Cheap Table saw question

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I'm a novice to woodworking looking for a passable starter table saw in the $100 range and under. Something servicable to start with. I was looking at Lowes Task Force BT2500W and ShopMaster SM200L. I will be doing mostly miter cuts and plan on buildng a miter sled but I want the versatility of a table saw. Projects will be simple homeowner stuff (porch steps and shelving) and some recreational items (hurlers like trebuchets and catapults).
-wylie
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To be honest with you here, you cannot buy a good jig saw or circle saw for that kind of money much less a tool that normally costs 5 to 10 times more unless you find a good deal on a used contractors TS.
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While I agree with you on the tablesaw, you can certainly get good circular and jig saws for $100....
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If you are talking about new then Leon's dead right. - The only way to get a new on for less is to buy it from the guys selling from the back of his van.
The OP can get some decent stuff used if he is patient and willing to watch local yard sales, craiglists or auctions. If he gets suckered into buying some piece of junk from Harbor Fright, he'll soon regret it.
Dave
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You might be able to get a usable circular saw, but not a decent jigsaw--not one that will give the nearly planer-smooth cuts that a Bosch can deliver. At least not new, you might be able to find a used Bosch for under $100. I spent better than 200 bucks for my first Bosch 20 years ago and the first time a cut a board with it I realized that I had spent wisely. There is no other portable power tool in which the difference between "cheap" and "good" is so drastic as jigsaws.
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You can do a lot with a good hand-held circular saw, a good blade, and a straight-edge. For a "good" one (Makita, Milwakee, Dewalt, etc) you might still be over $100, but I can't imagine anything close to a decent table saw for the same price.
Clint

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Good luck with that. :-)
Seriously, you need to look at used equipment. You won't find anything new, that cheap, that's worth a damn. Keep an eye on ads in your local newspaper; let your friends and neighbors know you're looking for one; watch the bulletin board at work and at church; check garage sales; check eBay... but forget about buying a passable table saw new for under $100.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

The Blowes benchtop saw has those annoying tabs in the miter slot. You do not want those under any circumstances. You say you want to build a miter sled.
The Shopmaster is serviceable, but the rip capacity sucks big time.
Just take one step up from the very bottom of the benchtop saw market, and you'll be OK. For $150-$170, you can get a saw with a more powerful motor, bigger, flatter table, and more rip capacity. There's a Ryobi saw in this range with a sliding miter table and 20" rip capacity. I have the Delta TS220LS and am pleased with it, except the throat insert blows goats.
Again, the very bottom of the line Shopmaster does work, but it's severely limiting compared to what you can get at the next price point up.
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boorite wrote:

Thanks for the help. I ended up with a $180 table saw from Lowes. Once I got there in person I just couldn't fathom buying the $100 saws - way too flimsy. While what I got isn't much better I really was just looking for some straight cuts and to spare my arm from the handsaw. Really fine accuracy and ripping big lumber is way beyond my needs.
After a fair bit of research I was able to learn how to get the blade cutting square. And my second attempt at a miter sled worked well. My son and I banged out a 14" mangonel Sunday just for fun (i.e. hurling Barbie dolls) and the base of a 4' arm trebuchet is started.
-wylie
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

After thinking about this a bit more, I wanted to explain why I didn't go with the used option that seemed to be the consensus. Basically, I know very little about what I'm getting into here right now. I would not know the first thing to look for in a used table saw - any warning signs of failure pending or of over use. By buying new I at least have a return policy if I get a lemon.
Let me do a computer analogy here if I may. I work with computers by trade, and am experienced enough that I've been building my own from used parts for several years now. But when someone asks me what to buy, I tell them they should spend $300 or $2000. $300 will take care of a casual user, internet, email, Office, etc without paying for capacity they will never use. $2000 will satisfy a power user - 3D online games, graphical design, etc. I can take a cursory look at a used computer and know what it is worth and if it has any problems, but it took a long time to get to that point.
In respects to woodworking, I'm just starting to feel my way around and don't expect to need that much capacity. With several years experience under my belt and a much bigger garage I'll be ready for $800-$1500 saw with a $80 blade and will know what to look for. In the meantime a P.O.S. model 1 will suit my needs.
That being said, if anyone would care to share some insight in what to look for in used woodworking gear...
-wylie
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Then take someone with you who *does* know what to look for.

The point you're missing is that any table saw you can buy new for under a hundred bucks is guaranteed to be a lemon. [snip]

I don't think anybody has suggested that you should buy an $800 saw, let alone one costing twice that. But you *should* expect to spend a third to half that, or close to it, on a new saw if you want to get anything decent. Or one to two hundred on a used one.
You also don't need to spend eighty bucks on a blade. However, you will *not* get a good 10" blade for ten bucks, either, and it *does* matter. All other things being equal, a good blade on a mediocre saw will produce better results than a mediocre blade on a good saw -- although no blade is capable of producing anything better than mediocre results on a poor saw (which is all you'll get for a hundred bucks new).
Expect to spend forty dollars, or more, for a good blade.

No, it won't. A POS will be frustrating (and possibly dangerous) to use, and you won't get good results from it. If you can't afford decent equipment, it's better to take up some other hobby. This may seem harsh, but it's reality.

