Ridgid's TS3650 10-inch contractor saw caught our attention right out of the box. The castings for the heavy iron parts are very high quality and the extruded aluminum rails and fence seemed sturdy and promising. The instruction manual is well-written and easy to follow, too. Once we took the wrenches out, setup took about eight hours.
Since we're the woodworking team for our high-end remodeling company, we've got pretty high expectations for the tools we use. And while this saw needed some tuning up after we assembled it, we dialed it in very easily, and it maintained its accuracy throughout our 10-week test run.
Power. Before we started cutting, we noticed that the blade and trunnion mount are set forward on the saw, which gives a little more in-feed control for unwieldy stock, which we liked. Once we started cutting, we ran everything in the shop through the saw -- hardwoods, softwoods, and framing. The TS3650 ran confidently and smoothly in nearly every application; there was no blade burn and the motor hummed quietly all the way through tough cuts. The only time it balked was when we pushed cherry a little too quickly.
Adjustments. Both the blade height and bevel adjustment are easy to reach, turn, and lock into position. Unlike other saws we've used, there is plenty of room for your hands to fully revolve the large adjustment wheels without leaving part of your knuckle under the saw deck. The blade change is easy and the thin-kerf Alternate Tipped carbide blade that comes with the saw worked fine, though we'd upgrade blades for really high-definition work.
Blade Guard and Splitter. Lawyers tell the manufacturers to put guards on all table saws to keep workers safe. Of course, the first thing we do is take them off so we don't get hurt -- working with small or thin pieces is impossible with a blade guard on and they create more problems than they solve. We wish some manufacturer would solve this dilemma.
Fence and Rails. This is where the TS3650 really shines. The front and rear rails are stout and provide a nice 36-inch cut capacity–excellent for the MDF, laminate, and other sheet stock we process. The large fence is one of the best manufacturer-provided fences we've seen. It adjusts smoothly, clamps without shifting, and stays put once you lock it down. It has a micro-adjustment knob that works okay, but we typically just bump the fence to the measurement we need with the heel of our hands. We liked the measurement indicators, too. They're left and right of the fence, so you can index a measurement from both sides, and the beveled clear plastic they're made from magnifies the numbers, which is a nice touch.
Best Use. Both of us think the TS3650 would be ideal to set up on a large project with a small shop. It's also great for remodelers and carpenters who offer woodworking services along with their field work. And, since the unit comes with a mobile base, wheeling the 287-pound saw around the shop or a tight site is a dream. Moving it into a truck is another story, however; it's doable, but it takes two people -- and please don't lift it by the rails.
This isn't a super high-end cabinet saw for a dedicated woodworking operation, but it is a versatile tool and a no-brainer improvement to any growing shop or on-site operation. What's more, the price is fantastic.
We give it high marks.
Ridge Tool Co. Ridgid TS3650: $600. 866-539-1710; www.ridgid.com.
-- Fred Tellier and Dave Waskowitz are woodworking specialists at Simmons Home Improvement in Clinton, Conn.