It is almost *never* a "mistake" to 'over buy' on tooling. If you buy
a "better grade than you can make use of" you'll never be dissatisfied
with the _tool_.
There are really only about two _major_ differences between a good
contractor saw, and a good cabinet saw. (There -is- a third one -- having
to do with the efficiency of a dust-collector hook-up; cabinet saws *are*
notably better at containing sawdust, but that is rarely a 'deal breaker'
Difference #1: "Power." Contractor saws tend to max out at around 2HP,
while cabinet saws are often 3HP, or sometimes 5HP. The question to
consider is "do you _need_ that extra horsepower?" Which depends utterly
on what you'll be doing -- you can cut -anything- on a low-power saw, if
you're willing to go 'slow enough'. If you're "only rarely" dealing with
softwood stock thicker than nominal 2", or hardwoods over 1" to maybe 1-1/2",
the 'extra power' available with the bigger HP saw is *not* likely to get
called on. OTOH, if you -do- plan to spend significant amounts of time
working 'thick' stock, the bigger motor *will* be helpful.
Difference #2: trunnion 'architecture'. Without going into the 'gory details',
let it suffice to say that this affects how well the saw 'holds' its set-up,
and the ease with which one can tune it to the optimal settings. Again,
cabinet saws are ahead on this one, But, on _any_ quality saw that doesn't
get banged around, this is something you do "once in a blue moon" -- if that
often. In 'normal', hobbiest, use, it will usually be many, *many* years
before the blade set-up needs adjusting a 2nd time.
Once you've got them set up, and 'tuned', there's little "functional"
difference between the two types, *UNLESS* you're cutting big hard lumber.
One last *possible* consideration -- I've never seen a contractor saw
with a blade bigger than 10". Cabinet saws _are_ available with bigger
blades (although at a considerable cost increment); my H.S. shop had two
cabinet saws -- a 'normal' 10" one, and an "industrial size" monster, which
had a 16" blade.
Thanks for everyones advice and comments. I bought a right-tilt Delta
x-unisaw with a 50 inch Beis at the Arlington TX woodworking show this last
weekend. I'm satisfied with my decision and look forward to using the saw.
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