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Review of Steel City Saw after a year

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Review by _Whitey posted 01-19-2015 03:59 PM 6728 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Review of Steel City Saw after a year No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Okay, Having owned my Steel City 35911G saw for about a year now I thought I would do a little follow-up. First off, I am happy with this saw. The fit and finish are acceptable, not too beefy so as to make it cumbersome, and not to chinsy to make it rickety, if that makes any sense. If you are a woodworker who likes everything to weigh as much as a WWII era tank, you may want to look elsewhere. The Granite definitely makes this saw heavy, but the rest of the saw is practical.

The situation with lining up the granite table extension is covered here: http://lumberjocks.com/topics/35157
So I won’t go any deeper than to say that I suffered the same frustration and the solution presented in that post solved the problem for me. If you want to know more about that, click the link and read.

I bought the saw with the 52” fence, thinking I could make a mobile base. I know its been done, but its easier said than done and if I did it again I would have stuck with the 36” fence to keep it portable. If you need this saw to move around, do not buy the 52” fence, yes it still has a built-in mobile base under the saw, but that does not apply once you add the longer table. I think this goes with any saw, and is not a flaw, just a point to consider. I am moving into a new home this spring and I will have a 30×50 dedicated shop space, so, for me this negative will instantly be turned into a positive as I will no longer need the mobility.

The riving knife setup is definitely a negative on this saw. I had to remove the mechanism and re-set it up several times to get it to accept the knife. The reason being, If you leave the ratcheting handle that tightens the knife in place loose, and tilt the blade, the handle gets caught under the table and bends the mount for the knife. Fixing the mount is easy, just remove it and bend it back in place, but after that, its a headache to get the knife to slide into the slot without an elaborate setup. Seems like it would be straight forward, but its not and could have been designed better. And there is NOTHING in the deplorable instruction manual to help with this setup. (more on that later)

One unexpected positive on this saw, The clearance plate is square instead of rounded, making it easy to make zero clearance plates with the table saw and a little sanding on the corners. you do not need a band saw or router to carve these out. A HUGE time-saver! The plate is held in place with four R/E magnets embedded into the groove in the granite. If you add a couple of small screws to the bottom of your plate, they serve 2 purposes, leveling and attachment to the magnets, and the setup works great. making zero clearance plates is a snap.

The extension table that comes with the saw is crap and the legs are fastened to it with four 1/2 inch wood screws. Since it is not a load bearing part, it doesn’t matter. However the pictures on the website are deceiving, and you need to know that it is the cheapest black melamine. Since I am building a router/cabinet for mine I will be replacing with Corian, high grade plywood or some variation. You will want to do the same, and since most people do customize this part of the saw, I kinda feel like it was intentionally left under-engineered and was an afterthought as a “fence support” instead of a legitimate work space. Just my opinion. You can see what I am talking about in the youtube video from Steel-City on how to add a router to the extension.

The Fence is nice. I will stop short of saying it is as high-quality as Biesemeyer, but it is a close second. I have to say that the fence was square when I set it up and continues to hold so it is serving its purpose. That being said, the fence has a leg at the back of the fence with a slider on it that rides on a rail along the back of the saw. I wish they would not have done this and simply laid it on the table like biesemeyer. That mount gets in the way and restricts you on mounting an outfeed table. I have removed mine and re-leveled it to the table and it seems to work perfect without it. Finally, Steel city should have looked to Kreg or Incra as a supplier of the gauge strip on the fence rail. The glue does not last and it peels after a month no matter how well you clean the rail when its installed. I have replaced mine twice, the next one will be a kreg or I will just install a wixey. By the way, this was an area where SC customer service shined! A simple email and 3-4 days later the part showed up in the mail. KUDOS to SC customer service. I cannot say enough about how I have been treated on that, and that to me makes up at least 25% of my confidence in any product I buy.

The motor and trunions in this saw seem to be manufactured well and hold their accuracy. I have the 1-3/4 HP 110V motor in my saw. For hobby/light cabinet work, I have not had any problems with power. I have ran lots of board feet of 4/4 poplar, oak and maple and a few exotics through without any problems or bogging. As with any machine, if you consider its limitations and compare it to the work that you do, you wont have any problems, this machine is no exception. I did check my arbor well for the defect that SC was having with it shearing off, by eye and by cranking down several different blades including several different dado setups. I have seen absolutely no problem with the arbor. Seems I got a good machine, or SC has fixed the problem. Also, the blade that comes with the saw is a very good general purpose blade. If you are an experienced woodworker, you know the ins and outs of blades and there uses/limitations, so I don’t need to go any further with that.

