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View Full Version : Unisaw - is this a fair deal?



Jason Neal
04-21-2011, 1:05 AM
Hey guys,

I've been keeping an eye out on Craigslist daily for about 6 months now for a decent deal on a cabinet saw. A model 34-461 was posted today and the guy is asking $600 for it. It has a 1.5HP motor which I believe may have been the smallest offered. From what I found on owwm.org, this model looks to have been made around 1975.

Fence looks pretty plain-jane...not a Biesmeyer. It is a right tilt but I don't do much beveling of wide pieces where I would need to have the workpiece "pinched" to the right side of the blade.

He bought it as a package deal with some other Rockwell/Delta equipment. He hasn't even run it since bringing it home but the original owner fired it up for him when he bought it and he said it seemed to run smoothly and the adjustments seem tight. I have a decent mechanical inclination so I'm not scared off if I have to replace bearings or something like that. He says it has been well cared for...not used a heck of a lot but kept up enough that it hasn't just sat around and allowed to rust. It's a pretty good trek for me to go see it so I can't confirm any of this, and with gas being $4 a gallon I don't want to make the trip without the opinions of you guys that are more knowledgeable.

From searching on this forum, I get the sense that his asking price is on the high side. But my weakness is I've got the itch to get a real saw and I've seen only one other decent saw come up on CL in the last six months. I've been using a $150 B&D special from Lowes, and as hard as it may be to believe, I turn out some pretty precise work with it, having invested some time in a ZCI, a couple of crosscut sleds, and various other jigs.

Now that I'm needing to articulate exactly why I want a real saw, I think it comes down mostly to dadoing. The arbor on my current saw is limited to a 3/8" stack which is pretty restrictive, well almost useless when I want to get uniform dadoes for 3/4" stock. Too time consuming to sneak up on the fit with multiple passes. And the height adjustment has some play in it that I think is the cause of my rough dado bottoms. The blade doesn't move in the downward direction but I can see it bounce upward if the dado stack is unbalanced (scary). So even with the stack balanced, I expect it is doing the same as the blade experiences changes in resistance when going through varying grain patterns, especially in plywood.

I expect many will say the first thing I need to factor in is the cost of getting a more powerful motor and a good fence. I tend to agree on the fence but I'm not so sure about the motor assuming it's in good working order. The cheapie saw I'm using has a 2hp motor (or so it says) and I've run some 6/4 oak through it without bogging it. That's about the toughest cut I make on the table saw, and that's pretty rare. But if there's some way I can use the 1.5 horse to upgrade my Rockwell bandsaw's 3/4 horse, then I probably would upgrade the tablesaw eventually. I do bog the bandsaw down on a regular basis with resaws.

Anyway, if you've read this far, please accept my gratitude. I didn't intend to write so much when I sat down.

What do you think I should do? Try to talk him down? Wait for a better deal? Or buy it and don't look back?

johnny means
04-21-2011, 2:59 AM
I say you get to little for that price. Dadoes require a little more HP and a good fence is a must have. By the time you get a decent fence and motor your in for $1000. At that rate why not get a new Grizzly with 3 hp and a Biesse clone fence? If that's out of the question, I would still say be patient, much better deals are out there.

Cary Falk
04-21-2011, 4:19 AM
I say you get to little for that price. Dadoes require a little more HP and a good fence is a must have. By the time you get a decent fence and motor your in for $1000. At that rate why not get a new Grizzly with 3 hp and a Biesse clone fence? If that's out of the question, I would still say be patient, much better deals are out there.

I agree with this. I purchased 3phase Unisaw about 4 years ago for $400. (At a 1975 yours is not the 1.5hp bullet motor that people covet.) I was convinced buy others that the saw would be so much better than a Grizzly once I fixed it up. It cost me as much as a Grizzly when I was done with the motor, fence, etc. I ended up selling the Uni last year to get a G01023RL with a riving knife and dust shroud. I was out about $100 when all was said and done. I am much happier now. I know I am in the minority so take it for what is is worth. Sometimes old tools make sense, sometimes they don't. I don't think tablesaws do. Only you can decide.

