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Help me choose my first table saw!

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Blog entry by Jonathan posted 01-28-2010 05:09 PM 2521 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As you can read by the title, I do not have, nor have I ever owned a table saw. And I think it’s about time I acquired one. I have a project I will be starting of built-in bookcases with a faceframe and doors, plus an adjoining mantel that I feel will be a heck of a lot easier to complete if I have a table saw for the task. That project is here http://lumberjocks.com/JonathanG/blog/13322 if you would like to give any input, advice or thoughts on that.

(Beginning here, the next three paragraphs were copied/pasted from the other thread.)
I have been looking at tablesaws for a while now and trying to figure out what will work best for my situation. I don’t want to get some little cheapo saw with sloppy parts to try and fill the bill for now. If I’m going to get one, I might as well get something that is accurate and that I’m not fighting with every time I need to use it, as that will only cause frustration and make it harder to commit to a project.

I had been seriously looking at the Bosch 4100-09 for a couple of reasons. The first reason is it’s portability. This would make it easy for me to store it in the basement, or possibly in the garage without taking up a lot of room and making it easy to move outside when I need to use it. The second reason is due to the fact that, in the fairly near future, I may begin fixing-up houses with my dad and this saw would be an excellent jobsite saw that would deliver the portability and maneuverability in an accurate package.

With those two things being said, I am beginning to feel that the Bosch 4100 is a bit of a compromise between the two worlds of house flipping and home woodworking. At first, I thought that would be a compromise I could live with. However, I’m not sure I am willing to compromise on a tool that will inevitably be the cornerstone of my little home shop?

It appears to be a pretty accurate saw that is consistent and straightforward. However, it is obviously fairly limiting with the size of the table, and the extension outfeed and sidefeed seem to be a bit of a joke, at least compared to a regular table on something that is not-so-portable. But then again, that’s part of the trade-off.

I do have a budget here and am not sure in the future how much use this saw will get. Don’t get me wrong, it will definitely be used on more than this project, that’s for sure. I’m just not sure I’ll be using it every single week (and certainly not everyday), at least, not at this point in time. With that being said, I do feel like I might be getting in to woodworking more in the future.

So, as much as I’d love to go run out and pick-up a Delta Unisaw or a Powermatic. We definitely need to keep this under $1K here, and if possible, more in the $500-$700 range. For instance, a hybrid is pushing the budget, not to mention I’ll probably need to move this thing around from time-to-time, and possibly up and out of the basement, so 350-400 pounds sounds like a lot more a chore than 250-pounds or whatever the average contractor-style saw weighs.

I’d love to keep this out in the garage, but alas there is no room (although there is 220v… argh!); the 4100 is the only viable option for storing in our cramped, old 2-car garage. We might eventually enlarge it, but that’s a whole other story. That means this saw will reside in a corner of the basement. And I will be hooking it up to a shop vac with a HEPA filter, at least for now. I do not have 220v in the basement. I definitely need to be able to move this thing around, as we will be building-out the basement sometime in the next couple of years.

Obviously there will be a bit of compromising here, and I suppose there is compromise with any saw choice, even if money were no object… size, weight, power needs (a relative easy fix, but still a factor), ease of use, ruggedness and reliability, etc., etc.

Alright guys and gals, time for your 2-cents. Fire away!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."



18 comments so far

View Pete_Jud's profile

Pete_Jud

424 posts in 2500 days


#1 posted 01-28-2010 06:05 PM

I had the 4100 and it was a good saw and the fence was also great but I outgrew it. I think that it is top in class as a contractor style saw, but I sold it on craigslist and bought a used jet 700 lb cab saw for not much more than the 4100. Good luck.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View john200's profile

john200

25 posts in 1797 days


#2 posted 01-28-2010 06:13 PM

Well here comes my 2-cents: I agree with your situation you will need a saw that is portable and being you don’t have 220v a contractor saw is probably your best bet. When I got into woodworking about 5-6 years ago I had limitation on what kind of TS I could use. After much research I finally decided on the Ridgid TS3650.
It is considered a contractor type TS, is within your price range and requires only 120v.

