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Should I upgrade my tablesaw's motor?

Q:

I have trouble ripping thick hardwood boards with my 10" contractor-style tablesaw. Assuming the motor mount would fit, can I replace the existing 1½-hp motor with a 3-hp motor?
—Rich Clayton, Ames, Iowa

A:

Swapping motors won’t double your saw’s cutting power. And it could cause more problems than it solves, Rich. Unlike a cabinet-style saw that’s designed to handle a 3- or 5-hp motor, there’s no guarantee any added power could be delivered to the blade by a contractor saw’s belt drive. And because the motor’s weight provides tension on the drive belt, a hefty 3-hp motor could apply more strain to the arbor bearings than they were designed to handle.

A better—and cheaper—way to boost the cutting efficiency of your saw is to rip with a blade designed for ripping. For example, replace your 40- or 50-tooth general-purpose blade with a 24-tooth ripping blade. A thin-kerf blade requires still less muscle because it takes a smaller kerf out of your stock. Thin-kerf blades can deflect in thick stock, though, so consider adding a pair of blade stiffeners even if they reduce your maximum cutting depth. With that done, make certain your saw gets sufficient electricity. If it trips a breaker under the strain of ripping thick stock, rewire the saw for 220 volts to handle the added amperage draw.

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