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Thread: SawStop Contractor saw for furniture making? (+ New to forum introduction)

  1. #1
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    Question SawStop Contractor saw for furniture making? (+ New to forum introduction)

    Hi Everyone,

    Introduction of myself/ current tools:
    I am a novice hobby woodworker. I live at home with my parents, and our shop is set up in a small garage. I am currently working on producing several sets of furniture for a new apartment that I plan to move into in about a year. I'm a young engineer and work full time doing mechanical design and grew up always building things. I am just now getting into fine woodworking. (Most of what I have done before would most likely be considered carpentry.) My shop mostly consists of tools my father inherited passed down from the two generations above him. In addition I have added some modern tools to the mix in the form of a Makita 18V circular saw, drill, and orbital sander + dewalt plunge router. I also picked up a festool domino 500 from a very generous neighbor.


    My current "table saw" is a Shopsmith multi tool from the late 40's. (the shop smith also has a 4 inch magna jointer attachment, as well as a bandsaw.) While it cuts hardwood without bogging down, its missing all of its safety hardware, has a small cutting surface and is a huge pain to set for each cut. (additionally angled cuts are unrealistic with anything but skinny boards since the table tilts instead of the blade.) Since I myself am using the table saw, getting my father back into the shop, and have been doing work with both my girlfriend and younger brother, safety is incredibly important to me. I would not like this to turn into a debate discussing the "false sense of security" a sawstop can provide. I intend to treat this exactly as I would any other table saw. I am personally relatively risk averse to begin with, and the sound and sight of a carbide tipped blade spinning at 4,000 rpm is more than enough to keep me respectful of the potential danger.


    Question:
    I am trying to decide between the Sawstop contractors saw, and the 1.75 hp professional cabinet saw. I would like to understand if the contractors saw with the upgraded fence would be sufficient for making hardwood furniture, or if the upgrade to the PCS is worth the extra ~$900. Both saws would have the 36" T-slide Sawstop Biesemeyer clone fence. Important factors for my personal situation are:


    1) Quality of cuts for hardwood furniture making.
    2) Small size of the shop
    3) Portability down the road. I am just at the beginning of my career and far from settled in terms of housing. The saw will most likely spend the initial part of its life in my parents' garage along with the other tools. But at some point will need it to come with me if I leave the greater area.
    4) Cost: pretty self explanatory. While I do feel in a pretty solid financial situation to make this purchase, its alot of money to spend, especially as a relatively new woodworker.
    5) Any other major factor that you guys point out!


    Thank you to everyone for your input!


    Best wishes,
    John

  2. #2
    Welcome to the Creek. Not to mess with your mind but since you mentioned "furniture making" and "safety", have you considered investing in a better bandsaw rather than a table saw?

    Erik
    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  3. #3
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    Hi Erik,

    Thanks for the thought. I somewhat just through the fact that I had that badsaw attachment in there. I actually havenít used a bandsaw since a machining class I took in college. The current set of furniture I am building has very straight lines, and wasnít planning on even setting the band saw up.

    That being said. Upgrading the bandsaw could potentially be a smart call down the road.

    Thanks,
    John

  4. #4
    Welcome to the Creek, we look forward to seeing your work. I started my furniture making with a sabre saw and a router. It go the job done, but having a decent table saw really makes a difference. I can't speak to the Sawstop products as I've never had the opportunity to use them The one bit of advice I would give is buy the best that you can afford and learn to use it well. In my furniture making and I've made quite a few pieces, mostly made on a Craftsman contractor table saw. I've had little use for a band saw. I do own a 14" Delta that sees some use for resawing and cutting occasional curves.
    Lee Schierer
    USNA- '71
    Captain USN(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Erik Loza View Post
    Welcome to the Creek. Not to mess with your mind but since you mentioned "furniture making" and "safety", have you considered investing in a better bandsaw rather than a table saw?

    Erik
    I've already seen the answer the OP had to this (and welcome to the creek btw), but wanted to state that as I moved more towards using hand tools I came to the conclusion that this would have been a far better initial path. Now I have a cabinet saw that I rarely use. I'd have been better off with a 20" bandsaw.
    ~mike

    scope creep

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Strong View Post
    ... a smart call down the road.
    Welcome!