I would suggest before you purchase any TS, you get a hold of the book entitled “The Table Saw Book” by Kelly Hehler produced by The Taunton Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56158-426-6. This book will take you through the anatomy of a TS, buying a TS, TS blades, safety, TS set-up and maintenance and all the things you can do with a TS. I think it is the best book I ever bought. And by happen-stance the Ridgid TS3650 is on the front cover of this book. Go figure?

The one thing I would add with regard to this Ridgid TS is it comes disassembled and there are critical steps in the assembly process. The manual is well written ( I have a copy on Adobe if you are interested ) and in conjunction with The Table Saw Book, you shouldn’t have any trouble in assembly- just take your time.

With this saw, you will need to consider purchasing some options: Dado Blade Insert, Zero-Clearance Insert, Miter Gauge Hold Down, and of course a variety of blades.

I hope my 2-cents will assist you in this very important purchase.

John

-- John200, Vancouver, WA

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#3 posted 01-28-2010 06:15 PM

Pete,

Thanks for you input on the 4100. I’m sure it would get the job done on this project, then I’d have it for future “on-site” use if I do end up working on houses with my father.

I am also not opposed to getting something now, then selling it down the road when I’m ready for something bigger, better, nicer, whatever. It probably wouldn’t be that hard to resell a 4100, for instance, since it has a solid track record.

At this point, a cabinet saw seems like a bit much for my needs. Very nice, but very heavy too! At this point, being able to move the thing is a plus. I also have a very narrow, tight flight of stairs leading down into the basement from a little tiny landing just inside the back door that I have to take into consideration when anything goes down into, or comes up from the basement.

Keep the comments coming!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View 8iowa's profile

8iowa

1495 posts in 2509 days


#4 posted 01-28-2010 06:31 PM

While they are indispensible on the job site, I think that a contractor’s saw is not a good choice for the home shop. For making bookcases with doors you are going to need a higher degree of precision. A cabinet saw is great, if you can dedicate enough space for such a large and heavy tool.

For your limited space situation, I recommend that you look on ebay, Craig’s list, or local classified ads for a used Shopsmith 510 or 520. They often go for $500 to $1000 depending on the accessories included. The Shopsmith occupies 12 sq. ft. and could be used either in your basement or garage. A little over 11% of Shopmith users work in 100 sq. ft. or less.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View WWilson's profile

WWilson

104 posts in 1810 days


#5 posted 01-28-2010 08:03 PM

Hi Jonathan – The Bosch TS is a good one for sure. FWW recently rated it the best out of all the portable saws they looked at. Don’t forget that you can get a lot more mileage out of a TS with good jigs. A cross-cut sled is probally the first thing you should build once you get the TS. I never cut sheet goods > 24” wide on my TS (I have an old 70’s Craftsman contractor style saw). I use my shopmade cross cut sled all the time and wouldn’t be without it. I also upgraded to an Incra miter gage (the most basic one) and that was the best $60 I ever spent. Make sure you also spend a few bucks on a good combo blade. That will play a major role in the quality of your cuts. Threre is a lot of good input on LJ’s about that topic. I say go for the Bosch due to its portability (and price) and if you find you need more saw upgrade then. Enjoy!

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#6 posted 01-28-2010 09:10 PM

Does anyone on here have (or had in the past) a Powermatic 64a? If so, what are your thoughts on this TS? Or maybe you’ve used one, or know someone who has one? Pros/Cons? Any particulars on this model at all?

I found one on Craigslist for $450. The only information I have on it is that the top is a little rusty because it was left near an open window and got “a little rain on it,” but “is still totally flat,” according to the poster. It also comes with an unnamed dado set. The person says they just don’t use it and that they can use the extra space in the garage. Maybe this is a good opportunity to pick up a nice saw that would normally be out of my price range?

It is about a 2.5-hour drive from me, and into the Colorado mountains, so I’m only going to make the trip all the way out there if this saw is worth it, and if it will fit in my Jeep Cherokee. I am wondering how many pieces/sections I can break it down into, not only to get it to fit into my vehicle, but also to be able to take it down the tiny staircase leading into my basement? I am certainly not going to try and wrestle a 343-pound saw down those stairs, even with the help of others.

I am going to send the seller an email to make sure it is still available. I also would like to get a picture or two of the saw and find out what the dado set is. I have several questions regarding if it comes with a 30” or 50” fence and/or any other accessories. How old is it? How much use has it seen? Have they owned it since new?

