|Review by colvinatch||posted 12-24-2012 04:25 PM||7660 views||3 times favorited||21 comments|
First, for what it’s worth, I have a Masters degree in functional design (woodworking) and studied under a master woodworker for 4 years. In our school shop we had large industrial 1960’s and 1970’s vintage Delta and Powermatic tools that had as much iron and steel in them as a Mack truck, so I know how a real saw is supposed to work, look and feel. Flash forward 15 years… For five years I have been using a crappy entry level ($100.00) table saw and it is simply god awful, I sandbagged it to weigh it down, this to prevent it from jumping when switched on, I re-enforced the fence, installed high quality blades for smoother better cuts and made sleds and jigs all to attempt to improve the safety and functionality of the saw. These measures were a lot like trying to fashion a silk purse from a sow’s ear, no matter what I did this $100.00 contractor saw was a cheap, noisy, under-powered entry level machine.
I decided that, given the amount of large, thick stock I was cutting, I needed a heavier, better quality saw. I did A-LOT of research, trying to keep my budget around $600.00 as it was all I had to spend at present. It quickly became apparent to me that saws in this price range are a series of compromises. If I wanted a decent entry level saw I was going to have to spend between $1000.00 to $1500.00 or accept some of those compromises.
It came down to the Grizzly versus the Porter Cable versus the Ridgid, all weighing it at between $530.00 and $700.00ish. The Porter Cable lost out immediately due to numerous online complaints about the plastic trunion gears breaking and people not being able to get replacements thereby crippling their saws. Note to Porter Cable: if you are going to make saws with plastic gears at least have a lot of replacements handy! The Grizzly looked great and I was headed that way but the Ridgid won out when Home Depot lowered the price to $499.00 AND accepted a 20% off coupon from Harbor Freight bringing the cost of the saw down to a very reasonable $400.00 plus tax.
First, this is a heavy beast, I had to use the front end loader on my tractor to get it out of the truck. Assembly was straight forward and relatively easy, it took about 4 hours all in. Lifting the saw onto its’ legs required the use of a block and tackle as the unit’s total weight is just a little north of 250 lbs.
After assembly and tuning the saw I took note of the various features and their functionality: The fence is ok, accurate enough but it has no micro-adjuster, smooth, but not smooth as silk, it is solid enough but still feels just a little flimsy and cheap. The cranks are not at all as solid and smooth as those on more expensive saws, (compromises) but they feel solid enough and work well. The blade was aligned accurately front to back with the miter slots straight out of the box (within .002), the fence alignment needed some tweaking but is now dead on with a slight tow out (.002) on the out-feed ideal for hardwood, the stamped steel wings seem cheap and should be made of cast iron, again more compromises.
When running this saw is amazingly quiet and has plenty of power, My first cut was a piece of 8 quarter cherry; with the high quality blade (a Forrester WW II) I installed on this saw and it sailed right through it without any burn, tear-out or even noticeably straining of the motor (note to beginners: the blade IS the saw, toss the one that comes with any saw and splurge on a very high quality blade, it absolutely makes a WORLD of difference in how a saw operates).
There is very little to no noticeable vibration, this saw passes the standing nickel test with flying colors. The cast iron table is solid and good enough, about .001 off being perfectly flat (again another compromise). The riving knife is fine, it should be a little thinner to work better with a thin kerf blade. The anti-kickback pawls are clumsy and look as if they will scratch the wood, I don’t like them anyway and won’t use them. The blade guard is solid and is easily removed and when re-attached properly it seems to stay put. Dust collection is excellent with a large square funnel creating the bottom of the cabinet with the bottom of the funnel being where you attach the shop-vac or dust collector hose, this could stand a 90 degree turn adapter for easier access, but that can easily be added with some PVC.
For me this saw’s best feature are the retractable casters, like the Porter Cable saw, you push the foot pedal down to extend the casters allowing the saw to easily glide around the shop, this was a must have as I work in a very small space and am constantly moving my saw around to work with other tools and projects. These too, seem plenty solid however they drop the saw with a pretty substantial thud so when lowering I try and take it easy on the on the drop to keep from jarring the blade out of alignment.
The star rating on sites like this is relative to where you are coming from in your wood working journey, rated against my old entry level Ryobi saw this is a fantastic machine, a Cadillac with a big V8 motor and leather trim, definitely five stars. Compared to a Powermatic or high end Delta, this saw is not as fantastic, it seems more like a Toyota sedan with a standard trim package that only rates 3 stars.
When all is said and done this saw is what it is, a collection of compromises that come together to produce a fairly solid, accurate, powerful enough tool that gets the job done safely and efficiently. For the $400.00 to $600.00 market this saw is excellent, probably the best in that price range, you will have to spend upwards of $750- $1000.00 to see a marked improvement in performance and tolerances from a saw. I look forward to many years of smooth cutting with this saw.