I appreciate all of you who have participated in this thread. I have dabbled in Woodworking using a Shopsmith over the last several years. I bought it for the "space savings" rather than the cost savings, as I learned that the Shopsmith does not save you money over separates.
Now, most of my opinions are based on what I read and what I know, so your comments have been very helpful. I'd like to respond to some of your posts:
Hewood - Yes, you are right. I have looked at a wide range of saws. Pricewise, they really break down into only two categories:
$800 - $900: Supersaw, DeWalt, Griz/Shop Fox, Sears Mini Cabinet
$500 - $600: Ridgid (I'm not considering specials like 10% off, as many of these saws can be gotten at a discount from Sears, HD, Woodcraft.
I agree that I need to buy the best I can afford. Some criteria that I am looking at are: mobility, as I my garage is not a dedicated shop; large table size, as I don't have the room for the nice 7' rails and extension table of many of these saws; biggest rip width without an extension table. The Ridgid has a great mobile caster system, 12" cast iron extensions and a 36" right rip, so it appeals the most to me in those three areas, with the Sears being second choice.
As to fence quailty/stability, ease of adjustments on the saw, fit and finish, etc, I think the Ridgid is on a par in many ways with the more expensive saws. Yes, it gives up horesepower, but I don't feel that will be a big factor for me; I will be a weekend woodworker who should do fine with 1 1/2 HP.
Northern Woods - thanks for the info on the article in December Fine Woodworking. I'm going to go buy a copy today.
Andrew B. and RevEd - I agree the Bies and clones are very good fences, but you CAN get a very accurate and sturdy fence that offers t-slots and options like the 3650 fence. As Hewood said, with a little technique, you can lock down a fence like the 3650, with its dual lock points, very accurately.
Sgt Bevis - Thanks for addressing my questions. Although unproven, the Sears "mini cabinet" saw could be a sleeper. Yes, it is "only" 1 3/4 HP, but it does have 12" extensions, a big nice fence, heavy base-mounted trunnions, full cabinet with DC, outfeed table, nice power switch.
Again, thanks to all. I'll keep you all posted about which saw I buy. My wife thinks I'm nuts to spend 3 months making up my mind, but some of you can relate to that...right? [img]smile.gif[/img]
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