JET makes two table saws: a contractor and a cabinet saw. What are their differences? And which one may be the best for you? Find out in this article.
As you get more serious about your woodworking hobbies, there comes a point where you start thinking about buying a ‘serious’ table saw — a time where your cheap table saw no longer fulfils your needs.
The question then becomes, which table saw? A full-sized cabinet saw is a great piece of machinery, but it takes up a lot of space and doesn’t come cheap. A contractor saw on the other hand can provide similar levels of precision, but may lack power and stability.
JET makes both a cabinet and a contractor table saw, and both make excellent choices for woodworkers buying their first ‘serious’ table saw. In this article we’ll compare them to find out what their pros and cons are. At the end, we hope you’ll have a good idea which one may be right for your specific shop.
The JET Deluxe Xacta has all the hallmarks of a classic cabinet saw, with a closed body, cast-iron table top and two miter slots on either side of the blade. However, it does have a few innovative features that make it stand out.
The Deluxe Xacta has a relatively small table top attached to its base, but each model comes with two ‘wings’, which make the standard rip capacity 30 inches. These wings are also made from cast iron, and basically function as one unit with the normal table top. The only real downside to them is that users report that it can be difficult to assemble them, due do their weight.
If 30 inches isn’t enough, the table can also be extended to the side with a leg-supported extension table. With this table added, the rip capacity becomes 50 inches, which helps when ripping sheet materials.
The T-square style fence runs along a long steel extrusion. The fence itself is made from a steel body, with the sides being made from HDPE. The sides made from HDPE are very smooth, which helps with sliding the wood along. Unlike with aluminium or steel fences, you do not need to use wax to keep the surface smooth, which is an advantage.
The fence actually doesn’t fully run over the table top — it is suspended a few millimeters above the surface by a knob at the far end (C in the image above). This knob can be raised and lowered to the desired height. The reason for this is that the fence won’t drag across the cast iron surface, which makes it much easier to move it back and forth.
A key requirement for any fence is that you can adjust it precisely. If your fence does not run parallel along the saw blade, or isn’t perpendicular to the table top, you will never get a straight, square cut.
Luckily, the Xacta can be fine-tuned very accurately, and JET even provides a separate manual with specific instructions on how to adjust the fence. The manual can be found here.
The Deluxe Xacta can handle blades up to 10 inches, which results in a maximum cutting height at 90 degrees of just over 3 inches, which is more than sufficient for a cabinet saw.
The saw blade can be fitted with a riving knife. In fact, JET actually gives you two riving knives instead of one: One to which a blade guard can be fitted, and one which is lower than the blade itself.
The low-profile riving knife can be used for through cuts like dados and grooves. This is a great advantage, because removing the riving knife (even if just for those specific cuts) is always a liability. The riving knife is attached to the saw system, which means it moves up and down with the blade, and also follows the angle of the blade.
One feature that makes the Deluxe Xacta stand out is the quick-release riving knife system. It is secured by a handle, meaning you don’t have to use any tools to remove it. This make switching between the two riving knives a breeze. Likewise, attaching the blade guard also doesn’t require any tools.
Although to some this may seem somewhat trivial, it is a great improvement in terms of safety. One of the main reasons people do not use riving knives (why this is a bad idea, see this video!) or blade guards is that they do not want to go through the hassle of removing them every time they want to make a through cut.
The blade guard has a so-called two-leaf design. Both sides of the guard move independently, meaning that if you only take a small cut, only one side will raise, leaving the other side of the blade fully protected.
The motor of the standard (and cheapest) model is a 3HP one, which is powerful enough for most applications already. However, if you plan to rip a lot of hard woods, you can upgrade the motor to a 5HP one, which should be more than sufficient given the size of the saw blade. The upgrade costs around $300 (at time of publishing).
The image above shows the entire trunnion and motor casting. The arbor is driven by a Poly V-belt, which makes for a smoother and more efficient transition of power, and vibrates less than traditional belts. This kind of belt is often also used by people restoring and upgrading vintage machines.
The red screw in the image is the arbor lock. If you press it, the arbor locks into place and you can unscrew the blade with a wrench. This is quite user-friendly and allows for easier replacing of the saw blade. That said, more expensive table saws often have more sophisticated methods for locking the arbor that ar even more user-friendly.
