|Review by TheBossQ||posted 01-15-2011 05:44 PM||12340 views||1 time favorited||28 comments|
- Steel City 35990G 10-inch 1-1/2 HP Granite Top Contractor Saw
- Brand: Steel City | Category: Tablesaws
The original purpose of this review was to review, in detail, the Steel City 35990G table saw from a first hand user point of view. In the end, I ran into a couple of problems that I just could not put aside. I hope you find the review helpful if you are considering this saw.
Purchase & Shipping
My wife purchased this saw as a Christmas present. Purchased from Amazon, shipped by freight (Pilot). Pilot missed the delivery date, but delivered the next day and the package looked to be in good shape.
Opening the box reveals excellent packaging. The saw is completely encased in foam and everything is packed quite tightly. Typical shipping rigors would do nothing to harm the contents. It would have to be dropped off a dock or fork lift to sustain any damage.
Hardware and Assembly
After un-boxing all the contents, I took to skimming the entire manual. It contains the typical safety information, as well as operation and assembly instructions.
The main cabinet is already assembled, which houses the center table, trunions and motor.
The instructions for assemby could be a lot better. To give you an example, the very first step in the manual is “1. Turn the table saw side lay.” The instructions would seem to be written by two people. One of them doesn’t write in English very well.
The instructions are incorrect in multiple places for assembling the base. Specifically, the instructions direct you to use incorrect hardware for certain steps. (e.g. specifying a carriage bolt when an allen bolt is needed, to use washers and a nut in a spot where there is already a welded nut or to use M8 hardware when it clearly calls for M6).
Once past the confusing instructions for the base, things get a little better. Note that anywhere something is bolted to the granite table, there is a threaded insert in place.
I put the cabinet on the base and then bolted the granite wings to the cabinet. The instructions tell you there is no need to level the wings to the main table, as it was already done at the factory. Of course I checked this with a 24” precision straight edge. They have a very different definition of “close enough” than I do. The left wing, at a bit past the middle was nearly .020 lower than the center table. The right wing was much better at about .005. A couple of adjustments on each side with the leveling screws brought everything to about .002 or less across the entire assembly.
Next, I installed the fence. First up was the bracket. Noting that I had already had hardware issues, this part had me stumped for a bit. The allen bolts that the instructions called for would not thread into the table, but hex head bolts would. A visual inspection of the two bolts shows they are exact matches in their coarse thread and thread pitch. I finally decided to run a tap through the threads and that must have cleared something, because the allen bolts zipped right in and the bracket was on. Next, was the front rail. Some allen bolts were missing. There should have been a total of eight. There were six. I made use of the six I had and bolted the rail to the bracket. I then bolted on the rear rail and set the fence onto the rails.
Everything else was self explanatory. Switch, riving knife, blade, dust chute, dust port, caster assembly, etc. all bolted up no issues.
Fit and Finish
Some notes on the granite table. The three sections of granite are pretty flat. I could not easily slip a .001 feeler gauge under the straight edge on any part of any of the three table sections. I couldn’t force a .002 anywhere. The granite top is very smooth. The 45 degree chamfers around the table are a bit rough. I’m probably nitpicking that, but all in all, the table seems pretty decent.
The standard insert is metal, held in place by magnets and it’s garbage. It’s only useful for its dimensions to pattern route MDF ZCI blanks. The riving knife is difficult to install and difficult to remove, but seems well aligned from the factory.
The saw is pretty heavy. Pilot invoice said 370 pounds. Minus about 10 pounds of packaging … whatever the final weight, it’s got some heft. The retracting caster makes it pretty easy to move around. I would prefer two retracting casters for better balance while moving it, but it’s good enough.
Coming from a job site saw (Ryobi) with a joke of a fence, this fence is an improvement. That being said, it’s not that great. It locks down solidly, but there is far more deflection than you would expect from a T Square style fence. It’s 99% tied to the split rail, because it’s plain to the see that the rail is deflecting, and not the fence itself. The bracket for the rail is short and doesn’t support the end of the rail. This fence would get me through several projects, but would eventually be scrapped for a real fence.
Here, you can see the split rail and the very short bracket.
