is to give good service ALL the time.
Just yesterday I was in our Manchester CT Woodcraft to get a set of $15 cool blocks. They wee out. Salesman said they always run out fast and that I should put my name on the list and they would hold them for me. Nice gesture, but it is an 80 mile round trip.
I suggested that perhaps they should order more. He said "yeah, maybe we should". Left there and spent over $120 at another store. Found the other store also has better prices on other tools and will continue to shop there. Woodcraft will never know how much it cost them. Ed
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good choice, Wes. I'd humbly disagree that the Powermatic is the "Gold Standard", though. Without listing specific issues, I looked at the Uni, PM, and Jet side by side for about 2 hours at Woodcrafters one rainy afternoon, and I picked the Uni. I don't think think you are settling for second or third best. 'course there are plenty of folks who'd love to argue the point, but I for one, am happy I chose the Unisaw. Just don't confuse me with a Delta advocate, as I have had my share of negative Delta experiences which we'll skip for now.
The only time I had problems with reaching Delta's tech support was during a holiday week. (Quality of support is a different subject <g>)
My Uni top polished up quite nicely with some elbow grease. Out of the box it was ground pretty coarse.
The PM was $600 more than the Unisaw when I priced them 2 years ago, if you consider the mobile base with both. Definitely, it's pricey!
Here are some tips for you from Tony Collums that he was kind enough to post for me:
Tony Collums wrote: > > Dave, > > Congrats, > > Just a couple of assembly hints I give all my customers. > > > > 1) Assemble the mobile base first the take saw body off of skid and place in > > MB. > > > > 2) It may not say in the manual, but make sure that you put the switch on > > before assembling the rails to the saw. Taking them back off is real > > frustrating and aggravating. > > > > 3) Since your going to be on a mobile base, don't follow the layout pattern > > for the legs. The manual assumes that your not going to have a mobile base. > > > > 4) When attaching the cast iron wings to the saw, level the center first > > then the outer edges. Just make sure that nothing is higher than the saw > > table itself. If the wings are a little low, it will not hurt a thing other > > than your fence make a slight bumping sound when you move across it. Use the > > same on the extension table. > > > > 5) Make sure that you tighten the belts, they are not tensioned at the > > plant. This is done to save unnecessary jarring on the bearings during > > shipment. > > > > 6)When installing the blade for the first time, don't be surprised if it's > > not a little difficult. Delta machines the arbor and face flange with the > > carriage and bearings already installed for accuracy (no one else does > > this). There can sometimes be a few burrs left. Take some 150 or 180 grit > > sandpaper and wrap it around the arbor and turn the arbor, you will not > > damage the arbor. What ever you do, do not try to force the blade on. You > > could create a bigger problem. Just be patient. Put your hat on straight and > > put a little hair around the hole. It will go on. > > > > 7) Count all of your fingers, plug it in, turn it on, have fun, recount > > fingers, if the number is the same, you had a successful day. If not, check > > the floor, call the wife and go to the doctor. Make sure he puts on a water > > proof bandage so you can wash it off when your hands get dirty while in the > > shop next time. > > > > Best of luck, > > > > Tony Collums > > snipped-for-privacy@adelphia.net
dave
Wes Stewart wrote:

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|good choice, Wes.
Thanks, I needed that.
|I'd humbly disagree that the Powermatic is the "Gold |Standard", though.
Hey, it's the only one painted "gold." [g]
|Without listing specific issues, I looked at the |Uni, PM, and Jet side by side for about 2 hours at Woodcrafters one |rainy afternoon, and I picked the Uni. I don't think think you are |settling for second or third best. 'course there are plenty of folks |who'd love to argue the point, but I for one, am happy I chose the |Unisaw. Just don't confuse me with a Delta advocate, as I have had my |share of negative Delta experiences which we'll skip for now. | |The only time I had problems with reaching Delta's tech support was |during a holiday week. (Quality of support is a different subject <g>) | |My Uni top polished up quite nicely with some elbow grease. Out of the |box it was ground pretty coarse. | |The PM was $600 more than the Unisaw when I priced them 2 years ago, if |you consider the mobile base with both. Definitely, it's pricey! | |Here are some tips for you from Tony Collums that he was kind enough to |post for me:
[good stuff snipped]
Thanks for this, 'preciate it.
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you're welcome. those instructions saved me some grief. everything went "according to Hoyle".
dave
Wes Stewart wrote:

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wrote:
Nice write up with one comment.

