#350 Table Saw

This page  includes information my General #350 tablesaw and accessories, including the Biesemeyer Fence, JDS Accu-miter Miter Gauge, Powermatic mobile base and Freud saw blades.

I purchased my one-owner General #350 back in early 2000.  I believe it is about 10-15 years old.  Mechanically and cosmetically it is in very good condition.  The commercial Biesemeyer fence was included, as was the original motor cover, miter gauge and manual/exploded parts diagrams.  It was missing some pieces when I purchased it, including the blade guard, extension table and extension table legs.   I've upgraded the saw by replacing the missing components and adding some others new accessories.  I've included alot of links to Amazon.com for the various accessories and parts that I mention.  The original 6 page  manual/exploded parts diagram for this saw is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.



Standard Blade Guard:
I use a blade guard whenever possible, mainly to protect myself from my own stupidity or carelessness.  I purchased a replacement blade guard directly from General in Canada.  It was a little expensive (over $100), and it just works okay.  The 2 page exploded parts diagram for the General blade guard  is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.
I considered one of the aftermarket blade guards, but didn't find any of them to suit my needs & budget.  The Biesemeyer and Excalibur are both expensive, and they would have interfered with my planned router insert. The Delta Uniguard was one that I seriously considered, as it was quite a bit less expensive, but I couldn't find one locally to look at before buying.  It also would have interfered with the router insert.

I had a major problem during installation.  One of the cast iron mounting brackets had to be machined to fit properly.  General changed the design of the saw slightly, so about 1/8" had to be machined off the bracket to allow it to fit on my older saw.  I have a machine shop available at my office, so it was easy for me to fix at no cost.  General also offered to machine the bracket for free (a money-losing proposition for them).  Their support was been very good when I ordered the replacement parts.  They returned my calls very quickly & professionally.  General is located in Quebec, so be prepared for a French accent if you call them on the phone.

The guard itself is only fair, which is typical of the standard guards from almost every manufacturer.  One big complaint is that the blade guard (and front bracket) have to be removed during miter cuts.  The front bracket runs up into the blade insert if it isn't removed.  The aluminum sides also obscure the blade more than some other guards with clear polycarbonate sides.

I implemented one simple enhancement that makes the guard much more convenient to use.  I replaced two 3/8" bolts with push-button rotating adjustable handles (about $5 each).  The two handles are circled in the photo below.  This allows me to swing the guard out of the way without tracking down a wrench.  I purchased the handles from MSC, but they are available from several other sources like Reid Tool.  Neither of these websites make the handles easy to find, so I'd recommend that you just request a printed catalog from them. McMaster-Carr is a better on-line source (and a great source for almost anything else you need too!).

The handle on the right is rotated so it can be seen easily in the photo - although it looks close to the blade, there's at least 1" of clearance.  It's normally rotated straight down, which gives even more clearance -there's not a chance of it hitting the blade.  It's also plastic, so even if it did hit the blade, it likely wouldn't cause any problems.  The handles come in several different lengths, different thread sizes and with both internal and external threads, so there's a good chance you could find one to fit for almost any application.



Mobile Base:(click picture to the left to see a larger image)
The first accessory that I bought was the Powermatic mobile base.

The only mobile bases that would fit the General #350 were the Powermatic and one from HTC.  (The mobile base for the Delta Unisaw is too small for the General.)  I purchased the base from Amazon.com (about $175).  It's very solid & easy to use.  One potential problem...if you already have an extension table, the extension table legs may not line up with the supports in the mobile base.  Since I had to make a new extension table, this wasn't a problem for me.  I didn't choose the HTC base because it didn't seem as solidly constructed.  It looks like it would be prone to rock with the way the wheels are located under the table saw base.  Click on the image to the right to see a larger picture of the HTC base. 
The wider footprint of the Powermatic mobile base has worked well for me, so I can recommend it for any other #350 owners.  Since it is designed for the Powermatic #66, I am sure it would work equally as well for that saw.


Biesemeyer Fence(click picture to the left to see a larger image)

The original Biesemeyer or similar T-square fences are included with many popular saws including the Delta Unisaw, Powermatic #66, General #350, Jet, etc.  It's also available separately for retrofitting old saws.  The Biesemeyer fence is rock solid and dead accurate.  I especially  like the little recess on the top of the fence, as it is a great place to store push sticks .  A push stick that is easy to grab is much more likely to be used.

One dislike is that the fence  is heavy and relatively difficult to move.  For a home shop, I would recommend everyone seriously consider the Delta Unifence.  I used one briefly a few years ago & it seemed like a nice, versatile fence.  The rigidity and reliability of the Biesemeyer would be great for a production shop that uses the saw several hours a day, but the occasional home-shop craftsman may find the Unifence to be more suitable.

I am planning to replace the melamine-coated face boards with UHMW as detailed here.  I am planning a few improvements.  First, I plan on making a special face with a cutout for my dado blade.  Second, I'll add keyholes, so that the faces are easy to remove and replace.  I'll add detailed pictures after I get finished.

