TABLESAW REVIEWS

QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.

JET 10 XACTA SAW, 5HP, 1PH, LEFT-TILT TABLESAW, 50 FENCE

JET 10 XACTA SAW, 5HP, 1PH, LEFT-TILT TABLESAW, 50 FENCE

          This tablesaw has some very nice features to consider including a quick-release riving knife and a storage drawer in the cabinet that is sealed from dust. The saw blade is shrouded for efficient dust collection. The motor and belts of the tablesaw are easily accessed via a hinged motor cover. The cast iron table top has two 11 cast iron extensions to the left and right of the main table top. To the right of the cast iron surface is a wooden table extension which gives this a saw a rip capacity of 50.

          An integrated arbor lock contributes to easy blade changes and operator safety. A poly V-belt drive system maintains positive drive belt traction and quiet operation. The commercial-grade 30 XACTA fence delivers precise, repeatable accuracy. The 5 horsepower motor provides plenty of power and is controlled by an easy-to-reach, rail-mounted magnetic switch for safety. Heavy duty chrome plated hand wheels are a nice touch and the paint is power-coated for a long, chip-resistant life. A miter gauge and independent safety guard are provided. Arbor diameter is 5/8 and arbor speed is 4300 RPM.

GENERAL 650R-T50-M2M 10, 5HP, 1-PH, LEFT-TILT, 50 FENCE

The European-style riving knife on this tablesaw can be removed by simply pulling a pin, when needed for blade changes or dado cuts. Then, it just snaps back into place. The scratch-resistant cabinet is powder-coated for durability. Blade adjustments are easily accomplished via the large, cast iron hand wheels. The arbor rotates on heavy-duty sealed ball bearings. The slotted blade guard and table insert are both made out of aluminum.  A dual V-belt drive system assures low vibration and smooth running. A miter gauge and magnetic motor control switch are provided.

          Arbor diameter is 5/8, maximum depth of cut at 90 degrees is 3 1/8 and at 45 degrees, its 2 1/8. Maximum rip to the left of the tablesaw blade is 12. Dado maximum capacity is 13/16.  Table size is 28 x 36. Arbor speed is 4000 RPM and shipping weight is 539 Lbs.

POWERMATIC PM 2000 10, 5HP 1PH, LEFT-TILT 50 FENCE

  I have owed a Powermatic table saw for many years and I have only good things to say about it. This is supposed to be an impartial review so Ill try to restrain my enthusiasm and stick to the facts. We are looking at two Powermatic tablesaws in this review, different perhaps in blade size and motor power but never in quality. Ill go over the features of this, the smaller of the two tablesaws, in detail and then, when we get to the larger tablesaw, Ill only point out the differences rather than repeating all the features that the two tablesaws have in common.

          This smaller tablesaw comes in a lot of different packages. The principal variations are motor size, voltage, phase and rip capacity. Some models feature a built-in router table. 3 HP and 5HP motors are available for this 10 tablesaw and they can be had in single or three phase, 230 or 460 volt varieties. We picked a package with a 5HP, single phase motor because this allows you to hook it up just about anywhere and gives you more than enough power for the most laborious of cutting tasks. It has a 50-inch rip capacity as opposed to the smaller 30 models.

          My old Powermatic tablesaw came with a splitter that bolted onto the interior of the saw. The new Powermatic tablesaw models, like this one, feature a detachable riving knife to prevent kickback from binding. It snaps in and out at your convenience. It was a time-consuming task to remove the splitter from my older Powermatic tablesaw and so, once off, it tended to remain off which was trading safety for convenience never a good idea. If I could have just snapped it in an out, I would have used it at all times except when what I was doing could not be done with the riving knife in place. Example: dado cuts.

          This tablesaw has built-in casters that retract into the saw cabinet when you are not rolling the saw around the shop. A push button arbor lock makes blade changing easy. On my older model, I had to jam a stick against the blade while I loosened the arbor nut with a wrench. As always, Powermatic trunnions are a bit over-built to insure long life, smooth operation and accuracy.  The angle indicators on the blade bevel scale are adjustable so that you can be certain of accurate readings. The precision-ground cast-iron table top measures 42 x 30 1/2 with the standard 20 x 30 1/2 cast iron table extension attached. The 4 dust port requires a minimum of 350 CFM of suction from your dust collector.

