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Woodworking Tips and Resources #2: How I picked my table saw

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Blog entry by paxorion posted 01-22-2015 10:26 PM 9274 reads 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Jobsite vs Entry fullsize table saw - A detailed analysis Part 2 of Woodworking Tips and Resources series no next part

After writing a blog article describing my table saw selection criteria, I wanted to share how that train of thought helped me make an informed decision on the right table saw (for me).

Context: My reasons for replacing my Skil 3305 are documented in my previous blog post. Given a poor and negative experience with that first saw, I wanted to ensure I picked my second table saw that was appropriate for my current living situation. Due to my living situation being a townhouse with no garage, I needed a saw that could be wheeled in and out of my house, to my backyard and across several changes in elevation. This pigeonholed me into the jobsite saw category.

Contenders: The search began in the December of 2012 and lasted up until summer of 2014. My wife can tell you that not a week went by where I did not lament our decision to buy a house without a garage. Throughout that time, I came up with and evaluated a few contenders, to include the following saws:
  • Bosch 4100 (with or without stand)
  • DeWalt DW744 (with scissor stand or the mobile cart)
  • DeWalt DWE7490X and DWE7491RS (as of September 2013)
  • Ridgid R4510
  • Porter Cable PC222TS (as of March of 2014)
  • Kobalt KT1015 (as of November 2013)
Criteria: Using the criteria that I had established in my table saw analysis criteria post, I decided on weights (from 1 – 5, where the higher the weights means greater consideration) for each of the criteria to help me better rank the contenders. My logic for the weights were as follows:
  1. Fence – The fence category was by far the most important criteria and the sole recipient of a 5 weight. I also found that there was too much variability amongst the saws, with the high end jobsite saws (Bosch, Dewalt, Ridgid) each having pros and cons, warranting me to I break up the criteria into two categories of equal weight; reliable locking and resisting deflection.
  2. Ease of Alignment – Given the importance of proper alignment, I assigned a weight of 4 to this criteria. Many in-store glares (and several employee interventions when I flipped the saw upside down) were received as I assessed my level of access to the mounting bolts to adjust blade alignment.
  3. Power – When comparing all of the saws, there was little differentiation given that they all featured 15 amp motors. Therefore I opted to assign a weight of 1 to this criteria.
  4. Stability – It was hard to identify clear determining factors for this criteria. Eventually I settled on looking solely at soft start and saw weight (with and without the stand) as the determining factors for this criteria. Given the unscientific approach I was taking, I couldn’t bring myself to give a weight higher than 2 for this criteria.
  5. Safety Features – All but the latest generation of DeWalt saws featured a similar two position blade guard/riving knife design. Given the lack of differentiation (tempered with the cool factor of the latest generation of DeWalt saw providing a separate blade guard and riving knife, as well as the clever implementation of tool-free quick-release), I assigned a low weight of 2 for this criteria.
  6. Miter Channels – All of the saws I considered had standard 3/4” x 3/8” T-slot miter channels. To introduce differentiation, I considered the quality of the miter gauge included with the saw, and the likelihood that I would want to replace it immediately after getting the saw. Given the cost of aftermarket miter gauges (ranging from $50 to a lot more), I assigned a weight of 3 for this criteria.
  7. Table Size – My experience with full sized saws made me think long and hard about the importance of this criteria. My old saw had 5” of space before the blade, and knowing that even moderate jumps equate to significant differences in saw capacity, I assigned a weight of 4 for this category.
  8. Zero Clearance Insert-ability – I knew that I had a lot of sheet good projects in my future, and I wanted to get saw that would give me all the advantages I could get to avoid tearout. Therefore, this criteria received a high weight of 4, and would be assessed by (a) the availability of aftermarket ZCIs and (b) the ease by which I could make my own.
  9. Mobility – Since I was solely looking at jobsite saws, I wasn’t 100% sure how I would rate mobility. Eventually I decided on a low weight of 1, with a sole consideration on whether or not it had a wheeled mobile base, so that I could use if it so desired.
  10. Dado Stack Support – Given that 2 of the saws did not support a full ~3/4” dado stack, I had to add this criteria for versatility, and assigned a weight of 3. This criteria was also what ruled out the Bosch GTS1031 and Dewalt DW745 and DWE7480 from being contenders.
  11. Price – Price is always a factor, and received a weight of 3. Thankfully, I was able to stretch out my indecision to mean that my woodworking funds allowed me afford any saw amongst the contenders.
Considerations: I went through each category, and ranked the saws in my order of preference for each category. As I went through each category, I found that:
  1. Fence – The high end saws had mixed results. The DeWalt rack and pinion system meant reliable positioning and locking of the fence. However the Bosch and Ridgid had a more substantial fence meaning it would be better at resisting deflection. The Porter Cable and Kobalt demonstrated compromise for cost savings across the board and ranked lower.
  2. Ease of Alignment – Certain saw (open cage) designs naturally leads to greater accessibility and thereby ranked higher. Therefore the DeWalt DWE7490X and DWE7491RS got top nods, followed by the Bosch, DeWalt DW744X, and Ridgid. The Porter Cable and Kobalt scored last, by virtue of being smaller saws.
  3. Power – Given that all the saws came with 15 amp universal motors, I considered it a tie across the board.
  4. Stability – My unscientific approach led to 2 rankings. If the saw had soft start and a total tool weight coming close to 100lbs, it tied for 1st place. Otherwise, it would receive 2nd place.
  5. Safety Features – The only saw that showed differentiation in this criteria was the DeWalt DWE7490X and DWE7491RS thanks to the blade guard and riving knife design. When I first played with in at Lowes, I was sold in its user friendliness potential. Therefore, they were the 1st place contenders in this criteria, with all other saws receiving 2nd place
  6. Miter Channels – Each saw varied in the quality of the included miter gauge. The Bosch and Ridgid had the best miter gauges that I figured I could live with, whereas the other saws seemed to include a miter gauge just to check the box.
  7. Table Size – All the Bosch, DeWalt, and Ridgid saws offered similar sized main tables, and were the 1st place contenders, with the Porter Cable and Kobalt being 2nd place.
  8. Zero Clearance Insert-ability – The Bosch and DeWalt saws both ranked 1st place, thanks to the availability of aftermarket ZCIs, and a ~1/2” insert plate which meant I could make my own. The Ridgid has aftermarket ZCIs but the thin metal insert plate means extra steps (and risk of failure) in making ZCIs and therefore ranked 2nd place. The Porter Cable and Kobalt felt questionable, and therefore ranked lowest at 3rd place.
  9. Mobility – Given my criteria, all saws were 1st place if they had a wheeled mobile base, and 2nd if they didn’t
  10. Dado Stack Support – The Bosch, DeWalt, and Ridgid all support 3/4” dado stacks and ranked 1st place, with the Porter Cable and Kobalt were 2nd place.
  11. Price – With a budget of $600, I decided to tier 1st place to saws up to $300 (before sales), 2nd saws up to $500 (before sales), and 3rd for saws that border my budget ceiling. I opted to not factor in sales for this post as my Excel spreadsheet that captured rankings could be easily updated to account for price changes.

