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Used Tablesaw advice: Unisaw versus PM66

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Forum topic by JeffS posted 02-04-2010 04:49 AM 10359 views 0 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JeffS

23 posts in 2589 days


02-04-2010 04:49 AM

Topic tags/keywords: powermatic delta unisaw tablesaw question

Hello all,
I have been casually keeping an eye on the local listings for a used cabinet table saw. I live in upstate NY, and it is not very often that a Powermatic or Unisaw come up for sale. So, when 1 of each appeared this week, I was overwhelmed!

Within an hour of my house, there is a Powermatic PM66 from 1988, and a Delta Unisaw from 1961. Sight unseen, both sellers claim they are in fantastic condition. The PM66 is listed for $975, and the Unisaw for $650.

From everything I have heard, either of these saws would make just about any woodworker (especially a hobby one like myself) happy for years to come.

For those of you that have experience with these saws, and especially with restoring and maintaining older saws, would anyone care to comment on the ease or difficulty of finding parts, quality of the saws, preference in brand, etc?

Delta 10”,3 HP 220 Volt ,right tilt.30 infence with mortising attachment,molding head and dado set,like new….

Any issues / things to look for when looking at a Unisaw that’s almost 40 years old?

thanks!
Jeff


39 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

115202 posts in 3040 days


#1 posted 02-04-2010 05:48 AM

I like my Powermatic 66. I’ve had it for 12years and it’s great.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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rsmith71

269 posts in 2505 days


#2 posted 02-04-2010 05:49 AM

Don’t know about the Unisaw but almost every shop I’ve ever worked in had a 66. They’re about as close to bulletproof as a table saw can get. I am a fan of Powermatic because they are so reliable. That’s why shops keep them forever. I’d take a very close look at it and ask why they’re selling, just to know why they’re letting it go. If it is in good shape, I don’t see you being less than happy with it for years to come.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

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JeffS

23 posts in 2589 days


#3 posted 02-05-2010 05:09 AM

Well, I missed out on the 66. Things got busy at work and I didn’t have a chance to get out to see it in time.

The person selling the Unisaw is relocating, and selling off his whole shop, so I figure it is definitely worth it to go see what he has to offer.

I’ve used both right and left tilt, and am comfortable with both. If I had my druthers, I’d probably prefer left tilt. But, if the unisaw is worth it, and I can work out a deal to include a 14” bandsaw and some clamps, lumber, who knows what else…we’ll see :-)

I am a little wary of the age of the unisaw, but then I saw Norm had one for a long time on NYW from about that era. Not that I buy what Norm has, but it was nice to see one in action and running well before I’m able to get out to see what condition the one for sale is in.

Seems like there are a lot of powermatic fans, and a lot of unisaw fans on here. Robert, that’s interesting that most shops lean towards powermatic; are the delta’s not considered as industrial out in the real world? I”m working out of a 1 car garage that I still have to run 220 to, so I still have a while to go before I’m going to get super picky about what saw I’m using. But, I do want to get something that will last, so I am a little wary of purchasing a 40 year old saw. But then again, my DJ15 jointer is going on 30 years of age and still runs great.

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rsmith71

269 posts in 2505 days


#4 posted 02-05-2010 05:26 AM

Deltas are good from what I’ve seen. I’ve got a Delta contractor saw at home that I like. I just believe that the Powermatic has earned a deserved reputation for toughness and accuracy. If/when I get to the point I can justify a cabinet saw, I’ll lean to the 66 on experience.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

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SnowyRiver

51452 posts in 2943 days


#5 posted 02-05-2010 05:30 AM

Its too bad you missed the PM66. I have an 88 model. I paid $1600 for it a few years ago. It had the table extension on the back and right side. I also got about 5 Forrest blades with it. It runs great and I have been very happy with it. I dont think you could go wrong with a good Delta Unisaw either. The 1961 is probably built like a tank.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

