Last Updated on October 20, 2022 by Barry Gray
Purchasing brand new tools can be expensive. I know that I am very aware of this when I’m checking out different types of tools to recommend to you. After all, not everyone wants to spend a fortune, which is why the budget end of the market is so competitive.
But there is another option, which is to purchase a used tool, and I believe this is something that is entirely viable.
However, I wouldn’t recommend blindly going out there and buying any used tool. That’s a potential recipe for disaster, and I certainly don’t want you spending money on what turns out to be a dud.
So, I’m going to help you out, and in this instance, I’m going to focus on just one type of tool, a table saw.
Now, it’s very easy to spend a considerable amount of money purchasing a brand new table saw, but as you are about to see, that’s not your only option. Below are a series of tips on the ten essential things you need to look for when buying your used table saw.
By the end, I believe you will find yourself in a much better position to get a bargain table saw.
I do admit that I love checking classifieds for used tools. You never know what you can find from time to time. However, this isn’t about trying to help you to find the best tools. It’s more connected to helping you avoid making a mistake.
So, with that thought firmly in mind, let’s go through the tips and start to make your quest to purchase a used table saw a whole lot easier.
1. Check the Table
My first tip is to check the table. You need it to be flat and that it hasn’t been damaged or even warped in some way. A table that’s not flat will only lead to issues, but I’m not saying it has to be completely perfect.
However, if you notice any dents or imperfections on the table, I would tend to avoid buying that particular table saw. There are always enough used table saws on the market for you to have the ability to avoid those that don’t have a close to perfect table.
This is where you need to spend time examining the tabletop from all angles. Even rest some wood on the table to see how it lies. I’m not saying you need to take out a level and check each part. The need for the table to be flat is not quite as crucial as it would be for a jointer table or a planer table, but you still don’t want any significant issues.
2. Check the Blade Alignment
Another critical area to check is the blade and that it remains perfectly aligned. It’s easy to see how a misaligned blade would ruin your entire project, so carefully examining the blade is essential.
Perhaps the biggest problem is when the blade has turned inwards. This tends to lead to some burning on your stock, and we don’t want that to happen.
While you can go through a process of measuring to see if the blade is indeed aligned, you may want to experience the table saw in use and then examine the cut. That can provide you with a tell-tale sign that all is not well.
But if you want to check things correctly, this is how to do it.
First, remove both the guard and the splitter. You need a clear path to see exactly what is going on.
Next, ensure the blade sits at 90 degrees. You need the blade to be at this angle, or it will throw out every cut, which you want to avoid.
The key here is to align the blade with the slots that appear on the miter gauge tool on the table top. For this, you need to measure the distance between the slots to the front of the blade and then at the rear of the blade. Of course, they should be exactly the same distance.
To do this, you can use either a dial indicator, which is very accurate or a combination square ruler. Either will work, and they can tell you the distance and whether or not everything runs parallel.
If you discover that things are slightly out, then don’t worry. You can adjust the blade when you set up your table saw in your workshop. How that’s done depends on how your blade is mounted below the table, as different models have various ways of doing this.
3. Does the Riving Knife Line Up with the Blade?
Staying with the blade for a moment, I also suggest checking that the riving knife does indeed line up with the blade. Once again, this directly affects the ability of the table saw to make the cuts you want and where you want.
If the riving knife is not actually in line with the blade, then what tends to happen is you will find the stock being pushed toward the fence. This, in turn, leads to some binding, and it makes life significantly more challenging for you to get your desired outcome.
While both aspects mentioned in tips 2 and 3 can be altered and adjusted, I feel it makes your life harder when correctly assessing the rest of the saw.
4. Check the Blade Height and Tilt Adjustments
The ability to adjust the blade height and the tilt angle is vital to the table saw’s overall functioning. So, I think it makes sense to double-check that those adjustments work smoothly on the used table saw you see for sale.
The best way to check this is to physically make some adjustments. I would suggest pushing both the blade height and tilt adjustment to the max. You don’t want to purchase a table saw only to discover the tilt aspect only works up to 30 degrees rather than the full 45.
But don’t simply see if both aspects can reach their maximum. Instead, check out the increments and how easy it is to move between them. Remember that precision is often vital here, so those adjustments must work in line with your needs.
Even though this may take some time, I would suggest taking the table saw through each and every increment and seeing how well the saw works. After all, you never know what you may require from your table saw in the future, so checking each part could prove helpful.
5. Do the Bearings Work?
Most table saws operate via bearings when it comes to making adjustments. You must check that all the bearings work and that nothing has seized. Clearly, seized bearings mean the table saw won’t work as smoothly, which means you will find it nearly impossible to line things up as you need them.