          Maximum depth of cut is 3 1/8 at 90 degrees and 2 1/8 at 45 degrees of bevel. You can rip a maximum of 13 1/2″ to the left of the blade. The tablesaws net weight is 675 Lbs.

DELTA 36-L352 UNISAW 3 HP 52” BIESEMEYER FENCE

I did not think much of the original Unisaw tablesaw. It was noisy, it vibrated and worst of all it was not that accurate. Delta has finally decided to set things right and I must admit that the new, completely redesigned Unisaw is an improvement. We will be looking at model 36-L352 which has a 3HP motor, a 52 rip capacity and a Biesemeyer fence.

          The new single-cast trunnion virtually eliminates the noise and vibration that plagued the original models. The bevel dial can be adjusted to within a quarter of a degree. Crank wheels are located on the front of the unit.  I like the up-front convenience of the location of the crank wheels. A large blade opening makes changing blades and adjusting the riving knife possible without skinning your knuckles.

          Anti-kickback pawls and guard can be added to the riving knife without tools. The riving knife rises and falls with the saw blade. A push-button arbor lock makes blade changing easy. Convenient storage is located within the unit for tools, etc. Dust collection is accomplished via a sloping cabinet bottom and a single dust port. The Biesemeyer fence works with a hairline and a measuring guide.

          The cast iron table top measures 31 x 40 (with wings attached) and the Biesemeyer extension table adds another 42 inches. Arbor size is 5/8 and blade speed is 4300 RPM. This tablesaw weighs 661 Lbs.

POWERMATIC PM3000 14”, 7.5 HP, 3 PH,  LEFT-TILT, 50” FENCE

The big differences between the PM3000 and the smaller PM 2000 tablesaw reviewed above are 7.5 HP, 3-phase motor as compared to a 5HP single phase motor and, of course a 14 blade instead of a 10 blade. The 10 blade gives you a maximum depth of cut of 3 1/8. The 14 model can cut as deep as 5 1/8. This 2 of increased depth-of-cut comes in handy when ripping large timbers and it can crosscut a 6 x 6 in a single pass. Of course to do all this heavy work, you need a larger motor and this tablesaw provides that with its 7.5 horses.

          It can rip 14 to the left of the blade, slightly more than the smaller model tablesaw. Its table size is 38 x 48 including the standard extension. The saw weighs 750 Lbs.

SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART: TABLESAWS

BladeTiltHPPhTableRipBeltsWeightRivingBladeArborPowderArborRPMMobilePrice
SizeSizeKnifeShroudLock?CoatedSizeBase
Paint?
Jet10″L51n/a50n/an/aYesYesn/aYes5/8″4300n/a$2,350
General10″L5128×36n/an/an/aYesn/an/aYes5/8″n/an/a$3,000
Powermatic10″L5130.5×4250n/a675Yesn/aYesn/a5/8″n/aYes$3,400
Delta10″L3131×4052n/a661Yesn/aYesn/a5/8″4300n/a$3,300
Powermatic14″L7.5338×48503750Yesn/aYesn/a1″n/an/a$4,693

ALL ABOUT TABLE SAWS

          There are many things you will want to consider before purchasing a new tablesaw for your shop. There are three main types of tablesaws: (1) the lightweight, inexpensive and portable contractors tablesaw, (2) the cabinet saw, so-named because it has an enclosed cabinet as opposed to open base and (3) the new breed of so-called Hybrid tablesaws which fill the price gap between contractors tablesaws and cabinet saws. This discussion will be only concern cabinet saws because, in my experience, nothing less will do for a shop that produces fine woodworking. Smaller tablesaws lack both the accuracy and capacity of cabinet saws. The tablesaw is the heart of your shop. You will use it more than any other machine and its accuracy and capacity will determine the quality and size of what you will be able to produce. This is akin to picking someone to marry: Ideally, its for life and you will have to live with your decision for a long time to come. Therefore, rushing into purchasing the first tablesaw you see, without doing your homework, is like a quickie Las Vegas marriage, always a gamble.