Rick Potter
04-21-2011, 4:20 AM
Jason,

I had a 1 1/2 HP Unisaw for about 10 years. The 1 1/2 HP did everything I asked it to do including plenty of 3/4" dados. I NEVER thought it was underpowered. The only reason I upgraded from it to a new 3 HP Unisaw was that I got a good deal on a display model with all the bells and whistles, and a guy taking his kid around for Holloween stopped and looked at it and offered me $1000 for it. That was over 15 years ago.

This one probably has the Jet Lock fence on it. Much better than a Craftsman, and I had no complaints about it, but I do like my Unifence better. I bet the owner will take $500. If you ever decide to move up again, you can sell it for what you paid.

Rick Potter

Jason Neal
04-21-2011, 4:40 AM
Thanks for the advice, guys.

Johnny, looking at Grizzly's site, I see the model G1023RL is a little over $1200 shipped. It looks like an excellent value but unfortunately that stretches my budget too far. Seeing what $1200 can buy in the new market, though, makes it hard to justify half that much on a fixer-upper.

At about $850 shipped, the hybrid model G0715P is looking really tempting, especially after reading a few reviews here and at lumberjocks. The motor is only 2hp but typically I'm running dadoes 3/4" wide that are 1/4" - 5/16" deep. I mean, my cheapie saw running a stack half that wide barely even changes its tone when I'm running a piece through. Doesn't seem to bog down in the slightest. I did try to bog it by running some test pieces through really fast and I could hear the motor slow down (easy to pick out with a screamer universal motor). Rick, you're vouching that 2hp should be plenty so that relieves me of anxiety that I'd have buyer's remorse for getting it.

Seems like the main downside I've read about hybrids is the adjustment of the blade with respect to the table/miter slot. The reviews make out like it's easy for this model. At almost 400lbs, it sounds like there is plenty of cast iron to damp vibration effectively. I don't know all the differences but it seems much closer to being a cabinet saw than a contractor saw. Also, the fence looks like a Biese clone with a nice wide T and adjustment pads.

I guess I'm looking for a reason not to buy this hybrid saw. From the reviews, it seems like it exceeds everyone's expectations.

michael gates
04-21-2011, 7:58 AM
Why not put a wanted add on craigslist for what you really want? only you know if you want to spend the money and time to get the saw where you want it to be. The 1 1/2hp probably will have more power than the two hp your using today.

bob hertle
04-21-2011, 8:04 AM
I'm with Rick Potter. I've had my 1.5HP uni for25 years, and it's done everything I've wanted. Dados have never been a problem. Ripping 8/4 maple may be a little slower than I'd like, but when I change over to a rip blade 18-20 teeth it does remarkably well. Not a problem though, because I actually prefer to rip on the bandsaw. What about blades, accessories? Condition (rust etc)? $600 could be a fair price depending.....just sayin'


Bob

Mike Cruz
04-21-2011, 8:29 AM
I think the saw will do all you ask of it. But $600 is a bit steep. If it were in pristine condition, maaaaybe. But if you have to work on it, replace parts, or ugrade parts...no. Considering your situation, I wouldn't pay more than $300 for it. That way, if you have to drop some cash into it, you'll end up at around $500-600...which is "fair". The question is (or at least this is how I figure it), if you decide this isn't the saw for you, or for some other reason, you have to sell it, can you get back out what you put in? If you end up with $1000, can you sell it for $1000 or more? I don't think so.

Of course different areas yield different "deals", I see 3 hp Unis come on the market here in the DC area for $600-1000 all the time. Sometimes they are 3 phase, but for $200 you can get a phase converter (VFD) and practically plug and play get her up and running. So, don't overlook 3 phase machines. If one comes up for a steal, just factor in a $200 upgrade.

Just for reference, though, I happened across my Uni from a divorce... 3 HP, single phase, right tilt, 52" Biesemeyer fence, and only 10 years old for $300. And to boot, he gave me a jointer, drill press, DC, and a bunch more. Deal of a century, yeah, I know. But the point is that they do come up. Not everyone is trying to sell their stuff for a profit. Occasionally, people just need to dump stuff. Keep waiting, a really nice saw will come your way for $400-500. It may not be a Uni, but a really nice Uni, Grizzly, PM, or something will...

