Steel City 35990G Granite Top Contractor Saw

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Review by TheBossQ posted 01-15-2011 05:44 PM 15273 views 1 time favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Steel City 35990G Granite Top Contractor Saw No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them


The original purpose of this review was to review, in detail, the Steel City 35990G table saw from a first hand user point of view. In the end, I ran into a couple of problems that I just could not put aside. I hope you find the review helpful if you are considering this saw.

Purchase & Shipping

My wife purchased this saw as a Christmas present. Purchased from Amazon, shipped by freight (Pilot). Pilot missed the delivery date, but delivered the next day and the package looked to be in good shape.

Opening the box reveals excellent packaging. The saw is completely encased in foam and everything is packed quite tightly. Typical shipping rigors would do nothing to harm the contents. It would have to be dropped off a dock or fork lift to sustain any damage.

Hardware and Assembly

After un-boxing all the contents, I took to skimming the entire manual. It contains the typical safety information, as well as operation and assembly instructions.

The main cabinet is already assembled, which houses the center table, trunions and motor.

The instructions for assemby could be a lot better. To give you an example, the very first step in the manual is “1. Turn the table saw side lay.” The instructions would seem to be written by two people. One of them doesn’t write in English very well.

The instructions are incorrect in multiple places for assembling the base. Specifically, the instructions direct you to use incorrect hardware for certain steps. (e.g. specifying a carriage bolt when an allen bolt is needed, to use washers and a nut in a spot where there is already a welded nut or to use M8 hardware when it clearly calls for M6).

Once past the confusing instructions for the base, things get a little better. Note that anywhere something is bolted to the granite table, there is a threaded insert in place.

I put the cabinet on the base and then bolted the granite wings to the cabinet. The instructions tell you there is no need to level the wings to the main table, as it was already done at the factory. Of course I checked this with a 24” precision straight edge. They have a very different definition of “close enough” than I do. The left wing, at a bit past the middle was nearly .020 lower than the center table. The right wing was much better at about .005. A couple of adjustments on each side with the leveling screws brought everything to about .002 or less across the entire assembly.

Next, I installed the fence. First up was the bracket. Noting that I had already had hardware issues, this part had me stumped for a bit. The allen bolts that the instructions called for would not thread into the table, but hex head bolts would. A visual inspection of the two bolts shows they are exact matches in their coarse thread and thread pitch. I finally decided to run a tap through the threads and that must have cleared something, because the allen bolts zipped right in and the bracket was on. Next, was the front rail. Some allen bolts were missing. There should have been a total of eight. There were six. I made use of the six I had and bolted the rail to the bracket. I then bolted on the rear rail and set the fence onto the rails.

Everything else was self explanatory. Switch, riving knife, blade, dust chute, dust port, caster assembly, etc. all bolted up no issues.

Fit and Finish

Some notes on the granite table. The three sections of granite are pretty flat. I could not easily slip a .001 feeler gauge under the straight edge on any part of any of the three table sections. I couldn’t force a .002 anywhere. The granite top is very smooth. The 45 degree chamfers around the table are a bit rough. I’m probably nitpicking that, but all in all, the table seems pretty decent.

The standard insert is metal, held in place by magnets and it’s garbage. It’s only useful for its dimensions to pattern route MDF ZCI blanks. The riving knife is difficult to install and difficult to remove, but seems well aligned from the factory.

The saw is pretty heavy. Pilot invoice said 370 pounds. Minus about 10 pounds of packaging … whatever the final weight, it’s got some heft. The retracting caster makes it pretty easy to move around. I would prefer two retracting casters for better balance while moving it, but it’s good enough.

Coming from a job site saw (Ryobi) with a joke of a fence, this fence is an improvement. That being said, it’s not that great. It locks down solidly, but there is far more deflection than you would expect from a T Square style fence. It’s 99% tied to the split rail, because it’s plain to the see that the rail is deflecting, and not the fence itself. The bracket for the rail is short and doesn’t support the end of the rail. This fence would get me through several projects, but would eventually be scrapped for a real fence.

Here, you can see the split rail and the very short bracket.

Electrical requirements: The manual is flat out wrong when it comes to the electrical. It claims the saw is wired for 240 from the factory. It is wired for 120. Steel City confirmed that and is correcting the manual. I rewired the motor for 240, which is very easy as the diagram on the access panel is very clear. I ran a dedicated 240 receptacle into my garage and recapped the power cord with the matching plug.


Did the usual set up of ensuring everything is square to the miter slots. During the first cut into some pine scraps with a brand new Freud blade, it was clear there was something wrong. The pine wanted badly to climb the blade, I could feel the blade wanting to kick the pine back and it just didn’t want to cut. I shut the saw off and as the motor spun down, the whole thing shuddered to a stop. Amid the saw dust I managed to create was some black smoke. Typical of a slipping belt. The manual and tech support claim the belt is tensioned at the factory, no need to tension.

