Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ridgid R4512 Table Saw -- Full Review

The Ridgid R4512 table saw has features -- including an integral lift/caster mechanism, a tool-less blade guard and riving knife, an accurate fence and good dust collection -- on par with much more expensive saws. While it’s easy to get caught up in comparing tolerances, the most important thing to know about a table saw is whether it will do what you need it to do within your budget and space constraints. I generally make furniture and small items in my basement shop. I need a table saw that handles these tasks accurately and safely without making too much dust and noise. For full disclosure, Ridgid sent this saw to me for this article. That said, I think this saw will meet my needs for years to come.

The first thing I notice is that the Ridgid R4512 is imposing enough to inspire confidence. Weighing in at 266 pounds, this thing isn’t going anywhere. To back up that feeling even more, everything under the table is cast iron. There are no plastic gears like on similarly priced saws. The blade height and angle adjustment wheels turn smoothly and lock where you want them. Likewise, the fence, which clamps itself to the front and back of the table, stays where you put it. On the downside, the stamped steel wings are not as flat or substantial as cast iron wings and the edges are rounded, which produces a small seam. This is a feature that I chalk up to the saw’s relatively low price. I will say that the wings are certainly flat enough for my purposes.

The next thing I notice is the saw’s sound, which is more like a cabinet saw than a contractor saw. Instead of a high-pitched screech, the R4512 has a medium-pitched hum (the critical test: my wife can barely hear it on the first floor of our house from my basement shop). As far as vibration, I was able to successfully perform the nickel test and the penny test with no toppling. (See video below.) That isn’t a terribly scientific test, but it does show that the saw’s construction has enough integrity that it can handle the forces of the motor without wobbling. The last thing you want a table saw to do when you are using it is move.

The safety features are a big part of what makes the R4512 so appealing. The two-piece blade guard clicks onto the riving knife and locks into place with a lever, so you don’t have to use a tool to install it. It tilts with the blade to prevent having to remove it for angled cuts (which makes it more likely that users will keep it installed). Likewise, the riving knife has a lever release that allows it to be raised to a high position for through cuts, a medium position that leaves it lower than the blade or removed altogether. It was easy to adjust to be in the same plane as the saw blade. Kick-back pawls are also attached to the riving knife. I found them to be dull where they need to be sharp and sharp where they need to be dull. It is hard to make them grab a board and it is easy for them to scratch a board as it passes under them. My solution will be to sharpen the teeth a bit with a file and dull the bottom edge. The blade guard is very easy to remove and replace. I wish the riving knife were just a hair (almost literally) thinner so it could accommodate thin kerf blades, which are easier on the motors of this category of saw. Some might consider it to be close enough to use with thin kerf blades. It might well be, but I haven’t tested that so I can’t comment on it.

The built-in lift mechanism is strong and works incredibly well. Pushing the foot pedal down makes the saw seem to float. Pull the pedal back up and the saw hits the floor with a satisfying thunk. This feature is critical to me, as my basement shop is not only small but awkwardly spaced. Being able to move the saw around with not much effort helps a great deal.

The aluminum fence, while not perfectly straight, was aligned pretty dead-on out of the box. I took it out of alignment and put it back just so I could see how it works. You loosen four bolts, square the fence to the blade, then re-tighten the bolts. Very straightforward. It moves smoothly on rails at the front and back of the table and locks onto both. Speaking of the rails, because I have such a small space to work in, I’m going to eventually use only the longer of the two pieces so the rails don’t extend as far out and the saw has a smaller footprint. (You can see an example of someone doing that here.) This modification only involves drilling some holes in the aluminum and is something I think Ridgid should consider offering as a feature. One other thing about the fence. The measurement lines are positioned too far to the right, making it impossible to line up the fence to a precise measurement. I’ll come up with a work-around, but this is something that should have been caught at the factory.

The miter gauge feels heavy and substantial and works well. The only problem is that it is difficult to adjust because the fence turns a bit when you tighten it down. I do like the storage place for the miter gauge, which keeps it handy but out of the way. The blade is a 40-tooth combination blade. Mine produced saw-marked rip cuts and cross cuts with tearout. A new blade (or two) will be my first upgrade. Update: I added a brand new Forrest Woodworker II blade and have had excellent results so far.

Another appealing feature of this saw is the dust collection. The motor is enclosed in a cabinet and there is a plastic funnel where sawdust falls. It has a 4” port that fits a standard dust collector hose. In my limited experience, a negligible amount of dust escapes, which is a great thing in my small work area. Another plus is that the cabinet dampens sound. One improvement I would suggest is moving the port, which is located in the center, to one side but still oriented toward the floor. Its current location is right above the cross bar for the lift mechanism, making it difficult to attach the hose. An offset port could be used on the right or left side depending on the user’s dust collection set-up. My solution is to use an adapter with a 2½” hose which is easier to bend without touching the lift mechanism.

