Table saw advice wanted for getting into cabinet making

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Forum topic by Hotpuppy posted 08-15-2013 07:34 AM 16966 views 1 time favorited 42 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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69 posts in 1987 days

08-15-2013 07:34 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi, I’m just getting into cabinet making. I’m not sure if the table saw I have will do the job or not. I’d like some feedback from others who have been down this path before.

I have a Ryobi RTS31 “portable” table saw. It has a decent work size and i’ve done some moderately complicated work on it in the past. I’m just not sure how it will do for cabinets.

I am considering upgrading to something like a used or new Ridgid R4512. That’s about what my budget is okay with.

My most complicated project in the past has been a 350 Gallon Saltwater aquarium, the stand for it, and a 55 Gallon sump / filtration unit for it. Acrylic tanks are not cabinetry, but they are very demanding in terms of accuracy and clean saw cuts. It’s essentially a water tight box that supports hundreds or thousands of pounds of weight.

I used a combination of a straight edge and skilsaw and the Ryobi table saw for all my cuts. I will be working in a 1500 s/f shop next to my house. So I have plenty of space.

What I will build first are some frame and panel units to go above and below the aquarium. Then i want to build a couple of bathroom vanities, all the cabinetry and furniture for a 20 foot airstream trailer, and then probably re-do my kitchen.

For the aquarium, I want to make the frames from maple (or something that can be stained to resemble maple) and 1/4 or 3/8” cherry veneer core plywood ( or something that can be made to look like cherry plywood). The aquarium serves as a divider in the master bedroom suite and I would like it to have the same theme as my bed frame and dresser set. I am thinking primarily of a shaker style design and will be using pocket screws where appropriate. I have a Kreg jig and while I realize there are stronger, prettier joinery methods the pocket screw method will work well for many of my projects.

The aquarium panels will be mounted using panel clips like the ones rockler sells Easy to remove if needed, but otherwise looks stationary.

My panel sizes are 30×32 (x6) and 36×32 (x1) for the upper and probably the same size/qty for the lower section.

Everything else should be smaller sections then this. What should I look at when trying to decide about an upgrade on the table saw? The articles I have read so far make it sound like you can’t cut scrap if you don’t have a $5K table saw. lol.

I have taken the time to adjust the fence on this saw, but I recognize that it has limitations. I’m just not sure if a $500 hybrid saw isn’t going to have alot of the same limitations.

A little additional detail: I also think I probably need to buy a jointer and surface planer. I’ve seen some nice combo units around $500.

Woodworking Tools I currently have:
3 handheld routers (old makita, a harbor freight, and a Ryobi)
2 benchtop router tables
A “basic” sliding compound miter saw (10” Harbor Freight)
A older compound miter saw, Delta 10” – high mileage
A 7” ryobi compound miter saw, currently mounted to a saw stand that can be set to make reliable repetitive cuts.
5hp Qunicy Air Compressor.
Assorted clamps, cordless drills, hammers, nail guns, pneumatic drills/sanders, etc.

Most of my carpentry to date has been construction oriented and so my tools were chosen to meet those needs. If there are other tools I should be thinking of I would appreciate the suggestions.

42 replies so far

View knotscott's profile


8186 posts in 3617 days

#1 posted 08-15-2013 08:14 AM

Welcome to LJ’s HP. A jointer and planer are excellent additions if you’ll be using dimensional lumber.

I think you’re on the right track for a table saw…full size, belt drive with an induction motor. Given a decent fence, good alignment, and proper blade, most will do a good job for you. If you were to give your location, someone here might have a lead on a good used saw.

