Rock solid performance from a medium-duty cabinet style table saw

Rock solid performance from a medium-duty cabinet style table saw.

Laguna Fusion

Laguna Fusion Table Saw



If you work in a small to medium sized shop, if you're not processing large 4x8 panels day-in day-out, or you don't do production work, then you might not need a cabinet saw. A smaller, mid-sized saw with a 1-1/2 to 2 HP motor will give you all the power you need to cut stock up to the maximum cutting height of the saw blade. However, you will need to reduce your feed rate in order to avoid bogging down the motor. Besides, I've found that a slower feed rate tends to reduce tearout and splintering - you'll know if your feed rate is too slow if the wood starts to burn on the cut edge.

A real bonus of mid-sized saws is that they can be run on a 15 Amp, 120 Volt circuit, which means you don't have to add any additional wiring to your shop. And, probably the most appealing reason to consider one of these saws is that they cost less than a cabinet saw.

Mid-sized saws are typically referred to as hybrid saws, to distinguish them from portable and contractor saws, which tend to be smaller and lighter, with less beefy trunnions, tie-rods and arbor assembly. Hybrid saws often have open stands, and either webbed cast iron or stamped metal wings.

One major difference between hybrid saws and cabinet saws is the way that the trunnion assembly is attached to the saw. On hybrid saws the assembly is bolted to the underside of the table top, while on cabinet saws the assembly is mounted to the cabinet frame, which tends to increase rigidity and transmit less vibration. As well, if you ever need to adjust the trunnions, it's easier done when they are mounted to the frame. 
 
When I moved into my petite 250 square foot shop earlier this year, I inherited a Craftsman table saw, circa 1970s model. The only good thing about the saw was that it had a very small foot print - otherwise, it was long overdue for retirement. After looking at models from General, Ridgid, Grizzly, Sawstop, Powermatic, and Laguna, I opted to replace it with a Laguna Fusion. The Fusion had nearly all the features on my shopping list, including a frame mounted trunnion assembly, which makes it, essentially, a scaled down version of a cabinet saw. I've been using the saw for three months now, and overall, I am extremely pleased with it's quality, functionality, and performance.

In this review I'll give you my impressions of the Laguna Fusion. The specs are listed at the end of the review.

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Properly crated machinery reduces the risk of damage in transit

The Fusion is available in two formats - with either a 36" or 52" rip capacity. Because of the nature of the work I now do, I opted for the 36" model. Delivery was reasonably quick, perhaps because I live on the West Coast and Laguna is a skip and a hop due south. The saw came well crated in two boxes. The items in the cardboard box were amply wrapped with bubble paper to reduce the risk of damage in transit.

Uncrating and assembly was straightforward, taking me about 2 leisurely hours. I found that installing the extension wings was the most time consuming part of the set-up, probably because I installed them by myself - it would have been easier if I had a helper. The operating manual does a reasonably good job of outlining the assembly process, though the photos could be much clearer, particularly when addressing small details. There are also some errors on the photo labeling.

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Nearly seamless front rail

One of the concerns I had with the Fusion is that it comes with a split front rail, with the joint meeting somewhat in the middle of the table. However, once the two halves are bolted to the table and wings, I found the rail to be rock steady, and the seam barely perceptible.

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Misaligned measurement scale

There are two measurement scales on the front rail, one for taking measurements on the left side of the blade, which I rarely, if ever use, and the other, which I used all the time, for positioning the rip fence to the right of the blade. When installing the front rail the user guide instructs you to set the left end of the rail flush with the outside edge of the left extension wing. You don't want the front rail projecting beyond the left wing, as it's more likely to get caught up with your clothing, or snare stock that you're moving around the saw.

The measurement scales are applied at the factory. Unfortunately, the measurement scale applied to the right side of the front rail is positioned about 5/8" too far to the right - which meant that I couldn't line up the fence pointer to "0" on the scale (with the fence just kissing the right side of the blade). Perhaps the lad at the factory had a late night. A call to Laguna rectified the problem quickly, as they sent me a replacement tape. Removing the misaligned tape and reinstalling the new tape took all of two minutes.

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Superb magnifying lens with hairline indicator

There is a magnifying lens on each arm of the rip fence, and they work exceptionally well, enabling me to re-position the fence at 1/32" increments. The important thing, to prevent parallax distortion, is to ensure that you read the setting by looking straight down over the indicator. 

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Easy to clean table top and extension wings 

The cast iron table top and extension wings were covered with a light layer of protective oil that was easy to remove. I simply wiped off most of the oil with paper towels, and then sprayed the surface with WD40 Degreaser - you could also use mineral spirits. I finished off by spraying the surfaces with Boeshield T-9, though any surface protectant will do nicely. I'm very impressed with the level of finish on the table top and wings - they're highly polished and virtually flawless. Among the best I've seen in some years.

Nothing else needed to be cleaned. The rails, fence, miter gauge, blade guard, and all the various accessories, nuts, and bolts were neatly packaged. This attention to detail makes the assembly process go smoother and made me feel more confident about the company. 

