Pros: High quality trend-setting design, excellent features, good service, and great value on sale. Great blade.
Cons: A bit steep at fullprice, insert has odd screw sizes, a few minor knitpicks.
When Craftsman introduced their three new hybrid saws last summer, it was a major shift from the "me too", overpriced, underperforming contractor saws they'd be slapping their logo on in recent years. My first impression of the entry level 22104 wasn't all that favorable...it was mostly a pre-programmed response I'd developed whenever I saw the Craftsman logo, and I really didn't give it much of a chance before shrugging it off. When I spotted a Biesemeyer fence on a machine at Sears a few weeks later, I did a double take and gave the new offerings a more thorough inspection. I was still apprehensive but was sure impressed to see a real Biesemeyer commercial fence sitting atop the 22124 with it's full length fully enclosed cabinet. A third look revealed real cabinet mounted trunnions and a poly-v serpentine drive belt...My opinion was changing, and I did a bit of online research. I discovered that the new Sears "hybrid" saws were not made by Ryobi's parent company like other recent Craftsman saws made from 1997-2004, but were made by Orion International - a group of former Delta employees who ventured out on their own after Pentair bought Delta (Black and Decker has since bought Pentair). By the 4th look, I found myself looking past the "Craftsman" name tag and making mental notes of the numerous features, design advantages, and the overall quality of the machine. Attractive sale prices, rave comments from owners, followed by rave preview comments from magazines helped cement my growing impression that this was really a heck of a saw that's really in a class by itself for the time being. I suspect many of the innovations on this saw have set the trend for future offerings in home shop table saws.
A good friend of mine had been table saw hunting for well over a year. He looked at Grizzly 3hp cabinet saws, the General 650 Millenium cabinet saw, a Delta Unisaw and pondered several others along the way. He was never quite comfortable enough with any of the deals to pull the trigger on a $1200-$2000 saw. When a combination of sales and online coupons came together for him, he finally bought a Sears 22124 for well under $700. The 22124 was enough saw to suit his needs, and it came at a price he could justify for his uses. I got the chance to run it after he set it up, and I became even more impressed. The saw cut every bit as well as the tricked out contractor saw from General International that I'd used for more than two years (see my review on the 50-185).
The 22124 tends to be categorized as a hybrid saw (a cross between a contactor saw and a cabinet saw) because it's a non-industrial grade saw with a fully enclosed cabinet, but the Craftsman has something no other hybrid or contractor saw is currently offering...cabinet mounted trunnions for stability and easy alignment, so technically the 22124 could be rightfully classified as a cabinet saw. It is however considerably lighter duty than the full 3-5hp commercial type cabinet saws most of us associate with that class of saw, yet the trunnions are definitely heavier than those on contractor saws, and the connecting rods are noticeably thicker. The 22124 has an internally mounted 15 amp 1-3/4hp totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) induction motor that can run on a standard 110v circuit or can be converted to 220v. This is about as large a motor as you can go with to run on standard 110v, and is consistent with the needs of many home shops. It has 12" wide solid cast iron wings that give a total cast iron surface of 44"w x 27"d, plus offers a 12" laminate extension table on the right side. There's a foldup outfeed table, a tool-less splitter/guard, fence rack, a very good 40T Leitz carbide blade, dust port, and a miter gauge with a hold down clamp, and a 24" crosscut fence with a stop block. Miter slots are standard width t-slots. The Biesemeyer commercial fence is rugged, repeatable, accurate, and very easy to use. Once aligned, you set it and forget...it can't lock down out of square. It's the type of fence that comes on a Delta Unisaw ~ $1850) and their top contractor saws. It was also rated #1 by Wood Magazine recently, and is the most highly copied design on the market. (Retail on the fence alone is ~ $350).
The saw is packaged amazingly well. It comes shrouded in a large square cardboard box that's strapped over top of a 1" steel crate weighing 407# excluding the fence! All components inside the crate are heavily shrink wrapped and many encased in boxes and/or styrofoam. The fence comes in a separate box weighing ~ 75#. The manual is very good....some room for improvement, but lots of pics and diagrams. The manual also has the number to Orion's technical support desk, which I called with an assembly question. The Orion people were very helpful. Assembly took about 4 hours.
As previously stated, the Leitz blade is very good. It cuts nearly as well as my beloved Forrest WWII....it won't hold up to as many sharpenings because the teeth are smaller, but for a stock blade it's excellent... most are junk. The alignment of the blade is extremely easy due to the cabinet mounted trunnions. Runout of the arbor is excellent...easily as good as my GI's. Dust collection is excellent as expected with a fully enclosed cabinet with a slanted bottom that tilts toward the 4" dust port. The motor is rated at 1-3/4hp which is 1/4hp less than my GI, but the poly-v ribbed serpentine belt has better power transmission than a standard v-belt and offers plenty of ripping power. The machined pulleys are run very smoothly, and the saw is extremely quiet. I don't notice any significant cutting differences between the two saws. What I do notice is the extra weight and stability. The Craftsman weighs ~ 425#, a full 125# more than my GI. I also like the extra 4" of width in the cast iron table, and the 12" extension table (I've already mounted a router in it). To top it off, the cabinet footprint on the 22124 is alot smaller than the splayed leg stand of my GI. The foldup outfeed table is surprisingly effective and is made of heavy steel. The miter gauge offers some nice features but is no more accurate the most average stock miter gauges. I've got two other aftermarket miter gauges and a crosscut sled that will essentially relegate the Sears gauge to a shelf. I will however find a good use for 24" crosscut fence with the t-tracks. Access to the motor and the undercarriage is very easy through the hinged door on the side. I like the stock splitter on the 22124, but didn't care much for the blade guard...I've already fitted a different guard on it...one that I'll at least use. The saw comes with a throat insert, but it's not "zero clearance" and there's no dado insert. The stock insert has four hex screws as leveling adjustments that work really well. There's also a hex screw used to secure the insert in place...I found it extremely peculiar that the hex wrench required for the fastening screw is a different size than the four leveling screws....not sure where that boneheaded idea came from, but I've made my own zero clearance insert anyway. There is a nice rack to set the fence on when not in use, and a hook for the arbor wrenches. Unfortunately, the location of the hook is a considerable distance toward the back of the saw tucked under the wing and was difficult to reach....I moved it the second day I used it. I also move the fence rack to the right side just below the motor cover. This location is not only closer to where the fence goes on the table, it also allowed room for me to mount a miter gauge hook on the left side. The on/off switch is a high quality push button type that's conveniently and safely located plus has a large knee kick flap for handsfree use...a nice safety feature.
