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Woodworking Tips and Resources #1: Jobsite vs Entry fullsize table saw - A detailed analysis

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Blog entry by paxorion posted 01-21-2015 03:45 AM 4225 reads 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Woodworking Tips and Resources series Part 2: How I picked my table saw »

The table saw is my most used tool for woodworking. Given it’s utility in woodworking, it is arguably the tool that shouldn’t be skimped out on. Yet over the years, the question of “which table saw is right for me” question is posted time and time again by new woodworkers, with a price point that is fixed to a specific niche, between a high-end jobsite saw and the entry level full-sized (contractor/hybrid) table saws (as of the date of this post, somewhere between $500-$600).

Over the years, I’ve gone from inquirer to observer and now responder for many of these questions. Inspired by knotscott's well written The ABCs of Table Saws, I decided to put my selection experience as a resource for the community (and to avoid repeating myself).

Context: I have had the pleasure of using a variety of saws in my brief woodworking journey (5 years as of the date of this posting). Going from a low end Black Friday special Skil 3305 Table saw, to several full size saws, to include contractor (older Craftsman, Ridgid R4512, SawStop) and high end cabinet (Delta X5, Jet XactaSaw, SawStop PCS and ICS) saws. When it came time to replace my Skil table saw, I was faced with a dilemma. What is the right table saw for me. To answer that question, I spent the time to think about what my criteria is for a table saw.

Criteria: Having experience with full size saws, I was able to define my table saw criteria to the following.
  1. Fence – For the fence, I defined two selection criteria. First, I knew I wanted a good fence that locks reliably and parallel to the blade. Without a good and reliable fence, the table saw goes from a tool that has a real potential for danger to a dangerous tool with a real potential to hurt you. That’s because kickback is amplified by a fence that isn’t properly aligned, especially if it veers into the blade. Second, I knew I wanted a fence that would resist deflection.
  2. Ease of Alignment – A well aligned table saw will perform it’s job well. A well mis-aligned table saw will not only perform poorly, but also introduce the same danger for kickback. Therefore, the ability to align the saw and maintain it’s alignment settings should be high on any selection criteria.
  3. Power – Of all the saws I’ve used, I’ve been able to bog down all but the 3HP and up saws I’ve used.
  4. StabilityVibration creates danger and is the enemy of accuracy. If the saw is bouncing around, it will be hard to control your work piece (and the saw for that matter), greatly increasing the danger.
  5. Safety Features – If we go by the minimum legal requirements for new table saws, as of 2009 all new table saws sold today (thanks Underwriters Laboratories) must include a riving knife that remains in line with the blade and blade guards are required to support tool-less installation and removal.
  6. Miter Channels – Having standard sized miter channels (3/4” x 3/8”) opens up a world of after market accessories, greatly improving the options available to a woodworker.
  7. Table Size – The space before the blade is one criteria that doesn’t seem to come to mind for folks looking for a table saw. Full size table saws have a 27” table, giving them about 12”+ before the blade, 10” for the blade, followed by 5” after the blade. Jobsite tablesaws range have anywhere from 20-22” deep tables. To put it into perspective, 5” of additional table space before the blade on a full sized saw (versus the largest jobsite) translates to a significantly increased (70%) table and rip fence capacity before the blade. We’re not talking ways to augment capacity (i.e. infeed support, auxiliary fences).
  8. Zero Clearance Insert-ability – When crosscutting thin veneers and sheet goods, the right blade and a ZCI are your two best friends to fight tearout. While many popular saws have after market ZCIs, for long-term ownership and blade changes, having the ability to make your own will prove to be economical options.
  9. Mobility – This criteria takes on two forms; the mobility to regularly move it within the confines of semi-permanent home that is adequately protected from the elements (i.e. home workshop) or the mobility to regularly transport the tool to and from different locations, terrains, and elevations (i.e. storage to jobsite/workspace).
  10. Price, Time, and Mechanical Expertise – Ultimately, one has to balance the saw they want, with the monetary and time constraints, tempered with their ability to tune/refurbish the saw. Without the money, you can’t buy the saw. Without time, you can’t properly setup, tune, or refurbish a saw. Without the mechanical expertise, well odds are you’ll have to pay someone else for their time and mechanical expertise to setup your saw.

Considerations: Balancing these criteria is the challenge that any table saw prospector will likely face. My intent is not to tackle the old vs new tools or patented safety feature question. Rather, to focus on ranking of selection criteria. One must identify their non-negotiable first. For any aspiring woodworker, if one of those non-negotiable criteria is mobility to regularly transport the tool to and from different locations, terrains, and elevations, then that would fix your selection into the jobsite saw category. In my case, that flavor of mobility WAS a non-negotiable criteria, forcing me into the jobsite saw category. I wrote about my application of these criteria in another blog post, describing how I picked my saw.

