Upgrading the Table Saw
Where do you go when you step up from that old table saw? February 8, 2008
I started up my own small shop about a year ago and my contractor's style table saw needs to go, or at least move over. I've decided that I either want to get a SawStop and add on a sliding table such as Excalibur, or just go ahead and look for a used slider. I don't have 3-phase and would prefer to stay with single phase motors for now, but could be persuaded otherwise. Anyway, I know that this topic always has a lot of opinions and I'd like to hear them so I can figure out what I'm going to budget, etc.
From contributor T:
I was in your position back in '01, and I bought a Jet cabinet saw with their version of a slider. The total bill was on the order of $2,200 or $2,500 new. In retrospect, I think it was the correct decision. We build not only cabinets, but also a bit of furniture and a cabinet saw is very versatile. Another consideration is space. A big slider really takes up a lot of room, so be aware of that. We hope to graduate to a slider someday, but some recent research has actually led me to a panel saw instead. For really big jobs, we farm the panel cutting out to another shop with a CNC router. Works great for now.
From contributor J:
You can do a lot with a slider. Straight line and rip lumber, cut and cross cut perfect face frame parts, cut square panels, get control of a sheet of ply or melamine while cutting, take the weight off your back when cutting large heavy sheets, cut large panel parts perfect to size and square. The large slider takes up no more room than any table saw. You have to have 8' for and aft of the blade to cut it anyway, and an outside space left and right anyway, so the slider really doesn't take up anymore room, plus the slider, if it's in your way, can be pushed back or forward. Think about ripping hickory on a 3 hp saw versus a 9 hp saw. Go for the slider - it will save your back and "make you more money now and in the future" (quoting the famous German/Italian cabinetmaker).
From contributor E:
Right now I'm using a Unisaw with Excalibur attachment. It works, but a new panel saw is on my short list of upcoming purchases. Realistically, if you have the budget for a Sawstop with slider, you may be able to pick up a new small slider or full sized used.
However, there's no way I'm getting rid of my TS when I upgrade. It will still see plenty of use. Keep that in mind if your budget is tight, you could get by with the TS and attachment for a couple years until you have enough for a new slider.
There's always the guys who will tell you to just go out and buy what you need and forget about the budget. In my experience it's not a bad thing to buy what you can afford and upgrade later, leaving a little money in the bank for emergencies. As long as you're doing a decent business and making money, your equipment will pay for itself pretty quickly. So you don't lose much when you upgrade later. And if you buy used, you may not lose anything.
From contributor Z:
I have seen on several forums where you can hang a bigger motor on your saw and check this out. MAST-R-SLIDER from Jessem. I bought it and hung it on my Delta contractor saw. Man, I love it to death! Whole new saw. Reasonable, also - 500 bucks. Beats the daylights out of the Exacta because no legs! Nothing sits on the floor. My saw is on a mobile base and I can roll it around all day long.
From contributor F:
The sliding action on the Mast-R-Slider mentioned is greased lightening smooth, but it will not allow you to crosscut a typical sheet of plywood/melamine. The Exaktor/Excalibur can be had for around $500 if you search craigslist.
From contributor Z:
I agree that it won't crosscut a full sheet. Since my shop is too small to run a sheet through, I always have to break it down into rough blanks, so the Mastr works great for me. It will crosscut to 36" (all my stuff is 24" or less). Fence extends to 48" with flip stop. Perfect for me and other small shops. Wish I could run full sheets - way less work.
From contributor P:
I started with a $300 Sears table saw, then later upgraded it to a 2 hp 220 motor, took it off its metal legs and inserted it into a table I built, 48" deep and 80" wide, with an outfeed attached, 48 wide x 80 long. Then I built a fence that enables me to cut to 52". It's a real winner. I didn't get rid of the Sears saw when I bought a Hammer K3L Expert slider. I wouldn't part with either saw now. The slider I use for panels, and the Sears for solid wood.
From contributor L:
Started with a contractors saw also. Moved up to a PM66, still have it, love it. Have an Ema 8 foot slider. Wish I could turn back the clock - square parts dead on every time and the saw is over 25 years old, and I got it for less than the PM66! Have an Excalibur for the PM 66 finally had to take off - too much volume in shop, great add-on. We will purchase an Altendorf or Martin by the end of the year because all parts need to made for the Ema. Long story short, get a used panel saw vert and slider that you can get parts for, and tune them up - it's worth it.
From contributor B:
If you can swing it, get an even lower end slider and keep the table saw. Use the contractors saw for ripping hardwood after you true it on your slider. The slider is well worth the money. One person can easily and safely cut sheet goods with precision and less effort. Compared with a contractors saw, you will spend much less of your time cutting sheet goods. I have a Mini-Max that runs on single phase 220 (5HP) and love it.
From contributor J:
After straight lining the lumber you keep on ripping all your stock. If you have a slider with a 7.5 to 8 hp motor ripping hickory or maple, it's a breeze, plus you have the shoe on the end of the slider to hold the board in place. Also you can lock the table (so it doesn't slide), move the crosscut fence out of the way, and you can really rip fast, or even put on a power feeder. I have never done the power feeder but I've seen one on an EMA with a 9 hp motor - it cut stock fast and easy. The standard table saw would be great for small quick cuts, dado setups, etc. I don't have room for another table saw myself and I've always missed having one that doesn't require the rotophase startup before cutting. It would be great to walk up to a table saw, turn it on, make a quick cut, and walk away.