My experience with the General International 50-185

I've been reading the wreck for a while now (mostly through google searches in the archive). I've found a lot of useful advices here, especially on tool recommendations.
I started getting into woodworking after getting (for very cheap) a used General 8 inch jointer from an uncle who is a professional woodworker (he swaped it for a huge 12 inch model) . I bought some hand tools, miter saw, router, etc. and took some night classes. Now I'm hooked on it.
However I was getting very frustrated with my very bad and even dangerous table saw (an old worn out portable saw). I needed to spend a lot of time just measuring and aligning the fence for each cut and still the results were unpredictable. The thing was shaking like hell and the table top was way to small.
So I followed an advice I saw a lot in the wreck and waited to be able to afford a decent table saw and blade. After reading all the possible reviews I could find, I finally opted for the General International 50-185 (left tilt) and bought it for Chrismas. I also bought a Forrest Woodworker II (40 teeth) a Freud Super Dado (SD508) and "The Table Saw Book" by Kelly Mehler (my best investment !).
I bought the saw from a General dealer nearby (I live in Canada, so there are plenty here) and was able to bring it home in my car (medium size - Mazda 626) after opening the box and loading the parts one by one.
Once home, I found out that this is no "plug and play" device. It took me over 25 hours (3 days straight) to clean, assemble and _ADJUST_ the thing.
First, like almost all the other reviewers of that saw, I must say that the instruction manual is awful ! A lot of the steps are omitted and the pictures, drawing and instructions are unclear. With a little bit of patience you can figure it out but still I think they could have done a lot better.
The table top I got (middle section) was twisted. Putting a straight-edge diagonally across the top would reveal a gap (or bump depending on the side) of 1/16" to 3/32". Fortunately I was able to make is straight (although not perfectly) by adding shims between the table top and the steel cabinet supporting it (as described in "The Table Saw Book"). This was a long and frustrating trial and error process.
Then came the extension wings. Fortunately, those were perfectly straight. Unfortunately once bolted to the table top they would both tilt upward quite a bit (up to 1/8"). Here come the shims again ! I used paper shims (as described in TTSB) and was able after another session of trial and error to make them perfectly flat with the top.
Next step, install the blade and check the alignment with the miter slot. Again, the thing was not aligned properly. I had to ajust the trunion (again as described in TTSB). This was the most frustrating step. It took me forever to get a decent alignment and still it is not perfect. I am considering getting those "PALS" alignment bolts but I don't know where to get them in Canada.
Then came the fence rails. Again I had to shim the rail (square tube) to get it level (although this is expected and described in the fence instruction manual).
The 90 degree and 45 degree tilt stops were perfectly set and I didn't have to do any adjustments to them.
The fence is great. It is the main reason I bought this saw. It is made in Canada and is the same fence used on the expensive General cabinet saws. It is very easy to set and very precise on every cut. I made a lot of verifications using a dial caliper and I get perfect widths every cut !
The table is very heavy and very stable. There is almost no noticeable vibration.
The engine (2hp) didn't have trouble ripping through 2 1/2 inch tick oak (thickest hardwood board I tried).
The miter guide slides nicely in the slot and was easy to set up for perfect 90 degree cuts
Now that it is fully adjusted, I am pretty satisfied with this saw. It is leaps and bounds better than my old portable saw and not too far from the Unisaw and General 50-450 that I get to use in my woodworking class.
I can now get started on my next project, building a cradle for my new born expected for this summer...
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Instructions may have been translated from French. Company is located in Quebec. Not that that's bad, but you never know...
John V

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That's what I initially tought after reading the other people reviews. But I must say they are as bad in french as they are in english (my mother tongue is french).
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heh heh, well there you go... Just poor technical writers. ( I'm no better) Je ne pas parlez en francais. Well very little anyhow :)
Avez vous un bon nuit.
John V

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I have the 50-185 and I'd say you should consider getting your center table top replaced. Mine was dead flat. If it was warped, that could have compounded your troubles and caused you the difficulty getting the wings level and the fence on right. Mine was dead flat out of the box, blade was aligned, wings went on perfect etc etc. The only adjustment I had to do was enlarge the slots in the motor mounting plate so I could get it further to the left side of the saw in order to line the drive pulley up with the arbour pulley. That helped reduce the vibration a lot.
My understanding from other folks who have inquired directly is that GI is redoing their manuals.
I don't want this to sound like I'm flaunting my perfect setup vs your difficult one -- I would encourage you to contact GI regarding your table top and I am pretty sure they'll send you a new one.
Just my two cents Caleb
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Hi,
I thought I would add my .02.
I just setup the same saw. I was really impressed with this piece of equipment. For my saw, the top was dead flat as were the two extensions. (At least as far as my 24" Starrett straightedge would tell me.) I didn't need to shim the extensions to get them flat to the tabletop.
The saw blade was square to the miter slots. I love the fit of the miter gauge! No slop at all. I did spend quite a bit of time getting the fence rails fitted just right. It also took me a while to get the fence adjusted so it locked down square to the saw blade. Now I get glueline rips every time. The accuracy of the fence is tremendous. I quit adjusting it when it came within .005 of my tape measurements.
I'll admit the instructions aren't all that clear. (It's a little hard to see how things are supposed to fit from a photograph. A good line drawing in some parts of the instruction guide would be helpful.) I'm not particularly adept at mechanical things but I went nice and slow and it came together just fine.
The belt that came with the saw had a big kink in it. I told their technical department about it and they send a replacement promptly. Another small problem was the cutline indicator had been tightened so hard that one side had a crack in the plastic. It didn't really seem like it hurt anything but I though as the plastic aged it would eventually get brittle and fall apart. They quickly sent a replacement.
I'm using a Forrest sawblade and Merlin splitter. I might put a link belt on it in the future but I'm not even sure it is necessary.
I can heartily recommend this piece of equipment and the great responses I've had from their service department.
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