Which Cheap Table-Saw Should I Buy?
by Art Mulder
Originally written May 1996, updated May 2004
Every now and then someone posts a "I'm looking for a good tablesaw in the US$300 range" query to the rec.woodworking newsgroup. (or to some other web forum)
Right after that come a flurry of "There ain't no such thing as a good tablesaw for US$300" posts. These posts usually advocate spending more like US$700 (or more!).
Here is my standard response:
I see all these follow up posts telling you that you can't get a "decent quality" table saw in the US$300 range.
They are right -- IF YOU INSIST ON BUYING NEW!
I say, buy used, especially if you're just getting started.
Check the classifieds, check your local "bargain finder" (an all-classified advertising paper around here that almost always has a few tablesaws in it) and shop around. Especially if you're starting out this keeps your investment down, and still gives you a quality tool. If you later decide that woodworking just isn't for you, then you haven't spent that much money. Also, in my experience, the older contractor saws keep their value quite well, so you should not have too much trouble selling your saw to some other aspiring woodworker.
When I first got started in woodworking as an adult (Summer '95), I purchased a 20 year old Rockwell/Beaver Table saw for $250 (Canadian funds, about US$180). This was a full size contractor's-style tablesaw with a solid cast-iron top. In contrast, if I had been shopping new, for $2-300 I would have been restricted to the smaller benchtop-sized saws.
This Table Saw was in fine shape, and kept me happy for seven years. Yes, it had its foibles: the fence was a bit fiddly, the top could have been bigger, there was no dust collection, and so on. But the top was flat, the trunnions were fine, the saw blade was parallel to the miter slot.
That's all you need to get started.
When I eventually did sell it, seven years later, I recouped a sizable amount of my original investment.
Make sure that you take a few hours and build yourself a sliding cutoff box for your tablesaw. The details of my sliding box are available here for your perusal. This jig made my mid-range old used tablesaw much more usable. (also a newer version for my newer saw.)
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