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Power tool advice after tough weekend...

2270 Views 14 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  toolie
Jocks, I need help/advice with my tools. I had such a frustrating weekend so let me give you the back story and vent a little…

I'm in the final stages of building my radiator covers. The only piece left is the french cleat to attach them to the wall. I figured I would just bump the table saw to 45 degrees and rip a board to get my two pieces. I have an older 1950's craftsman 8" saw where the arbor tilts, and the motor slides on a metal pin in the back. When I went to fire up the saw, the belt flung off. After some minor tweaks to the motor position, I ended up getting the saw to run at 45 degrees. As I was half way into the rip, I noticed some akward vibrations and the wood stopped feeding into the blade correctly. I didn't panic, I held my push block down and I just bumped my knee to get the safety switch off (thankfully I installed that switch). Turns out the wood was drifting away from the fence a bit and I was headed for a kickback. The fences on these saws are notoriously bad, they don't really self square. I tried my best to measure the fence to ensure it was parallel with the blade at front and back, but I must have been off a tiny bit. I usually set the back of the fence a bit further away to ensure I don't get binding, but even that didn't work. Anyways, it scared me, so I decided to use a different tool for the job.

I have two band saws. I tried my smaller 10" first. As I tilted the table to 45 degrees, SNAP! The aluminum bottom blade guide snapped off. That saw is now scrap because the time to buy a replacement part isn't worth it in my eyes. It is just an el cheapo craftsman from an estate sale.

So … I headed to the second band saw. It is the same set from the 1950's as my table saw (Pictures in my workshop gallery). So I went to tilt the table and fired it up … worked fine. I clamped a temporary fence to the table and ripped my cleat at 45 degrees. However, I went to start my second piece, and the blade fell off the tires. I opened the case and inspected what happened. Couldn't really figure it out, so I put the blade back on and tried again. This time, after getting about 1/2 down the board, I hear another loud sound and the blade is loose again. Opened the cover to find two tires actually came off the wheels. I have the original owners manual so I read through and set the saw up according to the instructions. I made sure the wheels were all in alignment and the blade guides were all set correctly. I think part of the problem is the tension mechanisms aren't working properly. Also I read the tires probably need replacing. I don't know if they still make tires for my saw, but I don't really want to spend the time and effort in these old machines if they're not going to yield what I want. Plus this bandsaw only has about 3.5"-3.75" resaw capacity, which isn't critical, but something I will hate in the future as I get more into this hobby.

After spending almost all weekend working on my tools rather than my project, I had a thought:

Do I abandon these older tools and start looking for newer ones?

Here is what I feel would last me a long time for my needs:

10" Table saw with a proper fence. Riving knife/blade guard would be nice. Contractor or cabinet?
14" Band saw with tilt table. Two wheels. Fence would be nice.

Again, I'm now leaning more towards quality and reliability over good value. What are your thoughts?
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Trying to work with inadequate tooling is like putting an English saddle on a jackass.
Sounds as if you're better off getting a good TS and BS. Look out Craig's. Here he comes!!
Or…..Grizz has some pretty darned good stuff at reasonable prices.
My TS was bought used (very lightly). Paid $500.00 for it and a HF DC.
The 0555LX BS was just over $500.00 shipped.
There is a time when ya have to put a price on frustration.
I personally have no tolerance for substandard tools. I don't mean that to make me sound snobbish, as I have my share of cheap/inexpensive tools. I buy the best I can afford, and for a tool that I would be using a LOT (like a TS or BS) I would rather save up and buy the best quality tool I can get. Note that "best" doesn't necessarily mean "most expensive". There is definitely a tier of tool out there that offers good value (performance vs. price). Lots of Grizzly tools, for example fit this niche IMO.
The TS is the heart and soul of my shop, so that's where I'd spend the bulk of my resources and budget. Some shops are BS centered, but I'm with the majority. What's best for you depends on your methods and objectives. Used is often the best bargain if you find the right deal.

If you've got 220v, a good 3hp cabinet saw makes for an awfully nice lifetime saw. Grizzly has a couple of very good 3hp cabinet saws in the $1300 to $1400 range….if you're willing to be your own middleman, and forego dealer support, there are some legitimate savings on quality tools here. If you prefer dealer support, expect to pay a premium on Jet, GI, Delta, PM, Steel City, Saw Stop, Rikon, Laguna, Shop Fox, or other.

If you don't have 220v, you'll be restricted to a saw with of 2hp or less. A good hybrid is capable of excellent work, but is not as robustly built as an industrial cabinet saw.