I cleared off the top, opened the side panel, start/stop the saw and it’s obvious there is something wrong with the belt. There isn’t enough tension and it’s not possible to tension it any further. The belt is tensioned via a pivot pin and bolt/nut type bracket on the motor. Loosening the bolt/nut on the mounting bracket showed the bolt is already in contact with the end of the slot in the motor bracket. The belt is clearly too long.

Here you can see that the end of the slot in the motor bracket, under the weight of the motor alone, already extends past the bolt hole. In order to get the bolt in, you have to lift the motor, taking all tension off the belt.

With the weight of my hand slightly tensioning the belt, the slot in the bracket is WELL past the bolt hole. This belt will never work.

It’s either a quality control issue, or a poor design issue. Steel city says it’s the first they’ve heard of it and they’ll get back to me. Well, I doubt they will call me back, so I already sourced a replacement belt. It comes with a 170 J 6, and I found a local company that has a 160 J 6 for $15.00. They are half that on the internet, but I want to use the saw, so I picked it up.


The new belt is too small.

New belt fits just inside the old belt.

While lifting the motor to get the smaller belt on, the motor contacts the trunion. My wife with her small hands managed to wrangle the smaller belt on (my wife is awesome).

You can see how close the motor is to the trunnion assy.

I tensioned it and gave the saw a try again. This time the saw was cutting no problem. There is less of a shudder on the start/stop, but it’s still there. I am thinking the arbor and motor pulleys are in less than perfect alignment. The belt jumps when you start the saw and shudders even worse while the blade is spinning down. It might pass a nickel test with the saw already running, but not a chance during a start/stop.

I decided to grab the included miter gauge and try a couple cross cuts. I couldn’t even get through the first cut as the miter bar became pinched toward the last third of the miter slot. The miter slot is uneven from front to back. Since the seams in the table are located in the miter slots, technically the slots are adjustable. So I loosened the bolts holding the table and attempted to adjust the table so that the front of the slot closed and the rear opened a bit. No dice. There are locating pins in the main cabinet that insert into holes drilled in the bottom of the table that locate the wing’s position on the cabinet. There is very little wiggle room and not enough to correct the issue with the miter slot. It’s the straw that has broken this saw’s back.

Here you can see the locating pins. These slide into a couple holes drilled in the bottom of the table. They do a good job of poorly locating the table.

Couple more pics:

Didn’t notice this large gap in the access panel when I was assembling. Probably won’t help with dust collection.

From the bottom, during disassembly.


Steel City tech support was fairly easy to reach, but ultimately not knowledgeable of the product. The guy said he had never seen the saw up close and hadn’t seen it since “Atlanta”. He did the typical run around thing … blamed my 240 circuit (it’s 248 volts as measured with my DMM). As the pictures demonstrate, the stock belt is clearly too long.

Steel City uses decent quality materials combined with poor workmanship and tech support that can’t help. The issues were just too many to justify keeping the saw. I can work through assembly issues. I can’t work through basic operation and fitment issues that defeat the purpose of the saw. Regarding the problem with the belt, Steel City has not called me back and probably never will. I’ll either save some money to add to the refund Amazon will issue and buy a higher dollar saw, or scour craigslist on a daily basis. I just missed out on a $500.00 Unisaw, so I’ll cross my fingers and hope something good comes up.

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 3461 days

28 comments so far

View Routerisstillmyname's profile


763 posts in 4277 days

#1 posted 01-15-2011 07:17 PM

Too bad you got a problematic saw. THX for sharing. I thought that this was identical to rigid R4511 saw which got good reviews.

-- Router è ancora il mio nome.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4038 days

#2 posted 01-15-2011 07:28 PM

Every manufacturer has it’s lemons but great review. Take a look at the grizzly saws….they are great for the money and the tech support is high class….I have the cabinet saw….but from what I hear…the contractor or hybrid saws are very good also. If you really need portabillty take a look at the Bosch 4000 series. I had one before my cabinet type…and it is very accurate for that level of saw. I would also stay away from the granite top…I’ve heard too much negative on them.

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

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 3461 days

#3 posted 01-15-2011 07:48 PM

Thanks reggiek – I almost pulled the trigger on a used Grizzly G1023SL yesterday. But the table was rusted and they (repo company) couldn’t plug in the saw to prove that it worked. They were asking $400. I offered less and they took someone else’s offer. I couldn’t justify offering more on a saw they couldn’t prove would even fire up.

If I don’t find something decent in the next few weeks, I’ll probably just order a G0715P.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3883 days

#4 posted 01-15-2011 08:05 PM

thank´s for the great rewiew and picture book :-)

and welcome to L J hope you will have more fun in the future :-)


View knotscott's profile


8382 posts in 4144 days

#5 posted 01-15-2011 10:59 PM

I had thought that the 35990C & G were similar to the R4511 and Cman 22116, but after looking at these pics, I’m thinking they’re not the same, even though they’re both made by Steel City.

It’ll be interesting to see if SC comes through for you.