The ABC's of Table Saws

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

View bowedstraight's profile


100 posts in 2014 days

#2 posted 08-15-2013 01:35 PM

If your building cabinets I would go for a sliding tablesaw would be easier to cut good straight lumber

-- Work in the city woodshop in tha country

View bowedstraight's profile


100 posts in 2014 days

#3 posted 08-15-2013 01:36 PM

if your going into production that is

-- Work in the city woodshop in tha country

View bowedstraight's profile


100 posts in 2014 days

#4 posted 08-15-2013 01:38 PM

I would get the biggest tablesaw I could afford something that would saw all day if that answers your question

-- Work in the city woodshop in tha country

View Hotpuppy's profile


69 posts in 1987 days

#5 posted 08-15-2013 04:58 PM

Hi, I’m not going to go into production. I’m just building some cabinets for myself for several projects. It’s something I have always wanted to do. I live in Houston in the Heights district. I plan to purchase lumber from Clark’s Hardwood Lumber – a local trade lumber yard with a nice selection and good staff.

I went to the local Rockler store today to look at toys and tools. Nice folks. They wanted to talk me into a Jet Contractor saw. It’s a nice unit, but I think the Ridgid R4512 would be just as nice. There is one on Craigslist for $400 that doesn’t look like it was abused much. It was at $450… still not sure it’s that great of a deal. I already have the Freud Dado set. lol.

There is one for a little less that looks bad… $300 which probably means it could be had for $250

Problem is that they are $529 new. Anyhow…..

What I really want is : 5HP 52” Unisaw. lol. Seriously it’s a nice looking saw and I have 400A 3phase service in my shop… so I think I can run this too. LOL. I also think it’s overkill for what I want to do do and the Ridgid will do what I need.

I should confess, I like nice tools…. Anyhow, I’m off to HomeDepot to look at the Ridgid saw in person. All the internet pictures look great, it’s in-person that you can truly get an idea of if something is quality or not.

View MrFid's profile


888 posts in 2146 days

#6 posted 08-15-2013 05:11 PM

I have the Ridgid R4511 (sort of the same as the R4512, but mine has a granite top… pros and cons). It does what I need it to do, and is well built and fully adjustable and tuneable, where my old Ryobi POS (that should be the official model name) was not adjustable in the slightest. I have tuned my Ridgid to the point where it does a great job. No, it’s not a Unisaw, but at $250 barely used (talked down from $300), I couldn’t pass it up. You’ll find lots of proponents of the R4512 on here.

If you haven’t done so already, read KnotScott’s link to his blog in comment #1 above. He also has a great article regarding blades. Helped me tremendously for deciding what I needed.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19634 posts in 2098 days

#7 posted 08-15-2013 05:18 PM

Wouldnt worry about the rust on the top of that saw. The cast iron rusts easily when not used or waxed. Probably just means it wasnt used a lot.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View dschlic1's profile


442 posts in 2211 days

#8 posted 08-15-2013 05:18 PM

I would continue to look at Craigslist. Also Craftsman table saws of the vintage are very good. I have one and just completed a custom cabinet entertainment center. I purchased mine for $90.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3472 days

#9 posted 08-15-2013 05:28 PM

Good choice on your lumber yard. That is where I buy my wood also.
BTW I have the Grizzly 1023 RLW and love it.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3826 days

#10 posted 08-15-2013 05:34 PM

I would say( not an expert though ) the delta unisaw looks very nice I have a friend who imported one to Scotland from The good old USA and he loves it. I wish you well and hope you get the biggest and best you can afford you’ll never look back with regret but if you purchase a smaller one you might well wish you had gotten the delta.It depends on whether your building a workshop or not if yes then the delta is best but for taking to places to work for you either of the others.I have only experience with delta stuff I rate it highly as I have several delta items here in scotland.Luck be with you kindest regards Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3212 days

#11 posted 08-15-2013 06:22 PM

The Ridgid 4512 is not half the saw the 4511 was. The granite top 4511 had cabinet mounted trunnions and was generally considered a very good saw.

But, the 4512 has a flimsy elevate and tilt mechanism on the arbor, the trunnions are mounted on the top and they are hell to adjust. Many of these saws have a defect that causes the blade to shift out of alignment with the miter slot when ever you change the elevation. I know this, because I have one with the problem. I would LOVE to sell mine for $400. I only paid $409 for it when it was new (MSRP was $649). However, if you get one and verify it does not have the shifty alignment issue, then folks seem to be pretty happy with them otherwise. Some users don’t like the split rails for the fence.

