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My New Old Table Saw

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Blog entry by EEngineer posted 07-12-2008 04:27 PM 8556 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have been woodworking for a while now. For years I used an old 8” craftsman saw. You can see a photo of it under my shop photos.

I put a lot of wood through this saw and it always just worked – sometimes with a lot of effort. The fence system was always painful. I adjusted and fussed and played with it and it was never quite right. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the circular marks where I always clamped the far end of the fence with a C-clamp to keep it from moving. When I bought the saw that mark was already there so I don’t think the fence was much good right out of the factory. It was underpowered with only a 1/2 HP motor. The table was small, limiting the size of what I could cut. I could cut up 4’ X 8’ sheets of plywood but it was always a circus involving several friends, auxiliary tables/stands and lots of cussing. I took to buying 2X4 sheets because that was all I felt I could handle safely by myself. The arbor was a non-standard 1/2” and limited my choice of blades. Towards the end, I was using 7 1/4” circular saw blades because that was all that was readily availble in my area. Most of the time I still had to use a bushing to match a 5/8” arbor hole to my 1/2” arbor.

The last straw came early last summer when I was building drawers for my router table (someday I’ll blog about the router table – another case of serendipity). Along with the continual fence fighting that I was now used to, I simply could not get a smooth cut on the 3/4 plywood I was sawing up for drawer fronts! I finally tore the entire saw down to fix it. The bearings were shot. The arbor pulley had worked itself loose and, since it wasn’t keyed to the arbor shaft, had spun somewhat freely and worn a groove in the arbor shaft. So I was faced with replacing the arbor shaft and bearings. Even after I did that I’d still be dealing with all the limitations of the saw that had really begun to feel constraining. Naw, time for a new saw.

Silly me – I assumed that I would be able to go out, plunk down $200 for a new saw and finish up the router table. After a quick trip to Sears, Home Depot and Lowes I returned home, shimmed up the arbor pulley on my old saw as best as I could and finished my router table drawers. Maybe I was just spoiled by working with my old craftsman so many years but everything I saw in the $100-$200 price range just looked, well – CHEAP.

I started researching table saws on the Web. It wasn’t just me; many, many peole were complaining about the general lack of quality. Of the cheap saws ($100-$200), none had ever garnered glowing reviews. They all started with statements like “Considering the amount of money I paid for this saw, it isn’t too bad…” So I started looking at the next step up.

From the contractor saws available, I really liked the RIDGID TS-3650 best: solidly built with a cast iron top, nice fence system and glowing reviews. There were just a couple of downsides. First, the price: $550 retail – by the time I added tax I was looking at $600! There was also the matter of the miter T-slots – even the most glowing reviews mentioned it as a drawback, citing difficulties in using aftermarket miter gauges. Then there were arbor problems (Google is your friend) – even though RIDGID was offering free arbor replacements, the last thing I wanted to do was plunk down $600 for a saw and then start fixing it! Towards the end of my research, there were complaints about quality control on the RIDGID saws (again, Google is your friend); poor fit, mismatched mounting holes and even tables that are warped. This will get nothing but worse as they move manufacturing to China (Google…).

In the course of checking out the TS-3650 I came across an interesting fact: the saw was made by Emerson, the same people who made Sears Craftsman table saws (at least the 10” contractor series) for 30+ years. Tracking down pictures of the RIDGID trunnions and comparing them to the Sears Craftsman trunnions (thank you, owwm.com) showed that there was virtually no difference. Even the ribs on the bottom of the cast iron table top looked identical. Now, keep in mind that was the original manufacturer of the TS-3650 saw. The Internet is abuzz with news that Ryobi will soon be making RIDGID saws. Do we have any bets that quality will remain the same after Ryobi takes over?

So,in the end, I took an entirely different tack. I started haunting Craigslist. I managed to pick up a late 60’s – early 70’s Craftsman table saw for $50 – no stand and rust on the table but the bearings in the arbor and motor were smooth and free of play and it came with two cast extensions. Following tips from the owwm.com site, I stripped the table with single-edged razor blades, removed the last of the rust with phosphoric acid and cleaned and adjusted every part of the saw. I bought a cheap tool stand at HF. It was flimsy, but I reinforced with MDF shelves. I picked up a used RIDGID AC1036 fence from Craigslist. This fence is almost identical to the fence on the RIDGID saw.

You can see a picture under my shop photos.

Total cash outlay:
Table saw: $50
Stand: $20
Fence: $85
Chemicals, abrasive pads, MDF, misc: $20

Total: $175

So for a total less than 1/3 of what the RIDGID saw would have cost me, I have almost the same saw. It doesn’t have the Herc-U-Lift mobile stand but I intend to build a mobile workstation for the saw. This will add some weight and stability to the saw since the Craftsman version with cheap HF stand is not as heavy as the RIDGID saw. The motor that came with my saw is only 1 HP, not the 1 1/2 HP that comes with the RIDGID saw. If you look hard enough, many of the old Craftsman saws came with 1 1/2 HP motors. I have yet to stall mine so motor replacement is not a priority. Adjustment has supposedly been made much easier on the RIDGID (that is, adjusting the blade parallel to the miter slots); I didn’t find adjusting the Craftsman saw to be all that difficult.