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MedicKen

1610 posts in 2925 days


#6 posted 02-05-2010 05:45 AM

I have a Delta unisaw from 1968 that I recently restored. The main thing with an older saw is that most are 3 phase. If the saw you are looking at has an oval motor opening and a 3ph motor you will be limited on single phase options if you wish to convert it. The oval opening will not allow the newer motors to tilt all the way to 45. If the saw is complete, motor cover, dust door and either a Bies or Jet lock fence the price is fair. I have seen many unisaws go for a lot less but most need work. The unisaw was introduced in 1939 and has been bullet proof since inception. The older unisaws, ones with the cast iron plinth will not fit the new delta mobile bases. If you will need a base you will have to make one. Here are a few pics of mine, before and after:

If you find it is a 3ph saw here is any esy and cheap alternative. The VFD sitting to the left of the motor takes 220V single phase and has 220V 3ph output. For $150 a lot cheaper than trying to find a songle phase motor that will fit

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their therapist....medic20447@gmail.com

View JeffS's profile

JeffS

23 posts in 2589 days


#7 posted 02-05-2010 06:08 AM

Ken – wow! great photos and info! I was just catching up on your blog postings. I talked with the seller and he said it is a 3 HP, single phase motor, 220V, which I’ll confirm when I see it myself.

I’m not afraid of a project, if it’s worth it. Is there such a thing as a unisaw NOT worth it? Like I mentioned before, I don’t even have 220v run out to the garage yet, so I”m really in no hurry to have a large cabinet saw, but I sure do like a good deal, and not many of these things appear locally!

thanks for all the advice!

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MedicKen

1610 posts in 2925 days


#8 posted 02-05-2010 07:55 AM

A couple of other things to consider and ask are if the motor and arbor bearings have been replaced recently. The lifespan of those bearings are about 20 years. They are both very easy to change, however it will require removing the top to gain access to the motor. The motor will be secured with a bolt, 5/8” head, and a pin with clips on both ends. Remove the bolt and the clip on the pin to the outside of the cabinet and then drive the pin out with a punch. Have an extra set of hands available to help with the motor. It weighs about 80#!! While you are there you might take a look at the belts and replace if they are cracked, its a lot easier to do it with the top off, dont ask me how I know this. The belts you will need are Gates 4L260, 26”. A copy of the owners manual is available here. If you are looking for the exact year of the saw with you will need to get the correct manual, there will be a tag on the front right of the cabinet with a model number. Use the model number to find the year here. Good luck and if you need anything else let me know.

PS…Dont wait too long on this or it will be gone too!!

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their therapist....medic20447@gmail.com

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7210 posts in 2838 days


#9 posted 02-05-2010 01:39 PM

Parts for Unis have historically been readily available even for older saws, and is one of the aspects that makes a Uni appealing. It’s never good to be hasty, but procrastinating often means it goes to someone else. One nice thing about used saws that are priced fairly is that they tend to be roughly worth what you paid, so there’s little financial downside.

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

View lwllms's profile

lwllms

555 posts in 2744 days


#10 posted 02-05-2010 04:46 PM

I have to say I really disagree with rick3ddd. My PM66 has the old cast iron fence and I wouldn’t trade it for any of the modern fences. I find the Biesemeyer and its clones sloppy, clumsy and indirect to use. They’re incapable of accurate fine adjustments while keeping the fence parallel to the blade so one can measure directly from the blade to the fence during setting. The old Delta Jet-Lock fence isn’t as good as the old Powermatic but its far better than the Biesemeyer design. One of the rules of woodworking is to always work with the same rule or tape for all operations but the Biesemeyer design forces you to use the rule on the fence. I’ve never seen a rule on one of those clumsy fences that’s accurate enough to do many of the operations I do on a table saw. With the Biesemeyer style fence you’re forced into a trial-and-error kind of setting that’s a huge PIA. I’m sorry but I hate the tinker, tinker, tinker nature of setting those god-awful things. We’ve retrofitted one my partner’s PM66 with the old style fence. I was a little surprised by Chris Schwartz’s description of my saw as a “vintage” saw in an article that’ll be in the next issue of Popular Woodworking. I bought that saw new in 1982 and still think of it as my new saw.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13347 posts in 3136 days


#11 posted 02-05-2010 04:56 PM

I have older model Unisaw, So I am kind of stuck on my Unisaw.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2717 posts in 2749 days


#12 posted 02-05-2010 06:51 PM

I own a Unisaw that was made in the 50’s. It’s been a great saw. It still has the original motor. I would not be afraid to buy an old one. In fact, I would buy an older one before I would consider a new one, as long as it is in good shape. I also have a Powermatic 66. I personally don’t think either company is what they once were—-But isn’t that true with most everything we buy.

I would disagree with lwllms about the fence. Obviously it is totally personal opinion, and his is every bit as valid as mine. I did replace my original cast iron fence ( which I did not like by the way) with a Biesmeyer. The saw was used most of every day for years. I find it very easy to set up and use the T-Square type fence. The tape has always been accurate. For what we do, it has to be. I have Biesmeyer fences on multiple saws—Most have replaced the original fences.

-- http://shepherdtoolandsupply.com/

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knotscott

7210 posts in 2838 days


#13 posted 02-05-2010 08:08 PM

lwllms – The Biese style fence was a minor revolution when it hit the industry because it didn’t need to be double checked….it’s the same on both ends every time. I don’t know why you’d be forced to use the saw’s stock tape measure with a Biese any more than with any fence. The stock tape on all my saws have always worked fine for me, but I could certainly use another tape measure if I wanted to. The Jet Exacta II on my current saw is the 4th of the Biese style design I’ve had, and I’ve liked them all quite a bit….just a matter of preference I guess.

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

View Bothus's profile

Bothus

439 posts in 2639 days


#14 posted 02-05-2010 08:28 PM

Hi Jeff,

I bought a used Unisaw last year and documented my journey. The journey is not over yet but you check out what I have done.

MedicKen was an invaluable resource for me on this project. He knows his stuff.

http://lumberjocks.com/Bothus/blog/10975

I hope you get it. You won’t regret it.

Take care,

Bothus

-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View lwllms's profile

lwllms

555 posts in 2744 days


#15 posted 02-06-2010 01:49 AM

knotscott,

I don’t think you’re familiar with the old PM66 fence. When properly maintained and adjusted, you never have to check the back of the fence. Both the tubular rails and the head of the fence are very accurately machined. The head has two levers, one locks the front the other locks the back. This makes setting the fence very solid and accurate.

66 fence

Here’s a photo of my fence. The lower lever locks the front and the upper lever the back. With light pressure on the front lever one can engage the fine adjustment knob and move the fence. Because of the accuracy of machining and the lack of resistance on the back of the fence, the whole fence moves parallel to the blade. This is so accurate I can, and at times do, set a dial indicator on the fence so I can adjust by thousandths. Want to cut those tenons 0.002” thinner? No problem and no fiddling around.

Firmer pressure on the lower lever rigidly locks the head in place and then the back of the fence is locked. Once locked it’s solid, there is no deflection. I once did put the dial indicator on the Biesemeyer style fence that we replaced on my partner’s saw. I did it to see how much deflection we were getting while having trouble cross cutting veneered stock and having problems with tear out. I could pretty easily move the back of the fence .015” or more with little pressure. I can’t think of any other reason to attempt to use a dial indicator on a Biesemeyer style fence.

Oh, there is that other thing. The auxiliary faces on my fence are pretty important. We use the one on the right side of the fence often and need it for what we do. Try and ad an auxiliary fence to a Biesemeyer style fence.

I’m convinced that Powermatic’s old cast iron fence is the best fence ever put on a table saw.

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