What else should I ask?

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#7 posted 01-28-2010 11:32 PM

I also found a Powermatic IIII Artisan 63 on Craigslist for $550. It looks like it is in good shape and supposedly has been used “very little,” whatever that means. Not sure if it is left or right tilt?

Here’s the posting with the picture:
http://cosprings.craigslist.org/tls/1536672233.html

Anybody have any experience with this model, or know anything good or bad about it? Anything to be aware of with this saw?

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View kansas's profile

kansas

155 posts in 2449 days


#8 posted 01-29-2010 02:02 AM

I had a Bosch for a while. Worked quite well for a while but then started giving bearing trouble and after two sets finally burned up something electrical. Had lots of power and seemed plenty accurate but I got tired of fixing it.

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#9 posted 01-30-2010 04:26 PM

Heard back from the guy up in the mountains with the PM 64a. There is only light surface rust from the picture. And the saw also comes with a nice mobile base and the dado set is an Amana tool, 8”, 46 teeth, 5/8” bore. He said it was a 36-inch fence, but I thought the 64a was either a 30-inch or 50-inch fence?

Sounds like he only used the saw for one or two projects. He bought it new 6-7 years ago.

Here are a couple of pictures:
PM64a
PM64a rust

This seems like something that would be an excellent saw, not only for the price ($450), but also for a solid piece of machinery I don’t think I’m going to be saying, “I wish I would’ve…” after buying it. And if it truly is almost-new with so little useage, it seems like a bargain at this price, especially since it comes with the Amana dado set and mobile base. Although it’s not in the picture, he’s still got the blade guard too.

I certainly don’t have a problem putting in a little elbow grease to clean that rust up.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to get up there until Monday, as I have to work today and tomorrow, and it’s going to be about a 5-hour roundtrip drive, plus any time I spend looking at the saw, loading it, and chatting with the guy. And that’s assuming I don’t hit any bad weather. If I do, at least I’ll have a few hundred extra pounds in the back to hold the tail end down!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#10 posted 02-02-2010 03:51 PM

I picked-up the table saw yesterday.

Right now, it is sitting in my garage. My dad (thanks Dad!) came over last night and helped me unload it. I think I’m going to put it in the basement instead of the garage. It’s going to be a bear though getting it down there. However, in putting it down there, it should get more use since it’s in a temperature-controlled environment, something our uninsulated, detached garage is not!

The surface rust is super-light. A Scotchbrite pad will probably take it off without any issues. Then it’s time for a fresh coat of wax!

I’m super excited about this saw! Now I have no excuse on getting the built-in bookcase and mantel project up and going.

Quick question:
Would you stick with the factory belt, or upgrade it to a red link? I want this thing to purr.
I’m going to start looking at thin kerf blades too. Just looking for now. I have no immediate plans to be running 12/4 through it just yet.

I’m also already trying to figure out how to get some weight down on the base to steady it up a bit, as it is a bit tippy. Putting any weight near the far right edge causes the saw to tip. I’m thinking about somehow attaching a weight plate down on the left side of the base. Thoughts on this?

Now I need to start looking into dust collection, especially since it’s going to be in the house. For now, I think I’m going to cut a piece of plexiglas (or maybe thin plywood) to enclose the back of the saw as best I can, then just hook it up to the shopvac for now.

Thanks for all the votes of confidence on the Bosch 4100. That is at the top of my list for when we start remodeling houses. I think it’ll be the best choice on that front.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#11 posted 02-05-2010 06:03 AM

So much for NOT wanting a contractor saw! My dad, friend Brad and I wrestled the beast down the steep and narrow tight passage-of-a-stairwell last night.

“I don’t want a 300+pound saw,” (or whatever I said a short time ago)! I guess I missed the mark on that one.

Secretly, the good thing is, maybe now I can add an in-the-house workshop to our basement plans. We do have a little extra room down there, but not much. It’s not enough room for a shop, but more like a cramped project room. Where the saw is now, and the workbench will be moved to, we had originally planned on putting a guest bedroom. I think that might have to be changed now.

