Steel City Granite Machines — an Interactive Review

About a year ago, Senior Editor Glen D. Huey wandered over to my desk and asked me if I thought he was being made the victim of a practical joke. In a phone conversation he had been told that Steel City Toolworks was planning on using granite instead of cast iron in some of its machines. At first, I thought that Glen’s leg was being pulled, but I had to think about the advantages of granite. The pluses started to add up (dead flat, won’t rust, heavy enough to absorb a lot of vibration) until it seemed like a good idea.

Fast forward a couple months and there we were in Las Vegas, looking at prototypes of a table saw, band saw and jointer. A few weeks ago, production models arrived in our shop, and last week we found the time to take off the crates and put them to work. During the next few weeks, I’ll be using them to build my new workbench and we’ll have a full review in an upcoming issue.


For today, I’m going to give some first impressions, and invite you to add a comment or send me an e-mail with any specific questions. The idea is, if I miss anything, or if there is a part of any of the machines you want a closer look at, I can run out to the shop and come up with a picture and an answer. The two pictures above are of the 14″ band saw. As you can see, the top is flat and smooth and the rest of the saw is nicely made. The cast iron parts are nice and beefy and where stone meets iron, the connection is made with a threaded insert glued in a hole in the granite. We haven’t used it much, but so far we like what we see.


The beds of the 6″ jointer are cast iron, and the fence is granite. This is a perfect application for the dead-flat granite. Most jointers made in the last 20 or 30 years have terrible fences, twisted and warped and impossible to make square to the bed for the entire length of the fence. We’ve become used to that and set the fence square near the knives and compromise our technique to achieve square edges. This fence is dead on all the way and makes edge jointing easier and more reliable.


On paper, the 10″ table saw is the same as the one we tested in November 2006. The motor horsepower and cutting capacity have stayed the same, but the addition of the granite top and a riving knife have resulted in substantial changes to the trunnion assembly. If anything, it is heavier and smoother operating than the previous version.


This view from above shows the riving knife in place. The top is incredibly flat, and one of the nice surprises about putting this saw together was putting on the left-hand wing. Despite being much heavier than cast iron, it was much easier. The granite extension mounts to the saw with rails that ride in grooves milled in the bottom surface.

It was much simpler to slide the granite onto the rails as opposed to holding a cast iron wing in place while threading in the mounting bolts. Leveling the two surfaces was also far simpler on this saw than on a standard one, in large part because both pieces were really and truly flat.


One of the questions I hear most often asked is about the miter gauge. Actually, there are two common questions. The first is, “Will after-market miter gauge accessories fit?” The answer is yes; the slot in the top is the industry standard 3/4″ wide by 3/8″ deep. On the miter gauge supplied with the saw, the standard washer that rides in the T-slot has been replaced with a flat bar that’s about 2″ long. This is to spread out the force when the miter gauge is all the way back. If you were to push down on the miter gauge from this position, there is a chance that a standard washer could create a chip in the edge of the granite. If it were me, I’d leave the washer off an accessory miter gauge.

The second question regards mounting other accessories, such as magnetic featherboards. Of course, magnets won’t stick to stone, so these devices won’t work.

All in all, this is a nice little saw, and so far I think the granite top is worth the small upcharge. I like working on a flat surface, the top is smooth and offers little resistance, and it does absorb most of the vibration from the motor. And I know that if I set my coffee cup down on it, there won’t be a rust spot to deal with.

I’ll have more to say over the next few weeks, and please send me your questions about these machines.

- Bob Lang

15 thoughts on “Steel City Granite Machines — an Interactive Review

  1. Canuck

    What I am not clear on is the nature of the granite being used. Is this “natural stone” granite ? or an engineered granite (examples: Caesarstone and Sileston) ?

    Natural stone granite is hard and stable, but brittle and hide fissures that could crack.
    The engineered stones are far more durable and less likely to crack.

  2. Perry Johnson

    The Woodcraft store in Bloomington Minnesota has been offering the granite top tools since March. They’re selling faster than they can stock them. This must be true nationally, because the one I ordered is coming from China.

    I paid $1,400 for model with the 3 hp motor and 30" fence.

