Pick your power
The saws in this group come with motors rated from 11⁄2 to 2 hp, a ’tweener range where induction motors can often be wired for either 110 or 220 volts. We tested them as they came wired: four for 110 volts and two for 220. Contrary to popular belief, rewiring a 110-volt motor to run on 220 will not save on energy consumption, make the motor run appreciably cooler, or give it more power output. It will, however, cut the machine’s amperage draw in half, reducing the likelihood of the motor being starved for juice and overloading a circuit.
After setting up and fine-tuning each saw, we installed a new Freud 30-tooth thin-kerf rip blade and ripped 8/4 oak as fast as each saw could handle. Not surprisingly, the Grizzly G0715P and General International 50-200RM1, both outfitted with 2-hp-rated motors (wired for 220 volts), dominated, cutting twice as fast as the third-quickest saw. (See the chart above.) Most of the 110-wired saws (with 11⁄2 - to 13⁄4 -hp motors) made those same cuts without stalling when we slowed our feed rate. However, the Craftsman 22116 bogged down so easily, requiring a feed rate so slow, that we can’t consider it a serious contender in this group.
Insist on a reliable rip fence and miter gauge
Virtually every cut you make on a tablesaw requires using the rip fence or miter gauge, so both need to be reliably accurate. Each of the tested saws comes with a T-square-style rip fence with either aluminum or UHMW-plastic sideboards. They all lock securely on the front rails, adjust easily to align parallel with the blade, and did not deflect significantly during cuts. The only problem we encountered: The rip fence on the General International 50-090RCM1 tended to catch when sliding over the joint in the two-piece front rail.
General International’s 50-090RCM1 has 36" rip capacity to the right of the blade, the rest only about 30". And only the Steel City 35990C gives you more than 12" of left-rip capacity (201⁄2 "). The fence scales on the 50-090RCM1 and Grizzly proved inaccurate by 1⁄64 " for every foot. Grizzly sent a replacement scale that proved accurate. And General International’s Norm Frampton said his company would replace a faulty scale with a new one under warranty.
As for the miter gauges, each saw comes with a basic model with adjustable stops for 90° and 45° left and right, and markings up to 60° each side of center. When dialed in, all enabled accurate crosscuts. The miter bar on the Jet JPS-10TS-30’s gauge is the only one that adjusts to fit in the miter slots (shown below). And Grizzly’s gauge, with two sets of scales—one on the head marked in 5° increments and another on the toe of the bar marked in 1° increments—proved difficult to use.
All six saws have 3⁄8 ×3⁄4 " miter T-slots, convenient for using aftermarket jigs, miter gauges, or sleds [More Resources, below]. And the Steel City gives you the greatest crosscut capacity (a little more than 12") without pulling the miter-gauge head off the tabletop.
■ Blade guard/riving knife. All six saws have blade-guard assemblies that mount behind the blade arbor, move up and down with it, and slide into bayonet-type brackets that you can align with the blade. To release the bracket and remove the guard assembly, you must first remove the throat insert on all saws but the Grizzly, which has a shortcut we appreciate (shown above). And each saw except the Steel City includes a separate low-profile riving knife that mounts slightly lower than the blade’s peak, below. With the Steel City, you simply adjust the splitter to a lower position after removing the guard and pawls.
■ Cut quality. None of the blades supplied with the saws proved capable of making cuts free of scoring marks and tear-out, even after we fine-tuned each saw. But when we installed new Freud blades on each machine, the cut quality greatly improved. (Click here for full performance grades.)
■ Blade alignment. With any tablesaw, your first job after assembly is to parallel the miter slots with the blade to guarantee clean and accurate cuts. To do this, you adjust either the trunnions (the brackets that hold the arbor assembly in place) or the tabletop. As shown in the illustrations below, with trunnions mounted to the underside of the top, you must loosen the trunnion bolts inside the base or cabinet and tediously tap on the arbor assembly inside the cabinet until the blade aligns with the miter slots. Saws with trunnions mounted to the cabinet, rather than the top, adjust more easily because you loosen only three of four easily accessible tabletop mounting bolts and then pivot the top slightly to align the miter slots to the blade. And we’ve found that cabinet-mounted trunnions hold their alignment longer than top-mounted ones. The Craftsman, General International 50-200RM1, and Steel City saws have the preferred cabinet-mounted trunnions.
■ Bevel cutting. All six saws have left-tilting blade arbors, with adjustable stops at 90° and 45°. The Craftsman, General International 50-090RCM1, and Jet use setscrews embedded in their tops for adjusting these stops easily. With the other saws, you must reach inside the cabinets to adjust stopnuts.
Each of the bevel handwheels turned easily and locked solidly. We liked the General International 50-200RM1 that tilts the blade from 90° to 45° in fewer than 30 turns. The others required from 38 to 45 turns, a tedious job.
■ Tabletops. Five of the six saws have cast-iron tabletops. Craftsman’s saw features a polished granite top and wings, and this heft (at 432 lbs, it’s heaviest in our test) resulted in a smooth, vibration-free performance. The General International 50-200RM1, Grizzly, and Steel City have cast-iron wings for added stability. The General International 50-090RCM1 and Jet have stamped-steel wings; as a result, these machines vibrated more in our testing.
■ Blade changes/throat openings. We found it easiest to change blades on the Jet, thanks to its 41⁄8 "-wide throat opening and arbor lock embedded in the top, so you insert only one hand into the opening. Not all arbor locks proved so easy to use. (See photo, below.) You can install at least a 3⁄4 " dado stack on each saw, although none includes a dado throat insert. (All offer one as an optional accessory.) And all the saws have rabbeted throat edges at least 1⁄4 " deep, so you can make your own zero-clearance inserts for cleaner cuts.
■ Mobility. Only the Steel City machine comes with a built-in mobile base for easy maneuvering around the shop.
■ Power switches. Each saw has a mechanical on/off switch with a large paddle for easy shutdowns. Both of the General International machines have paddles that latch in the off position, preventing accidental startups but requiring you to pull them free before turning on the motor: safe but annoying. You can position the switch for the General International 50-090RCM1 anywhere along its front rail; with the others you have to select from a few predrilled spots or drill your own.
■ Dust collection. Because each saw has an enclosed base or cabinet, your dust collector has a leg up on sucking away the debris. Blade shrouds on the General International models funnel dust directly into a 21⁄2 " hose at the bottom, which then connects directly to the dust port. But with only a 21⁄2 " port, the 50-090RCM1 left more dust in the cabinet.
2-hp saws topped our test
If you don’t have the 220-volt hookup, the Jet JPS-10TS-30 demonstrated the most power among the 110-volt saws, and comes with a five-year warranty.
Grizzly G0715P, $795
General International 50-200RM1, $1,250
Jet JPS-10TS-30, $1,200
Craftsman 22116, $1,100
General International 50-090RCM1, $1,000
Steel City 35990C, $800