Dust collection works great when hooked up to a dust collector, obviously as it should. If you do not have any dust collection, and wish to let you chips fall to the floor, you may get a little discouraged. The chips pile up in the interior chute quickly. Getting into the saw to get them out is very clumsy and cumbersome and is not meant to be done by hand, period. This can be somewhat alleviated by removing the plastic hose adapter from the saw where the chips exit, but all in all, you really should use dust collection with this. If you are buying this level of table saw, this is probably something you have already considered and won’t have any problems. Having the hose connection on the back of the saw instead of the side has worked out nicely for me, and leaves the necessary room for a cabinet under the extension table, I am sure that depends on your setup.

Okay, here we go with the one big actual complaint I have! THE MANUAL SUCKS! The photos are dark. The parts in the index are labeled differently in the text. Most of the setup procedures are not covered, and if they are they are not covered well. Mounting the table wings is the best example of this, and needs to be re-worked and supported with better YouTube video support or an included DVD. The manual needs to be looked at as a flaw, a negative and a drawback on this product. I will stop just short of calling it an actual defect, but as supporting documentation, it is defective. Period. This needs to be fixed. This negative can be looked at as the difference between making these machines available for a novice woodworker or manageable only for experienced folks who have been putting together machines for a long, long time. If you are considering a Steel City Machine, go to their website and download the manual for the machine you are considering and make sure you can handle the poorly written instructions or have the know how to figure it out yourself before you buy. It will, I promise you, make the difference between a pleasured experience and a frustrating one.

Finally, I want you to know about my perspective. I am 90% HAPPY with this machine and the customer service that I have received. However, I purchased my machine from Steel City at their warehouse in Bollingbrook, IL as a “lightly used” demo model from their showroom. I met the customer service rep personally at the purchase of the saw, so there was a personal connection there and I have his direct Email. I paid $800 for the saw. With this I expected a few nicks and dings and they were there. I would be much more critical of this machine if I had paid $1500 or whatever list price is. The table wing alignment situation would have gotten the saw sent right back to them. After getting through the setup three times, figuring out the wings and getting to know the ins and outs of the machine in general I am now happy for the price I paid. I felt that this disclaimer was necessary in order to put my review in perspective.




View _Whitey's profile

_Whitey

17 posts in 1756 days



10 comments so far

View Dave Petersen's profile

Dave Petersen

9 posts in 1983 days


#1 posted 01-21-2015 08:00 PM

I have the Steel City/Craftsman hybrid granite top hybrid saw with the 30” fence that I also picked up directly at the Steel City warehouse in Bollingbrook. Mine was new in the box/crate and it is painted blue like the rest of their blue line. I think there must have been a change of plans somewhere along the way and they never ended up including it in that product lineup which is why I was able to get it out the door for only $750.

I’ve only used it for one project so far, but my comments would be very close to yours. I too would rate my saw at 4/5 stars. Fit and finish could be a little bit better, but overall a great saw once you get it set up. The factory carbide blade is surprisingly good. It’s gone through everything I’ve thrown at it like a hot knife through butter. I’m sure there are nicer saws out there, but considering this is my first, I think I got a lot for what I paid for. I’m sure this saw will do everything I ask of it over the years.

View _Whitey's profile

_Whitey

17 posts in 1756 days


#2 posted 01-22-2015 02:05 PM

Dave, I remember them having a few blue saws at the warehouse. If I remember correctly, the granite wings did not have their seam at the miter slot, but offset by a couple of inches. A better setup in my opinion. The whole concept of seaming the table at the miter slots is to give the illusion of a seamless granite top. That looks really nice, but the setup needs to be less cumbersome.

View Dave Petersen's profile

Dave Petersen

9 posts in 1983 days


#3 posted 01-22-2015 03:15 PM

You are correct Whtiey, my seams aren’t in the miter slots. I can see how big of a problem that would be because I still haven’t been able to get my wings completely flat. I do like the saw over all and it performs well. I stopped by Steel City’s summer warehouse clearance sale to pick up a dado insert last year and came home with their 40640 six inch granite top jointer with a helical cutter head. It had been used once for demo and they let it go for $425 because the paint on the jointer top did not match the paint on the base. I couldn’t pass that up.

