[top posted cuz I'm lazy]
I always recommend that your first table saw be used and cheap, so you can make
mistakes on it and not beat up/abuse a new saw..
Having said that and done that, I have to say that I bought the Ridgid TS3650 at
Home Depot about 6 months ago and I'm very impressed with it..
I'm certainly not a saw expert, but I really like the large table/wings, the
solid fence with the magnified rule, and how quiet it is. (compared to my
A big plus for me was that it comes with their "Herculift" mobile base.. An
option on most saws..
All-in-all, I think it's a lot of saw for $550...
Check out the Sears (Orion) hybrid saws.
Orion is made up of ex-Delta employees as I understand it.
These hybrids are an exceptionally good value and can be had at large
discounts, figuring in "Craftsman Club", coupons, etc.
The following link is for the saw I own, a 22114. It's a beauty.
And no, I have no vested interest in Sears.
This is also the saw that I use and am very happy with it. I have replaced
the standard fence with an INCRA - best thing I ever did for reproducing
My first saw was very cheap -- one of those $200 specials at Sears. Taught
me a bit more than ecpected and lasted about 6 months before I spent the
exra cash for what I use now.
Moral of the story --- $200 got me started and made me feel that a nicer saw
would allow me to continue in a hobby that I find very enjoyable. When I
spent the first $200 I wasn's sure what I wanted to do so it was a minimal
investment that ended up selling on Craigs list for $120. Not bad return for
the crap it was.
Selecting the best saw for your needs is going to be tough or maybe easy
depending on your attitude. There is no perfect saw, everyone's needs
are a little different, etc. In fact if you do some research you'll find
that knowledgeable experts can come to opposite conclusions - compare
some of those magazine tool tests.
I am not a knowledgeable expert, but here's what I did. After many years
of using various saws in other shops, I set up shop at home. I went
through about the same questions that you are dealing with. I wound up
with a Jet contractor saw, and it has done a really good job for me. But
I wouldn't consider more expensive saws at the time because I didn't
understand how I could justify all that money. I soon realized that my
Jet could use some improvements to make it easier to do accurate work.
I now have the Jet contractor's saw with a much better fence (General,
Canada), a Biesemeyer splitter, a link belt, some balanced pulleys,
mobile base, outfeed and right side extensions (with router table), an
Excaliber blade guard for dust control, Forrest blade, good miter
gauge(s), TS Aligner to keep things straight, and I can't remember what
else. It's a very good basic saw and now does beautiful work as long as
I'm careful so everything stays in-alignment. But if I add up the money
I've spent improving it I'm sure I have more than paid for a top quality
cabinet saw - but I still don't really have cabinet saw precision.
If I were to replace my saw right now, I'd buy either a SawStop, or a
Powermatic. I've already paid the equivalent of the Powermatic, and if I
add up all the time I've spent overcoming the shortcomings of my Jet I
bet it would equal the cost of the SawStop.
You can cut wood with a straight edge and a sharp rock but you'll
eventually want things to be a bit easier. And beginners need precise
tools more than experts do. Whether that precision turns out to be
overkill is unknowable now but interesting to think about.
Good luck, and enjoy your set-up whatever it turns out to be.
It is not the saw, it's the fence that deserves attention.
Start with a good fence, I like Unifence, but there are others, jack
it up then drive anything under it that wants to call itself a table
saw, and you will probably be happy with the results.
Buy a contractors style table saw. Jet, Delta, Rigid are all good brands. I
bought my Jet for less than $500.00 5 years ago and love it. We bought it
for our restoration business and it has served us well.
I agree with Mac, go used. You can find decent saws on Craigslist
almost every day for $200 or less.
You can easily get by for years, maybe even forever, with a contractor
saw unless you are regularly cutting 8/4 Maple.
Save the money for other tools and more importantly wood, dead trees
are very expensive.
My first (and current) table saw set me back $400.00 (home depot). I am
still using it today. Here are the short comings of my (and possibly other
low end saws):
1) Under powered. When cutting thick stock of hard wood (maple, cherry,
etc.) my saw will frequently throw a breaker unless I feed SLOW.
2) Poor fence.
3) Table saw surface not perfectly flat.
My primary goal at the time was to insure I was purchasing a TS with a cast
iron top. DO NOT GET AN ALUMINUM top saw.
It is possible to make beautiful furniture with a cheapo $400.00 saw (have
a look at a some of my work and see my saw: www.garagewoodworks.com).
I plan on upgrading to a more powerful saw (PM 2000).
So if I could give a little advice, sure, you can stick with your $500
budget and buy an adequate saw that will allow you to try out the hobby and
potentially make some beautiful furniture along the way!!
I would definitely still stick with my original criteria: CAST IRON TOP.
Try to get one with the beefiest fence within your budget. IMHO, I wouldn't
be overly concerned with power at this point--Sturdy cast iron top, and
Read all you can about Table Saw Safety!!! The first thing you should make
(or buy) are some push sticks/blocks. Read about SPLITTERS and the dreaded
Depending on where you live, you can often find good used saws at the $500
range. Do some shopping to get a feel for price so you don't end up paying
$500 for a beat saw that originally cost $525. If you can get equivalent to
the $1000 model you looked at for $500 in good condition, grab it. Tablesaw
technology has not changed much in 50 years so you may get a real gem with a
few years on it.
Don't buy a cheap direct drive benchtop model.
I'll second the cast iron top.
And I'll third the cast iron top if there is something like thirding.
There's two other things the OP might consider which was the route I
followed with my first saw.
My first saw was a 1 HP contractor's saw with really heavy cast iron top and
wings. I used it happily and built some relatively nice looking stuff for
years using this stock beast. At some point I found out that a carbide
tipped blade was a good idea. That made a big difference in my projects,
however my projects jumped a quantum level when I added a third party fence
to the mix. The replacement fence cost me $400 CA at the time which was more
than twice what I paid for the saw originally. Of course, 20 years elapsed
between those two purchases, but with the new fence and the carbide tipped
blade, I could build really nice stuff. My only wish is that I'd found out
about them many years earlier.
Two suggestions, based on my past experiences with my Jet contractor's
- Don't use an extension cord
- Use a GOOD 20-24T rip blade on thick stock.
If you're already doing that, consider the lurkers. <G>
With a 40T WWII or 50T Freud combo, I can slow down my 220V, 3 HP
(North American HP, not Far Eastern) General cabinet saw with thick
wood. It'll take 8/4 white oak or maple as fast as I can humanly feed
it with a 24T full-kerf Freud rip blade. I could trip breakers with
the Jet ripping thick stock with a combo blade.
I totally agree about the aluminum top. Leave those for the jobsite
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