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

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 3461 days

#6 posted 01-16-2011 12:05 AM

Yes, that design is quite different. The motor is oriented in reverse of the SC saw and the belt is a good deal longer as well.

Actually, they did not come through and I have already sent the saw back. I’ve had the review written up for a bit, but there was a moratorium on new LJs memberships. I talked to Steel City on 1.3.11. I was promised a call back that is obviously never coming.

With the reviews on Grizzly’s customer service, I’m leaning that way even more each day.

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 3461 days

#7 posted 01-16-2011 02:01 AM

”shouldn’t that motor mount bolt have a washer on it ?”

Probably … It came as you see it. (Other than the shorter belt that is on there.) There is a washer, lock washer, nylon nut combo on the other side of the bolt.

knotscott – Here is a better picture of the motor/trunnion assembly.

Front of the saw is to the right, back is to the left.

View cso's profile


82 posts in 3456 days

#8 posted 01-16-2011 03:35 AM

I am in the midst of putting my Steel City together. I got the cast iron wings and top instead. I noticed a little bit of play in the belt as well. I’m going to try to adjust the tension since it is not terribly loose. But out of curiosity if I need to return it, did you have to pick up the shipping bill to send it back?

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 3461 days

#9 posted 01-16-2011 05:23 AM

Fortunately, I kept the styrofoam packaging, so I took it back apart and put everything back in it’s place. The box was toast, but it didn’t matter. It’s very tightly packed. My memory is a bit photographic, so it was easier to disassemble and repackage than it was to unpack and assemble. Pilot (same freight company that dropped it) came and picked it up. Amazon arranged the return shipping. I did not pay for it. I just called Amazon, told them what the problem was, let them know the manufacturer has no solution and they took care of it.

Steel City could learn a lot from Amazon on customer service.

View adrocker's profile


6 posts in 3460 days

#10 posted 01-16-2011 05:35 AM

I’ve been seriously debating the 35990C but I have a really hard time buying something I can’t poke and prod. Thanks for the review. I actually e-mail Steel City last week for the possibility of a fence upgrade and if they had a distributor closer to my area. On the website the closest they have is a four hour drive away. As of yet I’ve had no response. I guess that’s a good indication of their customer support.

Nonetheless, cso, please let me know how your saw goes.

View NormG's profile


6506 posts in 3772 days

#11 posted 01-16-2011 06:37 AM

What mess. Hope you locate a saw

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View cso's profile


82 posts in 3456 days

#12 posted 01-16-2011 01:58 PM

Well, I don’t have it together yet, (no wings or fence attached, just the cabinet and the base are together), so after adjusting the motor down to increase belt tension, (which really didn’t do much of anything, as the tension relies on the weight of the motor) I threw a blade on and turned it on. I tried the nickel test first and it failed miserably on start up. The second time it stayed, but as it was running the nickel was rolling and dancing everywhere. As you turn it off the motor would move up and create a disturbing noise. Thanks for the heads up ThebossQ, as I am fortunate not to be in too far with the assembly. I will be getting on the phone with Amazon later today and back it goes!
I also have the new Ridgid R4512 and it passes the nickle test everytime, and is much smoother. I realize it has its shortcomings with stamped steel wings, but maybe they’ll come out with an after-market wing kit or something. It’s a fine saw for the price, and my power supply to my detached garage limit my choices to 15 amp or less equipment. I think I will stay with that.

View TheBossQ's profile


100 posts in 3461 days

#13 posted 01-16-2011 04:54 PM

As you turn it off the motor would move up and create a disturbing noise.

Exactly what I was experiencing. As everything began winding down, all of a sudden, the motor would lurch upward and the saw would, more or less, slam to a halt. Since the only leverage to pull itself upward would be provided by the belt, that’s how I concluded the pulleys are probably misaligned. If not, then there is something else very wrong.

Imagine that happening every time you turn off the saw. Exactly how long do you think the saw would last? Not long enough.

Grizzly’s G0715P is looking really good right now.

View lashing's profile


111 posts in 3589 days

#14 posted 01-16-2011 06:28 PM

Wow … thanks for the post. I thought these looked slick at a woodshow. Good warning for all.

View Thomas1970's profile


39 posts in 4231 days

#15 posted 01-16-2011 09:35 PM


Thanks for such a great review. Direct and to the point. I would love a new cabinet saw but for one being on S.S. disability dosen’t allow for much spending. I could not believe the picture showing a “two piece?” rail?

Hopefully one thing you and CSO do when you sent/send back your saws is to rate it via Amazon so others could know before hand and perhaps make a better judgement as to buy or not. I for one read peoples reviews and consider the ratings generally when making a purchase for tools and equipment. I live in the North GA Mountains and have to travel such a long distance to see big ticket items up close the reviews really help in decision making.

Again, great review and don’t forget to put your location where you are … nice to know if you would be a nighbor or someone could help finding a deal for you maybe on a new saw.

-- " .... For he today, that sheds his blood with me, shall always be my brother.”

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