What to look for in a used table saw? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 37 Old 07-25-2016, 10:23 PM Thread Starter
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What to look for in a used table saw?

I'm about to set up my first shop and will finally have room for a stationary table saw. My budget is small so I'll be looking at used cabinet and contractor saws. I'd like to know what to look for when I kick the tires on a used saw. I don't mind putting in some elbow grease, but I want to avoid any serious electrical or mechanical repair.

Also, I know there should be a label on the motor telling me what power supply is required, but if that's missing or illegible, is there another way to tell?

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 37 Old 07-25-2016, 11:12 PM
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Just make sure all the parts and accessories are there and the saw will run. Anything else is repairable.
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post #3 of 37 Old 07-25-2016, 11:20 PM
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A good saw does not need to look good. It just needs to run good. Also, the fence is super important. A high quality fence can make a huge difference.
Good luck with your purchase.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #4 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 01:28 AM
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Depending how adept you are, I might recommend making sure you have something fairly square. I agree pretty much anything is repairable.
My first saw was no-where near parallel to the T-track, so all cross cuts were a pain until I could get it fixed up.
Looking back, I wish I had spent another $50-$75 instead of going ultra cheap. (I bought a cheap skil tablesaw & bandsaw for $65 for the pair)
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post #5 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 06:45 AM
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Overall condition is a good indicator of how well it was taken care of. Belt drive with an induction motor is a must in my book...full size is nice too. "Patina" or light rust and dirt will come off easily. Check that nothing is cracked or broken underneath. Check the condition of the pulleys and belts (easily fixed). Sticky handwheels and fence can be adjusted. Clean it up, align it, and put a decent blade on it....enjoy!
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post #6 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 08:03 AM
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Great advice from previous posts, but do not be in a hurry to "just buy a TS", as many are out there and in costly (to you) condition! Best IMO to see, feel, and watch the unit in operation. Also the previous owner may give you clues as to the workings of the TS - was he involved with woodworking, his experience, clean shop area, many other "toys", etc. Lastly, try for a higher quality name brand, in TS and accessories. Be safe.
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post #7 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 11:13 AM
where's my table saw?
 
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start with ....

Overall appearance, clean or rust free. That will indicate recent use or care. Slight rust is not problem, it will sand off easily. Rust from soda cans will be a bigger issue. Avoid aluminum saw tops... period.

Contractor style with a belt drive and mootor hanging from the reare the the most common, but you may run into a hybrid with a motor inside the cabinet OR a direct drive. I have several older direct drive Craftsman which run on 220 Volts only and would buy another. They are my most used table saws.

Most contractor style saws have finicky fences, but nor all. Look for aluminum extrusions rails like on Rigid or Craftsman and other with a locking handle that square the fence to the rail and keeps it parallel to the miter slots ... a must. The fence is the "heart" of the table saw and is the most used accessory you will come into contact with while operating it. Other good rails are made of box steel, not angle, and also have a secure positioning and locking mechanism.

Look for at least a 1 HP motor drawing 12 AMPs on 120 Volts. Motors HP are over rated, so the AMPs rating is all you can use. A 3 HP motor rating running on 120 V is bogus, probably only "peak" HP. A true 3HP motor runs only on 240 Volts.

Blades come in all flavors and if they come with the saw, take the all. You can test and sort them out later.
You will want to get a new blade regardless, a 40 tooth thin kerf like Diablo, will do most any task. You really can't get by with only one blade, you will need about 3, 24 Tooth rip, 40 tooth general purpose and a 60 tooth cross cut for a complete range.

Table size and extensions are important. The open cast iron extensions that came with most Craftsman saws are a pain in the neck, since small piece fall through the holes, others get snagged on the cross ribs etc. Stamped steel extensions are easier to deal with and lighter, if that's an issue.

A rear mounted outfeed table is a real safety feature since you don't have to reach around or over a spinning blade to keep pieces from falling into the floor. Extra width can be gained by a wooden surround or adding more side extensions. Extra width is needed to support larger panels when cross cutting to make cabinets.

A large OFF/ON switch is a safety feature and that should be easily reached by a hip bump without taking your eyes off the balde and workpiece if there is an issue with a jamb.

Don't expect to get a used saw with all the above, but you can modify and add as you go along like many here have done, including myself. It's taken me 20 years to get the perfect saw setup for my shop. I have 3 saws mounter together, with 3 separate OFF/ON switches, 3 separate fences of different types that all mount on the same front rails for interchangabliity. Each saw wears a different type blade, and 24 tooth rip and a 50 tooth combination and one has a dado set permanently mounter with a sacrificial fence. This setup of course is not for everyone because of space limitations, but it's total cost is less than $2000.00 spread out over many years.