If I was looking to build cabinets I would be looking for a deal on a panel saw or a slider.

View Hotpuppy's profile


69 posts in 1987 days

#12 posted 08-15-2013 07:11 PM

I went and looked at the R4512…. it’s okay… but it’s certainly not a Unisaw.

What do you think of the Jet JWTS-10JF? This one looks nice and is listed at $350 which seems very reasonable.

I thought Jet’s fence assembly was more solid then the Ridgid.

I don’t know if it’s normal, but I found that the Ridgid at Home Depot tended to pull to the right when the fence was clamped. Maybe 1/16 or 1/8th of an inch. I looked at the Jet and it did the same thing but it seemed like a much more solid saw.

I appreciate all the great feedback and things to consider…. you guys are awesome!

View kimosawboy's profile


172 posts in 3212 days

#13 posted 08-15-2013 08:17 PM

If you have 3phase in your shop that opens a lot of doors for you regarding tools. First and foremost find out exactly what type of power you have available, then start smart shopping for used 3phase tools. The majority of 3phase tools go really cheap second hand as most people do not have that type of power. Most of the older machines were built, back when quality meant something…....
I could blather on and on but I think that I have made my point.
Good luck
G Vavra

View Hotpuppy's profile


69 posts in 1987 days

#14 posted 08-15-2013 08:33 PM

I am certain that I have 400amp 3 phase high-leg service in my workshop. I built the building and installed the electrical. The city inspectors office fought me tooth and nail on the electric service arguing that I didn’t need 3 phase or 400amp.

I agree, 3 phase tools and machines often don’t have as much competition. However, I’m not setting up a commercial cabinet shop so I don’t need the best tool that money can buy. I need the best tool for my projects that I can find within my budget. :)

I love nice tools…. but in my opinion, the right tool for the job isn’t always the most expensive or nicest tool. Case in point, I put the siding on my 1500 s/f shop using the cheapest corded drills I could find…. Ryobi $19.99 drills at the time. I knew that I had unskilled helpers who thought nothing of dropping them in the dirt. They got the job done and have seen very little use since then. I could have bought really nice DeWalt drills, but I would have been mad when they got tore up.

As I see it right now, I need a saw that is safe, has sufficient power, accurate, repeatable, is stable, can handle 30” panel rips, and can handle 1 to 2” hardwoods. The ridgid R4512 would probably work, but the Jet JWTS-10JF I found on craigslist is a better saw…. and while I’d like to own that $900 Unisaw it’s more saw than I need or want to dedicate space to. It’s a beautiful saw that looks like it belongs to someone who takes care of it. But it’s more saw than I need, it’s 2.5 hours away, and as much as I’d like to have it I’d rather take the savings and invest in other tools I don’t have… like a full size router table and decent router or a dust collector.

View JayT's profile


6017 posts in 2452 days

#15 posted 08-15-2013 08:34 PM

$350’s not bad for that Jet, not a steal, but you wouldn’t be getting ripped off, either.

However, since you have it available, I agree with kimosawboy and would be after a used 3 phase Unisaw, Powermatic or similar. The one in that CL ad might be “overkill” for your current project, but there is a lot to be said for the extra mass and power of a full size cabinet saw. It means the saw isn’t working as hard, you don’t have to push as hard, etc. It all adds up to a safer experience and longer life for the tools. Additionally, if you will be working with sheet goods, that long table and fence are invaluable.

The price is fair for what it is, but you could always offer less. Given the choice of the Jet for $300 or the 3ph Unisaw for $750, I’d pick the Uni every time. If you are patient, you might even be able to find one in the $300-400 range, as 3ph saws are tough to sell on the used market.

Just my 2 pennies worth. (Dang, must be nice to have 3phase power)

-- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

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