Assembling the R4512 was very straightforward. There were no surprises, the instructions were clear, everything was included and nothing had been damaged in shipping. It took me about four hours total to assemble the saw and another two or three to fine tune the blade alignment, angle stops, fence and miter gauge. (You can watch the Keystone Kops version of me assembling the stand here.) One of the criticisms I keep reading about saws with table mounted trunnions is that you can’t align the blade to the miter slot. I can say definitively that the blade on this saw can be aligned. It could be an easier process but it is certainly doable. (You can read about my experience aligning the blade here.) An earlier model, the Ridgid 3650, apparently had a cam system that made aligning the blade very easy. It would be an improvement if the R4512 had the same thing.

Finally, Ridgid offers a lifetime warranty on the R4512. This is an important distinction from the other manufacturers who offer similar versions of this saw. Sears Craftsman offers one year for defects in materials or workmanship (you can purchase additional coverage) and Steel City offers a five-year warranty.

I may nitpick here and there, but I don’t want that to overshadow my very positive feelings about this saw. The build and power, safety features, dust collection and built-in casters make the R4512 work well for my purposes. I fully expect to get years of good use out of this saw. It isn’t as accurate or powerful (or expensive) as higher-premium saws. However, if you want a solid performer with good safety features that is built to last a long time, the Ridgid R4512 will meet that standard.

You can see all my posts about the Ridgid R4512 here. I'll write more posts and film more videos as I use the saw in upcoming furniture projects.


ryan said...

Thanks for the detailed review. I think this might be my TS of choice now.. it fits my budget and seems to be the best bang for the buck.

neuropsychdoc said...

I purchased my R4512 after reading such good reviews, and particularly this one. But I have to admit I was lax in assembling it because I needed to save up for a better fence (I eventually purchased an Incra TS-LS fence) and life and responsibilities just kept getting in the way. I also purchased the recommended Forrester blade mentioned in Furnitude’s blog. I am now in the process of assembling the table.

Getting to my question, or at least the beginning of it, I notice that in the Operator’s manual it says of the dust chute to “Only install when using a four inch dust collection system. Failure to heed this warning could result in serious personal injury or death [my underline/emphasis].”

Well, I also have the Operator’s Manual for the Craftsman Model # 351.218330 which I downloaded from the internet. This is for all intents and purposes the same saw as the R4512. AND NOWHERE does it mention that installing the dust chute without the dust collection system will result in serious injury or death. Now, I don’t have such a dust collection system YET, but I do intend to eventually purchase one. But I also need to make a few emergency cuts with the saw.

I would like to place the chute on the saw before putting the Incra fence on. But what a hassle it would be to have to diassemble the fence, etc. to have to put the chute on at a later time.

So my question is, does anyone have any thoughts on this?????

Baabm said...

"One other thing about the fence. The measurement lines are positioned too far to the right, making it impossible to line up the fence to a precise measurement. I’ll come up with a work-around, but this is something that should have been caught at the factory."

Great review - very detailed!!! I just got an r4512 and really like it, but am having the same problem with the measurement lines right out of the box, then added a 3/4inch aux fence and now its worse. Did you ever figure out a workaround for it? I have mine aligned now so that the 1 inch mark is really zero between fence and blade, but would like a better fix.

Furnitude said...

Neuropsychdoc, I don't quite understand why installing the dust chute without dust collection would be so dangerous, but they must have had reason to put that in there. If I were you, I'd call Ridgid customer service and ask them about it. One thought is that if you have the chute but no vaccuum, then maybe dust could build up and create a hazard.

Baabm, I eventually called Ridgid and they sent me a replacement measurement scale. The old one comes off fairly easily but leaves behind lots of glue. I went at it with some alcohol and eventually dissolved the glue. Be very careful placing the new scale. I taped it down, made sure I was on target with the fence, then put a little mark to indicate where to stick the new scale. I goofed up the first time but eventually got it in place. Definitely take your time.

Baabm said...

Thank you for the quick response. Do you think its possible to "re-use" the original, ie, just move it? or does it get ruined in the removal process. BTW: it is not obvious "how" to take the old one off. Any thoughts?
Thanks again!

neuropsychdoc said...

Thanks for your response, Furnitude! I was thinking along the same lines as you've expressed. I don't have a vacuum now. Those things aren't cheap. At least not the good ones. I do have a medium sized wet-dry vac and was planning on cleaning the dust fallout from the TS after each use, so as not to develop a hazardous situation ... until I do get an actual vacuum system. Will try calling Ridgid to see what they have to say. Whether I do or don't install the chute, I WILL give a report to your blog on the installation of the Incra TS-LS fence system ... as soon as I get around to installing it ... which would be after the chute or no chute decision.

Thanks again!!!