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Trunnion assembly mounted to cabinet frame helps reduce vibration

In the photo above (courtesy of Laguna) you can see how the heavy cast iron trunnion is attached to the cabinet. This arrangement helps to increase saw rigidity. Any vibration will be transferred to the frame rather than the table top. Additionally, rubber feet and casters on the base of the cabinet help absorb vibration. Indeed, once assembled and powered up, I didn't feel any vibration on the table top or extension wings.

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Robust gearing for smooth operation and long life

The height adjustment and bevel gears are large and nicely machined with deep, well defined teeth. Adjusting blade height and bevel angle on the Fusion goes very smoothly. You can get at these gears by opening the motor cover on the side of the saw. If you notice that the blade height or tilt handwheels are becoming difficult to operate, the reason is likely to be a build-up of dust on the gears. Which makes it a good idea to clean and re-lubricate the gears every few months. The whole process can be done in under 10 minutes.

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Dead flat table and extension wings

Once assembled I checked to see how flat the table and wings were. I checked for flatness at a number of locations, and didn't find hills or dales of significance. The joint line where the wings meet the table top did have a slight variance, but under .002". As well, set screws under the insert plate enable you to adjust the plate so that it lines up nearly perfectly with the table top.

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Less than stellar insert plate

Probably my biggest disappointment with the Fusion was with the zero clearance insert plate. The plate can be adjusted at the front and side so that it sits flush with the table, and doesn't deflect under pressure. However, there is no support for the plate at the rear opening. Two small plastic tabs keep the plate from deflecting up above the table, but there isn't anything to keep the plate from deflecting downward into the throat. I think this issue could have been resolved if a small support tab would have been welded to the back of the rear opening.

For most of the stock I cut this isn't an issue, but it is when I cut narrow stock that is supported solely by the plate as it passes through the blade - invariably the tip of the stock gets caught up in the end of the opening. The solution is to replace the stock insert plate with a thicker shop made plate - which I've yet to do. Interestingly, the optional dado insert plate available from Laguna is beefy enough that it doesn't deflect downward at all. 

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Minimal arbor flange runout

If there is any runout on the arbor flange it will be magnified by the blade - which mounts directly against the arbor flange - resulting in a cut line that's less than perfect. On the Fusion, runout was negligible - less than .001" as best as I could measure it.

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Minimal rip fence deflection

Another critical area is the end of the rip fence, where you want little or no deflection. Pressing hard with thumb against the side of the fence - with a good 15 pounds of force - I was only able to deflect the fence by about 1/64". It's highly unlikey that this amount of force will ever be exerted against the fence when feeding stock.

The Fusion aluminum fence is a Biesemeyer style T-fence. It's not only sturdy, it slides smoothly along the front rail, and a cam-lever front locking mechanism holds the fence firmly into position with moderate hand pressure.

I didn't need to make any adjustments to the fence - it was parallel to the blade. Because the fence gets so much use I make it a practice of check the alignment every month or so. Adjusting the fence is straightforward, and takes only a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could rip up to 38-1/4" panels on the Fusion, though it's designated as a 36" model. 

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Pushstick stores on the rip fence for easy access

The included pushstick stores conveniently on the top of the rip fence, where you can retrieve it quickly. However, the clips tht hold the pushstick in place prevent me from running jigs along the top of the fence - notably the tenoning jig, which I use quite often. I removed the clips and hang the pushstick on the shop wall, where it's still within easy reach.

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Serviceable, if undistinguished miter gauge

I've yet to see a table saw that comes with anything but the most basic miter gauge, so I wasn't disappointed with the Fusion gauge. While it is run of the mill it still is quite serviceable. It has the requisite stop screws to quickly adjust it to 90-degrees, or 45-degress right and left. The lock handle is large, making it easier to adjust, and giving a better grip when using the gauge. Also, the scale is large and legible. Nonetheless, my intention is to replace it with an aftermarket gauge, perhaps the Kreg miter gauge, which I've had occasion to use in a previous shop, and quite like.

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Fence and blade are dead square to the table

Because the fence is parallel to the blade doesn't mean that it will be square to the table top, so you always need to check this as well. Again, I didn't have to make any adjustments - it was dead square to the top. If required, leveling the fence is achieved by turning a couple of plastic set screws on the bottom of the front bracket.

Adjusting the 90-degree and 45-degree bevel stops (so that the blade stops at exactly 90-degrees or 45-degrees when using the hand wheels) might seem daunting if you haven't done it before, but the process is easy. There are a couple of holes in the top of the table through which you manipulate set screws with a hex wrench. The trick is to make small incremental adjustments. Once set you need to adjust the pointers on the hand wheels.

For angles other than 90 and 45-degrees I don't rely on the scale printed on the bevel adjustment scale; rather, I use a digital protractor. I find it to be quicker, and more accurate.