View Junado's profile

Junado

38 posts in 2133 days


#4 posted 01-22-2015 03:40 PM

About the customer service: I have the Steel City 8” spiral head granite jointer and my guard was missing a retaining ring that held it tight on its axle. I didn’t know what I was missing at first so I sent them an e-mail about the issue with the guard dragging on the table. Within an hour I had a reply and my request was forwarded to the local distributor with whom I arranged shipping of the replacement guard assembly. Very impressed with how smoothly and quickly this all went.

-- Julien

View MCTTS's profile

MCTTS

13 posts in 1305 days


#5 posted 06-07-2015 09:34 PM

FYI’s

The original manufacturer of the portable planers (40100, 40300H, 40200H) will be selling them direct via their website under their CUTECH label. Tentative start date is 7/1. (Hopefully I’m lucky enough to be part of it…read on)

I’ve also learned that the factory that manufactured some jointers, practically all table and bandsaws, may make parts available to us in the near future. (I have a meeting scheduled in a couple weeks to clarify)

Dave and Whitey…I think I remember you guys. ;) Those blue saw were 98% identical to the C’man 22116 saws. The Blue color was specified by someone, directly with the factory, and the deal fell through. Being the one and only US operations and warehouse, we got them.

Sincerely,
Former SCTW TS Mgr. in B’brook
M

View MCTTS's profile

MCTTS

13 posts in 1305 days


#6 posted 07-15-2015 12:03 PM

Cutech Tool planers are now being sold direct. Their website is up and running.

No mention of parts for saws yet. My guess is they’ll make a future decision based on planer sales.

View mattjones99's profile

mattjones99

1 post in 302 days


#7 posted 02-18-2018 12:21 AM

I’m wondering if anybody has any tips for putting together the riving knife assembly? Mine is apart in pieces, and I’m having trouble figuring out how to re-assemble it so the quick release works. Any ideas?

I also got mine from the bolingbrook location, and I still love the saw. Just frustrated that I can’t get the quick release on the riving knife to work.

View Dave Petersen's profile

Dave Petersen

9 posts in 1983 days


#8 posted 02-21-2018 12:31 AM

mattjones99,

Are you looking to reinstall the riving knife or the blade guard that clamps on top of it. The riving knife just is easy, but I can’t seem to get the blade guard back on to save my life (or fingers for that matter).

View HobbsWorkshop's profile

HobbsWorkshop

1 post in 342 days


#9 posted 04-06-2018 07:28 PM

Sorry if this is in the wrong spot. I am having a problem with the riving knife on my SC35926 that I purchased on clearance at the Bowling Brook. I love this saw, but had to remove the riving knife assembly because the plate that was supposed to hold the splitter in place, did not apply pressure to do so. Turning the spring loaded lever would not tighten the plate. Now that I have removed the riving knife and the plates that are held together with the two lock nuts and the “special bolt” I am unable to position the locking nuts at the proper location. This is frustrating.

-- Get out there and build something!

View _Whitey's profile

_Whitey

17 posts in 1756 days


#10 posted 05-14-2018 01:48 PM

Follow-up: About a year ago I sold this saw. I parted with it for 2 basic reasons. 1) My shop situation changed, and, despite the mobile base, the long table made it very cumbersome and over sized. I would have cut the fence and table down if it weren’t for 2) With the company being out of business, I had a couple of parts that were fixable by me that failed, and I fixed them, but what if something major breaks? I did not want to get stuck with a boat anchor that couldn’t be fixed with no company back-up.

The problem I had was very similar to the comments above, when I installed the riving knife, I forgot to tighten on of the handles, it caught on the cast Iron and bent the knife. I had to replace the handle and bend the knife back into shape. I also found that in a small shop where the saw must be pulled out to use, and put away regularly, that movement of the unit made the granite a lot more susceptible to chips and breakage.

By the way, I will never buy granite again. The pros do not outweigh the cons. I love using magnets on my saw, that was out the door. You are always focusing on not ruining or cracking your saw top, which can be very distracting. Miter gauges do not play nice with granite. After 4 years of owning this granite-top saw, I’ll say I am glad I got the chance to own one, and I liked the way it felt, the weight, the way the material slid across. But It was just too fragile which made for an unstable shop environment.

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