Steve Ryan
04-21-2011, 9:42 AM
Plenty of 1.5 HP $600.00 unisaws on CL here in SE Ma. Don't know about the newer Jet lock fences, but most of the older ones were twisted slightly. Just enough to p*** you off enough to buy a BM fence down the road.

Rod Sheridan
04-21-2011, 9:46 AM
1.5 HP is plenty for a saw for non commercial use.

If it's in good condition, and you like it, buy it.

As others have said, if you don't like it in 10 years, sell it................Rod.

Timothy Juvenal
04-21-2011, 11:12 AM
Clearly a good Unisaw is worth some money, but bargains are out there. Personally, I'd offer 300 cash & bargain up to 400.

My '61 Unisaur with 1-1/2HP R-I motor is plenty powerful enough, and is at least as powerful & definately more reliable than the alleged 3HP bargain import it replaced.

The stock Delta Micro-Set fence on the 12/14 works just fine & I see no need to replace it, although I wouldn't say it is "awesome" like the Vega Micro-Adjust fence on the Unisaur.

Really can't go wrong with a good condition old Unisaw or PM66 IMO.

Timothy

Jason Neal
04-21-2011, 11:19 AM
Just for reference, though, I happened across my Uni from a divorce... 3 HP, single phase, right tilt, 52" Biesemeyer fence, and only 10 years old for $300. And to boot, he gave me a jointer, drill press, DC, and a bunch more. Deal of a century, yeah, I know. But the point is that they do come up. Not everyone is trying to sell their stuff for a profit. Occasionally, people just need to dump stuff. Keep waiting, a really nice saw will come your way for $400-500. It may not be a Uni, but a really nice Uni, Grizzly, PM, or something will...

Nice drive-by, Mike :) Now see, that makes me want to wait for a deal even a fraction as good as what you got. Meanwhile Bob and Rod are saying it's worth considering so I'm torn. Based on all the advice and my own notions, I'm thinking $450 is about the most I would be willing to drop on it if it is good condition, especially the fence and motor/bearings. Maybe that way I could break even if I wanted to upgrade later. I'm a younger guy (well, at 34 I feel young) but I like the old iron...really like the old Rockwell bandsaw I have in the shop. But boy, that Grizzly sure looks pretty, both in the conventional sense and specs-wise. I just don't know if I can continue to wait to scratch this itch. People just don't seem to be getting rid of used saws in my area. Maybe I'll try putting up a want to buy on CL like Michael suggested. I considered it but figured that would be a waste of time, probably because I can't imagine too many folks trolling CL looking for someone wanting to buy something they have. I figure if someone has something they want to sell and they know that CL exists, they'll just put it up since the cost is only in the time.

David Gandy
04-21-2011, 1:48 PM
Hi Jason,

If this is an unused Delta Unisaw made in America with the jet-lok fence this is a much better saw than the made chiwanese models you buy today at half of the price. The 1.5 hp motor with a sharp blade will cut your dados just fine. Mine is an early sixties model and before I found a bies for fifty bucks, I used the jet-lok for years and produced some beautiful projects.....advantage with the T-Square fence is the little pointer and the tape......I had to use a ruler and measure from the fence to the blade with the old Jet-lok. Just think, if you buy an unused 70's unisaw it is just like going back in time and your American wrenches will work too. I would buy a rusty used unisaw before I would buy some chinewese scrap metal. None of em are made in the USA anymore so the inventory is decreasing....an old brand new saw?.......yes; absolutely. 600 bucks....well it is certainly worth it but everyone likes a good deal including me so negotiate if you can, but unused? I'd go for it.

David G.....who owns 17 old woodworking machines made in the USA and shoots green bears

jonathan eagle
04-21-2011, 1:59 PM
I'm a little like the guy Mike is describing. I'm upgrading some key tools, jointer, bandsaw. So I have to make space. These tools are pretty nigh in perfect condition.
In terms of the power, of the TS, I'd either wait until a 3HP comes available or get the g1023. It makes a huge difference having a well powered saw. I didn't used to think so, but it does.
Power (and capacity), is certainly one of the reasons I am upgrading.