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Large handwheels that are easy to rotate

I like the handwheels on the Fusion, as the handles on the wheels rotate independently of the wheels. Rotation is very smooth, and when you arrive at your chosen height (or angle) there isn't any backlash when you release the handwheel and lock it in place.. The lock for the height adjustment is in the usual location (on the front of the height adjustment handwheel). The bevel tilt lock is a handle located just above the height adjustment handwheel. 

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Dust extraction second to none

Dust extraction on the Fusion is excellent. A shroud surrounds the blade and is connected to a flex hose that diverts dust to the 4" port at the base of the cabinet. Some dust does accumulate inside the enclosed cabinet, but the access door can be quickly removed to facilitate vacuuming. 
 
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No dust collector - no problem. Use a dust extractor

I don't have a dust collector in my shop. Instead, I use a Festool CT26E dust extractor equipped with the Oneida Ultimate Dust Deputy cyclone separator. While not as effective as a conventional dust collector, it does provide a viable alternative. The Festool/Oneida combination is very quiet, easy to move around the shop, and I can quickly reconnect the hose to other benchtop machinery or power tools as needed.

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A riving knife, which moves in tandem with the blade, enhances personal safety

Riving knives are standard on all new table saws now, simply because they're effective in preventing stock from pinching together (and jamming against the blade) as it passes from behind the blade - aka, kickback. The riving knife is attached to the arbor assembly and raises, lowers, and tilts in tandem with the blade, unlike a splitter and blade guard. The riving knife on the Fusion is designed to be used only with a standard blade. If you switched to a thin kerf blade you would need to remove the riving knife (and optionally replace it with one designed for a thin kerf blade).

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Riving knife is easily removed

Its takes less than 30 seconds to install the riving knife for non-through cutting.

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Effective blade guard with see-through shield, spreader, and anti-kickback pawls

In place of the riving knife you can install the blade guard. Installation and removal is easy and tool-free. The spreader on the blade guard serves the same purpose as the riving knife, except that it doesn't move in relation to the blade. The clear polycarbonate shield gives a fairly good view of what your cutting.

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Hands free power-off

I'm a big fan of paddle style power switches, because you can power-off the saw without having to use your hands. On the Fusion the switch is positioned at the far end of the left front rail, and can be quickly depressed with your knee. Very convenient.

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Open end of the blade wrench easily deformed

The Fusion comes with a 48-tooth carbide blade. It's a decent blade that I use for rough stock cutting. For finish cuts I generally change over to a finish blade, like the Irwin Marples Fine Cross-Cutting blade. Blade change over is very quick. Unfortunately, the blade wrenches are stampled metal rather than cast iron. The open end of the wrench is meant to slip over flats on the arbor, while the closed end on the second wrench goes over the arbor nut. The first time I tried to remove the blade the open end of the wrench deformed. I now use a 17mm open end wrench to hold the arbor. Still, Laguna should simply substitute better quality wrenches.

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Consistently precise cuts

Whether crosscutting or ripping stock, I've been able to make consistently precise cuts on the Fusion. I find that I only have to reduce the rate at which I feed the stock into the blade on material about 2-1/2" and thicker. The quality of the cut will obviously be largely determined by the quality of the blade being used. And, depth of cut is superb, 3-1/4" at 90-degrees and 2-1/4" at 45-degrees.


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 A full-featured mid-sized saw with little compromise in quality

There really is no single 'best' tablesaw. The right tablesaw depends on a range of factors - the kind of work you do, the type of materials you use, the size of your shop, and the amount of money you're willing to invest in the saw. As with any tool I purchase, I want the best combinaton of quality and performance that my money can buy. 

I'm very happy with the Laguna Fusion. While there are a few minor issues (misaligned scale, mediocre quality insert plate, and cheap wrenches), the saw performs admirably. The motor delivers all the power I need for the size of lumber I typically cut, there is practically no vibration, the table top and wings are wonderfully flat, the fence delivers precise cuts and is quick and easy to adjust, and dust extraction is great - even using a dust extractor rather than a dust collector. The saw is easy to move around the shop and it can be plugged into any 120 Volt outlet.

I can highly recommend the Laguna Fusion to any woodworker looking for a medium-sized tablesaw.
 

KEY FEATURES:
 
  • 1-3/4 HP, 15 AMP, 110V
  • 10" blade
  • Maximum cut 90-degrees: 3-1/4"
  • Maximum cut 45-degrees: 2-1/4"
  • Rip capacity: 36"
  • Length of fence: 33-1/2"
  • Blade tilt: 0 to 45-degrees
  • Cast iron top and extensions
  • Top: 20" x 27" (44" x 27" with extensions)
  • Table height: 34 1/2"
  • Miter Slots: 3/4" x 3/8"
  • Dustport: 4"
  • Belt drive
  • Quick release riving knife
  • Built-in wheel system
  • Weight: 266 lbs
  • Includes: Precision fence with hairline readout, miter gauge, 40T blade, wrenches, safety blade guard, push-stick, operating guide
 
COMPANY:Laguna Tools
MODEL:MTSAW17536110-0130
PRICE:$1,699
MADE IN:Taiwan
SOURCE:Dealer Locator
November 2013

Author: 
Carl Duguay
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