Table saw for newbie

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I think that I would like to get a table saw. How do I differentiate the various models (i.e. what do I look for). My local ads have models of various brands from $89 - $500 for saws that are all 10", 13-15amp, 24"-rip. So, what is important? How can I determine what the best bang for the buck is? Obviously, I am not a professional wood worker so I probably do not need the absolute top-of-the-line. But I also do not want to get a piece of junk. Can you advise? -- Seeker of Knowledge
To reply to me directly, please replace everything before the @ sign with just the letters K-n-o-w-l-e-d-g-e-S-e-e-k-e-r (without the dashes).
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There are 3 basic classes of machines: There are exceptions but Ill give the characteristics of most
Benchtop (direct drive universal motor, smaller top, often a cast aluminum top, "portable")
Contractor (Belt-drive induction motor. Cast iron top, wings may be CI or stamped steel, 250 lbs)
Cabinet (Multi-belt 220V motor 3Hp & up, trunions mounted to the cabinet rather than the top, 400+ lbs)
What to look for:
Unless you have an absolute requirement for portability or small size look for a contractor's saw. There are a few decent benchtops out there, but they cost as much as contractor saws.
Beef: weight (as much cast iron as possible) is always a good thing. Belt drive.
The fence is *really* important. Make sure that it locks securely with no deflection.
The second hand market is a good place to look. Decent used contractor saws are out there for $200 and less.
-Steve

various brands from $89 - $500 for saws that are all 10", 13-15amp, 24"-rip. So, what is important? How can I determine what the best bang for the buck is? Obviously, I am not a professional wood worker so I probably do not need the absolute top-of-the-line. But I also do not want to get a piece of junk. Can you advise?

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Thank you for the response. Is there a "Consumer Reports" type of magazine that publishes comparative reviews of saws?? Could you recommend some brands to look for (and some to avoid)?? Could you also recommend some specific models of saws in the contractor class??
I was planning to look at Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, and Sears. Had not considered second hand but perhaps I should. Is there any part/component on saws that is particularly prone to abuse/neglect/damage that I need to be especially concerned about on a second-hand model?? If so, what do I look out for?? Given weight, I am assuming that second hand is not ebay but some place local. Does that mean newspaper classifieds or is there some other more appropriate source for good second-hand saws??
Again, thank you for your advice.

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If you take your time you can get a good buy on a contractor saw locally, unless you really live in the boonies.
I bought a 10 inch radial arm saw that was eight years old in 1974 and it still sits in my ship cranking away when needed.
A good shop tool will last a long time for the average woodworker. And a used one would be great to learn on.
Be sure and watch your fingers. They are good to keep for later.
RonT
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Table saws come in four broad classes: 1) 'benchtop" 2) "jobsite portable" 2) "Contractor" 3) "cabinet"
In addition, there are some 'hybrid' saws, that have some features from both the 'contractor' and 'cabinet' designs.
*Broadly* speaking, the more the saw weights, the better. More weight means less sensitive to vibration, etc. Thus, saws with cast iron tops are preferred over saws with 'sheet metal' tops.
A bigger table-top is almost always better than a smaller one. The table dimensions for 'contractor', and 'cabinet' saws are all very close to the same size. 'benchtop' saws generally have *significantly* smaller tops, particularly the lower-priced ones.
What is 'right' for you depends on what you'll be using it for. About which you said _nothing_. :)
With the exception of the _very_ low-end models in any class, the differences really boil down _mostly_ being that ill-defined thing called "ease of use". The very lowest-priced units in any class tend to have numerous other 'compromises' in the design. The result: they're 'less capable', more likely to break, prone to misbehave, etc.
One 'ease of use' illustration: the difference between a 'good' fence, and a junky POS, is how much futzing you have to do, to get it set so you can cut a piece _exactly_ the size you want. And how easy/hard it is to, after having moved the fence, put it back to cut _another_ piece to match the first one. *IF* you're willing to spend the time setting up / checking, for _every_ cut, it is possible to turn out work using a junky 'cheap POS' that will rival what somebody the 'high priced professional saw' does. 'That other guy' will just do it _much_ faster, more easily, and with far less aggravation.
In the price range you seem to be looking at, the Ryobi BT3100 (list $300) is almost unquestionably the best bang for the buck. It is difficult to beat it, even for twice the money. There's a low-end Grizzly 'contractor', that is fairly new on the market, that is also a good saw, albeit presently (price expected to rise significantly 1/1/2005) right at the high end of the price range you mention.
The one 'downside' to the Ryobi -- it doesn't take abuse well. Treat it with 'reasonable' care, and it'll last a long time, and do excellent work.
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Thank you for the response.
Should have given more data on proposed uses. Use #1 will be to cut 1/4 luann to create backing for some book shelves. Use #2 will be to trim the actual shelves to the exact length needed (Menards and Home Depot seem to always leave me about 1/8 - 3/16 too much or too little). Future uses might include cutting 2X4 and boards for various small projects. Again, I have no illusions about becoming a master carpenter. Just wanted to get something that would give me straighter cuts than my free handing with a circular saw.
I was planning to look at Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, and Sears. I know that HD does carry the Ryobi brand as I just purchased the cordless 18 Volt Super Combo II set. Have been generally please with it so far although I have had some problems with the drill losing its grip on some drill bits. Again, thank you for your advice.
snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote:

