|Review by gtbuzz||posted 05-13-2013 03:22 PM||10321 views||0 times favorited||8 comments|
In short, this is an absolutely wonderful base that I love using with my SawStop 3HP cabinet saw, however I do have a few nits that keep this from being a 5 star product. Having said that though, if anyone else is in a similar situation to me, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend the industrial base over the standard professional base.
For those that are unaware, SawStop makes two different mobile bases for their cabinet saws, one designed for the Professional models (PCS) and one designed for the Industrial models (ICS). Aside from the difference in which saw each base is intended to be used with, the two bases are also quite different in their operation.
The PCS base uses a lever/linkage system that effectively tilts the saw until it rests on two fixed casters and two steerable casters – you then move it around kind of like a shopping cart. The ICS base, on the other hand, is more like a cradle for the saw to sit in. The saw is lowered and raised via a bottle jack instead of stepping on a lever and the ICS base has 4 steerable casters instead of 2, giving it much more maneuverability. It’s that last feature that convinced me to go with the ICS base for my PCS saw – I’m very space-limited in my shop and I felt like the additional maneuverability would really benefit me (something I’d later confirm).
Conversion from ICS to PCS
There is a conversion kit required (P/N MB-IND-500) to adapt the ICS base for use with a PCS saw. This is due to the increased length/width of the ICS cabinet vs the PCS cabinet. This kit consists of 2 shorter linkage bars (in the second picture, it’s the horizontal bar above the frame), 2 hold-down brackets and a hardware pack (screws, nuts, etc). The conversion is relatively painless and only takes about 15 minutes.
After the conversion, the front-to-back distance that the “skids” the saw sits on is reduced and the left-right distance is taken up by the hold-down brackets. Note though, that the overall footprint of the saw doesn’t change. With the PCS base, there’s a couple extra inches in footprint to both the left and right (although it’s all under the table anyway) and the ICS is no different, however due to the increased depth in the cabinet of the ICS saw, there’s now an increase in footprint of about 8” behind the saw. At first I was worried about that but in practice it’s not that big a deal. The fence rail sticks out from the end of cabinet by about 2” and the fence extends about 2” beyond that, so the space that you “lose” is around 4”. Again didn’t end up making a big deal when I push the saw up against the wall.
Installing the Saw
Unlike with the PCS base, where SawStop offers rather detailed instructions for exactly how to install the base on a new saw or even to retrofit it to an in-service saw, you don’t really get that with the ICS base. The instructions are pretty much get a bunch of guys and lift the saw into the base. I think the reason for that is that there really is no good way to do it otherwise.
I was impatient and didn’t want to get a bunch of people over to help place the saw in the base, so I did it with just myself and the girlfriend; honestly, that’s not something I’d recommend. What I did was stand the saw up and then rock the saw back, slide the base about half-way under (it’ll get hung up on one of the rear bars), tilt it over and then just shimmy it up to the front. The problem with this method is that there really is no elegant way to do it. When the saw clears the rear bar, it kind of drops to the floor with a thud. I’m not sure if the saw or the base were designed for that, but fortunately for me, nothing seemed worse for wear. Like I said before, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this method.
Once the saw is cradled in the base, you secure it to the base by drilling a sheet metal screw through each hold-down bracket into the cabinet. I felt like this might be a little chintzy, but it seems to work okay. I haven’t noticed any elongation of the hole around the bracket and no deformation of the sheet metal, so it seems to be holding up okay.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the base before I placed the saw in it, so it may a little difficult to describe how the saw sits in the base, but I’ll do my best. Essentially, the saw sits on two “skids” that run from left to right. Each skid has some grippy material on the bottom and when the saw is lowered, these skids sit in direct contact with the floor. The saw is not technically sitting directly against the floor, but for all intents and purposes, I saw no difference in stability. It’s a good solution.
Raising the saw is a very simple task. Just give the pedal connected to the bottle jack a couple pumps and it’s high enough to clear just about any obstacle. Normally about 6 pumps is good enough for me, but I’ve found one uneven spot in the garage that it scrapes a little, so I’ve been doing 8 recently and have had zero issues with that. With the 8 pumps, the saw isn’t raised up all that much, only about 1/2” but it’s enough.
There’s not much to say about moving the saw around except that it works just fine. You can rotate it 360 degrees about itself and that makes maneuvering it around a tight shop just wonderful. I tend to store the saw up against a wall and during use, I swing it out 90 degrees. This is very simple with the ICS base, and was much more involved with the PCS base when I tried it out. The wheels themselves have enough friction in them such that the saw doesn’t ever feel like it’s going to get away from you. Despite being raised and on 4 steerable casters, the whole setup is surprisingly stable.
Lowering the saw is an equally simple proposition. Just step on the lever labeled “lower” and it’s down in a few seconds. Very smooth action and no thud whatsoever. The rate at which it’s lowered can be changed but I’ve never seen a need to. Note that when you want to raise the saw again, there’s no need to flip the lower lever. Stepping on the pedal automatically take care of that for you. It seems obvious and so minor, but at the same time I’ve used a lot of tools that don’t get the little things right.
So with all that’s right with this base, why doesn’t it get a 5-star rating? The one minor nit I have with the design is that it takes up a little more space on the right of the cabinet than the PCS base does. I’m not sure it could have been designed any differently, but it’s something I didn’t think about when purchasing. Because I’m limited in space, I wanted to build a rolling cabinet to place under the table in that space. It just has to be a little smaller now. Additionally, I feel like there should have been some way to integrate all this into the base itself and not have to sacrifice any footprint. I suppose that’s a tradeoff you have to make with it being an accessory.
The other issue I have is in how this is sold, or at least how it’s sold if you want to use it with a PCS saw. As I mentioned, you’ve got to buy the conversion kit, which is a $29 add on to a $299 base. The silly thing is that there is absolutely no reason they couldn’t just redesign the base by drilling two additional holes in the longer linkage bars and have the same SKU be compatible with both the ICS and PCS. They’d have to include the two hold-down brackets that would be thrown away for the ICS (but honestly that’s $0.50 in steel), and there would be a little more assembly required, but if you ask me it seems silly to bilk your customers for an extra $29 when you already spent north of $3000 on the whole setup. It’s really this second issue that caused me to feel like it was a 4-star product instead of a 5.
The separate SKU also opens up the possibility that you might not get the part you ordered – that happened to me. Rockler only ordered the base for me and neglected to send me the conversion kit. That’s in no way SawStop’s fault and don’t hold it against them (in fact, when I called SawStop to see if they could help me, they went above and beyond on my half to get it straightened out with Rockler), but it’s the way it’s sold that allowed it to happen in the first place.
Despite the two small nits I have with this base, I absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this base to any PCS owner that desires more maneuverability over what the PCS base offers. Even though you have to pay for the linkage kit, I still feel like the additional cost ($328 vs $199) is money well spent.
Case in point? Who the hell writes a positive, 1500 word review on a base unless they really like it.