The latest versions of the 650 & 350 have a sheet metal chute leading to the dust port. This makes quite a difference in the dust collection. I have one with the chute, and a local dealer.
Barry
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Hey Barry,
Yeah, I've got a 650, with no dust collection issues. No probs with the machine whatsoever. Local dealer is awsome has been around for years.
Cheers,
aw
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i'm still waiting for delivery of my 650-T50 (5 hp) with excalibur table. ... still waiting. ... and waiting. been 5 weeks, was told it would be 10-14 days. oh well.
good to hear there are not DC issues. was a bit worried.
-- dz
A Dubya wrote:

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On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 15:07:12 -0600, David Zaret wrote

I waited 6 weeks after calling my "local" dealer a few times (100 miles away), and after much prodding he called General to find out where the 650 was I ordered. They were waiting on some parts and couldn't give an estimate of when it would ship. I was a bit frustrated by the whole lack of communication between the dealership and General. Add to the fact that it was 100 miles to the closest dealer and I finally opted for my second choice, and bought the Delta left tilt at Woodcraft minus their 10% off. Went in this weekend to pick up a Jet air filtration unit that had been on order for 5 weeks, and found out the saw had arrived minus the table. Delta was said it was in transit and should arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday.
In some ways I'm sorry I didn't wait for the General, but the whole buying experience was tough. While they make a great product, they really need to establish better dealer networks in the USA. I understand that in Canada this isn't a problem (and having lived there for a time myself I know how true this can be for a Canadian product in Canada), however with NAFTA and a lot of woodworkers here in the States, it almost seems ludicrous that they don't try harder to sell their products here in the states.
FYI, I have a zero insert for a General 350/650 that I picked up when I paid for the General (prior to cancelling it). For those General owners that want it, it can be yours for the price of shipping. (Drop me an email).
B.A. Dave, thanks for the tips on setting up the Unisaw. The only problem I have is the base unit is something that I have to send in a coupon for apparently, so looks like I'm going to have to put the base unit on after the fact. :-(
Wayne
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On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 18:48:27 GMT, B a r r y
|wrote: | |Nice write up with one comment. | |> |>1) General 650-T50. Widely considered to be the best saw with the |>crappiest documentation and customer service. Dealers are essentially |>non-existent. Only available with a 50" fence. Finely ground |>tabletop. Lousy dust collection. | |The latest versions of the 650 & 350 have a sheet metal chute leading |to the dust port. This makes quite a difference in the dust |collection. I have one with the chute, and a local dealer.
Okie Dokie. The sources I relied on didn't indicate this.
I would have loved to see this saw in person.
Wes
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Hey Wes,
I have no problems with a Uni, I've been in shops that had both, most guys tend to use the General. They're close, but the General, seems to be a heavier, more solidly built machine. If you get a chance, look how they're built, access to the General motor/dust chute doesn't involve tools, and the size and weight of components on the General are alot heavier.
Cheers,
aw
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wrote:

If I couldn't have, I would have bought a Unisaw in a second. In fact, the slightest bump in the acquisition process would have had me buying a Unisaw. <G> There simply was no way I was mail ordering a cabinet saw.
The Unisaw is a great saw. The reasons that leaned me to the 650 were relatively minor, and one of them was GREAT service from the local General dealer, Tools Plus in Waterbury, CT. They're a Delta dealer as well, and I would have been plenty happy with either saw. This particular dealer has pretty much one salesman who deals with the heavy iron, and he's knowledgeable and extremely easy to deal with.
Barry
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...you'll never need service on the 650 <g> I've got an old...and I mean old General 590 bandsaw (did I mention it was old), walked into the dealership for a part. 2 minutes later, left the dealer with with the part.
cheers,
aw
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On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 19:48:06 -0600, A Dubya wrote

Saw on the net somewhere (wish I could remember the URL) pictures of somebody's 1950's General saw that wasn't made any longer. They were able to call General and apparently get all but 1 part (new) from General. I only wish my buying experience had been similar.
Wayne
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Wes, I know it's been some time since you made this post but I to am looking for a Cabinet saw with a 30" fence. Grizzly nolonger makes a saw with these dimensions. It looks like the Delta is my best choice. And since I have some extra money, I'll go ahead and do it.
My quesiton is about mobile bases. Delta recommends the 50-273 with 50-285 extension. Amazon list a 50-273K (a combo of the above two items). What base did you get? I really wanted to use the space underneath the wing to place a small cabinet, (similar to what I did for my Jet saw, http://home.covad.net/~dbdors/Woodworking/TS_pics/jet_ts_forsale.html )
Did you get the Delta base? If yes, how well has it worked out. If no, what did you choose?
Darrell
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