|Review by Webb||posted 01-12-2010 08:28 AM||11285 views||1 time favorited||30 comments|
I’ve had this for a few weeks now and have used it to finish up two projects. Many things to love and a few minor irritations.
The saw was an upgrade from a Steel City Hybrid (the one just before the granite and the riving knives) which is what I have to compare against.
Power and Cutting Wood
First, the SawStop is not a hybrid so off to have 220V installed; wish I had done that sooner – I also rewired the bandsaw and nothing has tripped since. The plug is a ‘standard’ – turns out the US is insane with 220V plugs – there are a good dozen or so of the darned standards so if you want an extension lead just give up and make one. I was raised in Africa where the christmas tree lights are 220V so I don’t get what the big deal is. The electrical contractor installed a 20A circuit but installed a 30A receptacle. You try working with that at Home Depo. Anyway, on to the saw.
The cut power is a joy. The Steel City was underpowered (I concur with other reviewers in that regard) and struggled easily with 8/4 stock that had the slightest tendency to bind the blade – I cannot count how many times it bogged down and tripped the circuit. The new saw just chews up anything I throw at it; still adjusting to the power and feed rate – I burn stuff easily on this saw if I don’t keep things moving. I also changed away from a narrow kerf blade which worked well, but two frustrations – first, the kerf was not exactly 1/8” so computing stock loss was a little harder, and second the top was not flat so I had to use the dado stack for many situations where I would rather just cut two or three grooves quickly with the already installed blade.
The saw is smoother and much quieter than the steel city despite (or because) it has a more powerful motor and weighs about the same (if not less). The only thing I hear is the blade – which becomes really clear when using the dado stack which is very much quieter than a 10” blade since the teeth move much slower. Both saws used ‘poly-v belts’ though the SC used only one.
Wood is cut precisely, cleanly and with no fuss. And at a high feed rate which is a little scary. You can stop reading now if that is all you need to know. Go buy it; it works well.
The assembly is as described in other reviews; I have no quibbles – nothing sloppy and I could find no errors. The only irritant was the installation of the mobile base which is not up to the main saw’s standards of instruction – it is kind of fiddly and the pictures were not quite “3D” enough for me and I had to backtrack and redo a bit (the wheels would not lower when I was done).
Leveling stuff is a hated task no matter the situation, but it was not too bad with this one. The steel city had setscrews but I think the SawStop was easier – possibly because of the overall precision of the fit.
Nothing needed adjusting; the fence is luck though since the fence references off the front bar that you position yourself so it should generally be expected to be adjusted.
There are some uncommon adjustments that are possible with this saw; since I plan to keep it long after my baby graduates college I may need to tweak them someday but for now I’m happy with them being accurate.
After installation, I had to move the saw. I had the blade-guard in its holder and it snagged on my outfeed table when I moved it. Fortunately, the accessory holder committed hari-kiri to save the guard from damage. A call to customer service to order a new one with a credit card at the ready. First, the phone got picked up by a human on the second ring. Had me quite confused. Then I got transferred – no hold, just another person – I don’t even think it rang. He looked up the part, commiserated with my silly error and said one would go out UPS that day no charge. All told, it took 5 minutes, was completely pleasant and professional and I could not possibly think of any way they could have done it better.
All other minor quibbles aside, this put the saw at 5 stars – not being nickel and dimed for a $2 plastic part on a $3000 tablesaw and having that be the up-front position of the company was stunningly refreshing. Some would charge $35 for the part and $25 for the shipping and handling and then make you wait 6-8 weeks for delivery. I think I’ll keep the saw.
Overall, I like the fence, but I think I preferred some aspects of the steel city fence – notably the high molecular weight plastic faces and the position of the rear rest. The SawStop rests on the table surface which makes for an uneven motion – it is more slick over the formica extension table than over the cast iron table. The steel city has a foot at the back that glides over the rear rail – I might get energetic at some point and put one on myself.
The faces of the SawStop are 1/2” plywood (with a slick cover – formica I assume). The face of the fence was not entirely flat either – found that out checking it was perpendicular to the table. Overall, close enough – the blade matters more of course.
The fence has a bit of slop though that is somewhat optional – you can tune how close it is to the saw which reduces it at the risk of overdoing it and impeding the easy slide :-). The manual has 1/16” between the fence and the table which is quite large – I did 1/32” which keeps it from moving about but could probably do tightening further. I compensate by pulling it toward me every so slightly when shifting it which keeps it completely slop free so I doubt I’ll ever get around to it.
The fence stays locked in place and keeps its alignment so it is good overall.