The problem with bearings on used machines, especially those machines incorrectly cared for, is that they rust and just stop working. It means aspects of the table saw will jump or stick, and those smooth movements you need just won’t happen.
Now I know bearings can age and stick. It does happen from time to time. However, you don’t want that to be the immediate thing wrong with your table saw. The only way you can check on this is to see it all in action. It’s something you must observe compared to any other approach.
6. Is the Blade Guard Working?
The blade guard is clearly important from a safety perspective, so you need to check that the guard is in perfect working order. You don’t want the guard to be cracked or weak in any way. If that’s the case, it simply cannot do its job correctly.
Also, it wouldn’t be too uncommon for a used table saw to even have the blade guard missing. Yes, you can get a replacement, but I see this as a potential red flag regarding how the table saw has been looked after up until this point.
But I would also go beyond the blade guard and look at each safety feature incorporated into the model you are thinking of buying. You need to know that stop buttons work instantly and that you get that protection. Does the dust system even work on the table saw? That alone can make it difficult for you to keep your line when using the table saw.
Ensuring everything is safe to use makes so much sense, and knowing there are no issues or problems in those areas does make a difference.
7. Does the Fence Sit Square to the Table?
If I can suggest another key thing to look out for with the fence, and that’s if it does sit square to the table. Once again, if this is not the case, it does mean you could potentially run into a whole host of problems.
If the fence is incapable of sitting square to the table, then you can understand how it potentially throws out your entire cut. You cannot align things correctly and use the fence as a guide because it is sitting askew.
As with the blade, this is all about checking the distance at different points to see if everything runs parallel. Use a combination square ruler like before and double-check your measurements. I would recommend doing this even if things look square. You just cannot see slight differences with the naked eye.
As I said, you can change the fence. However, you need to know in advance if any issues exist that could even hamper the ability of a new fence to sit square.
For this, one of the main things would be the rails. Are they straight, or have they been damaged in some way? I know you can replace them, but even this can indicate how much the previous owner has cared for their table saw. If even the fence is damaged, it may be best to look elsewhere.
Examine both the rails and fence closely to check for any damage. You want to look at the actual structure more than anything else, so get down there, measure, and check everything out.
8. The Motor
If possible, you need to hear the motor in operation as this can help indicate if there is a potential problem. Unfortunately, motors can burn out, which becomes even more likely the older the saw. However, I don’t want you to think that the possibility of a poor motor means you cannot get your hands on a used table saw.
This is where the ability to listen to the motor working will help. Does it sound smooth? Does it sound as if there are interruptions in how it operates? Also, do you sense any burning smell coming from it?
The motor should be able to start up quite easily and do the job at hand. You will learn more about why this is important when you get to tip number 10.
I would also ask the seller about the motor’s power and whether any parts have been previously replaced. Is it a brushless motor? How old is it? These are all fair questions to ask, yet they can indicate the possibility of the motor being too old or close to having to be replaced.
9. Check for Cracks
This tip involves getting down onto your knees, but it’s worth it. You need to check the entire base of the table saw to determine if any cracks exist. I say cracks rather than rust because mild rust on an old used table saw is not too problematic. However, the crack means a potential fundamental flaw in the table that you must deal with.
The problem with cracks in the actual saw is that it clearly represents a weakness that may be made worse by vibration or pressure. It may also indicate the table saw has not been too well cared for in the past. Honestly, if you see the base is cracked or even with too much rust, then I would stay away from it.
10. See it in Operation
My final tip is to ensure you see the table saw in operation before you buy. It’s just significantly safer to do this, as you can see how well the table saw cuts and also how easy it is to set everything up.
I would certainly be wary of any individual selling a used table saw where they refuse to fire up the machine and cut a piece of wood on it. You aren’t asking them to do anything spectacular. Instead, you just want to see that it cuts as it should before you hand over any money.
This is your opportunity to see how well it cuts and also how smooth the entire table can be. Is there any sign of the belts being worn, even though they are easy to replace, and check the wood. You want to examine it for signs of that burning I mentioned earlier.
For me, I think seeing the table saw in action is the most important tip of all. Everything else mentioned above may appear to be fine, but the actual working of the saw will determine if this is the case.
Those are my ten essential things to look for when buying a used table saw, and I feel you should not find it significantly easier to get out there and find a bargain table saw. Hopefully, it should also mean you avoid spending too much money on a poorer item as well.
I do love table saws. They make short work of those vital cuts and allow you to make significant progress with your projects. You don’t have to spend a fortune on adding a table saw to your workshop, which is just a bonus.
However, I do stress the need to consider the ten tips listed above before making your purchase. The tips make it easier for you to feel confident in your decision. Remember, you want your table saw to be capable of working for years to come, so do take time examining the option you are interested in before you pay out any money.