Contractor saws have plenty of advantages, and are used in many professional cabinet shops. Don't let your credit card limit make the choice for you. Put the advantage lists side by side. Think carefully and realistically about your work and other shop needs. Cross out advantages that won't make a difference in your projects. You may also want to cross out items that will only moderately affect your work. Highlight and contemplate the advantages that will be significant in your most common cutting situations. Visit local shops and woodworking friends to check out both saw types in action. When you are comfortable with the differences and their importance to your work, put the notes away and buy what feels right.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re getting a model that doesn’t have a problem with internal dust collection. Some don’t do a great job of funneling the dust towards the port, so it ends up sitting inside the unit. This can affect performance, as sawdust is great at gumming up moving parts. So, if you get one of those models, know that you’re going to have to regularly open it up and clean it out to keep it in tip-top shape, which is a pain, but necessary if you want your unit to last a long time.
A few initial notes are in order. If buying a contractor saw, I would consider Delta and Jet offerings by that same name. If my work and budget called for a cabinet saw, I would consider the Jet Xacta, Powermatic 66, and Delta Unisaw. Test-drive candidate saws; a few cuts mean more than a month of junk mail. Durability and fence quality are generally not factors. Either saw type will last outlast its owner with reasonable care, and either can be bought with a high quality fence. I would not consider anything less than the contractor saws mentioned above. Cheaper saws make rough cuts, wear out quickly, don't hold their adjustments, and are more prone to dangerous kickbacks. The good taste of money saved turns bitter when your projects take longer and turn out poorly. My intent is to state differences in a non-biased manner, but an attempt has been made to order the items by probable importance.
Plunge-base options have a motor that is mounted between spring-loaded posts, and handles located high up on the machine. They allow you to quickly vary cutting depth without having to turn off the tool and feature a depth stop. Fixed-base routers have a lower center of gravity with handles located near the bottom. They only allow routing from the side and cannot be plunged directly into the workpiece. They also require one to turn of the tool to adjust the cutting depth, but many find them easier to work with.
Another jig that is widely available at woodworking suppliers is the featherboard or variations on the featherboard, designed to be used with a table saw or router table to hold the stock securely against the cutting head or blade. Not only does the featherboard hold the board securely, ensuring that cuts and beads are straight and true, but it serves as a safety mechanism to help prevent kickback.
If you don’t get a model with a flat table, you’re not going to be satisfied with your cut quality. It’s an overgeneralization to say that all good cuts start with a perfectly-flat table on a table saw, but there’s some truth to it. Even minor warping can result in huge changes to the final piece after you’ve made the cut. Unfortunately, it’s not always a problem that can be seen by the naked eye.
Contractor models also tend to be more powerful and more precise than portable saws, which gives them a definite upside if you’re going to be doing lots of work, or work that requires a fine degree of precision. This type can also be a good choice if you’re going to leave your table saw in one place for extended periods of time, while still being light enough that they can be moved if you need to do so.
Although this saw doesn’t give us anything to harp on when it comes to operation, it has one massive design flaw that handicaps it. The motor is open to all of the sawdust you’re cutting. This causes the saw to have common longevity issues, dying short of the two-year mark. Despite the great functionality, it won’t be much use once the motor dies. For the high price, we’d hope for a great warranty to accompany this tool, but instead, we get a very mediocre one-year policy. When spending so much on a table saw, we think the better choice is to spend it wisely on a good long-term investment that will last for years of use.
With the right tools and materials, what you build is only limited by your imagination and creativity. So why not have a little fun with the kids and teach them something at the same time? Our woodworker tools and woodworking supplies will help you put together an easy birdhouse, squirrel feeder or butterfly house. The kids will love to use our paint samples to add their creative touch, and will enjoy displaying the finished product in the backyard.
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