That’s OK though because I’ve been looking at Murphy beds lately, so that might be a nice alternative. Not putting it in the project room/shop area, but maybe incorporating it into the larger, family room area at the other end of the basement. It’s only going to be used a couple of times a year, so I’d rather dedicate the floor space to an indoor work area.

I hope my wife will take kindly to this idea. Guess it’s time to ask what she might want me to build, other than the bookcase/mantel project I’m getting ready to tackle.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View tbshop's profile

tbshop

11 posts in 1771 days


#12 posted 02-14-2010 04:11 AM

Just bought a very clean PM 63 for $300. I think I got a good deal. Heard it run, ran a few boards thru it, cross and rip cuts and everything seemed OK except it seemed a bit noisier than I thought it should be. Got it home, had to remove the stand, fence rails and motor to dolly it to the basement. Upon further inspection, it seems the bearings on the elevation drive shaft to be the source of the excessive noise. There was no manual with the saw, so I don’t know if replacing the bearings is something I can do. If I remove the shaft, will the bearings come out on their own or are they pressed into place? Hence my question, DIY or find a PM repair facility? Thanks for any sugestions. This is my first post, I think I’m going to like it here!

-- tbshop

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#13 posted 02-14-2010 07:00 AM

You were at least wise to remove as much as you could before carting it downstairs. All we did was take the stand off. Left the motor, rails, everything on. I wouldn’t do that again. Would definitely at least remove the motor next time.

Sorry to hear about the bearings.

Since my saw didn’t come with the manual either, I began searching for a copy on the net. I found a good website here that has all sorts of manuals you can download in PDF format. I just checked though and it doesn’t look like they have the 63 manual available.

Maybe a quick Google search will turn up a downloadable version for you to save and/or print out?

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View tbshop's profile

tbshop

11 posts in 1771 days


#14 posted 02-14-2010 05:08 PM

Thanks Jonathan, I feel your pain! I measured my door opening then the width of the saw…OOPS! NO GO Time to remove some things. Even with the motor, rails and stand removed and strapped to the dolly she was a beast for this 61 yr old! Not as young as I used to be I guess!
I did find a manual available from OzarkWoodworker.com for $15+S&H. I’d be thrilled if I could find one to download for free! I’m just guessing here that the bearings on the arbor shaft should allow quite a bit of freewheel after a good finger spin. These get maybe 3 or 4 rotations then stop. There’s no grinding sound but they do sound rough. I can see how they come out, I just don’t kmow if they’re pressed in, which would require a press to remove them and reinstall them. Thanks again Jonathan

-- tbshop

View Jonathan's profile

Jonathan

2605 posts in 1798 days


#15 posted 02-14-2010 06:52 PM

tbshop,

You might also try contacting JET/Powermatic directly. Maybe they can provide you with a link to a downloadable copy?

I did end up getting all the rust off the top. It wasn’t too hard as it was surface rust. I bought a grey scouring pad that is supposed to mimic #1 steel wool, then got out my random orbit sander. I sprayed on generous amounts of the Empire Manufacturing TopSaver that I purchased at Rockler. That stuff is pricey at $18/bottle! I still have most of the bottle left though. If there’s any rust, you could try using mineral spirits as well. After I was satisfied with the condition of the top, I applied, then buffed out the Johnson Paste Wax.

I also did replace the belt with a PowerTwist Plus V-Belt (red link belt). I had to remove a number of links before installing it. Got that for $30 (on sale) at Rockler. I did also seem them online at WoodCraft for $25 (on sale).

I was thinking about buying a nice Freud blade, but had a 20% off coupon for Rockler, so I bought a Forrest Woodworker II blade. I thought about going with a thin kerf, but decided against it, as the guy I spoke with at Rockler had a similar JET 1.5hp TS and said he only ever uses a thin kerf blade if he’s got some really high-end wood that he doesn’t want to waste any more of than he has too when cutting it.

I have yet to cut any wood (other than the couple of test pieces I ran through it before purchasing). I want to make sure I’ve got everything dialed-in for square cuts and to prevent kickback.

I might eventually get a set of turned steel pulleys too. I’m sure that as the saw sits right now, it will be more than adequate.

Have you tried posting an open-ended question about the bearings in the general forums? Might give that a shot if you haven’t already done so.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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