          There are many things you should consider before investing your hard-earned dollars in any particular machine. As I have said again and again, the machine you pick should be just slightly more capable than what you will demand of it now or what you imagine you would likely to demand of it in the future. While price is important, affordability should not be the sole determining factor in your purchasing decision. If you cant afford the saw you need, wait until you can. Dont saddle yourself with a tablesaw that may drive you crazy every day of your life. Take a few moments to consider what you really need and which machine will best fill the bill for you.

          Id like to take a minute to talk about the features that you should be looking for in a tablesaw and what these features will mean to you after you unpack and set up your new tablesaw. These features include: motor horsepower, blade size, trunnion construction, tabletop flatness, tabletop size, arbor size and arbor bearings, sawdust extraction, ease of operation including raising, lowering and tilting the blade, tilt of the blade (left or right),  the necessity of a magnetic switch and the importance of its location,  ease of access to the interior of the cabinet,  accuracy and ease of operation of the fence, the  amount of rip space to the right and the left of the blade,  safety features and tablesaw mobility around the shop. In addition to the tablesaw itself, you may want to construct a tablesaw outfeed table around the back of the saw, if space permits. Well talk about that, as well.

MOTOR HORSEPOWER

          Motor horsepower and blade size are closely related. The larger the blade, the more horsepower you will need to cut, at full blade height, through a piece of wood. Too much power is never a problem. Too little power can cause the saw to bind, slow down and even stop in the middle of a cut. This is not good, nor is it safe.

          The smallest motor I would even consider for a 10-inch saw would be 3 horsepower. For a 12 to 14 saw it would be 5HP and for a 14 to 16 saw, Id like 7.5 HP. You will also need to consider if the saw motor is single or three phase. Three phase motors use electricity a bit more efficiently. If you dont have three phase power at your location, however, you will have to buy single phase or purchase and install a phase converter large enough for your saw motor. Most saw motors use 230 or 460 VAC power, so make sure you have the correct voltage available in your shop. Three phase motors can run on 208 to 220 volts or higher, depending on the motor.

THE TRUNNION

          The trunnion is the mechanism inside the table saw cabinet which is responsible for both raising and lowering the blade and tilting the blade for bevel cuts. It is controlled from the outside of the tablesaw by two separate wheels or cranks: one for raising and lowering the blade (usually found on the front of the cabinet) and the other for tilting the blade (either left or right, depending on the saw) which is usually located on the right side of the cabinet.

          The tablesaw trunnion determines the accuracy of your cuts so you want to be sure that it is well built and accurately machined. The saw blade must always be exactly where you need it to be.  Furthermore, the trunnion must be easy to operate. It should not require Superman to raise or tilt the blade. As time goes on, you may find that it is harder to turn the wheels or cranks that operate the tablesaw trunnion. This is usually because of sawdust contamination of the gears and/or lack of lubrication. Some better table saws have ways of eliminating sawdust from the cabinet into an external dust port before it can get into the gears. Other saws come with self-cleaning gear teeth.

TABLE FLATNESS AND SIZE

           One tablesaw manufacturer I know believes in aging its cast iron machine table tops before milling them flat. The tops are cast and then left outside in a bone yard to bend, bow, warp and twist in the sun and rain for a year or so. Then, they are brought inside where all the rust is removed and the table top is ground absolutely flat and polished to sheen. The theory is that the metal needs to settle into a place where all post-casting movement has ceased and that the table should not be ground flat before this is done. Otherwise, the tablesaw table may move out of absolute flatness after it is part of your new tablesaw and that it not at all desirable. Why? Because the flatness of your tablesaw top will determine the accuracy of your cuts. Be sure to check your new tablesaw for table flatness with a straightedge on or before delivery and afterwards from time to time. Lay the rule across the tablesaw table top at all angles and check for daylight under the rule or rocking of the straightedge on the table top.

          The size of the cast iron tablesaw top is also important: the larger the better. When you are sawing large objects, you want as much flat table surface as you need to support the work piece flat, 90 degrees to the blade for accuracy. Larger table size is usually accomplished by attaching cast-iron table wings to the edge of the main tablesaw table. These wings must be as flat as the tablesaw table and the seam they create must be aligned so that the top of the wing is flush to the top of the main table along its entire length.

