|Review by PeteMoss||posted 01-05-2009 11:39 PM||5138 views||1 time favorited||23 comments|
Well, I decided it was time to purchase a new tablesaw. After quite a bit of research, budgeting, and window shopping I decided to go with the Steel City granite top saw. Since I only have 120 VAC power, I went with the 1.75 HP version. I have called Steel City several time and received excellent customer service as you will see as this review continues. Anyway, I asked Steel City if there were any structural differences between the 1.75 and 3 HP models and was told that they are identical and that if I ever got a shop with 220V power that I could convert it to a 3 HP model if I wanted to by swapping the motor and pulleys. I also decided to go with the 30-inch fence due to space limitations. In fact, even the 30-inch model was much bigger in my garage than I thought it would be.
Ordering and Delivery:
I ordered this saw from my local Woodcraft store. The item is shipped to the store for free and then you pick it up there. I also ordered a Steel City brand mobile base for it. They also had a special deal going on where if you buy any of their riving knife models in December you get a free Forrest Woodworkder II blade and “tiny” bottle of Empire Bladesaver with it. It took about 10 days for the saw to come in. My intention was to get it home and uncrate the saw in the bed of my truck. Then I, along with some help could set it on the mobile base, roll it in the garage, and assemble it. Well, my mobile base didn’t come in with the saw. It would take another week and a half for it to come in. Of course I couldn’t stand to wait that long and took the saw home, uncrated it in the bed of the truck. Had help lowering it to the ground and moving it to the garage. I then assembled it the next day. Unfortunatly, I had to get help over again to get it up on the mobile base once it finally came in.
This saw was pretty heavy in its crate, around 420 lbs. I think. Speaking of the crate, this was by far the best job of packaging I have ever seen. Each item was wrapped in plastic with cardboard padding where needed. All of those items were wrapped together. The saw was bolded down to a metal “pallet” and a metal cage bolted down to it. So in essense the entire thing was surrounded by a metal cage. Needless to say, it arrived without damage.
The instruction manual was pretty good. It pretty well matched what you actually needed to do to assemble the saw. There were a few pieces that it said to assemble that were already assembled. There were also a few adjustments that it said were set at the factory but I had to adjust on mine. On one adjustment in particular, the arbor gib adjustment, the manual tells you how to perfom it, but not what it does or why you would want to adjust it. I assume mine doesn’t need adjustment. Another thing that the manual doesn’t explain is that the saw comes with 2 short riving knives and the full height one with the see-through plastic guard on it, but it doen’t mention it. You have to sort of figure out there different usages and that one riving knife is for a regular blade and the other is apparently for a thin-kerf blade.
Anyway, I installed the handwheels and motor belt with no problem. Checking the alignment of the motor pully to the arbor pulley was very difficult. In the third picture you can see the motor pulley has a metal piece which extends past the pulley part. There is no such extension on the arbor pulley, so, you have to put your straight edge on the back of the pulleys to check the alignment, but of course you can see the backs. I finally gave up and hoped for the best. Installing the granite extension wing was a pain. They do give you two bars that hold the wing up and which have four set screws so you can pre-level it to the main tabletop. The problem is that when you actually bold it in place the height changes every flippin time. This took well over an hour to get it dead level even though it was adjusted level with the set screws in the bars. Luckily they were there though, I can’t imagine having to lift this thing in place and bolt it level without them. The throat plate installed easily and levels with four set screws. The riving knife goes on and off very easly with about a half turn of metal knob. However, one of the factory adjustments that you shouldn’t have to change is the riving knife to blade alignment. Mine was off and was a total pain to get lined up correctly. You have to take the blade off to loosen the screws to move the riving knife. Then put it back on to try and line it up. Take it back off to tighten the screws. Put it back on to see if it is still lined up, etc. EVERY other adjustment was dead on: miter slot to blade alignment, all 90 and 45 degree stops on the blade and on the miter guage.
This saw come with what they call an Industrial II fence, which seems to be just like the Industrial fence except that the two pads and screws on the front that keep the fence from racking when you slide it are set further out to the left and right, I assume to give it more leverage to miimize the afforementioned racking.
The fence was assembled and adjusted exactly like the manual said with no issues whatsoever.
One Quick “Weird” Problem:
I installed my Forrest Woodworker II blade that came free with the saw and to my dissapointment found that the blade would not slide all the way up agains the arbor flange but stopped about the thickness of a business card away. If I tighened the arbor nut, it appeared to push it up over a slight flairing in the shaft right at the flange. But it didn’t it actually bowed the entire surface of the blade slightly as checked with a straight edge. So, I tried it with the Steel City brand blade. It fit just fine. You could tell the FWW II blade fit the arbor more tightly and was apparently just tight enough not to be able to get over that little flairing at the arbor flange. So, I called Steel City and explained the situation. They got a tech on the phone for me and he said that the arbor and flage are on machined piece and that they leave the little flairing on there for strength and that the FWW II blade’s arbor hole was to tighter tolerences he guesses and wouldn’t snug up over it. So, what he said to do and what I did and what worked in fact was this, even though it totally freaked me out. He had me remove the blade and arbor nut and washer. Rasise it all the way up and turn the machine on. Then take a bastard file and use it as though it were a scraper on a lathe to remove that slightly flaird area on the arbor shaft. Now both blades and my dado set fit just fine.
Usage and Impressions:
First off let me say that I have zero experience with a cabinet saw or even a good contractor saw, so please take my two cents with a grain of salt. The saw seems to be quite sturdy. The cabinet is thick and heavy. The granite is stupid heavy, solid, and flat. Fit and finish are quite decent, not exactly polished, but pretty good. I don’t know squat about trunions to know good from bad. I do know that they are cabinet mounted and that they have to be differnt to work with a riving knife so that the blade goes straight up and down, but that is the best I can do. Picture two above shows the saw insides befor the blade or motor belt was installed. There is no belt tensioner on the belt relying only on the weight of the motor, but the TEFC motor is heavy. It seems to weigh about the same as my entire benchtop tablesaw. The fence slide easily and locks solidly. There is a tiny bit of deflection in the far end if you push hard on it but I don’t think it would ever be an issue in any kind of regular use.
In using the saw it seems to be plenty powerful and I have yet to cut anything that seemed to tax it in anyway. All cuts have been acurate. The motor is smoot and purrs along nicely. I don’t have a dust collector, I just let it fall inside and sweep it out the back, so I can’t comment on dust collection efficency.
A couple of usage complains are that the hook where you hang the blade wrenches is too close to the brackets where you store the fence. So you can’t put the fence into it’s storage place with out the wrenches getting in the way. Also there is no where to store the mitre guage. The power switch is not magnetic. It seems to me that this would be even more important on a 120 V machine where the user is more likely to plug it into a non-dedicated circuit and kick the breaker.
That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure I have forgotten things. Please let me know if you have any questions.
-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss