Rebuild an old Unisaw or get a new Cabinet saw?

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Forum topic by jred posted 08-03-2010 11:49 PM 5195 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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49 posts in 3193 days

08-03-2010 11:49 PM

That is my present quandry. I would like to upgrade my current saw setup (delta contractor) with a genuine cabinet saw. Older unisaws can be found for around $400-500 and after watching the popular woodworking video’s on table saw restoration i think it could be a fun project resulting in a quality, accurate saw. I am aware of some of the issues involved in such a project (i.e. motor styles, etc). and that there would be some expense in the project above the initial saw cost. I have noticed that relatively recent unisaws can be found on craigslist for around 1k with a nice fence.
Perhaps i am not aware of all of the issues, though and welcome the advice of any others who have posed a similar question to themselves.

Thanks in advance for your help.

7 replies so far

View Adam's profile


46 posts in 3181 days

#1 posted 08-04-2010 12:41 AM

Try going to lots of info on Unisaws and many other old tools.


View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3700 days

#2 posted 08-04-2010 12:49 AM

I would get a older unisaw!

View knotscott's profile


8057 posts in 3403 days

#3 posted 08-04-2010 01:00 AM

There are pros and cons to both options. Just thinking out loud….a lot depends on the vintage of the saw, the condition, and your preferences. Some of the older saws were definitely overbuilt, but one could argue the need for a saw that’s built better than a modern Grizzly, Jet, Steel City, Shop Fox, etc…especially for hobby work. A new saw has a warranty, possible dealer support, modern features, etc., but generally comes at a premium. Refurbing an old tool can be pretty satisfying, but there are also potential struggles along the way…all part of the fun I suppose!

What floats your boat?

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

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3489 days

#4 posted 08-04-2010 01:06 AM

I would opt for the older unisaw. They are great, high quality, made in america arn. I have one that I restored about a year ago and if I had to do it all over again, I would do it. There is a wealth of info available at and They guys there are great and extremely helpful. If you find an older saw that id 3 phase don’t let that deter you from a purchase. There are many options out there for powering it up and the saw will most likely be cheaper. Once you run a 3ph for a while you will never go back. If you find an older saw that is in running condition make a few cuts and listen to it. Take a look at the trunnion and make sure all the teeth are there and none are broken off. On the front trunnion there is a small ear that protrudes that frequently gets broken off, its the 90 degree stop. If its broken its not the end of the world, parts come up regularly at owwm. Listen to the arbor bearings they may be getting tired. Tell tale signs would be clicking or other noises as you turn the blade by hand, unplugged of course. The bearings are very easy to change and available at any good bearing supply house. When negotiations are underway for the saw take into account the condition and the amount of work to be performed and offer accordingly. There is no set price for used saws only what the market will bear and what you are willing to pay. A $400 saw to me may not be the same to you.


After…nearing completion.

I will tell you that I get the saw for free. Total restoration cost with the bearings, paint, fence, VFD to run the motor, switch and wiring was in the neighborhood of $500. But the way I look at it I got a 2K saw for $500!!

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3186 days

#5 posted 08-04-2010 02:44 AM

I got mine off Craigslist for $500 around 18 months ago. It’s a 1992 Unisaw 3hp – 220v/1ph. Pictured here…

It still has the old fence, which despite the saw marks on the aluminum, is still functional. Other than that, a good polish of the table top, cleaning/lube, belt replacement (there are 3 of them), and trunnion/blade alignment leaves you with a saw that will cut as well as any.

Pictured above, rather messy after a small project in my garage workshop (which is a project in itself), shows the additions of Bench Dog extension, Rockler FX lift, and Bosch router. I guess I could “restore” the saw, but I really don’t see the necessity…especially with a relatively later model of this saw. Older Rockwell versions might need some rust treatment and new cosmetics, but not something like this. Whatever Unisaw you choose, just make sure the mechanicals are all good to go.

When I purchased the saw, it lacked a miter gauge…and as I mentioned, the fence is merely serviceable. That didn’t matter so much to me because I knew I would upgrade them anyway. I have a nice Incra 3000HD miter gauge now. The fence will soon be upgraded to an Incra TS-LS positioning fence…and I really can’t wait for that!

You just need to ask yourself what items you need, what will be upgraded, and amount of work you will put into it…then figure your price accordingly. Whereas you can purchase a new Unisaw with awesome fence for around $3,000, you’d still need to purchase the Incra stuff on top of that, if that’s what you wanted. With a used saw, there’s more of a reason, and more money, to add those types of accessories.

Bottom line, you’ll end up spending around $1000 to $1200 in order to add all the bells and whistles…or to get a more recent vintage with ready-to-go, quality accessories. So, I think you have to decide what applications you want to do and how much of a central component your table saw will be in your own workshop.

-- jay,

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3508 days

#6 posted 08-04-2010 03:00 AM

I think it would be a fun project to restore an old saw. You cant beat the quality construction of an older Delta saw.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View jred's profile


49 posts in 3193 days

#7 posted 08-04-2010 04:01 AM

I think I may be sold. I would enjoy the process as much as the finished result and it could be a great winter project. Now to find a saw!

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