ARBOR SIZE AND ARBOR BEARINGS

          The tablesaw saw blade is mounted on an arbor with a nut and washer and the arbor is turned by the motor, usually via pulleys and 1 to 3 V-belts. The arbor is mounted into the trunnion inside two or more arbor bearings. These should be sealed from dust for obvious reasons. The size of the arbor determines the size of the hole in the middle of the tablesaw blade. This is usually 5/8 for a 10 blade and 1 or larger for blades larger than that. The strength and alignment of the arbor and the bearings which support it determine the accuracy and smoothness of the table saw. Vibration and noise should be kept to a minimum and the saw blade should be straight in the table from front to back at all elevations and bevel angles.

BLADE TILT

          Most tablesaw trunnions are made to tilt either left or right (but not both) to a maximum of 45 degrees from vertical. If you have a choice, and you usually do, never buy a right-tilt saw for the following reason. A right-tilt saw tilts the blade towards the fence and can pinch a work piece into the fence, causing a jam or, worse, a kickback just as the cut is finishing. Further, on a right-tilt saw, the blade is tilting towards the fence and could cut into and ruin it if the fence were to be inadvertently moved too close to the spinning blade. In a left-tilt tablesaw, the blade tilts away from the fence and instead of pinching the work piece, allows it to rise vertically slightly, if need be.

KICKBACK AND PERSONAL SAFETY

          There is a rule that says, Never stand directly behind a horse or a tablesaw. Sooner or later every tablesaw operator will do something stupid that causes a kickback. If the tabkesaw operator makes it a practice to avoid standing where the kickback will occur behind the blade, he or she will probably avoid the severe injury that can be inflicted by a flying piece of wood striking the face, neck, chest or arms of the woodworker.

          There are many hold-down and anti-kickback devices on the market. Some are good and some are a hazard in themselves. I had a large, metal combination hold-down and anti-kickback device get caught in the saw blade, ripped off the fence to which it was clamped and flung into a plate glass door behind the saw. I heard it go whistling past my right ear. It missed me because I was standing, as always, well to the left of the saw blade.

          Woodworking can be a dangerous business. Always use a push stick or similar device. Fingers are not replaceable. Never try to rip narrow strips next to the fence. Instead, cut them off of the left side of the work piece. In this case, you would stand to the right of the blade. In short, think ahead about the possible complications of what you are about to do, keep your eyes wide open (wearing goggles, of course) and keep your wits about you at all times. And, while Im on the subject of cutting strips off the left side of a work piece, remember that you will have to add the kerf of the saw blade to the final measurement. In other words, assuming that the kerf is 1/8 and the strip to be cut is 1 wide, you would move the fence 1 1/8 to the left before cutting each strip.

          Another important safety device is the magnetic switch. This device protects you after an electrical power failure. If the power fails and you have a regular, mechanical switch, the tablesaw will come back on when the power comes back on. If you were to be near the tablesaw blade at the time, this could be disastrous. A magnetic switch will not allow the tablesaw to start again until you press the “on” button. The location of the switch is also important. It should be right out front where it can be quickly accessed by a hand, foot or knee in the event of an emergency. The “off” button should be wide, red in color and should extend outside of the switch box like a mushroom for fast access.

SAWDUST EXTRACTION

          My ideal would be to never have a speck of dust reach the gears of my tablesaw trunnion and that all sawdust would be sucked away from the tablesaw blade and out of the machine as soon as it was made. I would never need to clean out sawdust from inside the tablesaw cabinet and the tablesaw trunnion would always operate smoothly and easily. While I dont expect to ever see my dream fully realized, there are tablesaws on the market today that closely approach this level of efficiency in sawdust extraction. Some tablesaws shield the blade in a casing underneath the saw table and suck the dust out directly from there. Others slant the floor of the saw cabinet towards a dust collection port. Many just allow the sawdust to accumulate on the floor under the saw until you clean it out. You will always have some cleaning of the interior to do. Perhaps you wont wait until the sawdust has totally encased the trunnion gears packing itself up to the bottom of the table top. You will need to connect the saw to a dust collector through its dust port. The suction of the dust collector should be about 350 CFM for a 10 tablesaw and more for a larger tablesaw.