My current set up:
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post #8 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 12:13 PM Thread Starter
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Much obliged for the responses, everyone, and particularly for your long and thorough response, Woodnthings. That's quite a setup you've got! That's good to know about the horsepower ratings. The space has very limited power run to it, so I'll have to run new wiring no matter what. Might as well go for 240 V, I guess.

I have a few more questions. My plan at this point is to build a wooden table to either side of the saw, one of which will also be my router table. I'd like to run continuous rails so that the saw's fence can ride all the way across and be used for wide sheet goods and as the router table fence (with appropriate auxiliary fence, of course!), similar to what you have on your triple-saw, Woodnthings.

Is it difficult to obtain and install such a continuous rail?

If I go this route, would it be easier to just get an aftermarket fence instead of trying to find rails that fit the existing fence?

Is there any disadvantage to using side tables instead of the saw's wings?

Behind this I plan to put a traditional-style workbench, about 72" X 30", which will double as outfeed support. Should the top be exactly level with the tablesaw, or a little lower?
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post #9 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan Parker View Post
...I have a few more questions. My plan at this point is to build a wooden table to either side of the saw, one of which will also be my router table. I'd like to run continuous rails so that the saw's fence can ride all the way across and be used for wide sheet goods and as the router table fence (with appropriate auxiliary fence, of course!), similar to what you have on your triple-saw, Woodnthings.

Is it difficult to obtain and install such a continuous rail?

If I go this route, would it be easier to just get an aftermarket fence instead of trying to find rails that fit the existing fence?...
Define difficult?

Some rails, like those on a t-square and some craftsman saws are little more than box beams and angle bar. If you have reasonable mechanical skills, it is little more than measuring, cutting, fitting, drilling and painting. The rails for the aluminum extrusion fences woodnthings was referring to can be found on ebay for reasonable money.

As far as replacing a fence with an aftermarket, that is a bit of a cart before the horse. Wait until you get the saw before you replace the fence.
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post #10 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 01:52 PM
where's my table saw?
 
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fences are many types and prices ...

https://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&pag...fence%20system

Amazon will give you an overall look at the many types of fences available. Shop Fox gets good reviews and if you search there is a source for 8020 milled tubing fences. Some fences require welding for a DIY, but the rails are pretty much standard at 2 x 3 " rectangular tubing.

If you notice my saws have "spare tables" between then which has the advantage of clean surface and additional miter slots. You can pick up spare tables for Craftsman ond other standard depth saws 27" for reasonable rate off ebay or as I did just buy the entire saw, working or not from Craig's list. All mine happened to have worked but, you'll get a better deal fif you just need the table if it doesn't.


Many folks here have made a large surround for more than 1 saw just out of plywood and used a long rail across the front. Most self-squaring fences only need a front rail so it's way easier to attach those. :smile3:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #11 of 37 Old 07-26-2016, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again, you guys have been a great help to me! Now to start shopping around.
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post #12 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 10:07 AM
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Keep us posted of your "finds", and be safe.
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post #13 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 10:39 AM
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Besides all the parts being there try and make sure they are in good shape and not bent, etc. Depending on the part(s) and manufacturer some parts may no longer be available from the manufacturer and you'll have to scavenge them from another used machine. As others have said, almost anything can be fixed but at what cost. Also, if any parts are suspect figure their replacement cost up front to see what the total cost will be......kind of what you do when buying a used car.
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post #14 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 11:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan Parker View Post
...My budget is small so I'll be looking at used cabinet and contractor saws...
When you say used cabinet saws, what does that mean? A $600 saw that needs some work or a $1000-$1500 saw that is more than likely ready to go? Are you looking at used or new contractor saws? Or, are you looking at spending a couple/few hundred bucks on CL and any contractor or cabinet saw that falls within that is fair game?

Last edited by subroc; 07-27-2016 at 11:15 AM.
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post #15 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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The last one. I can't justify spending more than about $500 on the saw itself right now, so I'll be trolling Craigslist and hoping I can find a deal. The timing will be critical - I'm in the process of buying a new house, and I can't buy the saw until I can move it into the new place (nowhere to put it now), but I'll need it to make some built-in bookshelves and such for the new place before we can finish moving in. Small window of time and a small budget is going to make it tricky...