Chip Lindley
04-21-2011, 4:04 PM
Well...Somebody wanted that Unisaw bad enough to make a deal! I don't find any on CL in Mississippi today.

As I have intimated so many times before, "If you spend a day asking in this forum if it's a good deal, very often it's GONE that same day." You gotta just go with your gut...or else.

Jason Neal
04-21-2011, 4:28 PM
"If you spend a day asking in this forum if it's a good deal, very often it's GONE that same day." You gotta just go with your gut...or else.

True, that's a risk I understood when going in. But I'd really be ticked if I overpaid for it. It was apparent from talking to the guy that he thought he had something really special. He also posted a 14" Rockwell bandsaw for $400 which seemed steep considering you can go get a brand spanking new Grizzly G0555 for a few dollars more. No hard feelings toward him though. If he got the full $600 asked and the person happily paid it, well then there are two people having a happy Thursday.

Chip Lindley
04-21-2011, 8:49 PM
... But I'd really be ticked if I overpaid for it. It was apparent from talking to the guy that he thought he had something really special. He also posted a 14" Rockwell bandsaw for $400 which seemed steep considering you can go get a brand spanking new Grizzly G0555 for a few dollars more.....

In my mind a brand new Chi-Wan Grizzly is not in the same class as an original Delta/Rockwell machine in good shape. But that's just me--I'm Old School! My minimum senility allows me to still recall when Grizzly got their start by knocking off original Delta and Powermatic designs and undercutting the American market with "bargain" prices.

John Lifer
04-21-2011, 10:00 PM
Keep looking! I'm from the Jackson area, and there are very few bargains to be found. Keep any eye out for the New Orleans area and for that matter poach across state lines to 'Bama if you can. I'm living up in NW Arkansas, but travel back home fairly regularly. If you see anything 'tween here and there, give me a shout and I'll see if I can drag it towards you. I for one wouldn't pay quite that for one unless it was pristine, passed on several up in KC area last fall that went in school auction for about $400-600. These are Much better built saws than chinese things you can get now, but there is place for them. Won't downgrade them too much. I just won't buy.... to each his own.

jonathan eagle
04-22-2011, 9:11 AM
True, that's a risk I understood when going in. But I'd really be ticked if I overpaid for it. It was apparent from talking to the guy that he thought he had something really special. He also posted a 14" Rockwell bandsaw for $400 which seemed steep considering you can go get a brand spanking new Grizzly G0555 for a few dollars more. No hard feelings toward him though. If he got the full $600 asked and the person happily paid it, well then there are two people having a happy Thursday.

Exactly! I don't get some people.
Why get an old underpowered saw when you can get a new just as solid one with more power, modern guides, etc... Only because it wasn't made in china?

Josiah Bartlett
04-22-2011, 9:28 PM
I have a 2hp 34-460, and the power is just about adequate for everything but pinchy gnarly hardwood with the blade extended all the way and fast fed dadoes. Since I rip fat hardwood on my bandsaw instead, it works fine for me. If you are just doing sheet goods and well behaved S4S material you'll be fine with that saw.

Myk Rian
04-22-2011, 9:35 PM
Here we go again. Buy a Grizzly, buy a Grizzly, buy a Grizzly. Scheese. Is that all you people know?
Get the uni-saw. You'll love it.

johnny means
04-23-2011, 1:01 AM
Here we go again. Buy a Grizzly, buy a Grizzly, buy a Grizzly. Scheese. Is that all you people know?
Get the uni-saw. You'll love it.

He did ask for opinions. Or should those be banned from the forum:rolleyes: Some of us just don't see the magic of the UNI-SAW. An old underpowered saw with a crappy fence, questionable history and God knows what problems lurking priced at $600 does not seem like a "fair deal" to me just because it says Unisaw on the tag. Especially when there is a known performer with a warranty and the backing of the seller available for a few dollars more.