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Be sure to check out the Ryobi BT3000. I love mine and have heard almost no negatives for the saw overall. Is it the very best, probably not but for what it does and its price you'll look long and hard to find better in my opinion. BTW, HD sells them. Got mine there last year at this time for $299 on sale and the Rigid Jointer for $369. Grandpa John
RoamDog wrote:

create backing for some book shelves. Use #2 will be to trim the actual shelves to the exact length needed (Menards and Home Depot seem to always leave me about 1/8 - 3/16 too much or too little). Future uses might include cutting 2X4 and boards for various small projects. Again, I have no illusions about becoming a master carpenter. Just wanted to get something that would give me straighter cuts than my free handing with

does carry the Ryobi brand as I just purchased the cordless 18 Volt Super Combo II set. Have been generally please with it so far although I have had some problems with the drill losing its grip on some drill bits.

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I'll give you an earful about the Ryobi. I was tempted to buy it from the review on Tools of the Trade and the fact that Lowe's was closing it out. For $350, I learned the following the hard way:
-> Saw is underpowered for any but the lightest work. Even with a thin kerf blade, it will bog down in thicker materials including 3/4"+ plywood.
-> The sliding wing is worse than useless. -> Since the table is aluminum, it is awfully tippy with larger stock (like sheets (or even half sheets) of plywood). The navy has similar issues with some of their aluminum boats.
-> Everything on this saw moves. In the case of the rails that means that unless you are willing to spend hours futzing with the thing, the scale is pretty near useless.
-> Worst of all is the damned, evil fence. A friend of mine who was once a professional carpenter told me to pay close attention to the fence when buying a saw but what does that really mean? In the case of the Ryobi, it meant The Mystery of the 1/8" Short Cuts, which was resolved when I watched closely and saw the fence tilt at an angle toward the blade when I locked it down.
The short story is that I learned once again what I already knew -- don't cheap out. There is a real price for anything and then there is the Black and Decker price. The real price for table saws is at least $800, and really closer to $1000. So right now, I'm trying to decide between a Powermatic 64 and a similar Delta 36-507 or something like that. Ryobi can eat my shorts.

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Get a straight edge, a few clamps, a sheet of styrofoam and use the saw to rip. I use a straight edge to do more accurate work with a circular saw or router then I can do with longer sheets of plywood. A router and straight edge works pretty good to get stuff to =/- a few hairs.

create backing for some book shelves. Use #2 will be to trim the actual shelves to the exact length needed (Menards and Home Depot seem to always leave me about 1/8 - 3/16 too much or too little). Future uses might include cutting 2X4 and boards for various small projects. Again, I have no illusions about becoming a master carpenter. Just wanted to get something that would give me straighter cuts than my free handing with

does carry the Ryobi brand as I just purchased the cordless 18 Volt Super Combo II set. Have been generally please with it so far although I have had some problems with the drill losing its grip on some drill bits.

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Can you describe the process for using the router in more detail. My in-laws gave me a router 2 years ago, but I have never used it.

create backing for some book shelves. Use #2 will be to trim the actual shelves to the exact length needed (Menards and Home Depot seem to always leave me about 1/8 - 3/16 too much or too little). Future uses might include cutting 2X4 and boards for various small projects. Again, I have no illusions about becoming a master carpenter. Just wanted to get something that would give me straighter cuts than my free handing with

does carry the Ryobi brand as I just purchased the cordless 18 Volt Super Combo II set. Have been generally please with it so far although I have had some problems with the drill losing its grip on some drill bits.

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Go here:
<http://www.patwarner.com/
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Don't freehand with your circ saw! ;-)
It easy to use a straight edge to guide a circ saw to make good, straight, clean cuts.
Here's a few ideas from a quick Google search:
<http://www.woodzone.com/tips/saw_guide.htm <http://www.diynet.com/diy/tl_saws/article/0,2037,DIY_14394_2270605,00.h tml> <http://greenthumbgoodies.com/Cutting%20Box/cutting_box.htm
This is a great one: <http://www.taunton.com/finehomebuilding/pages/h00051.asp
Even if you do go for a table saw (I bought a decent benchtop saw, but regret not spending three times what I did for a good contractor's saw with a good fence) you should review how you're using your circular saw...
djb
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Thanks for the great pointers.