If I can't find a decent tablesaw in my budget in time, I'll either make do with my little Hitachi jobsite saw, or get a radial arm saw (lots of those available cheap on CL) and save up for the cabinet saw.
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post #16 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 05:22 PM
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I get it. It is a timing thing on Craigslist. Sometimes a real deal can be had if you are ready to buy. Sometimes deals slip away for all kinds of reasons. I hope the stars line up for you and you are ready to buy when the deal shows up.

Good Luck
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post #17 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 06:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks!
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post #18 of 37 Old 07-27-2016, 07:09 PM
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Oh no... a radial arm saw!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan Parker View Post
The last one. I can't justify spending more than about $500 on the saw itself right now, so I'll be trolling Craigslist and hoping .....

If I can't find a decent tablesaw in my budget in time, I'll either make do with my little Hitachi jobsite saw, or get a radial arm saw (lots of those available cheap on CL) and save up for the cabinet saw.

I am a RAS lover and have several, all older Craftsman from the late '08's or 90's. I have one 10" and about three 12" saws.. Here's what I like about them. THe distance between the rails is all the same no matter what size the saw is 10" or 12". This means you can put any saw carriage on any size saw just by removing the stop bolt on the end of the rails arm. This means you can have a dado set up on one carriage, a crosscut blade on another and even a router on another carriage. Yes, the arms and bases start to stack , but oh well.

Now everyone who doesn't know how to use one will tell you they are dangerous. Sure thing. Then they will say NEVER rip on one. That's where they don't know how to do it. Because the blade is rotating from above the work, it tends to lift it up as it enters the cut unlike a table saw which pulls it down when starting a cut. It's the physics.

So, when ripping you need to use the blade cover to lightly press the work down to keep it from rising under the blade rotation, a simple safety rule that never seems to get much attention. You just loosen the blade cover rotate it until the tip is barely touching and proceed with your rip cut. Then there the issue of inside or outside ripping...where is the motor...between the fence and the end of the arm or near the end of the arm? It doesn't really matter, except you will feed the work from the opposite direction. You always feed the work INTO the blade's rotation, not with it. If by accident, you feed it with the blade's rotation it may just take off and shoot out the other side. I've never had that happen, but some claim it has happened. This would mean the carriage is too loose on the rails and is way out of adjustment. NOT good.

So are so many used RASs out there, they are good bargains IF you know how to use one and for crosscuts on pieces under 15" wide they are hard to beat if set up accurately. They are always used in commercial shops or lumber yards to cut 2 x 's planks to length. Usually a 14 or 16" Dewalt or Rockwell. My local lumber yard has one and so does the Home Depot. They are used in conjunction with either a table saw or a panel saw. I have never seen a table saw in a Home Depot, but there is one in every cabinet shop I've been in.

I got tired of lifting heavy 4' X 8' plywood and particle board around so I made my own panel saw from... you guessed it a RAS carriage! See My Photos if you are curious. So, a RAS in combination with your new table saw would make a for great small DIY or homeowner wood shop. A RAS needs a long support table on either side of the arm IF you can afford the floor space. Mine is just 4 ft on the left and 2 ft on the right. I don't use mine for ripping, but if I did I would want the long tables to support the plywood.

Here's mine set up for ripping 14 ft long Cypress boards with a total table length of 28 feet:
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/evil-machine-28461/

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 07-27-2016 at 08:20 PM.
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post #19 of 37 Old 07-28-2016, 11:19 AM
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One important thing to check on any machine with a table.
Make sure it's flat!
I've seem a ts cast iron top that wasn't.
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post #20 of 37 Old 07-28-2016, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Pirate! I'll be sure to take a straightedge.

Woodnthings - I'd love to visit your shop! I won't have 28 feet of space, but I can dedicate one wall of the garage to the RAS. I was planning on doing that with a miter saw, but now that I've started thinking about going with the RAS, I don't guess I really need a miter saw in the shop.

I've never seen a radial arm saw in a local home improvement store (I work at Lowe's - we just have a panel saw). In fact, I've never seen one for sale at local stores either, which is probably why I hadn't considered getting one until I started looking for saws on Craigslist yesterday and saw several RAS's for sale.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of getting a used RAS. I can get the saw, a dado set, and a few blades with the money I was going to spend on a tablesaw, it'll do what I need it to do for my immediate projects, and I can save up for just the right tablesaw.

You guys have been an immense help, I really appreciate all your advice!
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