After 45 years of hobby woodworking, and brutalized by the recession of 2008, I decided in 2016 to fall back on cabinetmaking as a career because of the difficulty finding a job I want at age 62.
I own a 1-man 1300 sq ft cabinet shop located on my property in Central PA. 2016 was a great year and I made the 2nd largest annual income of my life, building about 10 kitchens. Working on my property, I enjoy the freedom to work when I want - over a weekly paycheck from someone else.
In 2016, I upgraded some of my machinery as revenue allowed.
Now in 2017, I thought about upgrading my 25 year old General 350 to a SawStop that I saw at the IWF in Atlanta last year. But while doing some research, I read a well-written article expounding on the virtues of the European Sliding Table Saw. I did about 2 weeks of research, reading and watching You Tube videos on everything I could find on American style vs European style.
Because I work mostly with 4 x 8 sheets of cabinet grade plywood, building European style frameless cabinets, the sliding table saw made perfect sense.
I found it a very difficult decision-making process so I opted to share my due diligence with others to help in their buying decision-making.
MY REASONS TO BUY - IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE:
1. Safety. It was the safety aspect of the SawStop that got me thinking of updating my saw. My General 350 Cabinet Saw (350CS) has operated flawlessly for 25 years. I’ve never had a serious blade bite, but I’m getting older and more prone to miscues. A year ago, I got hit in the stomach by a serious kickback. I have that scar as a daily reminder. The fence on the K3 can be adjusted to stop before the blade & that eliminates kickback pressure between blade and fence; if you set it properly. I now appreciate that option. As many have mentioned, using the sliding table keeps your fingers away from the blade and left of kickback alley.
2. Squaring sheets. With my General 350CS, I was stuck with the squareness of the factory edge. There is no practical way to square a 48 x 96 sheet on a 350CS. Plywood sheets are never guaranteed to be square from the mill, tho most are. Over the years, out of square has caused me a few problems.
3. Scoring saw. Most of my work is cutting cabinet-grade plywood and even with the best blades and a zero clearance insert, splintering on the back is an issue. I once asked a saw sharpening owner the best blade to eliminate splintering and he replied, “A scoring saw”.
4. Crosscutting & Fence. I made a crosscut sled for my 350CS to square up doors. But was limited by the size of door I can square. The K3 is virtually limitless in this capability.
5. Miters. I have avoided mitered doors, but the K3 table and long crosscut fence plus the miter pin indexing system look to make this easily doable.
6. Straight-line ripping. I use an 8’ piece of 3 x 3 x 3/8 aluminum against the fence of my 350CS to rip rough lumber for door stiles and rails. The sliding table makes straight-line ripping a breeze.
7. 12” blade capability. I rarely need to cut more than 3” deep, but once in a while the 4” depth of cut will come in handy.
8. Price. The industrial SawStop with their crosscut fence actually costs more than the K3. The 79 x 48 at $5390 has most of the options installed as standard - a real value.
MINOR DETRACTORS FOR ME
1. Arbor. The arbor is 30mm with  9mm pins, so all new blades – including an expensive dado - are required. I use Forrest blades and Forrest will re-drill them at $37 a blade plus shipping. The Dado set cannot be reused. The dado can only be a 6” dado. The Felder dado set (w/ insert tooling) sells for $739. A special made for Felder - 6” Forrest dado is $387.
2. No Router Lift Insert. Some 40 years ago, my Dad mounted a router in his Craftsmen tablesaw which allowed us to use the fence as a guide. Commonplace today, this was a novel idea in the 1970’s. I recently purchased an Excalibur router lift (replacing an old Elu mounted under the table). It is mounted in the fence table on my 350CS (plywood and Formica). The K 3 is made of sheet metal - so modifying it will be more difficult.
3. Lack of fence adaptability. I just purchased a new fence from Very Super Cool Tools to replace my Biesemeyer (Biesemeyer went on my dedicated dado saw). I like the extrusion on the VSCT fence and it allows me to make sacrificial faces & jigs that attached and slide easily. The K3 fence has no working extruded grooves on the face.
4. Height. My entire shop is based on the 36” height of my 350CS on its mobile base. All my outfeed and work tables are 36” as is my shaper. The K3 is 34”h so I can’t use their mobility kit. I’ll have to fashion a caster assembly that raises the saw 2”.
Here is a useful You Tube video by Felder on sliding tablesaw benefits:
Hope all his helps others.
I will write a followup article this summer after I have a few months with the K3 under my belt.
Sincerely, Bob Reed