Ryobi BTS20 folding-base portable table saw
This Ryobi BTS20 portable table saw has been replaced by the BTS21 version, but it certainly ought to be available used in some locations.
I have not worked with the new version, but the main characteristic I noticed with the Home Depot display model appears to be that the folding stand has been changed from a round-tube design to a square-tube version. The saw itself has cosmetic changes, and the fence on the newer version seems more cheaply built and lightweight than the already lightly built one on the earlier BTS20.
The specifications are fairly basic: 5/8-inch arbor, cutting depth at zero degrees 3 5/8 inches, cutting depth at 45 degrees 2 1/2 inches, 4,800 rpm spin speed, left-tilt blade, and a net weight of just under 92 pounds. I would prefer a slower blade speed, but speed is what you need to get decent power with a 15-amp universal motor. The thing comes with a miter gauge, but the thing simply cannot ride in the groove with enough stability to do really good crosscuts. For that kind of work, I use a Ridgid sliding compound miter saw, anyway, which can cut boards 13 inches wide. The right side of the table can pull out from the main section (the main section is cast aluminum and the pull-out section is sheet steel), and this gives you a 27-inch ripping capacity. The pull-out section is released by two small knobs underneath and is less slick than similar operations with competing models.
Deficiencies notwithstanding, this BTS20 model that I own is really quite nice. The stand itself is slick to set up and it is quite stable. One of the legs has an adjusting extension that you can use to stabilize the saw on uneven surfaces. The only problem with the stand is that once it is into position you cannot roll the saw around. You have to collapse it back to storage size to roll it somewhere. Saws like the Bosch and Ridgid models can be moved when they are raised into operating position.. Of course, some other jobsite saws do not have wheels at all, so you have to carry them and secure them to non-rolling stands.
The BTS20 got some good reviews a while back in one or two woodworking magazines (each of which were comparing it to some competing models, and each of which were fully aware of the limitations of such saw types in general), and also got a good review a while back in Consumer Reports (which also compared it to several competing models). Only two jobsite saws in the Consumer Reports review topped this Ryobi unit, and both of them (the Bosch and the Ridgid) cost considerably more. I paid $220 for mine at Home Depot.
The BTS20 has a few other faults. For one thing, the table’s lead-in area in front of the blade is too shallow (compromising crosscutting work), which is odd, given that the saw has a pull-out stabilizer in the back that gives the user a lot of support behind the blade. They could have moved the blade back a bit and still have had plenty of rear support, thanks to that stabilizer.
Another problem is the insert. It fits into a very shallow cutout, which makes it essentially impossible to build a zero-clearance cutout that is stiff enough and will stay safely in place. You are stuck with the factory-built insert, and that item has problems of its own. It is held in place by one screw at the front, and the back section has tongues underneath that catch on tabs that hold the rear section down. The problem is that they do noit hold the thing down well at all if you want to be able to remove it easily for blade changes, and so workpieces can ride up a bit on the insert as it rises above the table surface. My solution was a lucky one. I discovered two screw holes under the rear section and I drilled out the insert above the holes, countersunk the drilled holes just enough, and then cut two correctly threaded screws down in size enough so they would work in those factory holes without coming up against the motor-frame assembly underneath. (See the second photo for the new-screw locations.) This stabilizes the insert nicely.
Unfortunately, the insert, as tightened down, was then pulled slightly below the table level, so I installed some thin-strip, stick-on spacing materials underneath to get the insert to be exactly flush with the table top. In addition, behind the insert, on the back of the table surface, was a small recess that tended to snag workpieces, and I did some shallow filing work on it to eliminate that problem. The result was an insert that, although not as refined as a zero-clearance job, at least was not acting up as before.
Another problem involved the anti-kickback grippers. I have never liked such things (look at them cross-eyed and they scuff your workpiece), and so one “fix” I did was to drill out the rivets that held them in place and reinstall the also attached blade guard with screws. The blade-guard itself was also problematical, being bigger than necessary to guard the blade. The front part stuck out further than necessary, given that there was also an internal baffle. I cut the guard back to that internal baffle and beveled it a bit, and the result was no change in guarding abilities, but with the weight and sized reduced enough to make the guard a bit less intrusive. Most of the time I leave the guard in the raised position, anyway. The blade-guard assembly itself can be removed for non-through cuts, and to do that you must remove the insert and loosen two screws. The screws also hold tapered shims in place and you can configure those shims to get the rear blade guide to center up right behind the blade. Unfortunately, like so many saws, the guide does not ride up and down with the blade, so the usual anti-kickback precautions need to be taken when ripping. I have not tried a dado blade in this saw, but I get the impression that the arbor and insert are not large enough to accommodate one.
While it looks like I am carping about the limitations of this machine, this saw works very well when one considers its small size and price. Although no longer available as a new item at Home Depot, no doubt used samples will still be available used here and there, and hopefully the replacement BTS21 works as well. On the other hand, assuming after lots of diddling with the few adjustments it has, that it can do work as well as a good contractor or cabinet saw is pointless. However, when you need a low-priced saw that can be folded up and pushed into a small shop or garage corner, it is hard to beat for the money.