Unisaw 1.5 Hp vs. Contractor Saw 1.5 - Do I gain anything?

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Forum topic by andy49 posted 08-25-2014 02:41 AM 2960 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 2476 days

08-25-2014 02:41 AM

Hey guys, just fishing for some input on a potential Unisaw purchase. This is my situation….........have a perfectly good early 70’s Delta/Rockwell “Contractor’s Special”34-338 (Fancier version of the old model 10, webbed alum ext instead of one piece hollow aluminum ext). I have it set up well, took off the original fence, have a Vega 50 on it, nice Incra miter jig, even picked up the old style Delta cast iron tenon jig (but have yet to play with it). Anyway, while it does everything I need, I still have that common itch we all get for a cabinet saw.

Being a fan of older North American iron, that means a Unisaw, a PM 66, or a General 350. I know a guy that has a cherry early-mid 80’s Unisaw that he wants to sell – the ones that just say “Rockwell” with the blue label, no Delta signage. It is bare bones stock with original splitter, jet lock fence and miter gauge, and has had little use; comes with everything standard but the motor cover which the owner said he never had. Here’s the thing, it has the standard 220v 1.5 hp Delta motor, same as my Contractor Saw.

Do I gain anything with the Unisaw if it has the same motor and my CS runs good, is well set up and built like a tank? Convince me guys, or tell me to save my cash for other woodworking goodies/guns/fishing equipment/golf clubs/beer?

8 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile (online now)


9471 posts in 1485 days

#1 posted 08-25-2014 02:49 AM

If it works for you then keep it Id say.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Pezking7p's profile


3217 posts in 1651 days

#2 posted 08-25-2014 02:51 AM

Save it for a significant upgrade. This is more of an upgrade for show than function.

-- -Dan

View Loren's profile (online now)


10398 posts in 3647 days

#3 posted 08-25-2014 04:24 AM

Upgrading the Unisaw motor to a 3hp will be costly.

You will get an upgrade in performance due to the
shorter belts and more positive power transfer. This
may be relatively minor.

Contractor saws, because of the way the trunnions are
and the weight of the motor cantilevered, will heel
when tilted. The heeling undermines precision in
joinery cuts and may lead to burning in applications
like panel raising. Cabinet saws are not prone to this.

Cabinet saws have a convenient design since the motor
out the back doesn’t interfere with pushing an
outfeed table up behind the saw.

These are all minor concerns for most work considering
the same motor horsepower.

You might keep your eye out for a 12” or larger cabinet
saw. Having used 12” saws for years I prefer them
for furniture making. For cabinetry 10” or even 8”
is adequate.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4138 posts in 2308 days

#4 posted 08-25-2014 04:35 AM

If the unisaw doesn’t have a uni fence I wouldn’t mess with it.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 1903 days

#5 posted 08-25-2014 04:50 AM

Loren said it better then I could!
Having a 70s contractor saw and the problem Loren mentioned about it heeling when tilted, is spot on. Also, cabinet saws are just nicer, have better adjustments, more solid machines without the flexy stuff.
I also bypassed the Unisaw and found a Delta Rockwell 12”-14”, very happy with that saw.
You could certainly put that Vega fence on the Unisaw!

I still have the contractors saw, it comes in handy at times.

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 1548 days

#6 posted 08-25-2014 10:07 AM

The heavier the machine means less vibration/more accuracy.

View andy49's profile


24 posts in 2476 days

#7 posted 08-26-2014 12:34 AM

Thanks guys, consensus seems to be to keep the contractor’s saw – which obviously makes the most sense, takes emotion out of the decision. If I had a cheapy Home Depot special than i wouldn’t think twice but my saw is set up pretty nice, is built like a tank and with the Vega fence and a thin kerf Freud, does everything I need it to. If the Rockwell had a 3hp motor and a biesemeyer or unifence, I guess I’d have reason to get more serious about it, since it is in very nice shape.

View toolie's profile


2123 posts in 2628 days

#8 posted 08-26-2014 12:38 AM

tell me to save my cash for other woodworking goodies/guns/fishing equipment/golf clubs/beer?

a unisaw is not all that and a bag of chips. i wouldn’t change. i kept my two 10” CI 113 series contractor saws over a 3 hp 70s vintage unisaw i refurbished.

-- there's a solution to every just have to be willing to find it.

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