Mike Cruz
04-23-2011, 2:46 AM
Hey, I'm not "on" either side of the fence, here (I've got old iron and newer Grizzly), but I think both sides need to be taken into account for any purchase. The "buy a Grizzly" mentality doesn't always hold water. A $1000 new Grizzly isn't necessarily a better buy than a Delta, Powermatic, or Jet that has been purchased for $600 with $400 in refinishing. Doesn't mean that it isn't better, but not necessarily. Likewise, if you buy a new Grizzly for $1000 and go to sell it, it will likely be worth about $500-700 at best. But the Delta, Powermatic, or Jet that you have $1000 may fetch $1000 or near it.

Thread headed in the "buy a new Grizzly" vs "buy old iron, you can't beat it" direction WAY back. I just hoped it wouldn't go there. I think that the issue came, in this instance, because the saw in question is not heavily powered and not well "equipped". Had the OP asked about a 30 year old Uni with 3 hp and a Biesemeyer fence for $600, I don't believe the comparisons would have been so previlant. But the price for the OP's subject saw was, in my opinion, high for what it is.

The other factor that may get people to default to the "buy a Grizzly" mentality, stems from comfort levels with old tools. During a recent discussion with a friend recently, this friend made the comment that he wished he had the skill set that I do for rehabbing old equipment. To me, it really isn't that big of a deal (especially with the help of others that are willing to help me with the wiring and stuff that I either don't have the knowledge or tools for...welder/plasma cutter/sandblaster) to take stuff apart, clean it, paint it, and put it back together. But for many, the process is either out of their skill set, or they don't want to bother with it. So their options are either to buy a new Delta, Powermatic, or Jet (if money allows) or get a new Grizzly. Buying an old piece that needs upgrading or refinishing isn't a possibility. Hence the response, "buy a Grizzly".

Just some thoughts...

Chip Lindley
04-23-2011, 3:23 PM
Thanks for trying Mike, but your logic is lost on the Green Hoard!


...Some of us just don't see the magic of the UNI-SAW. An old underpowered saw with a crappy fence, questionable history and God knows what problems lurking priced at $600 does not seem like a "fair deal" to me just because it says Unisaw on the tag. Especially when there is a known performer with a warranty and the backing of the seller available for a few dollars more.

Johnny nails it! BUY NEW! BUY GRIZ! I concur 120% Then, we appreciators of older, Made-in-USA machinery will have more of a selection than ever! *evil chuckle*

Myk Rian
04-23-2011, 5:02 PM
Johnny nails it! BUY NEW! BUY GRIZ! I concur 120% Then, we appreciators of older, Made-in-USA machinery will have more of a selection than ever! *evil chuckle*
You make a good point there. More for us that appreciate good machinery.

Mike Cruz
04-23-2011, 6:52 PM
Funny, I consider myself a "new" buyer. I don't like other peoples' problems. I buy my vehicles new. And whenever possible, I get whatever I need...new. But with shop equipment, while I like the idea of new, cost has been a factor that has kept me from getting ANY of my machines new. And of the used stuff I have, I have a 1991 jointer, 1981 lathe, and a 1958 band saw. Had a late 80's band saw and a 1947 lathe and sold them both when upgrading. My "newest" machine is probably about 10 years old. But, I'm okay with that. Just because they are old doesn't automatically make them better built or anythng, but they certainly fit my budget much better.

John Cooper2
04-23-2011, 7:39 PM
I started off with a couple different craftsman saws then found a Powermatic 64A (contractors saw). Craftsmans died, Powermatic was a good saw, sold it for more than I paid. Found this early 1950's Unisaw for $500.00 with a few blades. Brought it home, replaced the belts with the segmented ones, checked for runout, it had very little. Built a steel stand to raise it up 6", I am 6'6" and the extra height is nice. It has the 1.5hp motor, did some trading for a 3hp, but it's still in the box because I really have not found a need to change it yet, I will someday.

I feel like this saw will out live me and I am under 50 and I could always sell it for what I have in it or even more.

I like Grizzly , I have had a bandsaw (sold it), dust collector ( in pieces now) and stationary sander (just the belt part works now).

Guess I am one of the Old Iron Guys, my 27" bandsaw is 106 years old and think it will out live me too.