One minor complaint is that the fence locking handle falls down & locks the fence in place when it is being moved.  It's almost a two-handed operation to move the fence - one hand to move the fence and the other to hold the locking handle in the "up" position.  I recently played with a new Powermatic #66 at the local Woodcraft store & that Biesemeyer fence handle locked in the "up" position.  I need to go back and look closely at the new #66 fence to see what's different, as I bet I can fix mine so it also locks "up".
 

I purchased a new set of Biesemeyer extension table legs since the original ones were missing.   I could have made some simple legs out of wood, but decide to go ahead and get the nice, matching steel legs.  They work fine, but I had to remove one of the included locking nuts to get the legs low enough to fit the #350. The legs are nicely made & powder-coated.  They aren't just for extention tables - they could also be used for outfeed tables as well.
On order, but not yet installed is a new replacement scale for my fence.  I wanted one with 1/32" graduations, and I did not want one with dual metric graduations.  The combination metric/inch rules would be a distraction for me since all my work is done in inches. Biesemeyer had the perfect scale as shown to the right.  It was the only one I found that would work - most of the self-stick rules are only graduated to 1/16".



Extension Table (with router insert):
The extension table was missing when I bought my saw, which wasn't a big problem.  I've done alot of work with high pressure laminate (formica) tops, so this was an easy piece for me to make.  Here's a sketch of the Biesemeyer-recommended construction from their website:

I generally followed their recommended construction with a few changes....First, instead of using particle board, as Biesemeyer recommends, I used 3/4" birch plywood. Second, I added a second layer of plywood under the end of the table for better support of the router table.  It was covered on both sides with ivory-colored laminate from my local Home Depot.  The ivory matches the pale green color of the #350 pretty nicely.   I used 3/4" solid birch for edging around the entire extenstion table.  I'm not sure if it is really necessary to laminate both sides, but I did it anyway, as it may help prevent any warping.  I made the extension table so that the table legs would be in just the right position to sit on the mobile base.

I still need to rabbet the hole to accept a router insert.  I already have a 3/8" thick polycarbonate plate to fit into the hole.  You can buy the 3/8" thick polycarbonate from McMaster-Carr or get it at a local plastic supply house (look up "plastic" in the yellow pages).  My plate is about  9" x 11", which fits my Porter-Cable #690 router nicely.  You can also find pre-made inserts in almost every woodworking catalog, but they will likely be quite a bit more expensive..

I plan on making a special attachment that clamps or screws onto the right face of the Biesemeyer fence, so the tablesaw fence can be used as a router table fence.  Check back soon for more details on this.



JDS Accu-miter Miter Gauge
The standard General miter gauge is very typical.  It works okay, but it's not great.  It's very finicky to setup accurately at different angles & the preset stops are horribly inaccurate.  I'm not the type of person to buy an auxillary jig or accessory such as this one, especially one that costs this much. but I was determined to buy (or make) some type of replacement.  There are alot of aftermarket miter gauges, but I decided to get the Accu-Miter from JDS.  I've had it about a month, so I haven't exhaustingly tested the thing yet.

The Accu-miter is available from many typical woodworking sources, including Amazon.com.  The Accu-miter doesn't come with a bar.  You can buy a special bar (the Accu-Bar) or drill and tap your old bar to fit the Accu-miter. I also bought the Accu-bar, so I could (infrequently) use my old miter gauge on my sander or bandsaw.  It would also seem to be pretty time-consuming to drill and tap all the required holes in the old bar, so I'm glad I bought the matching bar.  Assembly was very easy.  Adjusting the scales so everything was square and accurate was also pretty easy.  There is also a matching stock clamp (not shown in any photos), but I did not buy it.  The stock clamp seemed too clunky & would likely get in my way.  Here are links to the Accu-Miter and Accu-Bar at Amazon.com or click on the images below.


Accu-Miter

Accu-Bar

The Good:
I'm very pleased with it so far.  The repetitive cutoff stop (up to 34") is very nice.  It's already saved me alot of measuring and marking time. I haven't cut any miters yet, so I can't comment on the accuracy at angles other than 90 deg.  I'm guessing that it will work very nicely. Others have said that the Accu-miter is too heavy, but it really doesn't bother me.  I actually like it, as it gives it a nice quality feel.

The Bad:
One minor annoyance - the scale on the sliding piece from about 19" to 34" was a little inaccurate (off by 1/16" or so).  There's not a nice sighting line on the scale - you just sight against the edge of the aluminum extrusion.  The sliding piece also pivots with respect to the main extrusion, even when the locking handle is tightened, because of the clearance between the two pieces.  It's really not an ideal design.  There also doesn't seem to be a good way to adjust the scale other than peeling it off & sticking it back down.  The two sliding aluminum pieces also have a tendancy to move a bit when the screw is tightened, which is very annoying and leads to inaccuracy. It's possible to shim the end stop depending on which direction the scale is off.  It's still not perfect because of the lack of an accurate sightly line.  I may be able to improve it some more, and I may contact JDS to get their comments.  Any good info will be added here.

The Ugly:
Well, it is a little expensive, but it is nicely made & has a quality feel to it.  Some of the features (repetitive length stop) could be done with a standard miter gauge with shop-made wood accessories.

