Granite vs Cast Iron tool surfaces

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Forum topic by Justin posted 07-22-2011 02:54 AM 7395 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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119 posts in 3449 days

07-22-2011 02:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: resource question

I am thinking about buying some tools so i am just wondering if there is any pros/cons to having a granite surface rather then cast iron tops, other than not rusting I cant think of any major ones. Is there a risk of it cracking if knocked kind of hard? is there any maintenance with granite? Ive only used equipment with cast iron surfaces so I have no experience with granite.

20 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4698 days

#1 posted 07-22-2011 03:11 AM

I think the only real drawback to granite is the one you mentioned… the possibility of cracking.

As I recall, when Ridgid came out with its first granite table saw, there was an issue with the tops cracking in the area behind the blade. This may have been a design problem, but it still seems to me that there is always the possibility of dropping something sharp and heavy on a granite surface and chipping or cracking it.

I’ve had a cast iron saw in my garage for four years with no special care other than an occasional coat of paste wax, and rust has never been an issue.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View knotscott's profile


8325 posts in 3855 days

#2 posted 07-22-2011 03:16 AM

Granite is heavier and tends to be flatter than cast iron. I’ve read that most of the issues with the Ridgid granite top saws were caused by double stacking in storage. The same tops on the Steel City, Craftsman, and GI saws don’t seem to have nearly as many issues. Nonetheless, the fact remains that granite is more prone to damage than cast iron, though it supposedly can be repaired. Many owners of granite top tools love them, but at the end of the day I think I’m more comfortable with cast iron….perhaps it’s just the devil I know vs the one I don’t.

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

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3120 days

#3 posted 07-22-2011 04:23 AM

Granite chips and can break (already said above) and is not worth a dang for magnetic feather board, etc. I vote for the cast iron.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3478 days

#4 posted 07-22-2011 05:31 AM

Cast iron is brittle too and will break as well. The only real differences I see one way or another are the magnetic and rust issues. Both make a nice top. The granite is more dimensionally stable, but within the tolerances of woodworking a non-issue. Either one will last a lifetime.

I think that the bigger deciding factor is the quality of the mechanics and electronics and which top it comes with is secondary.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Justin's profile


119 posts in 3449 days

#5 posted 07-22-2011 05:33 AM

Other than just looking pretty and not rusting it don’t seem like there is much that would convenience me to buy granite rather than cast iron. I guess it comes down to whats inside like David said. The option for magnetic feather boards is pretty nice to have as well.

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 3113 days

#6 posted 07-22-2011 05:35 AM

DG said it. I have a few magnetic featherboards and jigs that would be worthless on a granite surface. That by itself disqualifies granite for me. I suppose if I lived in a high-humidity/high-rust environment, then granite might have a place.
I’ll venture to guess that repairs or retrofits on a granite tool would be much more problematic too.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3554 days

#7 posted 07-22-2011 05:37 AM

I really like my magnet based fingerboards. For that reason alone, I want cast iron tables.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 3032 days

#8 posted 07-22-2011 06:02 AM

Granit, marble, and most stone products crack and chip easily. Cast Iron also is brittle as mentioned above, but not nearly to the degree most stones are. I’ve dropped jade pieces and had them shatter into a million pieces. I also had marble tops shatter by dropping only a couple inches. I’ve had alabaster shatter like glass by tipping over.

Cast Iron may be brittle, but not like that.

View Manitario's profile


2778 posts in 3363 days

#9 posted 07-22-2011 06:03 AM

I had a granite topped TS and loved it; dead flat and no rust; had no problem with it chipping/cracking. I’d get another in a second.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3120 days

#10 posted 07-22-2011 06:07 AM

And if your granite-topped TS has a lift like mine, it drops a bit jarringly. I work with granite quite often in my real job and it is hard and stable, but there are sometimes unseen stress lines that can break without notice when jarred, stood on, or especially when set on an imperfectly leveled support. You should see the shimming we have to do when installing new cabinets that will get granite tops… not because the cabs aren’t square and plumb, but because the walls and floors are so NOT.

If you have any problems with your granite, just call 1-800-CALLGOD, because that’s who made it.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3478 days

#11 posted 07-22-2011 06:21 AM

Actually, since cast iron is kind of nasty to put back together, the granite would be easier to fix. You can braze cast iron but that has it’s own problems. I have never seen a cast iron table broken except for major accidents or stupidity such as knocking it over onto concrete or over tightening bolts.

In some ways the pluses of the granite cancel themselves out. The extra mass is nice for vibration but putting it all in the top makes it even more top heavy. It also makes the top thicker and you can potentially lose some range of adjustment of the blade. I would check that carefully. You could lose as much as an inch of cutting depth.

Like many have said though, if you like magnetic attachment of stuff, there is no choice. I just never got into them. I just had long featherboards that I clamped down on the wings.The magnetic ones were just starting to come onto the market back when I last had a table saw and back then were quite expensive. More than anything, I think the granite tops are just a marketing gimmick and neither one has a clear advantage.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3120 days

#12 posted 07-22-2011 06:32 AM

Svengali says (weird music)... You want this. You need this. You have to have this. Granite no good.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3792 days

#13 posted 07-22-2011 01:06 PM

I had my doubts when I got my granite top saw, but took a chance on the R4511 to see how it would do.

Still got it and have had zero issues with the top. It is dead flat and makes and excellent reference when jointing.

Had the same saw been available in cast I would have preferred that like most of the responders because thats what I have always had in the past on machinery.

I probably would not have chanced it had the saw been more expensive but for $450 it has turned out to be a very good tool, and the trunions are mounted to the cab of the saw so alignment is really done once and done.

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 3624 days

#14 posted 07-22-2011 04:27 PM

Biggest advantage other than not rusting is weight.

Another owner of the R4511, specs in the book say just under 400 lbs.
Average Cabinet Saw weight – 450-550 lbs

Craftsman/Ridgid R4512: 230 lbs

You may not be happy when unloading the crate, but weight factors into stability and vibration.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3609 days

#15 posted 07-26-2011 04:56 AM

How about the miter slots? How well do granite slots behave? Do they cause wear on miter gauge rails and cross cut sleds? I don’t know just thinking about it. Maybe one of the granite to owners could lets us know.

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