Hybrid Power

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This article is from Issue 2 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Delta’s new Model 36-716 table saw is a solid, feature-packed cross between a contractor’s saw and a cabinet saw. No compromise required.

By Tim Rinehart

MANY OF US STARTED OUR WOODWORKING with some version of a contractor’s saw – faithful little saws that served us until our skills and budgets grew to cabinet-saw levels. Well, my budget (at least) did grow, and so did my table saw.

But a few years ago a move to a new house meant a major downsizing of my shop, which also meant downsizing my saw, prompting a switch from an imported, 3-hp sliding-table saw back to my old Delta contractor’s saw. I tuned it up with a link belt, balanced pulleys, new fence and miter gauge, along with assorted other bells and whistles. It was still a contractor’s saw, but after my tweaking it was as good as a contractor’s saw gets. However, even after stuffing plastic foam between the top and sides, and making a cover for the back that only works when the blade is at 90 degrees, dust collection is what happens mainly on the floor, not in my collector. If I continually tinker with it, I get smooth square cuts and decent 45-degree angles.

When I was asked to test Delta’s new Model 36-716 hybrid table saw, my first reaction was: Why? I considered “hybrid” to be a politically correct term for a contractor’s saw in a metal box. With a little work, I had built a really good contractor’s saw, so why spend more on a “tweener” saw – that is, one which is in between a contractor’s saw and cabinet machine?

Out of the box

The first time I realized this wasn’t my old contractor’s saw was when I unloaded it out of the truck. You definitely want to lure a friend (preferably a large, younger friend) over to see your new toy. Just don’t tell him it is still in the back of your four-wheel-drive truck. At around 400 lbs, you’ll need help lifting the saw from the shipping pallet. Plus, some assistance in assembly makes mounting the cast iron wings much easier.

Assembly was straightforward, thanks to Delta’s better-than-average manual. Did I mention solid cast iron wings, not stamped steel or the open-grid-pinch-your-fingers style? The weight of the solid cast  iron wings helps dampen vibration, and the machined surface is flatter than stamped steel. Flatter tops mean increased accuracy of cuts.

I left the protective paper and cardboard covering on the top while installing the wings to protect the saw top from any possible damage. Removing this to clean the top after the wings were installed, I got a second pleasant surprise: T-slots. T-slots help increase the depth of crosscut you can make with the miter gauge, as the typical U-slots on most contractor’s saws can allow your miter gauge to tip out when you pull it back. 

The table insert is standard stamped steel, but does have built-in leveling screws and a screw to secure it into the table.

Unlike most hybrid saws that combine a small cabinet with short legs, Delta chose to use a full floor-to-table cabinet, giving this hybrid a small cabinet-saw appearance. (At present, only one other hybrid saw – the Craftsman 22124 – offers this full-length cabinet enclosure.)

Although this saw shares the same basic trunnion design as its contractor cousin, the motor has been moved inboard under the trunnions. Suspending the motor inside the cabinet reduces the footprint of the saw and allows a closed cabinet back for much more efficient dust collection than a contractor’s machine.

Delta’s model 36-716, the middle entry in the company’s three-unit hybrid lineup, comes standard with a 30" Delta Unifence.

The guard/splitter assembly on the new hybrid saw is similar to that found on Delta’s contractor’s models.

Because the table uses T-slots, a miter gauge can be pulled back without tilting off the table, a useful feature when crosscutting wide boards.

Dust collection for hybrid saws is vastly improved over traditional contractor’s saws because of the hybrid’s closed-base design.

Under the hood

The 13/4-hp TEFC motor has plenty of power for most home woodworking – it probably won’t rip 2" oak all day long, but how often do you do that? The motor is easy to access through a large hinged metal motor cover on the right side of the cabinet. Although it comes wired for 120-volt power, if you have 240-volt service available I’d suggest switching the motor wiring during assembly. You won’t gain any power or save money, but your motor will run cooler and be less likely to dim the lights or lock up someone’s computer every time you start the saw. The wiring diagram inside the cover of the motor’s electrical connection box shows you how to switch from 120 to 240 volts, but if you’re uncomfortable or inexperienced working with electricity, contact a qualified electrician to change the motor wiring and ensure you have a correctly wired 240-volt circuit in your shop.

A flat-ribbed drive belt has replaced the traditional V-belt on this saw. The flat belt transfers power more efficiently than a V-belt, runs more smoothly, and is much less susceptible to taking a “set” when used infrequently. By switching to the flat belt, Delta has eliminated the cost of the first upgrade usually recommended for contractor’s saws, which is replacing the stock pulleys and belt. The motor switch is located on the left side of the saw, under the fence guide rail, and features a large paddle that can be easily bumped with your knee for emergency shutdown when you literally have your hands full.

The blade guard and splitter are familiar, and pretty much straight from the contractor’s saw. They’re a little awkward to remove and install, but they serve their purpose until you can replace them with an overarm guard and quick-release splitter. On the plus side, Delta’s sliding seal where the splitter/guard assembly mounts to the trunnions at the rear of the cabinet is a nice touch. The seal allows the splitter/guard assembly to tilt, but still seals the back of the saw’s cabinet to help dust collection. This shows the thought that has been put into this new machine.