If you mobility is not a non-negotiable criteria, or you have the option for mobility to move your table saw within the confines of a semi-permanent home, then it helps to know why the price point between a high-end jobsite saw and the entry level full-sized (contractor/hybrid) table saws is a matter of compromises. After doing my research, I come to the following conclusions about the compromises:

Arguments for a jobsite saw:
  1. Safety Features – Most manufacturers that make saws in this price bracket or below offer a two-position riving knife that allows the blade guard to connect onto it. As of this post, there is little differentiation between jobsite and entry-level full size saws, with the exception of the Dewalt DWE7490/DWE7491/DWE7499. That is the saw includes a separate riving knife and blade guard with dust collection.
  2. Zero Clearance Insert-ability – Manufacturers carefully balance the features they support to create differentiation. In the case of entry-level full sized saws, at the time of this post they all come with thin metal insert plates, making it difficult (albeit not impossible) to make your own ZCIs. While after market inserts are available, they can get pricey for longterm ownership and replacement. The top saws from Bosch and Dewalt both have 1/2” insert plate openings, making it easy to make your own insert plate.
Arguments for an entry-level full-sized saw:
  1. Fence – Jobsite saws with 24”+ of rip capacity tend to have a single extendable rail fence system. Entry-level full-sized table saws vary from enlarged versions of jobsite fence designs to cost reduced Biesemeyer style fence systems. While they may be more finnicky to setup thanks to most saws incorporating a split-rail designs, they tend to be better out the box, offer larger length/capacity, and allows for the of after-market replacements.
  2. Ease of Alignment – Aligning a jobsite saw varies from a magic trick (to even loosen the bolts holding the saw “trunnion” to the table to being extremely challenging based on the enclosed setup. Event the open-cage designs introduce the challenge of needing 3-4 arms to properly execute. Entry-level full-sized table saws run the gamut, and should be looked at on a case-by-case, saw-by-saw basis. Chances are, if the saw has been available for a while, the information about alignment will be well discussed and criticized on forums.
  3. Power – Comparing universal motors and induction motors are like comparing apples and oranges. Both come from trees (anyone want to cut it down for lumber) and you can eat it, but they work towards different design criteria. From my research, if you do the physics math on it, a universal motor is less efficient than an induction motor, hence the higher RPMs to compensate. It also means that amp for amp, it’s easier to bog down a universal motor than an induction motor.
  4. Stability – Dampening vibration comes down to a physics problem. If you slow down the rate that movement changes (i.e. with soft start) or increase the mass (heavier saw or affixing the saw to something heavy), you can control vibration. If you’re considering increasing the mass, the natural question to ask is, IF you’re looking at a similar price point (and I emphasize the IF) why you didn’t go with the bigger, heavier saw in the first place.
  5. Table Size – Entry-level full-sized saws offer 12”+ vs 7” of infeed space. Or to put it another way, 70% more table and rip fence capacity before the blade.

-- paxorion



9 comments so far

View EEngineer's profile (online now)

EEngineer

1061 posts in 3081 days


#1 posted 01-21-2015 11:22 AM

From my research, if you do the physics math on it, a universal motor is less efficient than an induction motor, hence the higher RPMs to compensate. It also means that amp for amp, it’s easier to bog down a universal motor than an induction motor.

Good reasoning, just a little amplification – universal motors are generally lighter and smaller than induction motors of the same capacity. That is a large part of the reason they get used on job-site saws – it just makes them lighter and easier to move.

mechanical horsepower = torque X RPM.

For two motors of identical HP:
universal motor → higher speed → lower torque
induction motor → lower speed → higher torque

Torque is what determines how easy it is to bog down the motor.

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

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7226 posts in 2843 days


#2 posted 01-21-2015 11:25 AM

You have done well Grasshopper! Excellent write up! Thanks for taking the time to share this.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

1063 posts in 1457 days


#3 posted 01-21-2015 09:13 PM

I realize this is your story and analysis (good job!!), and my comments are directed at readers who may be in a similar situation to mine – space challenged.

While any of the saws can be put on a mobile base for shop mobility, one item you did not include, and was non-negotiable for me, was what I will call “standing footprint”, meaning overall footprint of the saw with all mechanisms collapsed (such as fence rails) but nothing disassembled. As I recall from my saw search (3 years ago), non of the entry level full size saws had sliding fence rails, hence the standing footprint was 50-60 inches wide, which would not and still will not work for my situation. With the Bosch 4100 I chose (mounted on a shop made cart vs the larger Bosch stand) I can make up to 25” rip cuts and quickly collapse the rails back down. While the 12” blade lead in on the full size saws would be very nice, I didn’t find that feature on a saw with collapsing rails.

Many make a huge deal out of induction vs universal motors. While I won’t debate induction superiority, I do question the necessity. I’ve used smaller jobsite saws that would bog down, but the 4100 has not had an issue with bogging. I don’t doubt that if you jam 3” thick oak down its throat fast enough it will bog, but it has cut through 3” oak at the feed rates I use just fine. It’s also an easy enough process to align the blade – done once when new (slightly off) and has stayed in place.

