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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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
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
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
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.
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...
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.
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
- 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.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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
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.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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: