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The Nitty Gritty
For many years I got by without a table saw. I've always just used my trusty handsaw or circular saw. I just didn't have a need for it because our current home at the time was small, so I couldn’t work on as many projects as I wanted to.
This changed once we bought a larger home. The list of projects we wanted to complete on our new home was endless. A larger yard meant things like planter boxes, storage sheds and picnic tables. A more spacious garage meant custom shelving and work benches. The projects went on and on. It was inevitable that the need for a table saw would come up, and it was the construction of the shed that prompted this.
The first couple weeks of working on the shed, I used my handsaw and portable power saws. Then as I got deeper into the project, I ran into a wall. I realized that I needed to make certain long narrow cuts that were nearly impossible to do reliably and consistently with my current means. So it was time for a table saw. I was really excited as I had always wanted one, and this was the perfect opportunity to make the investment.
I researched many table saws online until I settled on one I liked. At the time, the prices ranged from around $250 to thousands of dollars. I opted for the Kobalt KT1050 table saw from Lowes. After a 10% coupon I purchased on eBay for $2, I got the table saw for just under $300 with free delivery. (Here’s a very similar tablesaw on Amazon)
There were two main deciding factors for choosing this saw versus others in the same price range. The first one was the maximum cutting depth at 90 degrees. The KT1015 allowed up to 3.5 inches of height on the blade, which meant I could cut a 4 x 4 with one pass on the blade. Most of the other saws maxed out at 3.125". I could also cut 2 x 4s on the longer side if I needed as well.
The second decision factor was that it came with a folding built in stand. I didn't fully understand the mechanics of its intended operation until watching some YouTube videos. Then I decided this saw was perfect for me. During normal usage, the saw sits on its stand and works like a regular table saw. Then when you're done your cutting for the day, you press a foot lever, raise two handles and the saw tilts vertically on its side and is wheeled away for storage.
Here is the table saw in its wheeled storage position:
In this mode, it looks and maneuvers like a two wheel dolly. Because it stands up vertically, it takes up minimal space against the wall when not in use. This was perfect for my setup as I did not want a permanent spot for the table saw and was hoping to easily pull it out as needed.
In the picture below, the lever with the lock icon transforms the saw into working position.
So the table saw arrived about a week later at my front door. The shed project was being held up due to cuts needed from the saw, so I was eager to set it up and continue construction. It took about an hour to assemble all of the parts and learn operation of all the features. Since it was my first time using a table saw, I did a number of practice cuts with scrap wood to get a feel for the saw and its mechanics. I verified the 3.5” max blade height with a piece of 4 x 4. I tried some angled cuts with the included miter slide. I also ripped some bevel cuts on some 2 x 4s. The cuts were clean and effortless. The dust port sprayed most of the sawdust out and away from me, piling it up in a hill. Once I was comfortable, I did the real cuts I needed for my project and was very happy with the results.
Here is a picture of the side showing the yellow power switch and the blade adjustment wheel. You can raise or lower the blade by spinning the wheel. Also, attached to the wheel is a bevel lever that you can use to adjust the angle of the blade. I found the power switch to be in the perfect location because it is easy to turn the saw off with your knee after a cut. The opposite side of the saw is where the sawdust shoots out.
One thing I was not too happy about with the table saw was the misalignment of the riving knife. The riving knife is a metal splitter that sits just behind the blade. As the saw blade cuts through the wood, the riving knife slides right into the freshly cut groove and forces the wood to remain parallel to the guide fence. It’s a safety feature of table saws that helps to prevent a lot of kickback (when the spinning motion of the blade forces the wood to jerk back at you). The riving knife is supposed to be aligned perfectly with the blade, but mine was not. It actually wasn’t too bad at the beginning, but as I used the saw over the next couple months, the alignment got worse.
The manual did come with instructions on aligning it via some hexagonal screws, but I have just never gotten around to fixing it. I did also read online about a number of people having trouble with the alignment and could not fix it regardless of the adjustment screw settings. Some people have even had to stick washers into the riving knife mounting points to align it manually. Hopefully when I get the time to look into it more, it will work out for me.
In the meantime, when I cut wood, the riving knife either happens to nudge into the cut groove, or I have to place a pre-cut block of scrap wood to force the alignment. I do occasionally just use my finger to manually nudge the riving knife into place with the blade spinning, but this is highly dangerous and I would not recommend to anyone (note to self to stop doing this and fix the alignment).
Another thing that I was not too fond of was aligning the guide fence. This is the guide that runs parallel to the blade that you slide your wood against to ensure your cut is even. The guide has two clamping levers on both ends that you engage to lock it down to the table saw surface.
The problem with this technique is that you have to manually ensure the guide is parallel to the blade. If the guide isn’t parallel (within a close margin of error), then your cut is not going to be straight. Also, your wood will likely get stuck at some point as you slide it through the blade. So both ends of the guide have to be the same distance away from the blade. It’s really not that difficult to do, but can get annoying if you’re making a number of cuts and constantly adjusting the fence.
I’ve gotten use to using a tape measure to ensure both ends of the guide fence are the same distance from the edge of the table. Other people use a speed square to quickly align the fence. The fancier table saws use a rack and pinion system for the guide fence, where you spin a handle to slide the fence left or right. This would be perfect for me if I had a few more hundred dollars to spend on a table saw, but alas that was outside my budget.
Here is a picture showing the guide fence with one of the adjustment levers. There is a useful ruler on the front to help you set the distance from the blade, but I find this not to be always accurate. I tend to rely on my trusty measuring tape.
So the misaligned riving knife and the work needed to setup the guide fence are my only squabbles with the Kobalt KT1015.
It’s a terrific saw for a great value and should satisfy the needs of your typical home DIY’er. The table saw in general is really my most prized item in my tool collection. For a mere $300, it has put me on a whole new level of craftsmanship, and allowed me to accomplish projects that would have been nearly impossible in the past.
Hammering It Home...
Listed below are the projects where I used the Kobalt KT105 table saw. To see detailed steps and pictures, click the project below.
Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)