Help me buy a table saw

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Forum topic by tbear2500 posted 02-22-2019 04:42 PM 420 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 41 days

02-22-2019 04:42 PM

A little background – I’m 24, a software developer (so this is decidedly not a career thing), I’ve done some basic woodworking, but don’t have a whole lot of experience, especially with larger power tools. The only table saw I’ve used was part of my Total Shop (Shop Smith Mark V clone I bought on CL for cheap when I needed a drill press a few years ago and thought it might be handy to have a lathe, too), and to say it stinks would be generous.

I’m building an AirBike homebuilt aircraft from plans. The fuselage is welded steel tube and the wing is wood and fabric. I bought the first few parts pre-cut from Aircraft Spruce and once I realized what shipping would cost I decided I’d be better off learning to make them myself (not to mention, some parts are tricky shapes or sizes that no aircraft parts/wood shop would reasonably have). Parts are Sitka Spruce, ranging from 1/4” square rib stock (up to 54” long) to 3/4” x 2-1/2”, with eight sections of 3/4” square x 184” spar stock, of which four have 10.5 degree lengthwise miters (to follow the camber of the top of the wing), and birch plywood sheet, ranging from 1/32” to 1/4” thick. Being able to cut those parts precisely is, as you may imagine, of utmost importance.

I’d love to go to one of the nearby (-ish) “hackerspaces” and use one of their saws, but I won’t spend nearly as much time working if I have to drive somewhere as if I can do it at home (and I’d rather not haul the parts back and forth), and after a few months of that the cost of membership would rival the cost of a nice tablesaw, so I’ve been scouring Craigslist for a good used saw. After researching saws for a while (and spending a lot of time on these forums), I have been looking mostly for one of the older Craftsman contractor saws, to which I figured I’d attach a better aftermarket fence, but more recently I’ve noticed a few older cabinet saws that wouldn’t cost much more than the Craftsman saw and a proper fence – specifically, an older three-phase Unisaw (I’d need a three-phase converter, but I don’t worry so much about the cost of that because it would allow me to use other three-phase tools in the future) and an older Walker Turner Driver Line saw. The price on the former is $500 OBO (and I suspect the seller would entertain lower offers since it’s been on the market a while) and the latter $325 “firm” (though the same caveat applies).

I’d appreciate feedback from anyone who has used any of the above saws, but even if you haven’t, I would appreciate recommendations of what to look for. I’ve used enough crappy tools in my life to figure out the frustration isn’t worth it, but with how much parts for the airplane will cost, I’d like to keep my tools budget to a minimum.

6 replies so far

View jonah's profile


2035 posts in 3597 days

#1 posted 02-22-2019 06:48 PM

The Unisaw is definitely the better deal. Look for a VFD, not a phase converter. A VFD is reasonably cheap and offers some features you don’t typically get on single phase motors (soft start, adjustable speeds, etc). Assuming its in good shape, offer $350 for the Unisaw and settle on $400.

Whatever you buy, be really, really safe. You work with your hands. The last thing you want is to not only be left with a hefty hospital bill from a table saw accident, but not be able to earn a living because you can’t program with one hand.

There are a ton of great resources here and elsewhere on table saw safety. Do your homework.

View SMP's profile


460 posts in 204 days

#2 posted 02-22-2019 06:50 PM

Hmm, what about a bandsaw? I have a coworker who builds planes and looking at some of his builds I would prefer having a bandsaw for some of those parts. Maybe split the budget between a contractor saw and bandsaw? Just a thought, as I don’t know your specific build.

View tbear2500's profile


3 posts in 41 days

#3 posted 02-22-2019 07:14 PM

Look for a VFD, not a phase converter.

I’m sorry, when I said “three-phase converter” I meant it as a generic term for anything that converts single-phase power to three-phase and was thinking of a VFD. Thanks also for the comments on safety – I take that pretty seriously but it’s good to know others are looking out for me.

Hmm, what about a bandsaw? I have a coworker who builds planes and looking at some of his builds I would prefer having a bandsaw for some of those parts. Maybe split the budget between a contractor saw and bandsaw? Just a thought, as I don t know your specific build.

I already have a bandsaw but it would be tough to make it work for this purpose (the table is too small and building a bigger one of the quality I’d need would be a lot of work, plus I’d have to make it angle-adjustable since the angle of the blade isn’t really) and I’d rather not get another. Of course, its biggest problem is that it’s made for cutting metal, so it doesn’t remove material all that quickly. A proper woodworking bandsaw would perhaps be able to do the job, but it still seems like a table saw would be more appropriate – ripping the 184” long spars seems like it would be tough on a bandsaw.

View MrUnix's profile


7243 posts in 2497 days

#4 posted 02-22-2019 07:38 PM

The Unisaw would probably be a forever saw for you – but it would probably also set you back at least $700 or more after all is said and done. What you want to do can easily be done on a contractor saw found used for $100-$150, which seems to be more in line with your budget.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View ChefHDAN's profile


1328 posts in 3148 days

#5 posted 02-22-2019 09:58 PM

tbear, also watch for the older “Grey” Ridgid table saws, they are the same saw as the 113’s but just a different badge. The TS2424 and the TS3612 are the same saws, the rails are just set different for different capacities to the left & right, 24”l & 24”r or 12”l & 36”r. I’ve had a TS3612 for the past 12+ years, and it’s a very capable saw for my needs, will cut 6/4 and 8/4 with a good blade and correct feed pressure.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View tbear2500's profile


3 posts in 41 days

#6 posted 03-05-2019 05:39 AM

Quick update:

First, thanks to all for the help. Those higher-end cabinet saws are definitely more than I need.

A Yates American saw just like one in another recent forum post (with the disc sander and jointer) came up on CL recently for $40! I emailed the seller immediately but even so I was too late. He claimed it ran years ago but he didn’t have time to restore it, so I may have avoided a lot of work on that one.

Earlier tonight I went to another local homebuilder’s shop after the local EAA chapter sent an email requesting help on a Pietenpol project several members are currently finishing. Oddly enough, the same YA saw was in that shop as well. When I mentioned that, and that I was looking for a table saw, the owner said he had a few of the old Craftsman contractor saws, and I was welcome to take one. I don’t have it yet, but I’ll be back next week for it :D

Now I just need a way to get the 16’ spar blanks home from the lumber yard. That’s almost 4’ longer than my car so I may need help from someone with a truck.

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