    If I could be in your shoes with your objectives, but know what I know now, I'd get a decent band saw (probably 18"+..??), then 12" J/P combo, and a sliding table saw when circumstances allow. Only you can decide if you are serious enough to make that commitment of cash, time, and space. Space requirements will be a deciding factor in every house you (AND the spouse) will ever rent or buy - - don't think it insignificant.

    I 'fought' my father's ShopSmith when I was near your age and building furniture. He had built all the furniture he wanted and then down-sized. I wanted to build big case pieces. When my dad realized I was serious, he sold the ShopSmith and bought new separates (Thanks, Dad!!). I have been slowly selling those and upgrading, and he still works alongside me in the shop. The slider is next (shhh, don't tell him).
    Last edited by Malcolm McLeod; 01-28-2020 at 6:00 PM.
    Molann an obair an saor.

    If Heaven ain't alot like Texas, I don't wanna go. - Hank Jr.

  7. #7
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    Hi everyone,

    Looks like thereís a lot of love for the bandsaw here. Could one of you guys elaborate slightly more on that.

    As admitted earlier, Iím quite the novice. So far in my two completed projects (night table and entry way bench,) most of the work was joinery and panel creation. And the dresser, table, bed frame and shelves I have planned are pretty straight with some tapper, Which I had planned to do on the table saw.

    Also still would love to hear from any sawstop owners and their thoughts, if any come across this thread.
    John

  8. #8
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    I also use my bandsaw more then my tablesaw.
    But then again Iím a advanced amateur woodworker.
    Jointer, planer, bandsaw then tablesaw all work together to process lumber in my shop.
    Then thereís dust collector clamps work surface handplanes chisels. That play a part.
    Are you sure ready for this craft? Whatís seen on the internet and reality are pretty far apart.
    Aj

  9. #9
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    Hi Andrew, luckily for me, I actually have access to (and have used) many of those accessory tools (clamps, hand planes, chisels, various different jigs, two workbenches, etc). While I describe myself as a novice, Iíve put a little more work in the shop than watching a YouTube video of two 😉.

    Best,
    John

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Strong View Post
    ..bandsaw ... elaborate slightly...
    I can rip & re-saw very large timbers on the 18" BS (I've sawed 10x10 timbers and re-sawed 9/4 x 11.5" oak). Both would have been impossible to do safely on my 10" cabinet TS. It will easily cut 1/16" veneers, a great way to 'stretch' a board - and a budget; possible on a TS, but only in relatively narrow widths. Curves are only a blade change away. BS = no kickback. And BS can do all that in a smaller footprint than most tools; it can be very important on a cold night, when the LOML wants her car to be warm and ice free for her commute. (Quit snickering! We had ice here...once.)

    The TS will cut sheet goods wider than a BS, but a track/circ saw can do the rough processing if no TS.
    Molann an obair an saor.

    If Heaven ain't alot like Texas, I don't wanna go. - Hank Jr.

  11. #11
    What Malcom said is true. Also, since I'm not doing any production work I find it's generally faster and easier to cut joinery by hand. Since I'm doing that, and the bandsaw does the major grunt work of ripping generally, I don't need to setup the table saw often. Especially since I haven't used a dado set in well over a decade now (if I'm working with plywood, which isn't often, I'll use a router and a jig instead as it's just more accurate IME and I have a track saw anyway). Plus, being able to resaw allows for a lot more than just veneering. Oh, it's also a lot quieter in my shop these days...
    ~mike

    scope creep

  12. #12
    I have been woodworking long enough to have some experience, but not long enough to not consider myself still a novice. My workshop is my garage, and we still like to have space for one car in there. I started with a small benchtop table saw, which was OK - sort of - for small projects. I then acquired a 6" jointer, benchtop "lunchbox" planer and eventually a SawStop PCS (1 3/4 hp). I toyed with the idea of the smaller contractor saw, and also a European sliding table saw. Ended up with the sawstop PCS, and have been very very happy with it. The industrial mobile base allows me to move around. Eventually a obtained a Laguna bandsaw with a 3hp motor, and that was the inspiration for me to have some 220V outlets installed. A few months after that, I purchased a 3HP motor from SawStop, and a new contactor switch. So now I have a 3HP PCS. It would have been a little cheaper to just purchase the 3HP version first...but I just wasn't ready for that yet. Since then I have upgraded my dust collection from a Rigid shop vac to a 5HP cyclone, and my 6" jointer & 13" planer have also been upgraded.

