|Review by GoBig||posted 01-02-2012 01:26 AM||10362 views||1 time favorited||13 comments|
- Steel City 35990C 10-inch 1-1/2 HP Cast Iron Contractor Tablesaw
- Brand: Steel City | Category: Tablesaws
I’ll start with a little background. This saw is listed as a hybrid saw, supposedly somewhere between a contractors saw and a cabinet saw. When compared to my previous table saws (a 1980’s craftsman contractor and a 5 hp unisaw) I’d saw it is a true hybrid. I decided to replace the unisaw when I had to move across the country.
I wanted a saw that worked well, had guards, and could easily be moved around a two car garage. I might get yelled at for this but I didn’t see much difference between the contractor saw and the unisaw. I bought both used and had to tune them both up. I would hope that a new unisaw comes perfectly tuned, but can’t saw from experience. The unisaw was easier to tune up but a contractor saw with PALS is not bad either. I meticulously tune up my table saws and get good results with them. The last thing that I wanted was a riving knife. I had a shop built one on my previous tablesaws which worked well, but got in the way for some cuts.
So what I was looking for in a new table saw was portability and a riving knife. The steel city seemed to match the bill and I got it from toolking.com for $600. Delivery was fast, it actually came before my credit card was charged. The saw was well packed and the freight truck set the pallet right in my garage. The packaging was great, no damaged parts and I started assembly. The instructions aren’t the greatest, but I didn’t have any trouble putting it together. I should mention that I’m a mechanical engineer so assembly comes naturally to me.
After assembly I fired it up, and did a few test cuts. Everything seemed alright so I got out my dial indicator to start tuning. One of the interesting things about this saw is that the extension wings mate at the miter slot, making the miter slot adjustable. This is a mixed blessing one the one hand you can adjust the miter slot, but on the other you have three pieces to align instead of one. It took me 3 hours, but I was able to get everything aligned. The nice thing about the adjustable miter track is that I could adjust it to the same as the miter track on my router table. I can’t decide if I like the adjustable miter slots or not. If you aren’t as picky as me you would probably still get good results without setting up everything to less than 0.001”.
In general the saw was exactly what I expected, and most of what I hoped for:
1) Locking caster works great and makes moving the saw very easy to move.
2) Blade guard provides excellent visibility, and is modular so the the blade guard and anti-kickback paws can be removed with the riving knife in place.
3) Riving knife rises with the blade, but is a little tricky to get to lock, I had to remove the support out of the saw and take it apart, to understand how it works. Now that it is adjusted it works great.
4) 4 inch dust port underneath the saw made it easy to hook up, but would have been nice if they included an elbow. I bought the Rockler dust right elbow which works very well.
5) Paddle switch is in just the right location to turn off with your knee.
6) Rip fence is a two part design, I wish it were one piece, but so far it has worked well.
7) The trunnions are steel or cast iron, and seem solid enough. Raising and lowering the blade are smooth and easy. The lock for the bevel angle is sometimes difficult to adjust but it does lock at the trunnion and holds the angles once set.
8) Motor is 1-1/2 hp and will cut dado’s just fine. I like that it is mounted in the cabinet and not behind the saw, it take up a lot less room.
9) There are magnets in the cast iron that hold the throat insert in place. When you make a zero clearance insert with set screws the magnets hold it nicely in place.
The local woodcraft tried to sell me the Rikon saw for $900, but it is literally the same saw with a different paint job. Woodcraft told me they had had problems with steel city customer support. I called because my miter gauge was slightly bent, they sent a new one no problem and it arrived in less than a week.
Overall I think it is a great saw for the money. The craftsman, ridgid, and porter cable saws I looked at in the same price range just aren’t as nice. It isn’t a saw stop, but that is the only feature I would add. If I ever get more room I might add a larger rip fence but the stock fence works well. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time setting up your table saw spend more money. I don’t think that you’ll find a better performing table saw for less money.