SHOP TEST: Mid-range Tablesaws
With more muscle and stability than a benchtop model and no need for 220-volt power, one of these in-between machines may be perfect for your shop.
Not every woodworker needs (or can afford) a powerful, feature-packed cabinet-style tablesaw with a 3-hp or larger motor. But we all need a machine with enough moxie to rip thick hardwoods without stalling, cut sheet goods without wobble and worry, and do all that with precision. The saws in this test all measure up to those standards thanks to motors rated at 11⁄2 hp or more, heavy-duty tabletops and built-in stands, and beefy rip fences. But that’s not to say they’re all equal. Our tests reveal differences you won’t read about in their online specs.
Six key features tell a tablesaw’s worth
■ Cutting clout. In our testing, each saw proved capable of ripping 13⁄4"-thick red oak—using a new rip blade—without stalling, overloading, or tripping a breaker. You can cut stock faster than on a benchtop/jobsite saw, but you’ll have to feed stock slower than you might on a more powerful saw.
■ A reliable rip fence. The best fences glide easily along their rails and lock solidly. Seven of the saws come with a T-square-style fence, which locks only at the operator end of the saw and can deflect slightly as you apply side
ways force during a ripcut. However, in our tests, none of these fences deflected more than .011"—an amount virtually undetectable as an end result in wood. The fences on the other four saws (Delta 36-725T2, Ridgid R4512, Rikon 10-205, and SawStop CNS175SFA30) lock at both ends, eliminating even the possibility of deflection. We had no issues with the accuracy of any of the rip-fence scales that indicate cutting width, but we found those on the Ridgid and Rikon more difficult to read reliably (photos, above).
■ An accurate miter gauge. The miter gauges that come with these saws are functional, if not fancy, most with angle stops at only 90° and 45° (although not all are adjustable). The Delta, Grizzly G0771Z, and Shop Fox W1837 step up the game with nine adjustable stops. The Powermatic PM1000’s miter gauge also includes a fence with flipstop, but we found too much play in the 90° and 45° stops to be confident in the accuracy. ■ A user-friendly blade guard. Unlike the antiquated blade guard on your daddy’s tablesaw that got sidelined because it got in the way more than it helped, the guard, splitters, and antikickback pawls of modern guards remove—and, more importantly, reinstall—easily. Some models even come with a separate riving knife that you can swap with the splitter for non-through cuts or narrow rips. The splitters (and riving knives) on the tested saws work well with full-kerf (1⁄8"-thick) blades, but may cause workpiece binding if used with a thin-kerf blade. (Powermatic offers an optional thinkerf riving knife.)
■ Efficient dust collection. All of the saws shroud the lower half of the blade with a dust hood to capture debris as it comes off the blade (when attached to a vacuum or dust collector). Dust ports on most of the tested saws’ enclosed cabinets also help evacuate dust that escapes the blade shroud.
Tip! If you must regularly remove your dust-collection hose from a saw with a difficult-to-reach bottom-mounted port, simply attach an elbow to the port permanently. Then install and remove the flex hose as needed from the elbow.
In addition, blade-guard-mounted dust ports on the Harvey and Laguna saws effectively capture dust from above the blade.
■ Throat insert versatility. Each saw comes with a throat insert plate to tighten the gap around the blade, but only the Grizzly, Harvey, and Shop Fox saws also include a wide-opening insert for use with a dado set. We like the SawStop plates (shown above) best because they have a lever lock and the 3⁄16"-wide blade slot works, essentially, as a zero-clearance plate. Most saws offer dado and/or zero-clearance plates as optional accessories. The 1⁄8"-thick steel plates (shown above right) on the Grizzly, Harvey, Rikon, and Shop Fox saws were not flat out of the box. We were able to flatten all but the Harvey, which has stamped reinforcing ribs running the length of it that prevented flattening.
Note: Never freehandcut a workpiece on a tablesaw! Always register the workpiece against the rip fence or miter gauge (but not both when making a through-cut), or a jig.