Electrical requirements: The manual is flat out wrong when it comes to the electrical. It claims the saw is wired for 240 from the factory. It is wired for 120. Steel City confirmed that and is correcting the manual. I rewired the motor for 240, which is very easy as the diagram on the access panel is very clear. I ran a dedicated 240 receptacle into my garage and recapped the power cord with the matching plug.
Did the usual set up of ensuring everything is square to the miter slots. During the first cut into some pine scraps with a brand new Freud blade, it was clear there was something wrong. The pine wanted badly to climb the blade, I could feel the blade wanting to kick the pine back and it just didn’t want to cut. I shut the saw off and as the motor spun down, the whole thing shuddered to a stop. Amid the saw dust I managed to create was some black smoke. Typical of a slipping belt. The manual and tech support claim the belt is tensioned at the factory, no need to tension.
I cleared off the top, opened the side panel, start/stop the saw and it’s obvious there is something wrong with the belt. There isn’t enough tension and it’s not possible to tension it any further. The belt is tensioned via a pivot pin and bolt/nut type bracket on the motor. Loosening the bolt/nut on the mounting bracket showed the bolt is already in contact with the end of the slot in the motor bracket. The belt is clearly too long.
Here you can see that the end of the slot in the motor bracket, under the weight of the motor alone, already extends past the bolt hole. In order to get the bolt in, you have to lift the motor, taking all tension off the belt.
With the weight of my hand slightly tensioning the belt, the slot in the bracket is WELL past the bolt hole. This belt will never work.
It’s either a quality control issue, or a poor design issue. Steel city says it’s the first they’ve heard of it and they’ll get back to me. Well, I doubt they will call me back, so I already sourced a replacement belt. It comes with a 170 J 6, and I found a local company that has a 160 J 6 for $15.00. They are half that on the internet, but I want to use the saw, so I picked it up.
The new belt is too small.
New belt fits just inside the old belt.
While lifting the motor to get the smaller belt on, the motor contacts the trunion. My wife with her small hands managed to wrangle the smaller belt on (my wife is awesome).
You can see how close the motor is to the trunnion assy.
I tensioned it and gave the saw a try again. This time the saw was cutting no problem. There is less of a shudder on the start/stop, but it’s still there. I am thinking the arbor and motor pulleys are in less than perfect alignment. The belt jumps when you start the saw and shudders even worse while the blade is spinning down. It might pass a nickel test with the saw already running, but not a chance during a start/stop.
I decided to grab the included miter gauge and try a couple cross cuts. I couldn’t even get through the first cut as the miter bar became pinched toward the last third of the miter slot. The miter slot is uneven from front to back. Since the seams in the table are located in the miter slots, technically the slots are adjustable. So I loosened the bolts holding the table and attempted to adjust the table so that the front of the slot closed and the rear opened a bit. No dice. There are locating pins in the main cabinet that insert into holes drilled in the bottom of the table that locate the wing’s position on the cabinet. There is very little wiggle room and not enough to correct the issue with the miter slot. It’s the straw that has broken this saw’s back.
Here you can see the locating pins. These slide into a couple holes drilled in the bottom of the table. They do a good job of poorly locating the table.
Couple more pics:
Didn’t notice this large gap in the access panel when I was assembling. Probably won’t help with dust collection.
From the bottom, during disassembly.
Steel City tech support was fairly easy to reach, but ultimately not knowledgeable of the product. The guy said he had never seen the saw up close and hadn’t seen it since “Atlanta”. He did the typical run around thing … blamed my 240 circuit (it’s 248 volts as measured with my DMM). As the pictures demonstrate, the stock belt is clearly too long.
Steel City uses decent quality materials combined with poor workmanship and tech support that can’t help. The issues were just too many to justify keeping the saw. I can work through assembly issues. I can’t work through basic operation and fitment issues that defeat the purpose of the saw. Regarding the problem with the belt, Steel City has not called me back and probably never will. I’ll either save some money to add to the refund Amazon will issue and buy a higher dollar saw, or scour craigslist on a daily basis. I just missed out on a $500.00 Unisaw, so I’ll cross my fingers and hope something good comes up.