Conclusion:
Basically, two thumbs up.  It's a nice tool that will be a good addition to my shop for a long time. I just wish the 19-34" scale was a little more accurate.



Dust Collection Port
The older #350's didn't have any type of attachment for a dust collector, and the base is just open at the bottom.  I used the saw like this for over 6 months spilling sawdust all over the floor.  Late in 2000, I finally put in a flat plexiglass bottom and a jointer-type dust shroud.  I cut the hole in the base with a 4" holesaw, but you could also do a square cutout with a jigsaw and metal-cutting blade.

The dust collection works pretty good, but there is a great amount of sawdust that collects on the flat bottom.  A more complicated angled bottom would likely improve this, but I'll probably just live with it.  I just manually brush the sawdust into the port when alot has collected in the bottom.

Newer #350's already have the dust collection port as circled below::



Minor Enhancements:

Electrical Switch
One minor improvement that I made was to move the electrical switch forward where it is easier to reach.  It was originally mounted to the cabinet (the original two mounting screws are circled in the photo).  I added an aluminum angle to the fence & moved the switch forward.  It's much safer to use now & I can use my knee to turn off the saw if needed.  Newer #350's already have the switch mounted like forward as you can see in the picture of the new #350 shown above.

Electrical Notes
While we're on the subject of electricity, this saw has a 3HP motor.  I'm running the saw off of a 20amp, 220 VAC circuit breaker.  I've seen some other people recommend a 30 amp circuit for similar saws, but I haven't found it to be necessary.  I would recommend that you run 10awg wire for this saw.  That way you could use a 30amp breaker if you ever needed to.

Blade Flange
The sawblade arbor was perfectly good with no runout, but the sawblade flange had about 0.003" of runout.  Who knows how the flange got its problem - maybe it was an original manufacturing flaw.  It doesn't sound like much, but 0.003" is enough to make the blade noticably wobble.  I very carefully filed the high spots, so the flange has less than  0.001 runout.  I don't recommend that most people try this repair.  I've got the proper machinist measuring tools to accurate measure where metal needs to be removed.  I just mention it here, because it's an odd thing to have to do.

Saw Blades
I am almost exclusively using a Freud 50 tooth combination blade.  I also have separate Freud Rip and Crosscut blades, but I haven't found it necessary to use them.  I get nice smooth cuts & the saw has enough power to smoothly cut through 6/4 maple with the combination blade (6/4 is the thickest stock I've cut so far).  In the future, I may try a more expensive Forrest "Woodworker II" combination blade.  The Forrest gets consistently high reviews and makes a thinner kerf than the Freud blade I currently have.

Dado Blade Set
I also have a Freud dado set, which works quite well.  The bottoms are nice and smooth.  There are a couple of things to note, first, to fine-tune the width of the dado, you'll need a set of shims.  You can buy shim sets from Freud or Jesada (hint: the Jesada set is MUCH less expensive).  It's also possible to make your own shims.  I've sucessfully used thin strips of cardboard & just drilled a hole in them with a 5/8" bit.

The second problem occurs on wide dados that require multiple passes.  The two outside blades have sharp nickers that cut a little deeper than the normal dado depth.  These nickers make for pretty clean cross-grain dados, but they have a downside.  On wide dados that require multiple passes over the cutter head, you end up with very thin parallel cut lines in the dado, where the nickers cut a little deeper.  I'll try to get a picture to show this, as it's a little difficult to explain.  A few passes with a sharp handplane will remove the cut lines, so it's pretty easy to fix.



Future Plans:
Other improvements include making some type of  Outfeed Table.  Four options are shown below.
Here's a stationary outfeed table installed on a General #350 (the photo is  from Biesemeyer's website).  Biesemeyer has some rough plans for this outfeed table on their website.  It requires the extension table legs mentioned above.
The one shown to the right is from Rockler's website.  It removes easily and folds up.  Something like this would work best for me, since my saw gets moved around quite a bit. 
Amazon.com carries the folding HTC rollers that bolt onto the back of the saw .  Without seeing them installed, I'm not sure that they would work well with my blade guard, and I'm not sure about clearance for the miter gauge bar. 
Phil Bumbalough has a nice folding outfeed table that is detailed on his webpage.



I am also likely to add a Storage Cabinet to the area under the extension table.  It would just sit on the frame of the mobile base and hold all the saw blades, blade inserts, dado blade, blade change wrenches, etc.  I would also design in some storage location for the Accu-miter - I don't have a good place to store it when its removed for ripping operations.


As mentioned above, I'll also probably also make an attachment for a  router table fence and also try to improve the dust collection.


Dislikes:
The only thing that bothers me about the #350 is the lack of accessories and spare parts.  It's much easier to find accessories or spare parts for the Delta Unisaw or Powermatic #66.  It's not impossible to find the General stuff, but it's not as convenient.


Manufacturer Links:
General
Biesemeyer
JDS (Accu-miter)

Distributors for General:
Woodsmith Store
Woodworker's Depot
Woodworktools.com
Wilke Machinery