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3-5 hp cabinet saws

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Forum topic by Cato posted 01-03-2010 07:55 PM 2105 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Cato

641 posts in 1965 days


01-03-2010 07:55 PM

I’ve always had a 110v 1.5hp contractor saw and pretty much cut construction grade lumber, plywood, and only a few hardwood pieces for face frames.

Last year I bought another saw to fill an immediate project need. It’s a Ridgid R4511, a better saw than my old sears, and easier to adjust with the cabinet mounted trunnions.

As I was looking at a number of your workshops I notice that a lot of LJ’s that are hobbyists have the more powerful 220v 3hp or even 5 hp cabinet saws.

I guess I always thought of those saws as professional production equipment running all day every day.

Is it necessary to have a more powerful saw to say build some furniture pieces?

Are they that more precise and better built?

I ask because I plan to get a planer and jointer before long and would like to venture into learning to make some small furniture pieces from hardwood purchased at the lumberyard.

I’m wondering if my saw will suffice or if I need to budget a more powerful unit?

Looking at the majority of the wood thickness of projects I see, with the exception of some thicker table legs, most of the wood looks like it finishes out from 3/4 to 1 inch in thickness.

Help me out here if you would.


23 replies so far

View pommy's profile

pommy

1697 posts in 2344 days


#1 posted 01-03-2010 07:57 PM

Stick with your contractors saw thats my opinion

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

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BlankMan

1487 posts in 2005 days


#2 posted 01-03-2010 08:21 PM

I would say that a cabinet saw is more precise. As for the added HP, it cuts easier because of the torque but don’t know if that’s really necessary if you control feed rate, i.e. just feed a little slower.

When I got my UniSaw it came with a 3HP Baldor motor, I mention Baldor because they are one of the best if not the best motor manufacture. When they say it’s a 3HP motor it’s a 3HP motor. A lot of places list the HP as peak HP which you only get the instant before it stalls. Sears does that a lot. Well at least used to.

When I got my UniSaw I wanted to see how much current it was drawing so I did some tests. The motor is rated at a little over 12A at 220V. idling it was drawing around 3A. When cutting some 4/4 red oak it drew 3.5-4A (not much of a jump) so I really wasn’t taxing it. 6/4 it was in the 4-5A range, that’s just under a true 1-1/2HP motor. So over that maybe 8/4 the 3HP becomes a benefit.

My story with getting the UniSaw was my first saw was a Ryobi BT2000, I was very unhappy with it and had $1000 into it. So I decided to replace it and was looking at Jet and General (10-15 years ago) in the $800 range. But then I stopped and thought, what if I’m not happy with the new saw, then I’d have spent $1800 and be looking for a third saw. I bit the bullet and bought a UniSaw thinking it be the last saw I’d ever have to buy. And that turned out to be true. But now because of the price I’d look for a used one if I were to do it.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

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GFYS

711 posts in 2123 days


#3 posted 01-03-2010 08:24 PM

A contractor saw struggles with thicker pieces but not so as to warrant a heavy unisaw. I like portability andyou can upgrade the motor to a 2 hp. I think the big heavy tablesaw for most LJs is more of a bragging thing.

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rhett

699 posts in 2320 days


#4 posted 01-03-2010 08:29 PM

I would get a planer and jointer before worrying about upgrading to a cabinets saw. If the fence is good and the blades are sharp then your contractor saw will do everything you need.

-- It's only wood.

View reggiek's profile

reggiek

2240 posts in 1923 days


#5 posted 01-03-2010 09:16 PM

Cato….It is the craftsman not the tools that makes the project ….Tools only provide convenience and assistance to speed up the process. My grandfather made exquisite furniture using mostly hand tools…it took him much longer though.

I have a bigger cabinet saw as I wanted more area for cutting and assembling and I felt that the more horsepower makes for smoother, quicker cuts – I feel that the tool gives me greater accuracy and control and is quicker to set up and use. Most of my jigs I built for my little contractor saw and they still work great on my bigger saw – I also notice that if I have patience and take the necessary time to set up and line up my little saw…it does a very good rendition of the bigger one. I still use my little job saw to cut dimensional and contruction grade woods (I like it because it is on a wheeled cart and is fairly portable). So I guess what this all means is puchase what you feel you will use and need….not just something because someone else has one.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View ND2ELK's profile

ND2ELK

13495 posts in 2426 days


#6 posted 01-03-2010 09:32 PM

Not trying to start a debate here but I think your two most used pieces of equipment in a shop is your miter saw and table saw. Almost all the projects I picture were built with these two pieces of equipment, plus power hand tools and hand tools. I never owned a jointer or planer till now. All my saws had a 50” rip and a 3hp motor which I felt was plenty for home shop use. We had 5hp saws at work but they ran all day long almost none stop. I would say, buy the best 3hp table saw you can afford to buy. Good luck on trying to decide what to do.