After tallying up the weight average, I came up with the following answer results.

Conclusion: It’s no surprise that the 3 top contenders were from the Bosch, DeWalt, and Ridgid. The long period of inaction proved to be invaluable as the saw I ultimately got (the DeWalt DWE7491RS) represents a rather substantial jump up, from being 3rd to 1st. The changes DeWalt introduced (specifically the blade guard with dust collection and stand alone riving knife) were significant enough value proposition advantages for me to pick them, and I hope that for the consumer and competition’s sake, other tool manufacturers (specifically Bosch) to up their game and come up with more innovation. I also picked the more expensive DWE7491RS, as a test to see how often I would need a rip capacity of over 24”, to help inform my next saw purchase (so far I’ve only needed it once).

While this saw is serving me well, I do have periods of “grass is greener on the other side with Bosch or Ridgid” thoughts whenever I feel like there is a risk of fence deflection. That really kicked in after several poor crosscuts, and I played with the numbers to account for the cost of an Incra V120 miter gauge (bringing the Bosch and DeWalt to a tie). However, after several paranoid checks for blade to fence parallelism, I am now confident that the compromise for the rack and pinion fence is worth the risk of deflection (assuming it does exist). Not to mention, I bought an Incra 1000HD which makes the bad crosscutting a distant memory.