This is a rather elaborate device and has some features I just don’t get. First, the pawls – they have a latch to keep them out of the way – you need to use them to get the insert out or it sticks (minor) but you also have to use them inserting the guard or else they will snap down inside the guard area (see picture if it uploads ok). This requires you to remove the entire guard and tuck them away. I’m sure if I bring the blade to the top each time this would not be a problem – so I think I’ll live with this :-). Not huge once you get used it but it adds to the ‘why don’t I just use the riving knife which is very cool instead’ feeling I got in the beginning.
Secondly, the guard has a ‘feeler’ that sticks out in front to keep you from putting stock through that is thicker than the blade is high by accident. You have to pop it up out of its latch to get the insert out though. The kicker is that it comes setup – and the manual confirms – 5-7mm above the height of the blade. So what is the point – I really don’t get it – the stock is going make it or not – 5mm too high may as well be 5”. I must be missing something obvious here. It also gets in the way of making narrow cuts.
Overall the guard is overly fiddly in my opinion, however there is an up side. The dust collection is wonderful – I use it whenever I can just because I’m trying to see if I can get a completely dust-free cut :-). Sure saves the saw surface building up dust as I make cut after cut – it all goes out the back. Love it. But I’m probably going to remove that feeler thing soon.
Changing blades requires checking (and adjusting in my case) the calibration between the blade and the brake. The tool is magnetically attached wherever you put it on the side of the saw so you at least don’t have to hunt for a screwdriver or allen key. I’m changing from a Forrest WWII (ATB-R grind) to an 8” dado stack – I was prepared to saw the brake which is a nit – more trouble removing an arbor nut – but the forrest and my dado stack conspire to require the adjustment be done every time I change between them. Oh well, the blade has a flat top so for minor one-off groves I can just use the blade now. Love that blade in case you cannot tell.
The insert is much wider than the Steel City which made me careless and I dropped the arbor nut for the first time ever. This is more of a pain than on the SC since there is a dust shroud which takes the nut into the dust collection system so you cannot just open the motor cover and dig around – and my dust collection runs under my outfeed table so I shall definitely be more careful in future. The arbor nut is huge and beefy btw and the wrenches are large and nicely angled so you don’t ever feel your knuckles are going to meet in the middle. I never felt that way before, but now that it is not a problem it feels like I must have felt that way – I like them a lot.
The extension table is better than I thought; the formica stuff is actually nice – I thought I would hate it. It scratches up easily (see pic), but not as badly as I expected and it does not seem to affect how slick it is.
I really appreciated the positioning of the bracing under the tabletop – it is perfectly positioned for installing a router plate. The steel city had wood bracing in all the wrong places and I had to cut through some of it. Accidentally. With a carbide router bit. Through a screw. Bad words happened.
The top is made from what I can only describe as high-quality MDF. Is there such a thing as HDF or is that hardboard? Anyway – this stuff acted like wood when I cut it (except for the fine dust crap) rather than ‘some wierd stuff covered by paper’.
Like almost all extension tables I’ve seen the legs are functional and that’s all you get. I saw a Powermatic custom job once that had a 150lb metal leg thing but the rest are all just two spindly little steel legs that hold up the extension table. I’ve had a nice cabinet/router house thing in mind for years now – someday I’ll get to it. After all the other projects.
The new saw is definitely just more refined in every measure than the old one was – subtle, but you ‘feel’ it after a while. Similar to using Apple hardware – subtle things that add up. Every item fits precisely (not just the parts you assemble) – that I think is the real reason it runs so smoothly – this saw is lighter than much of the competition so it is not just ‘overkilled’ with cast iron like the ICS – there is more to it than that. The trunnion raises and lowers at exactly 1/8” for each turn of the wheel, and it does it smoothly – not really advertised much but it adds to a subtle attachment to the tool and for a lot of work, knowing that is quite handy (thought to be honest I have not used that knowledge yet :-)).
I love this saw – it is the first power tool that has that indefinable feel to it that good hand tools do (I’m a recent convert to the Lie-Nielson fan club) – it is not one or two well executed things, it is everything that is well executed, with a few minor quibbles – they don’t count going up against that much precision.
Sorry for the long-winded review. I’ve been keeping a pad in the shop for the last few weeks jotting down notes so it adds up :-). Then again, people don’t buy saws as often as cars (and those are expensive – really expensive – they they have pesky ongoing costs too) so hopefully somebody will find my opinions useful or at least interesting while deciding on their purchase.
I hope to never review the brake. So far, despite some other internet comments, I have not had an urge to fling my fleshy bits recklessly at the blade given the safety blanket nor has it randomly fired trashing my blade and my shorts.