    I’m really looking forward to putting my 1973 Craftsman 10" out to pasture. ;^)

  3. Nate

    Question… is granite porous enough for yellow glue (or any glue) to permanate into the granite where it could than hardened? I’ve seen this happen with other stones. Not that I regularly use my table saw top as glue surface, but space is tight in the shop and occasionally i glue small jigs together on the table saw when I have no room on the work bench. It usually the last step for the day as this takes the table saw out of action, for awhile.

    Please let SC know that I would very much be interested in after market granite fence for my Jet 6" jointer.

    This is great idea on their part.

    thanks… -Nate

  4. Chris Friesen

    Henry, have you considered simply gluing chunks of wood (using construction adhesive, or even double-sided tape) in between the "ribs" around the perimeter of the table?

  5. Henry

    It seems like an advantage not mentioned so far is the ability to easily clamp to these "solid" tops with a parallel bottom surface. The "ribs" below the typical cast table (like on my Jet BS or Delta contractors TS) make it difficult to clamp to the surface. The second picture demonstrated on the blog showing the flat bottom of the BS table made me jealous.

    Flat top? OK I guess I care.
    Solid bottom – yeah that would make a difference to me.

    Henry

  6. Bob Lang

    The last conversation I had with Steel City, offering joiner fences as aftermarket add-ons was mentioned, as was offering the granite on more of the SC machinery. It may take a while to get this rolling, and I imagine it will depend on demand.

    Bob

  7. Jerry Carpenter

    Do you know if there are plans for larger jointers with the granite fences? Even my 8" jonter is often to small and I would like to upgrade to a 10 or 12" jointer. The granite fence sounds like a really good idea to me after fighting my warped cast iron fence all these years.

  8. Bob Lang

    To answer this first flurry of questions:

    I believe that the saws are available now. You can find a local distributor at this link:

    http://www.steelcitytoolworks.com/distributors.cfm?section=3

    Steel City does not sell direct, and prefers to have their local distributors provide pricing information. While you may be able to save a few bucks buying online and having a machine shipped, I think there is a real advantage to have a local dealer to help if you run into problems with shipping damage or assembly problems.

    The price is slightly higher than the cast iron top versions, and there are some options. For the 10" table saws for example-1-3/4 hp or 3 hp motor and 30" or 50" fence rails. The lowest price version is priced a bit over $1000.

    To the right of the granite top is a plastic laminate extension, and that is where I would mount a router. It would be the same as any other table saw in this respect.

    While it is possible to knock a chip out of the granite, I don’t think it would be that easy to do-it would take quite a whack to do some damage. Machine shops use granite for surface plates and move heavy stuff on them all the time. Repairs are possible with epoxy, and small areas of damage wouldn’t have much of a practical effect although they may be offensive to the eye.

    I also had a couple e-mail questions about sealing the granite and the possibility of staining. I would put on a coat of paste wax or Top-Cote. My understanding is that acids and other caustic chemicals are most likely to do some cosmetic damage. I would also keep in mind that it is a working surface in a shop, so I wouldn’t expect it to look polished and perfect.

    Bob Lang

  9. Joel Feinberg

    If magnets will not work and the tables are as smooth and flat as you say suction cups will work Hey my idea I want credit for it
    thanks

  10. Chris Wilson

    Sorry: hate to give out my real address.

    Check to see if you have any condinsation problems directed at the garage shop. Check were stone meets metal.

    thx.

  11. Chris C.

    I would be concerned on the table saw that I would
    chip or crack the granite top. I wouldn’t worry so
    much about the band saw or jointer fence, but I use
    my table saw a lot as a table/drawing board/tool holder.
    It’s just a matter of time before I drop something metal
    on it. Could this be repaired in some way? Maybe Bondo,
    or epoxy, etc. ??

    Chris

  12. Dave Mackinder

    This does look great; I’m considering it for my new garage shop. I want to add a worktable with a router insert, maybe the Incra setup — will it work OK with the granite top?

  13. Marc Britten

    Someone at Lumberjocks.com already did a quick review of the Cabinet Saw about 3 weeks ago. Looks like a great machine. Look forward to Bob putting it through its paces.

  14. William Lohr

    Hi All…

    When will these go on sale to the general public and what is the projected cost? I too have been anxiously awaiting their release.

    Great website!

    William Lohr

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