CABINET ACCESS

            At least one, but preferably two or more access doors should be provided leading into the cabinet of the tablesaw. The one you will use most often will be for cleaning out sawdust from the interior of the tablesaw. Another should give easy access to the tablesaw motor, trunnion and belts for adjustment and repair. Many tablesaws provide a removable access panel instead of a second door. Thats fine for occasional motor, arbor, belt and trunnion access but you will want the sawdust door to open and close easily.

THE FENCE

          Your tablesaw should come with a Biesemeyer or similar type fence included in the purchase price. This type of tablesaw fence locks and aligns itself to a rectangular tube attached to the front of the tablesaw table when you press down on a handle. Tablesaw fence accuracy and ease of operation will be important every time you touch your tablesaw and so a cheap fence is no bargain. The tablesaw fence will probably read measurements along a stick-on measuring tape on the top of the front fence rail tube. You will need to carefully adjust the tablesaw fence for accuracy. Instructions of how to do this should come with the set-up instructions for the tablesaw.

          The tablesaw fence must be aligned so that the front of the blade and the rear of the blade are exactly the same distance from the fence at all settings. Once you have ascertained that the blade and tablesaw fence are parallel to each other, you must cut some test boards to accurately set the tablesaw fence to the scale. Set the tablesaw fence to 2 on the measuring scale. Rip a test board and measure it. Adjust the tablesaw fence to the scale by moving the viewers hairline left or right. Rip more boards until you have exact accuracy. The viewer through which you see the tape should be strong in magnification.

RIP CAPACITY

          Your new saw must have a rip capacity equal or wider than the widest thing you will ever want to rip. Usually, a cabinet saw will have a rip capacity of around either 30 inches or 50 inches. A large rip capacity to the right of the blade will require an extension table to support work wider than the cast iron table. Many times, this extension table is included with the tablesaw or, alternatively, you can easily build your own. The fence must have a tube or rail long enough to achieve the maximum width you want to rip.

          If you consider that a sheet of plywood measures 48 in width, I would think that you might want to opt for a 50-inch rip as opposed to the slightly less expensive 30 rip capacity. You might want to rip off only one inch from the left end of that sheet of plywood and, while doing that, you will want the plywood to be fully supported. You might want to crosscut a sheet of plywood into two 48 pieces. You also should consider the rip space to the left of the blade. Sometimes, you might want to accomplish tasks that require the fence to be put over to the left side of the blade.

TABLESAW MOBILITY

          Some shops are small enough that lack of space requires that all machines be able to roll around on the floor. The theory is that you pull out only the machine you are using at the time. In planning your shop, you should decide if your space requirements will mean that everything has to roll, some machines but not others have to roll or all machines can remain in their own positions permanently. Many cabinet saws offer the optional extra of some sort of mobility device. In the case of a table saw, you dont want it rolling around while you are pushing lumber through it and so the wheels must retract enabling the saw to rest on its cabinet base on the floor.

        Some of the nicer tablesaws have the caster wheels permanently mounted inside the cabinet so they are never seen and are never in the way. A foot pedal controls raising the saw up into the mobility position and then lowering it back down onto the floor. If your tablesaw does not have this feature, after-market mobility bases can be purchased as needed.

BUILDING AN OUTFEED TABLE

          The ideal solution is to have enough shop space so that you will never have to move your tablesaw around at all. In this situation, you can construct an outfeed table to support large work pieces and long lumber as they leave the back edge of the tablesaw table. Ideally, depending on space available, you should build this outfeed table so that it extends eight feet or more in back of the blade. You can use the space underneath the table for lumber storage and/or drawer space. The table can also serve as a work bench for the construction of large cabinets and tables. You can use it for pipe clamp glue-ups and spray painting layout, as well.

          Needless to say, the table must be exactly the same height as the top of the tablesaw table and you may need to extend the slots for the miter gauge into the beginning of the top of the outfeed table using a router with a straight bit, running along a guide board tacked down to the table. If your saw extension table extends 50 inches or so to the right of the blade, so should your outfeed table and it should extend along the entire back edge of the table saw to the left of the blade.

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