In the end, I love this saw. It cuts clean and smooth, even with the cheap Craftsman combo blade that came with it, and has plenty of power for whatever I have thrown at it over the last year. The RIDGID fence works to a full 36” right of the blade and, with router table doing double duty as an outfeed table, I now feel comfortable cutting up full 4’ X 8’ sheets of plywood myself. There’s still more I want to do to it but the saw is definitely usuable now. As I mentioned before, I want to build a mobile workstation for it – mobility is a plus in my small garage shop and I want storage for blades and fixtures right at the saw. At that time, I will also add a magnetic safety switch – the simple rocker switch that Craftsman provided is a joke. Frankly, the one I saw on the TS-3650 I don’t think much of either. I also want to add extension to the table to cover the full 36” extension of the fence – probably MDF with laminate.

If you are in the market for a new table saw, why not check out the used market? There are plenty of these used saws out there, most with very few hours. Your wallet might thank you.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"



6 comments so far

View marcb's profile

marcb

762 posts in 2392 days


#1 posted 07-13-2008 04:53 AM

Good job! But you have to be quite about the old tools. Don’t need more competition ;)

View king's profile

king

71 posts in 2666 days


#2 posted 07-13-2008 07:46 AM

Good luck with your saw.I check craiglist out. still looking, still looking ,for that buy that is, to good to be true that I just cant passup by the time I find it and call it will probably be gone.ha ha.

-- franklinalbert@sbcglobal.net

View EEngineer's profile

EEngineer

903 posts in 2332 days


#3 posted 07-14-2008 04:44 AM

Marc – I hear that, but I get damned tired of seeing all this discussion about what NEW saw is the best when the best saws have already beeen made!

King – hang in there! It took about 2 months of looking and some missed bids before I scored my saw. So what – time is money, right? How much time are you willing to spend to save money? In the end, believe me, you will have a better saw. Don’t even worry too much about getting one that needs work – parts are plentifully available on e-bay – reworked trunnions, higher capacity motors, miters, fences if those are missing. You almost cannot go wrong. Buy two saws and make one good one – the remainder will bring money on e-bay if necessary. Check out owwm.com for more info in the meantime.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View rhybeka's profile (online now)

rhybeka

373 posts in 1840 days


#4 posted 11-15-2009 02:19 PM

late to the party as usual… :) awesome deal for that saw!

I just got my first table saw two years ago for Christmas and just managed to get it together this year (thanks Dad). It’s just a Black & Decker Firestorm to get me started…obviously if it takes me two years to get it out of the box, I don’t have a lot of ‘spare’ time. I think the only thing I can add to this is – what happens if you aren’t mechanically inclined, or know anyone who is? arbors, belts, etc – mostly greek to me. Maybe that will come in time, when I have a chance to use my saw, or invest in a better one :) Props for being able to take your tools apart to fix them – that is an awesome skill :)

-- aspiring jill of all trades

View pete57's profile

pete57

134 posts in 2129 days


#5 posted 11-15-2009 11:40 PM

When I was starting out I got a table saw and a radial arm saw.
For every tool I had starting out I got books for and they are still out there with DVD’s now. Great learning tool and leads to using machines safe. I learned on a tablesaw without a guard and never have used one but if you are just starting I would suggest to use a guard. Safety first you know.

I still have the radial arm saw Old Craftsman before they started all that digital stuff that didn’t work. I got it in the mid 80’s. I have a Delta now that is a good saw and at home in my shop. I use to take the craftsman to do side jobs but now that they have all these great sliding miter saws that are 14”. Radial saws are not as popular in todays shops. a couple of members from my woodworkers guild have rockwell radials, but all seem to have miter saws. Hell I have 4 myself.

-- Humble Wood Servant

View EEngineer's profile

EEngineer

903 posts in 2332 days


#6 posted 11-23-2009 01:19 PM

rhybeka-

If I have seen further [than certain other men] it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton

I don’t know that I would have tackled this project without the examples shown by many others out there on the Web. Specifically, OWWM has examples of restorations that put my efforts on this saw to shame. I learned their techniques but some of the machines restored there just dwarf my poor little table saw. After that, it was just a matter of rolling up my sleeves and learning by doing.

I didn’t notice this post for a while because I have been heavily preoccupied with installing a new steam boiler in my house. Pretty much the same process – lotsa research to find out what questions to even ask, learning a new set of information about a specific niche of human knowledge I was only marginally aware of before, then haunting CL for just the right deal on the right-sized boiler. Then I spent many, many hours on vacation, nights after work and weekends learning new skills and working like a dog to get it plumbed in right. All with a nature-imposed deadline (winter cold weather) breathing down my neck. It sits behind me right now (my computer station is in the basement) quietly cycling on every once in a while to keep the house warm. It works perfectly so far but I will watch it this entire heating season to track down leaks, balance/tune it for maximum efficiency and performing routine maintenance. Since I designed and built it, this will be easy.

Man, I love it! I’m an engineer; it is what I do.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

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