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Sorry to say you opened a BIG can of worms with this question...
But
Personally I value a good fence a lot more then I favor anything else.. It must lock down solid...and stay parralel ....
Then I look at the motor . and it better not be a direct drive universal motor rated (by who ??) at 2 to 500 Hp and 15 Amps... (Sears has a way of really over stating HP...
I own and use both a contractors saw and a cabinet saw both use Biesmeyer fences Cabinet saw is 3 Hp but the Contractors saw is only 1 Hp and to be truthful I very rarely need more then the 1 Hp BUT I normally do not cut 8/4 material...
I pay no attention to the supplied blade (if any)
Lots of luck...and bust your budget ... its only money ! lol
Bob Griffiths
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How will I know if a fence is going to be bad? Is there a quick test of some kind that I could use prior to purchase?

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If I were "starting over" with my first tablesaw purchase (which I am still using after 16+years), I would spend the most $ you can afford up to say $1K. If, after several years, you find yourself disinterested and the machine starting to rust, you will be able to get back 75% of your investment. If, on the other hand, you find yourself hooked on woodworking, it will be money well spent.
Lou
PS: For $1K today, I'd get a Grizzly 1023. For $0.75K or so, I'd go with the Sears Craftsman TS w/Biesmeyer fence. For around $0.5K I might consider the Jet CS or the Rigid CS which get pretty good reviews in most of the stuff I've read. FWIW.

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On Tue, 23 Nov 2004 14:39:23 GMT, RoamDog
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I have a question. When you say you are a newbie, do you mean to table saws, or to woodwork?
I really question a newbie getting a TS, as many will probably know, ad nauseum.
Table saws are expensive, dangerous and surprisingly limited in their use without a lot of extras, either built or bought. They also take up a lot of room, and unless you get one of the benchtop or "use your own saw" types, not very portable.
You are laying out a lot of money, for anything worthwhile. This cramps your style for other more useful tools. A $500 TS is only the basement for most guys around here. <G>
They also do not do the job that a bad worker cannot do. You can still easily and expensively do awful work on a TS.
Unless your timber is straight to start with you will have to learn some good tricks on a TS to get results that are worth anything.
I really reckon you should find somebody that is good with a TS, and let them show you what it can and cannot do, and what is needed to make it do other things. Maybe also talk to somebody who does not use a TS, and does good work without one.
You mentioned in another post that you don't get good results freehand with a circ saw. A good fence setup and decent saw/blade will go a long way to doing just about _anything_ you are trying to do.......with _care_. For mitres etc get a mitre saw (sliding compound).

that are all 10", 13-15amp, 24"-rip. So, what is important? How can I determine what the best bang for the buck is? Obviously, I am not a professional wood worker so I probably do not need the absolute top-of-the-line. But I also do not want to get a piece of junk. Can you advise?
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I started out with a Dewalt 744 benchtop saw which I bought for the rack and pinion fence and the portability- i.e. very small shop. I used it for home improvement projects and building some basic cabinets. It worked great but had some disadvantages- small table surface, loud universal motor, vibration. I believe I paid about $500 at Sears for it about three or four years ago. It's still selling for about that price, at least that's what I see it for in the ToolCrib catalog from Amazon. I just recently bought a Ridgid contractors saw from the Borg (Home Depot). They had a promotion where if you signed up for a commercial account you received 50% off your first tool purchase up to $300 off IIRC. The saw was listed at $547 so with the discount I got it out the door for under $300. It comes with a mobile base, cast iron top and wings and is rated at 1 1/2 HP. I've had it for a couple of months now and so far I'm quite happy with it. Before I saw this promotion I was leaning toward a Grizzly G0444Z which would have cost me over $600 after shipping and the addition of a mobile base. I lost a little HP with the Ridgid but for what I do I don't think I'll miss it much. Mostly I work with sheet goods and hardwoods under 2" thick so the extra HP rarely comes into play. Definitely search the archives on this forum for table saw recommendations. You'll find a wealth of information. If you're limited for space a good benchtop saw will see you through for most basic cuts. Be wary of some of the really cheap ones because the fence system will make it frustrating to use for other than the very occasional use. If you think you might want to get into doing more detailed woodworking then you might want to step up to a contractor's saw or cabinet saw. They will give you more control and versatility. A good book on table saws is by Kelly Mehler. I just checked out a copy from my local library to tune up my new saw. It's got information on the different types of saws and how to get the most out of your saw. Hope this helps.
Dale

ads have models of various brands from $89 - $500 for saws that are all 10", 13-15amp, 24"-rip. So, what is important? How can I determine what the best bang for the buck is? Obviously, I am not a professional wood worker so I probably do not need the absolute top-of-the-line. But I also do not want to get a piece of junk. Can you advise?
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RoamDog wrote:

You want the Binford Dust Chucker 2000 XL with a 17.6 HP motor, the ultra 24" blade, and the extra extended 76" x 97" table, mounted on mag lev casters. Anything less is a waste of money.
--
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Is that the model with the fully retractable 9" pneumatic wheels or the model with the flexi-fold space saving universal stand? I've often wondered why they didn't provide the mag levs for the saw unit as well as the extension table. Must just be a marketing thing...
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