God Bless
tom

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1811 days


#7 posted 01-03-2010 10:05 PM

I believe your current saw will tell you when you need more. Back in the day, all I ever worked with was 3/4” plywood and 2-by pine boards. If I ever needed to thickness that pine lumber with the 2.5 hp Craftsman contractor saw, I would assuredly be pushing it. There is just no way I could have cut hardwood with it.

I now have a 1993 Delta Unisaw 3hp, and like Curt above, from a power standpoint, I’m sure that it would be the last saw I’d ever have (I’m gonna have a Sawstop someday because I WANT one).

The other day, I resawed a 6” hard maple boards using the Unisaw at full blade height in two passes. At that point there is resistance coming from the amount of sawdust being produced within the kerf, making pushing the board through quite tough and producing a good amount of burning. However, the motor doesn’t hesitate. Had I used more passes, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all, but being the first time I’d attempted such resaw cut on hard maple, I wanted to see what the saw would do. While using good, smart techniques can help you overcome a lot of equipment issues, having the power is good.

For the most part, stability and accuracy are the hallmarks of a cabinet saw. But I can’t imagine doing any of the cuts I do now on these hardwoods without my 3hp Unisaw.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2474 days


#8 posted 01-03-2010 10:06 PM

Cato, I would tend to agree with Rhett’s comment about rounding out your woodworking tool list before upgrading your shop but that is also dependent upon the type of woodworking that you intend to do. From the projects that you have completed so far a table saw is the go-to tool in your shop. And, as such, I think that once you do go with a saw upgrade you will wonder why it took you so long. But your Ridgid is a decent saw and will get you by for awhile longer.

It looks to me that you are essentially on the same path that I have traveled. I made do with my old Craftsman saw for a decade while putting in other major tools such as a slider, jointer, plainer, etc. Once I had my tool base established and, being tired of fighting with my Craftsman saw to make a decent cut, then I decided to upgrade my saw and could get the one I wanted.

Of course, you could always go for all three. After all you are going to spend the money sooner or later and now would be as good a time as any to give yourself a belated Christmas present. :)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View gerrym526's profile

gerrym526

265 posts in 2461 days


#9 posted 01-03-2010 10:16 PM

I agree with ND2ELK. You don’t need to be a production shop to reap the benefits of a 3hp or 5hp saw. Like you, I started with an ancient Craftsman Contractor saw with a puny 1hp motor. Thought I was upgrading when I bought the Delta Cabinet Saw (think Delta contractor with an enclosed base) with a 1.5hp motor. Had to replace the cheap fence with a Vega to be able to cut with accuracy. Finally, I was cutting 12/4 hard maple with it one day, to create strips that were glued together for my workbench top. Saw blade stopped dead, frozen in the middle of the cut with me on the other end. I finished the cuts with a thin kerf blade, but decided right then that the 3hp Unisaw was going to be my next upgrade, no compromises. When I had the $’s, I bought it and never looked back, cuts everything you throw at it, and the fence is great.
As far as a planer and jointer go, even if you’re making fine furniture and can’t afford the two machines if you buy an expensive saw most hardwood lumber yards that service woodworkers can provide jointing and planing of your stock for a reasonable fee.

My suggestions for possible tablesaw upgrades would be Delta, Jet, and Powermatic. Have used all of them at one point or another, and they’re all high quality machines. Lots of folks here swear by the Grizzly model, and will have very good things to say about it as well-and it’s cost is considerably less.
Hope this helps.
Gerry

-- Gerry

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jussdandy

157 posts in 1860 days


#10 posted 01-03-2010 10:36 PM

I NOW HAVE A 3 HP UNISAW AND A CONTRACTORS THAT HASNT BEEN MOVED OUT OF THE CORNER FOR 3 YEARS. i DID HAVE ANOTHER CONTRACTORS SAW BUT SOLD IT AFTER i GOT THE UNISAW. SO TALKING FROM EXPERANCE, i CAN DO ALMOST AS MUCH WITH THE CONTRACTORS SAW AS i DO WITH MY UNISAW, TRUTHFULLY i HAD A 50 BIESMEYER ON THE CONTRACTOR SAW i SOLD, yES i MISS THAT FENCE, i HAVE A UNIFENCE ON THE UNISAW.NOT NEARLY AS GOOD AS FENCE. WHAT IS BETTER IS THE EASE OF ADJUSTMENT ON ALL LEVLS FROM TILTING THE BLADE OT RAISING THE BLADE, ALL OPERATIONS ARE SO SMOOTH, bY THE WAY i DONT HAVE A NEW UNISAW, MINE STILL SAYS ROCKWELL ON IT, DONT KNOW HOW OLD IT IS, BUT i PUT A NEW MOTOR AND MAGNETIC SWITCH ON IT. AS FAR AS POWER WIRE YOU CONTRACTOR SAW FOR 220, YOU WONT REGRET THAT, BIG IMPROVEMENT OVER 110 IN MY OPINION. LOL HOPEFULLY YOU CAN GET SOMEUSE OUT OF MY RAMBLING.