Delta furnishes a 36-tooth,15-degree hook, thin-kerf carbide-tooth blade that provides a decent cut and can be used for ripping or crosscutting. I’m not a fan of thin-kerf blades, but this blade performed well enough that I’d have no problem using it until dedicated rip and crosscut blades could be obtained – and then I’d save it as a backup. With the 10" blade the saw has a maximum depth-of-cut of 31/8" at 90 degrees, and 21/8" at 45 degrees. 

After installing the blade on the left-tilting arbor, I got out my Starrett square and dial indicator to set blade-to-slot parallelism and the blade stops, and got a third pleasant surprise: Straight out of the box, the blade-to-slot alignment was off less than .002", and the 90- and 45-degree stops were dead-on, requiring no adjustment whatsoever. This is the first time I’ve ever had a new saw come this close to perfect out of the box, and I hope this is indicative of Delta’s factory setup on these saws. 

Dust collection and extras

Inside the cabinet, under the trunnions and motor, a metal shelf slopes to the dust collector port in the lower rear of the cabinet. Delta provides a 4" dust collector fitting, making it easy to attach the saw to your collection system. In use, I found dust collection to be outstanding; a little dust on top of the saw was all I cleaned up after I finished testing the blade. 

Delta furnishes a decent miter gauge with adjustable stops at 90, 75, 60, 45 and 30 degrees. A spring-loaded thumb lever locks into the index stops, and an adjustable pointer lets you set the gauge to any angle between the fixed stops. Two holes are provided in the head of the gauge for attaching auxiliary wood faces. The model we tested came with the 30" Delta Unifence and included the 14" auxiliary table. In the confines of my small shop this was a perfect fit.

Delta is offering three versions of this new saw:

• Model 36-715 includes two cast iron wings and a 30" Delta T-2 T-square fence, and sells for an estimated retail price of $799.

• Model 36-716 includes two cast iron wings, 30" Delta Unifence, deluxe laminated table board and leg set. Estimated retail price is $949.

• Model 36-717 includes two cast iron wings, 30" Biesemeyer commercial fence, deluxe laminated table board and leg set. Estimated retail price is $999.

The venerable contractor’s saw has always been recommended as a best value for home woodworkers. This statement is usually followed by recommendations to replace the belt and pulleys, to buy a new fence and solid cast iron wings, and to try sealing the cabinet for dust collection. Delta’s new hybrid comes with all these features, plus good dust collection, full cabinet, T-slots, a left-tilt arbor and more.

Contact: Delta Machinery, (800) 223-7278 deltamachinery.com

A growing family

As several manufacturers introduce hybrid saws, the subcategory is growing in both size and popularity. 

Hybrid table saws represent a new breed of shop equipment – more than a contractor’s saw but not quite a cabinet saw, these machines borrow a lot of the better characteristics of both.

In addition to Delta’s new introductions, three manufacturers offer machines that fall into this new category. DeWalt was first off the starting line, creating this subcategory of machines a few years ago with the DW746. The WMH Tool Group followed shortly thereafter with the Jet SuperSaw. Craftsman joined the club just this past year with its own expanded line of three models.

Naturally, each machine has its own unique features, but it is their similarities that are further establishing the hybrid saw as a distinct category of woodworking equipment. All of these machines have done away with the hang-it-off-the-back motor mounting, moving the motors inside enclosed bases. All but one come with 4" dust collection ports (DeWalt’s is 21/2") that, combined with the sealed-base cabinet, greatly enhance dust collection capabilities. All have left-tilting motors of 11/2 or 13/4 hp with beefed-up cast iron trunnions for smooth performance.

Size-wise, the similarities drift a bit. While all are significantly heavier than typical contractor’s saws, weights vary from a low of 275 lbs. for the DeWalt, up to a hefty 438 lbs. for the high-end Craftsman model 22124.

DeWalt and Jet have opted to offer a single machine with an optional range of accessories such as sliding tables and extended rail sets. Like Delta, however, Craftsman offers multiple models within its line – the entry-level model 22104 with stamped steel wings and a 11/2-hp motor priced at $529; the mid-range model 22114 with cast iron extensions and a 11/2-hp motor priced at $649; and the high-end model 22124 with cast iron extensions, 13/4-hp motor and Biesemeyer fence system, priced more closely to the comparable DeWalt, Jet and Delta machines at $949.

While sales, specials and rebates can vary the end cost, as can optional accessories, the basic prices for all manufacturers’ models (except for the lower-end units within the multiple-model lines of Craftsman and Delta) average between $900 and $1,000.

This new category of machines presents a welcome option for those who want more than a contractor’s saw, but can’t justify a full-blown cabinet saw as the centerpiece workhorse in their shops. And, if machine sales and the comments of satisfied users on the various woodworking Web sites are any indication, it’s an equipment category that is here to stay. — A.J. Hamler  

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