Table Saw Classifications and Buying Tips
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The HF BS is a great buy, you'll need to clamp on a fence though. The table is nice and accurate, but it's small. A piece of MDF could fix that easily though.
Ridgid has a good TS, it's basically the same thing as the older Craftsman TS so the feel is very similar and it's got a good fence.
If they are past their useful life (which it sounds like yours are), I would do yourself the favor of getting something new. I had a 30-year old hand-me-down Delta contractor table saw. It was inferior in many many aspects (work surface, fence, blade diameter, etc) but when I was still learning and only doing odds and ends, it worked. That said, when it ended up on its last leg, I decided the repair was not worth it and went with a Jet Hybrid. I cannot even begin to explain how much quicker things are (e.g., dialing in the fence, repeating cuts, etc) and exact the cutting is. Sure, the old saw when operational got me to the end game, but I find A LOT more enjoyment in the process now that I can spend more time having my ideas translate into accurate outcomes efficiently.

I don't really use a band saw, but I assume the thought process to be the same. Plus it really ticks me off having to spend the limited time I have screwing with broken tools… for me its a hobby and supposed to be a stress reliever; dealing with broken equipment is a stress elevator ;-)
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I wish I had saved the money for a cabinet saw initially instead of settling on saws that were ok for the money.
If 220 is an issue, steel city makes a 110 cabinet saw, as does sawstop, which is the one I'm saving for to buy early next year.

I haven't settled on a bandsaw yet, but the grizzly G0555X has my attention.
+1 what John(nwbusa) said.

As for contractor vs cabinet, yes cabinet would be optimal, but price will likely be your determining factor. The SawStop contractor is a very nice saw.

Have you established a budget yet?
My budget is probably the $1000 mark for a ts. I can probably swing a bit more if I can justify the cost to the wife.

That puts me in line with the hybrids from grizzly.

Reading those grizzly reviews have me concerned with the alignment issues of the non cabinet mounted trunions.

Thanks for the replies.
Wow, that was a bad day!

Like John, I have no tolerance for substandard tools either, but I think of it more from a safety standpoint. You could have injured yourself severely from any one of those three events. While kickback can happen on any saw, I think the underpowered, lightweight, flimsy fence ones are just too unsafe for my tastes.

I'm a big table saw guy, so I'd go for a 220v 3hp cabinet saw. Used Unisaws and Powermatics on Craigslist are my first recommendation, followed by the aforementioned Grizzlys. Nor do I think it's a bad idea to just go for a Sawstop, which I will likely have one day soon.

The only problem with used solutions is that riving knifes aren't standard fare, but they can still be equipped with splitters which is almost as good.

As for bandsaws, I'm still waiting for one. They aren't necessary, IME, but the moment I had one the types of projects I made would certainly take on a new complexion. I'm thinking in the Laguna 14 SUV class because I need the smaller size for my shop yet still have massive resawing power and capacity, but I might end up with a Rikon 10-325 instead. Either would fit just about anybody's needs. Otherwise, a typical 14" chinese version would suffice if resawing isn't a critical need. Even so, I worry about the reliability and safety of some of the cheaper tools.

I bought a 1992 3hp Unisaw off Craigslist almost four years ago now, which replaced an old Craftsman table model. I got it for $500, which allowed me to upgrade my fence and accessories entirely to Incra, which I believe adds another layer of safety that others do not have. Even so, it's a lot of value for the price. That's why I'd do the same thing if I were in your shoes, particularly if you need to replace both the TS and the BS at the same time.
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I thought my weekend was wrecked a while back when my big bandsaw 'threw' its tires while resawing. Then Patron to the rescue! He told me to glue em back on with auto store GOOP. Worked so well I still haven't installed the new tires I bought. I broke the lower guides off a little Wholesale Tool bandsaw a year ago and made a guide of hard maple that acts as both thrust and side guides and I'm still using it! "Poor folks have poor ways".
Quality though pricey saves you money, time and effort in the long run. I say, go for it!
Thanks for the replies. I have a HF within walking distance of my house, so I am always there for the cheap stuff (safety glasses, scrubby brushes, etc…). I've heard good things about the BS, so with a 20% coupon, it might be a good option for me. I'll take a look this week.

This is a hobby for me and by design is supposed to be a stress reliever. I didn't want to get in the business of restorations. I might put my old vintage stuff up for sale and put the proceeds towards a more substantial saw.

I explained the differences between contractor/hybrid/cabinet saws last night. She said, why not just get the cabinet saw and be done with it? My jaw hit the floor … now to research cabinet saws and how much it would cost to get a 220V line ran to my shop from the panel.
Since we're only renting our apartment and garage, I don't want to invest the money to run 220, so my cabinet saw choices are limited. But if you can get 220 and it's not cost prohibitive, go for it. It greatly widens your options for a cabinet saw. Just make sure you add the cost of the 220 addition to the cabinet saw you have in mind.
pendledad ............ FYI:
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