IMO, you should look for a saw that originally cost a few hundred bucks new and is being sold by a hobby woodworker who has just upgraded to a larger, better saw. Don't look at anything being sold by a professional woodworking shop (unless at a bankruptcy auction): if a pro is getting rid of it, that means it's worn out.
Specific things to look for: - Craftsman brand. They're much maligned, and unjustly so IMHO. They're *not* top-of-the-line professional-quality woodworking machines, sure, but they're not intended to be, either. They *are* very good starter saws. A used Craftsman 10" saw, if in good condition (see below) would be ideal. But don't buy Craftsman blades -- those are much maligned, too, and *justly* so. Ditto Black and Decker. - With the saw unplugged, grasp the blade and try to wiggle it side-to-side or up and down. If you feel any more than the slightest trace of play, look elsewhere. - With the saw still unplugged, spin the blade by hand. Does it spin smoothly, without any grinding, scraping, or rumbling sounds? If it's rough, or makes abnormal noise, look elsewhere. - Plug the saw in and turn it on. Does the motor come up to speed rapidly and quietly? If it makes labors, or makes abnormal noises, look elsewhere. - Look at the table. If it's cast aluminum, look elsewhere: that'll leave marks on the wood that can be a PITA to remove. If it's cast iron, look for rust. The table should be smooth and shiny. Anything more than a trace of rust is a sign of a saw that hasn't been well cared for. Look elsewhere. - Check the fit of the miter gauge bar in the miter slots. A sloppy fit does *not* mean you avoid the saw, but it *does* mean you'll be spending more money later (on a better miter gauge) when your skills improve. - Lock the rip fence down, grasp the rear (far) end of it, and try to wiggle it from side to side. You shouldn't feel much play here.
That's all I can come up with at the moment. I'm sure others will have more to add, too, but at least that's a start.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

Good list Doug. I'd add one thing. Check the distance from the blade to the miter slots front and back of the blade. First with the blade at 90 degrees, then at 45. If the difference is greater than .01", go look elsewhere. Something is twisted.
The problem can sometimes be fixed, but it's nothing a beginner should want to tackle.
--
It's turtles, all the way down

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To clarify: he's referring to the difference between the 90-deg and 45-deg tilt measurements, not the difference between fore and aft measurements at any particular tilt setting. A consistent difference between fore and aft measurements is still a problem, but it's usually very easy to fix.

Ya know, Larry, when I was putting together my list, I had the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I was overlooking something important, that was easy to check.
That was it.
Thanks.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

Thanks all for the information. One additional question: What are you using to measure down to .01" ? I'm guessing a measuring tape is not that accurate?
-wylie
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Let me clarify further, since I didn't state that quite the way I meant to.
1. Measure the distance from the miter slot to the blade at the front and back of the blade, with the blade at 90 degrees. If they're not the same, that's only a minor problem in most cases. Don't worry about it. Yet.
2. Tilt the blade to 45 degrees and repeat the measurements. These will not be the same as the measurements taken in Step 1; this is expected. If they differ from each other, that's still only a minor problem in most cases. But if the difference in Step 2 is different from the difference in Step 1 by more than 0.010", that's a much larger problem, and, as Larry said, nothing a beginner should want to tackle.

Indeed it's not. The best way to take measurements like that is with a dial indicator mounted to the miter gauge, but if you don't have a dial indicator, here's the poor man's method:
Position the miter gauge adjacent to the front of the blade. Press the bar of the miter gauge firmly against the side of the miter slot nearer the blade (to eliminate looseness in the fit of the bar in the slot from affecting the accuracy of the measurements). Clamp a sharpened pencil to the miter gauge so that it's almost, but not quite, touching the blade. Measure the distance between the pencil point and the blade with automotive feeler gauges. Move the miter gauge to the rear of the blade, taking care to press the bar against the side of the slot again, as described above, and repeat the measurement.
Compare the fore and aft measurements, and you're done. You don't care what the measurements actually are. The important part is the difference between them, and whether that difference *changes* when the blade is tilted from 90 degrees to 45 degrees.
You can get a good set of flat feeler gauges at Sears for five bucks: http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?pid999008000
Any auto parts store will have them, too, for about the same price.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

Sweet. Thanks again for taking the time with me.
-wylie
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I guess I'm a step or two up from a power user then. ;-) I'm a software developer and my year old Dell "workstation" bogs down trying to run 2 copies of Visual Studio and virtual machines. (Yes, the VMs are on a separate disk.)
The higher end of these ought to run pretty good. ;-) http://www.digitaltigers.com/stratosphere-elite.php
I'd trade my current 7-monitor setup, a mixture of CRTs & LCDs, for one of these. http://www.digitaltigers.com/zenview-arena-ultrahd.shtml
-- Mark
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Mark Jerde wrote:

I think I just added some things to my Christmas list. Though personally I use one big monitor hooked up by KVM to the three computers at my home workstation.
-wylie
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote: > I'm a novice to woodworking looking for a passable starter table saw in > the $100 range and under. <snip>
You can't get there from here.
Lew
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Cutting corners is what you'll be doing, IMO :-(
--
|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
| Malcolm Hoar "The more I practice, the luckier I get". |
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