My experience buying a used table saw

Delta Unisaw

There's no doubt that new power tools are awesome. Buy new if you can afford to do so. But not everyone has the budget for new. And woodworking is a hobby that should be within reach for all people regardless of budget.

The table saw is the anchor of any woodworker's shop. In my opinion it is the most important and most often used piece of power equipment. It makes sense to spend as much as you can on this cornerstone of your shop.

Over the past year I have put my money where my mouth is. I've always wanted a cabinet saw in my shop. For 20 years I used a hybrid saw that worked fine. However, it lacked power and I was never able to adjust the unit to the precision I wanted to achieve. One day while scanning Craigslist I found the pictured 1987 Delta Unisaw for sale. The owner wanted $400. It needed arbor bearings but was otherwise in good condition. I offered $325 and we had a deal. Did you hear what I just said? I bought a Delta Unisaw for 325 bucks! 

I got it home and plugged it in (after updating my 220 outlet to 3-prong) and fired it up. I was in heaven. The 3-HP motor, 3-belt drive hummed to life and I could tell there was ample power to rip through the toughest hardwoods. The mass of the steel cabinet and cast iron trunnion absorbed all vibration - a beast ready for any challenge. 

In the week that followed I replaced the arbor bearings ($30) and tuned the saw to within .001" of parallel to the slots on my table. I tuned the fence to the same tolerance and started enjoying a saw I knew would provide 30 more years of service. 

I had spent $355.00 on my Delta Unisaw and it was ready for duty. But I didn't stop there. Over the next year, as I could afford it, I added upgrades including:

  • a homemade rolling dolly: $79 in material.
  • a Verysupercooltools precision T-Square fence: $249
  • a homemade rail system to support the fence: $130 (including powder coating)
  • an extra long power cord: $60

I invested in these upgrades as I could afford it. I was patient and methodical and I never left the saw in a state where it was not part of my working test shop. A year after buying my first cabinet saw I have a power tool that will rival any new piece of equipment in terms of accuracy, durability, ease-of-use, and enjoyment. In fact, I think I likely enjoy it more because I built it to my liking.

Total 1 year spend: $813.00 ($67.75 per month)

If a new table saw is out of your reach perhaps this approach is more attainable. And I must admit I really enjoyed doing the work.

 




John Perry
John Perry

Author