-- Randy I have the right to remain silent, just not the ability ; )

View John's profile

John

182 posts in 2236 days


#11 posted 01-03-2010 10:37 PM

I would stick with the contractor ts you have if the fence is accurate and the blade is true. I have a 40+ year old sears 10” with a delta T2 fence and thin kerf blades. It is very accurate.
and I have no problem ripping all the hardwoods I need to rip. If I need to rip 2”+ stock I would use the bandsaw. I would suggest that you spend the money on a good jointer and planer. I have a 6” delta jointer purchased used for $300 which is great but I have my eye out for an 8” long bed jointer. Bought a DW735 at the HD closeout and a Rikon 10-325 on sale. Love the planer and the band saw and with what I have now, I can do most anything. You might just about be able to get a used jointer, planer and band saw for what you would pay for a new cabinet saw. You can always pick up a used cabinet saw later if you realize the need for one. Look also at how long you might have the use of your tools. If I had the $$ when I was younger I would have had a more complete shop and the time to develop my skills. Good luck.

-- John, Long Island, NY

View KnotWright's profile

KnotWright

247 posts in 2140 days


#12 posted 01-03-2010 10:40 PM

Cato, I just checked out your workshop, reminds me of two of my first workshops. The last shop I actually built for myself from the ground up, was a 16’ x 36’ with 9’ ceiling. I had been using a nice Jet 10” table saw for almost 3 years when I came across an advertisement for a “Combo” machine, sounded like just the right answer to the problem I was facing. Getting a planer, joiner, and a shaper, with the bonus of a horizontal mortiser too, all this an taking up less space.

The Combo machine came with 3 hp motors and a sliding table. But they do come at a pretty high cost too, the first combo machine was about $5000 bucks.

Currently I use a great machine, the MiniMax CU300smart. It has a pretty small foot print even with its 8 foot sliding table. It has 3 5 hp motors that handle the table saw, the shaper and the joiner/planer/mortiser. For me being a one man shop its been worth the extra cost. They do make smaller versions of this machine with the added horse power.

Just another option to look at if you are thinking of upgrading.

-- James

View Cato's profile

Cato

641 posts in 1965 days


#13 posted 01-03-2010 10:42 PM

Guys, thanks for weighing in on this. The advice from every comment is useful and I really appreciate the input from all, particularly those of you that have gone through the transition to bigger saws.

My plan has been to get the planer and jointer first, and those will be nice additions to the shop. But the table saw question had been rattling around in the back of my mind for a bit and has just been hanging there.

Like some of you have pointed out, been there done that with fighting wood through a saw, so not going there again.

Comicsniper- you’re right the TS and the projects will lead me or tell me when its time to upgrade, unless it becomes one of those, because I want it things, then like Scott says sooner or later you’re gonna get it!

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knotscott

5453 posts in 2028 days


#14 posted 01-03-2010 10:57 PM

Cato – My first saw was a barely adequate Delta 36-600 compact saw (bought it for $250, sold it for $190). Then I upgraded to a GI-50-185 contractor saw (bought it for $575, sold it for $525)...the GI was plenty adequate, but a great deal on a Craftsman 22124 hybrid persuaded me to make another saw move (bought it for $594 sold it for $600). The 22124 was heavier and more stable, plus had an inboard motor and cabinet mounted trunnions that were easier to align. I doubt the 22124 had more motor power, but due to having a shorter drive belt and better alignment, I do think it could rip more efficiently. With good blade selection, there’s was nothing that I struggled much to cut, but a great deal on a Shop Fox W1677 3hp cabinet saw convinced me to make another move ($903 shipped…had to sell some handplanes to cover the $300 gap). The 3hp saw is certainly more robust and more powerful, but it doesn’t cut more accurately. I am more comfortable with it’s long term probability of surviving years of hard work, plus it’s nice to not have to be as concerned with blade choice.

Both the contractor saw and hybrid were more than sufficient for my hobby work, but I do enjoy having the more substantial tool. Each of the last two moves was an incremental upgrade for reasonable cost so it seemed logical. I wasn’t actively looking to upgrade the last two saws…opportunity knocked, so I answered. Getting familiar with, and experiencing different tools is part of the enjoyment of this hobby for me…some just see the tools as a means of accomplishing a task. From that perspective, all 4 of my new saws were capable of cutting what I needed. I would not have made a $300 table saw upgrade if it meant going without another significant tool that actually adds a new capability.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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JimDaddyO

287 posts in 1731 days


#15 posted 01-03-2010 10:59 PM

I think, get what you don’t have. You may not have the greatest table saw, but you have one. If you don’t have a planer, put the money there. I think going used is a good thing. None of my equipment is very good, but I have pretty much a full compliment of them. You get used to working with what you have, and what you can do with them.

-- I still have all my fingers

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