    As far the bandsaw vs. tablesaw issue, I can only express my opinion and experience. Some folks can tune a bandsaw to make very fine cuts, indeed, but I can't. My bandsaw cuts extremely well, and straight when needed, but the quality of the cut is not the same as the table saw. Even with a carbide blade and lots of tension. From table saw I can go right to edge glue up. From the band saw, I have to joint the edges first to clean them up before glue. With an appropriate blade, my sawstop leaves a surface like glass.

    I think even with a small shop if you can fit a contractor-type saw, you can probably fit a PCS, especially with a mobile base to move it around.

    Portability is obviously better with the contractor saw, but this is relative - both are going to be big and heavy....you can always take the PCS apart. For example, you can take off the cast iron tops, which really helps reduce the weight and size of the saw for moving.

    Cost, well, that's up to you. I think most would recommend getting the best saw you can within your budget. A little bit of a stretch now will probably pay off later when you don't need to upgrade.

    Other differences are the steel extension wings on the contractor vs cast iron on the PCS - makes a difference. More mass usually means less vibration and better cuts, plus more real estate for the work. Dust collector will be better on the PCS due to the enclosed cabinet. Also the PCS comes with a better (T-Glide) fence. You can upgrade the contractor saw's fence to the T-Glide fence, but then the cost differential is a bit less. Lastly, I don't think you can upgrade the motor in the contractor saw to the 3HP later, although I could be wrong about that.

    There are definitely less expensive saws out there than the sawstop line, but the safety feature is import and there is probably no american-style table saw that cuts better (although certainly some that can cut equally as good). I need my fingers in my actual job, so I am willing to pay a premium price and replace a ruined blade sometimes. Still cheaper than a single ER visit, and being unable to work. The Euro-style sliders are also quite safe, when used properly, but I just felt more comfortable and familiar with an american-style saw.

    Good luck!

  13. #13
    I've got the sawstop (PCS 3hp 36"), and having used a lower cost saw and now this, I'm very glad I spent the money I did on it. It's a very nice tool.

    As for the bandsaw vs tablesaw debate, I love my bandsaw, I use it a ton, but personally while some use it to substitute their tablesaw, I'll agree with the issue of I can't get mine set up that nicely. Maybe that'll change when I get a better one, but for now I stick to my tablesaw and using a grr-ripper or two for those difficult cuts.

    Personally, I'm in the buy once cry once camp. You could buy a cheaper saw, but if you do you'll still drool over the sawstop and want to upgrade at some point. Plus it pays for itself with one save.

    That said, if you're worried about having to move it, yea it's a big heavy saw. If you get the mobile base, getting it into a trailer to move isn't too crazy. If you're not looking to move around a ton something like that is easily doable a couple times, but if you might see yourself moving a ton that might not be the easiest thing to move it every time.

    Personally I'd recommend the 3hp over the smaller motor, but if you don't have 220 available now, you can upgrade that later buying the new motor and switch assembly from sawstop.

  14. #14
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    EDIT: 400th post! A round of milk for everyone.

    I agree with all of the praise for bandsaws, but with respect to the specific question on table saws:

    Lots of woodworkers, myself included, started out with a contractor saw and have done fine work with it. I upgraded to a cabinet saw when a good deal on a used one came along.

    I think in the cabinet saw category you should set your sights on a 3 to 5 HP model when you can find, afford, make space for, and supply power to one that's to your liking. That may sway your decision in the short term toward the contractor saw. As you say, the price tag for a new cabinet saw is a big bite for a new(ish) woodworker to consider, but if the love of the hobby stays with you, you'll really enjoy the difference later.

    Scott Bernstein briefly mentioned sliders above. That's a whole different rabbit hole, and a whole different pricing level for new models, but everyone I've heard who owns one is quite happy with it. I've packed my workshop too full to consider one, plus it might be a tough sell to household management.
    Last edited by Charles Taylor; 01-29-2020 at 9:19 AM.
    Chuck Taylor

  15. #15
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    Go for the PCS. I have the contractor saw and, while it's a nice saw, I really regret not going for the PCS. I really don't like the stamped steel wings on the CNS and it's a pain to tune because it's not a cabinet saw. While it does have a mobile base, two of the wheels are fixed so it's not super easy to move around. If you keep the CNS in the base configuration you can save some money but if you want cast iron wings you're really not saving a lot. Here is a price comparison of the two.

    SawStop-CNS-vs-PCS.jpg

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