The experience taught me a lot about my own preferences, and will help me in considering my next saw, which will hopefully be in a living situation where I won’t be constrained to a jobsite saw. Take my experience for what it is; my unique experience, opinions, and assessment. We each have our own criteria and will weight that criteria differently. In addition, some folks may be more willing to build jigs and augment a cheaper tool. At this stage in my life, time is a valuable resource that I am willing to trade (to an extent) for something that won’t require a lot of time investment to get up and running. I will also note that this saw isn’t my primary saw. While I have build projects exclusively with this saw as the primary tool, I am privileged to have access to a public pay-per-use shop (with a SawStop ICS), my guild shop (with a SawStop contractor saw with T-Glide fence), and a makerspace (with a Delta X5). Therefore, it made the decision to buy a jobsite saw for personal use easier to accept.

-- paxorion



9 comments so far

View RogueKyle's profile

RogueKyle

15 posts in 700 days


#1 posted 01-23-2015 03:28 AM

Nice write up, I really like your evaluation method being well rounded withing a category (job-site). I feel like I am in a very similar place, this is helpful. Thank you.

View TheGreatJon's profile

TheGreatJon

296 posts in 698 days


#2 posted 01-23-2015 03:33 AM

Are you an engineer? Your weighting system looks oddly similar to something I drew up to help us pick out our first kid’s name…

-- This is not the signature line you are looking for.

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1510 days


#3 posted 01-23-2015 04:19 AM


Are you an engineer? Your weighting system looks oddly similar to something I drew up to help us pick out our first kid s name…

- TheGreatJon

Maybe, but I definitely play one TV. Wait, did I get that quote wrong? Better analyze it word for word.

-- paxorion

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 951 days


#4 posted 01-23-2015 04:45 AM

I’m sure you stayed at a holiday inn express though :)

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7216 posts in 2840 days


#5 posted 01-23-2015 02:48 PM

Outstanding write-up. A must read for anyone sifting through the portable jobsite saw market.

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

View JoeinGa's profile

JoeinGa

7482 posts in 1472 days


#6 posted 01-23-2015 02:51 PM

Great write-up. Favorited so when ever I DO get around to seriously be in the market for a table saw. Thanks Pax

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1510 days


#7 posted 01-23-2015 04:29 PM



Outstanding write-up. A must read for anyone sifting through the portable jobsite saw market.

- knotscott

Thanks. I decided to move this under my tips blog, and will plan to update it as new saws are released.

-- paxorion

View rakkud's profile

rakkud

1 post in 546 days


#8 posted 06-11-2015 05:43 AM

Thanks for the excellent writeup. I have a couple of questions about the deWalt:
- do you think the blade height varies during a non-through cut? The Ridgid is the only saw in this category with a blade height lock
- how easy is it to attach a sacrificial fence? It seems like clamping something to the deWalt fence could potentially distort the fence given that it is made of thin aluminum
- does the rack and pinion mechanism show signs of wear so far?
- the Bosch seems to have a better supported throat plate (middle and corner supports compared to the corner supports in the deWalt). Have you tried making ZCIs for your saw, and do they tend to flex? The throat plate that comes with the deWalt saw itself seems to be very rigid and the best of any saw I have come across.

Thanks!

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1510 days


#9 posted 06-11-2015 01:53 PM

See answers below:


Thanks for the excellent writeup. I have a couple of questions about the deWalt:
- do you think the blade height varies during a non-through cut? The Ridgid is the only saw in this category with a blade height lock

No, there has been no sign of variation in the blade height during use.


- how easy is it to attach a sacrificial fence? It seems like clamping something to the deWalt fence could potentially distort the fence given that it is made of thin aluminum

I use the Rockler Universal Fence clamps or a low duty Irwin Quick Clamp. I do share concerns about deflection and issues on the aluminum fence so I don’t exactly dial in the pressure. So far no problems.


- does the rack and pinion mechanism show signs of wear so far?

None at all after a year of use.


- the Bosch seems to have a better supported throat plate (middle and corner supports compared to the corner supports in the deWalt). Have you tried making ZCIs for your saw, and do they tend to flex? The throat plate that comes with the deWalt saw itself seems to be very rigid and the best of any saw I have come across.

Yes, I use 1/2 MDF and batched out 10 of them in one go. I had to clear out a small channel on one side of the ZCI due to the fabric part of the dust shroud, but that was maybe 1/8th of material. No flex with the 1/2 MDF.

-- paxorion

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