As mentioned the fence is excellent. It's a larger version of the same fence I had on my GI. Getting used to it's extra weight is taking some time, but it's actually a bit more stable than my GI's fence so the weight has some merit. The 22124 is left tilting and the rip capacity is 30" to the right in it's stock configuration. I'll likely slide the rails to the right 10-12" to increase the rip capacity...with a left tilt saw, I can't imagine ever needing the 18" capacity the saw currently has to the left side of the blade. The extension table is part of the Biesemeyer fence system. The tables are prone to warpage, that I think is more due the mounting design than actual warping of the table. It's only supported by bolts through the front and rear rail...no side support from the cast iron wings, and they tend to sag a bit in the middle...mine's about 1/32" low. It's not causing a problem and I've decided to let it slide....this is a problem for any of the Delta saws that use this extension table as well. The handwheels on the Craftsman are some type of aluminum or pot metal, and the handles are plastic sleeves over a metal bolt. I much preferred the cast metal handwheels with polished chrome handles on my GI. I've thought of upgrading them, but as time marches on, it seems less important to me.
Sears was offering their $50 universal mobile base for $20 when purchased with the saw, so I accepted the offer and have been equally pleased with the base. It requires a platform that the user supplies....I chose 1-3/4" maple due to the weight of the saw. The base is very stable and very easy to manuever. (Best value in a mobile base in my shop!) The saw has a 12 month in home warranty, plus they offer different levels of extended in home service for an extra fee. An option I chose not to take.
For me to make the switch from a GI contractor saw to a Sears hybrid was analogous to trading in a basic BMW for a loaded Buick. I had a saw I really liked and wasn't really shopping for a saw. But a 20% off sale, combined with a $100 Craftsman Club member discount, plus a 10% internet coupon, and free delivery brought a $949 machine to $594 with delivery (plus a little something for the governor). It was such a ridiculous price I couldn't walk away, so I sold a proven workhorse for a relatively unknown machine that offered several design advantages and numerous features that were attractive to me. It was difficult emotionally to part with my much loved GI contractor saw, but it was still a contractor saw with many of the disadvantages that most contractor saws have. The 22124 has overcome the vast majority of those issues at reasonable price. No more motor hanging out the back, no need to install a panel for improved DC, no PALS needed for easy alignment, etc. At full retail of $999, it's unlikely I'd consider the Craftsman. Instead, because I have 220v in my shop, I'd be looking at entry level cabinet saws from Grizzly or Shop Fox in the $1000-$1100 range which feature more power and a more industrial type construction. But Sears frequently offers the 22124 for ~ $850, and sometimes the right combination of events get it down below $800, and the value heats up. For people with no options of getting 220v electrical, I don't believe you can do better. The price I got was pretty amazing and I have no regrets. Kudos to Sears and Orion for putting forth the effort to resurrect the Craftsman name (...at least in this case!) Other manufacturers will be playing catch up for a while. ;-)
Update - 12/26/05:
After 8 months of moderately heavy use, I'm still very pleased with the saw...probably more so than when it was new. I've experienced no problems, I've adjusted to the cheaper handwheels and the heavier fence, and have come to really appreciate the leg kick "off" paddle that allows my full attention to remain on the workpiece. I'm now convinced that the 22124 has more ripping power than my GI did...possibly due to the shorter serpentine belt having better power transfer (I doubt the motor itself is significantly more powerful). All I know is that it's plowed through a fair amount of heavy hardwood with relative ease using a TK 24T FTG ripping blade at or near full blade height. The fact that it's easier to align may be another factor in it's ripping power. I've got the saw aligned within 0.001", which is closer than I was ever able to align the GI. I've also come to appreciate the internal motor design anytime I bevel the blade...I no longer worry about the motor hitting something or the saw losing it's alignment.
I've always dreamed of having a full industrial grade cabinet saw. Theoretically I understand the advantages of that type of saw, but in actual practice for hobbyist use, I sure don't have a need for one and am less inclined to pursue one because of how well the 22124 is performing. A full cabinet saw has more power and a massive stable feel to it. While the 22124 has good power, it won't rip as agressively as a 3hp Unisaw, but it does have a similar massive feel...no doubt due to the sheer 425# of weight. That's 41% heavier than a contractor saw with cast iron wings and a big steel fence, which is a characteric that's easily noticeable when you use the two saws. Perhaps that's one of the intangibles that people attribute to the "feel" of a 500# 3hp cabinet saw. With no need for more power, and a similar "feel" of stability, I'm having no urges to move up to a bigger saw.