Cheap or frugal? - Woodshop News

Cheap or frugal?

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I talked last time about how some cheaper components in my new table saw didn’t mean that quality had been compromised. I’ve got some more thoughts on the issue.

To refresh, my new saw is the replacement model for my 10-year-old saw design. Same company, and basically the same machine updated with features like a riving knife and superior fence system. But some of the components are smaller, lighter and less substantial than on my old machine.

That disappointed me at first, but the more I got to thinking the more I realized that those “cheaper” components serve just fine. For the example, I cited how the hand wheels on my old saw where larger, heavier and had chromed metal handles, while those on the new saw are smaller, thinner, lighter and have plastic handles. But the thing of it is those old wheels must have cost a heck of a lot more; maybe up to five times as much as the ones on the new saw, or perhaps more.

But consider this, what if the saw was available with a choice of hand wheels? That is, what if the saw came with the smaller wheels at the base price, or you could opt for the fancy wheels instead by paying five times as much for them (twice, of course, since there are two wheels)?

Let’s go a step further and apply that to other components. My old saw had a hinged, steel rear door with a metal dust port; the new one a molded plastic rear panel and dust port held on with thumb screws. Again, suppose you could take the saw with the standard plastic panel, or get the fancy metal door instead? Surely, it would be more than my hand wheel example of costing five times as much.

The way I figure it, once you added everything up, I’d guess that going for the fancier, all-steel and cast iron components from my old saw over the standard aluminum and plastic ones on the new saw would easily bump the price by at least $150, maybe $200.

I’ve been using the saw for two weeks now, and can report that it performs marvelously. Those lighter hand wheels, plastic rear panel and other cheaper components are perfectly fine and function as well as (and in the case of the hand wheels, better than) the much “nicer” ones on my old saw. I see no indication whatsoever that the new components will wear out more quickly or show any degradation in performance over the years. The bottom line is that the only difference between those beefy components of my old saw compared to the lighter ones on the new saw is just a factor of “nice.”

Oh, yeah, and the fact that you can pay extra for nice, or save money with perfectly fine.

A.J.

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