Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Craftsman 10" Contractor's Saw Model 21833 - Review Summary

I posted detailed articles on the purchase and assembly of my Craftsman 10" saw model 21833 in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Now that I've been using it for a little while, I thought I'd do a review of the saw's use.

There are Pros and Cons around this saw, as there are for any product. At a little over $400 on sale ($550 normally), the manufacturer had to make some shortcuts.

Riving Knife
The riving knife was a huge feature for me. I've never had a saw with one, but I liked splitters when I could use 'em. The riving knife seemed like a truly usable solution. And it is! There are only two things I'd change, and one feature request:
  • The blade has to be fully raised to extend the riving knife if it's retracted. Something binds the knife when the blade is more than 20% lower than fully extended. 
  • This is a wish because I doubt *any* riving knife does this: Allow the knife be adjusted to the diameter of the blade. For example, an 8" blade has over an inch between the blade and the riving knife. That's a pretty big gap. And since I often use odd sized blades to get the cut I want, it would definitely be useful.
  •  Can someone make different thicknesses of the riving knife so I can match the knife to my blade's kerf? It sucks to not be able to use it with really thin kerf blades.
On-Base Storage
The saw comes with places to store your saw's accessories. This is nice because there's nothing worse than having your miter gauge fall off the barstool you precariously balanced it upon. When everything's stored, the saw can be moved around without worrying about stuff falling off or getting in the way. However...
  • Can't place or remove the fence if the miter gauge is in the storage slots
  • The guard/pawls/insert plates storage is a joke. PITA to get stuff on there, and it's not terribly secure
  • Blade/tool storage is immediately beneath the right wing. Sucks to get to. I've ended up putting it all on my wall, especially since I now have a router table in that wing
The storage is still useful, but could be better. I'd move the blade storage to the left side on the motor cover to start with.

Blade
In the previous articles I talked about the scary pits in the blade body, so I won't rehash that here. But I did try some cuts with that blade. Ripping and crosscutting both hardwoods and softwoods resulted in tearout, rough faces, and a much higher feed effort than should be needed. In other words, it's completely useless. Make a clock out of it or something. (You didn't expect a WWII blade with a $400 saw, did you?)

Table Inserts
The saw comes with two steel inserts, one for single blades, one for dadoes. The table of this saw isn't friendly to making your own zero clearance inserts because of the shallow lip in the opening to hold the insert. Some folks have had good luck making them anyway, so I may attempt it later. In the meantime, I'll continue using the stock ones. However...
  • The paint finish on the two inserts is of different thicknesses. That means having to reset the adjustment screws when switching between the two. Ewww...
  • The paint finish is so thick on the dado insert that I had to scrape it off around the edges just to get it to fit the opening. Yeah, that makes me feel SO good.
They're adequate, but could be MUCH better.

Design Flaws
I mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again. The mounting of the arbor and such under the table is such that when the blade is fully extended vertically, the whole thing shifts a smidge. So you can never hit the stops if you want to keep the blade square.

To me, this is the most serious flaw in the entire saw. Others have noted it as well. It makes me worry about the durability of the design for use over years.

The miter gauge is simply a joke. Buy an inexpensive Incra (the v27 is under $50) and hide the stock gauge in a deep dark part of your shop.

It's really not all bad...
The pros significantly outweigh the cons in this saw. I'd buy it again.
  • Huge bang for the buck!
    A cast iron top, built in rollers, 1 3/4 hp motor, all for under $500!!!
  • The 1 3/4 hp motor is quite nice. Smooth, quiet, and powerful. 6/4 oak is no problem for a sharp blade on this saw.
  • The built in rollers are very nice. Aside from having to walk around the table to hit both levers, it's perfect!
  • The fence is decent, and works really well. Not a Bies but it's better than a $400 saw should have.
  • The vertical and angle adjustments are smooth and light. 
  • The wings, while being stamped steel, are much more substantial than other steel wings I've seen.
  • Storage for accessories on the saw is a feature common to many new saws, but this is the first saw I've owned with it. Nice!
  • Passes the nickel test (once I shimmed the feet to get the saw level. My garage floor is nowhere near level.)
Definitely a good saw, but not great. The bang for the buck is certainly there. Plus, your local Sears probably has one in stock, so you can take it home today if you want. (You'll need a pickup and possibly a crane or a couple of strong helpers to get it out of the truck.)

If you need a saw in the $500 range, this is the one to get. I can recommend it without reservation, as long as the issues noted in this and the previous 3 articles are kept in mind.

1 comment:

Modesta I. E. said...

I really like the review. Its fair, and its balanced. I get so tired of reading the other sites: "I almost bought one on sale with a coupon and gift card I had and sears would have paid me 100$ but glad I didn't because 100$ isn't enough for this lemon". I mean really? Then they say, "I will just have to keep using my 100$ saw that is 10 years old". Wow, I have a 10 year old 100$ saw and trust me, I was THRILLED to get my new craftsman for under 500$. This thing is like driving a rolls royce to me compared to what i have. Is it the greatest saw in the world? No. IS it worth 500$? Absolutely. These other people need to get real. Great review- it really helped me make a decision. NOw if I can just get the thing put together, lol