John

jonathan eagle
04-23-2011, 10:59 PM
I started off with a couple different craftsman saws then found a Powermatic 64A (contractors saw). Craftsmans died, Powermatic was a good saw, sold it for more than I paid. Found this early 1950's Unisaw for $500.00 with a few blades. Brought it home, replaced the belts with the segmented ones, checked for runout, it had very little. Built a steel stand to raise it up 6", I am 6'6" and the extra height is nice. It has the 1.5hp motor, did some trading for a 3hp, but it's still in the box because I really have not found a need to change it yet, I will someday.

I feel like this saw will out live me and I am under 50 and I could always sell it for what I have in it or even more.

I like Grizzly , I have had a bandsaw (sold it), dust collector ( in pieces now) and stationary sander (just the belt part works now).

Guess I am one of the Old Iron Guys, my 27" bandsaw is 106 years old and think it will out live me too.

John

John,
Give that 3HP a try, especially since you have it. You'll notice a big difference.
One can certainly make do with the 1.5hp, but there is a reason cabinet saws aren't made with such a small motor anymore!

John Cooper2
04-24-2011, 1:21 AM
I will one of these days, just not a big priority at the moment.

Jason Neal
04-24-2011, 2:05 AM
Well, I have a line on different Unisaw, a 3hp 3 phase model. I need to go check it out (long drive) but the photo looked promising. I'm pricing some VFDs. I have 240V in the shop, and I have an electronics background but I've never used a VFD so I'm a little out of my comfort zone.

To use a VFD to get 3 phase from two 120V legs, I think I read somewhere that I need one rated higher than the 3hp motor rating. Is this accurate?

Mike Cruz
04-24-2011, 2:25 AM
Jason, I have 3 (ugh, yes, 3) VFDs (all are the TECO FM50) in my shop now. 2 are 2 hp and 1 is 3 hp. My understanding of it is that you are converting single phase 220 to 3 phase. So, you plug the VFD into a single phase 220 outlet. Then you run wires from the VFD to the motor. As for the rating, as it has been explained to me, the hp rating on a VFD is not so much about hp, but rather amp rating. So, for example, my 2 hp VFDs are rated at 7.5 amps. That is the GENERAL high end for a 2 hp 3 ph motor. If you found a 3 hp 3ph motor that draws 7.5 or less amps, you could use the 2 hp unit. It is, of course unlikely. I think, IIRC, that the low end for 3 hp 3 ph motors is 7.8 amps. Just to confuse the issue, I'll add this. The 2 hp VFD is rated for 7.5 amps. When you run a 3 hp motor, it isn't always pulling its maximum draw. So, if your 3 hp motor is rated at 8.3 amps, it will only be drawing that when under FULL load. Also, the VFD can handle overloads of a certain percent (I believe it is 10%) for a short duration (something like 30 seconds). So, as long as you aren't using the 3 hp motor to its full potential (nearing stopping the blade), you could, technically, possibly use a 2 hp VFD. That said, I would never do that! Personally, I'd rather be safe and not risk damaging my motor or VFD. The 2 hp FM50 is about $150 and the 3 hp FM50 is about $200. My thought is that $50 now might save me having to buy a new VFD or motor in the future. The other thing to consider is that VFDs are great for machines that you want to be able to control the speed of the blade on...like BSs and Lathes. They also give you the ability to start the motor slowly and stop the motor in a designated time frame (like a brake). Neither of these functions are needed for a TS. So a rotary phase converter may be a better bet. Sorry for rambling. I'm over tired and need to go to bed...

Cary Falk
04-24-2011, 3:54 PM
He did ask for opinions. Or should those be banned from the forum:rolleyes: Some of us just don't see the magic of the UNI-SAW. An old underpowered saw with a crappy fence, questionable history and God knows what problems lurking priced at $600 does not seem like a "fair deal" to me just because it says Unisaw on the tag. Especially when there is a known performer with a warranty and the backing of the seller available for a few dollars more.

+1
Old is not always the answer.
New is not always the answer.
Each tool has to be evaluated upon it's merits.
As a former owner of a Unisaw and a current owner of a Grizzly, there is nothing magical about a Unisaw. The old style Unisaw is outdated and only worth it if you get a screaming deal.
There is a current thread about Old vs New on the OWWM site. It's pretty entertaining.