View JayT's profile (online now)

JayT

4788 posts in 1679 days


#4 posted 01-21-2015 09:21 PM

Nice write-up paxorion! Good additions by EEngineer and OSU55, as well.

To continue the universal vs induction motor discussion, a couple other reasons for induction motors are longer life and much lower noise levels. That is a large part of the necessity. A universal motor is not designed to run for long periods of time, while a good induction motor will be fine with extended run times under load.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1513 days


#5 posted 01-21-2015 09:26 PM



I realize this is your story and analysis (good job!!), and my comments are directed at readers who may be in a similar situation to mine – space challenged.

While any of the saws can be put on a mobile base for shop mobility, one item you did not include, and was non-negotiable for me, was what I will call “standing footprint”, meaning overall footprint of the saw with all mechanisms collapsed (such as fence rails) but nothing disassembled. As I recall from my saw search (3 years ago), non of the entry level full size saws had sliding fence rails, hence the standing footprint was 50-60 inches wide, which would not and still will not work for my situation. With the Bosch 4100 I chose (mounted on a shop made cart vs the larger Bosch stand) I can make up to 25” rip cuts and quickly collapse the rails back down. While the 12” blade lead in on the full size saws would be very nice, I didn t find that feature on a saw with collapsing rails.

Many make a huge deal out of induction vs universal motors. While I won t debate induction superiority, I do question the necessity. I ve used smaller jobsite saws that would bog down, but the 4100 has not had an issue with bogging. I don t doubt that if you jam 3” thick oak down its throat fast enough it will bog, but it has cut through 3” oak at the feed rates I use just fine. It s also an easy enough process to align the blade – done once when new (slightly off) and has stayed in place.

- OSU55

Great point on the standing footprint. It will undoubtably matter based on an individual’s specific scenario and requirements/criteria for adequate storage.

-- paxorion

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1513 days


#6 posted 01-21-2015 09:29 PM



From my research, if you do the physics math on it, a universal motor is less efficient than an induction motor, hence the higher RPMs to compensate. It also means that amp for amp, it’s easier to bog down a universal motor than an induction motor.

Good reasoning, just a little amplification – universal motors are generally lighter and smaller than induction motors of the same capacity. That is a large part of the reason they get used on job-site saws – it just makes them lighter and easier to move.

mechanical horsepower = torque X RPM.

For two motors of identical HP:
universal motor → higher speed → lower torque
induction motor → lower speed → higher torque

Torque is what determines how easy it is to bog down the motor.

- EEngineer

Thanks for the additional piece of information. The engineer in my is enjoying this extra detail.

-- paxorion

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

1919 posts in 1783 days


#7 posted 01-22-2015 06:35 PM

Hi Paxorion,
I, like you searched for over a year and over thought every detail on many, many table saws. I even wrote an entry on LJ’s of my process.
I really didn’t want to pay the extra $1000.00 for the hot dog sensing unit. I did want certain features, and found the best bang for My buck at Grizzley. I got a full 2 HP motor instead of the 1.50 or 1.70 HP on the other saws, that was the swaying factor for me.
The fence was the highest priority, because I had limped by with a less than quality fence for years … Grrrr.
I put a Shop Fox base under this heavy saw for mobility, but it will never go to a jobsite.
I am anxious to hear what your choice will turn out to be.
Thanks for your post.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1513 days


#8 posted 01-22-2015 07:22 PM


Hi Paxorion,
I, like you searched for over a year and over thought every detail on many, many table saws. I even wrote an entry on LJ s of my process.
I really didn t want to pay the extra $1000.00 for the hot dog sensing unit. I did want certain features, and found the best bang for My buck at Grizzley. I got a full 2 HP motor instead of the 1.50 or 1.70 HP on the other saws, that was the swaying factor for me.
The fence was the highest priority, because I had limped by with a less than quality fence for years … Grrrr.
I put a Shop Fox base under this heavy saw for mobility, but it will never go to a jobsite.
I am anxious to hear what your choice will turn out to be.
Thanks for your post.

- Grumpymike

Mike, I already got the Dewalt DWE7491RS and have been using it since last summer (I believe). The entire experience was a very big long process and I learned a lot to help me with my decision process for eventually a cabinet saw (space permitting). Haven’t had the time write out my weighted selection criteria and write my rationale just yet, but as a preview, it was a very close competition between the Dewalt DWE7491RS and the Bosch 4100.

-- paxorion

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

1919 posts in 1783 days


#9 posted 01-23-2015 10:07 PM

I read the specs and sales propaganda on both saws, I can see why you say close competition.
For a Job site saw, they both look like they will do the job very well.
I’m very partial to the 220v. cabinet saw, and I like to kid my neighbor about his “toy” saw. (but they both cut wood, and that’s what it’s all about).
Good Luck with your new saw … and do it safely.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

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