As can be expected, the Deluxe Xacta also comes with a miter gauge, which fits in either of the two miter slots. It is a fairly standard miter gauge, with two adjustable positive stops in either direction. These are simply screws that can be adjusted slightly to get the precise repeatable angle you want.
On the side of the body there is storage space on which you can hang the miter gauge when you are not using it. This contraption can also be used to store the riving knife that is not installed on the saw.
Additionally, there is also a drawer at the bottom of the body where you can store any other accessories. This is a clever addition, because that space would otherwise have gone unused, and you’ll be less likely to lose your manuals and other essential items.
The JET ProShop II is a contractor saw, meaning it is a hybrid saw that fits in between the smaller and more portable jobsite saws and the larger cabinet saws. Unlike jobsite saws, it does have an integrated stand, but it is not fully enclosed like on cabinet saws. This makes it a bit less stable and rigid, but is still a major improvement over the rather flimsy stands that are used for jobsite saws.
Another major upgrade over smaller saws is the cast iron table top, which is actually almost as large as the one on the Deluxe Xacta. In fact, even though from the outside the two machines look quite different, they have many things in common. They share so much, that to avoid repetition we will focus on what the ProShop II does differently rather than repeat all the same specs and mechanisms.
The ProShop II has almost the same saw and trunnion system as the Deluxe Xacta. If you compare the specs, you’ll see that the size of the blade and maximum height of cut is nearly identical.
They also share the same system for the blade guard, quick-release riving knife and arbor lock. For a detailed description, scroll up to the section on those features for the Deluxe Xacta. They work practically in exactly the same way for the ProShop II.
The same goes for the miter gauge and fence, although the sides of the ProShop II fence are made from aluminium rather than HDPE. This means they are a bit less smooth and you will need to use some wax or similar products to maintain a smooth surface.
Whereas the Deluxe Xacta has a 3 or 5 horsepower motor, the ProShop II can only be fitted with a 1.75 horsepower one. This is a significant difference, and very noticeable when cutting thick pieces of hardwood. It is a good idea to think about the kind of work you’ll be undertaking to figure out whether the ProShop II will be powerful enough for you.
Another difference is the fact that ProShop II is available in a single phase 120V and 230V version, whereas the Deluxe Xacta is only sold in a 230V version. Make sure you have the right electrics to install these machines.
The most obvious visual difference between the two saws is the closed and open stand. This is also reflected in their weight. The Deluxe Xacta weighs almost double (150kg without wings) the amount of the ProShop II (80kg). This can have an effect on stability and how much the saw vibrates. Expect a more stable and reliable cut on the Deluxe Xacta as a result.
Another reason why the ProShop II is cheaper is that its base version comes with steel stamped wings instead of cast iron ones. These are less likely to maintain their shape over time and less heavy, reducing the weight of the ProShop II even further. However, the upgrade to the cast iron wings isn’t too expensive.
Even though the two table saws look quite different, they are actually very similar in many ways. The question then is, which one should you get? Are all the upgrades of the Deluxe Xacta worth the additional $1000 price tag? And is the ProShop II good enough for serious woodworking hobbyists?
Both machines have their pros and cons. The Deluxe Xacta delivers more power, which helps tremendously when cutting thick hardwoods. The ProShop II may be underpowered for such scenarios. However, if you adjust your feed rate, have some patience and always maintain a sharp blade, you should be able to get by.
Another important consideration is dust collection. While one of the often-heard criticisms of the ProShop II is that it doesn’t have the best dust collection system, the dust shroud of the Deluxe Xacta actually gets a lot of praise.
Some other differences include more attention to detail in finishing. For example, the hand wheels on the Deluxe Xacta are chrome plated. Add to that some quality of life features, like the bottom drawer and the smooth HDPE fence, and the Deluxe Xacta starts becoming more and more attractive.
As always, which machine is right for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget. Are you looking for a solid saw which can be adjusted finely and get precise cuts, but don’t want to spend a fortune? Then the JET ProShop II is an excellent choice.
Are you looking for a more powerful cabinet saw that can last a long time and has good dust collection? Then think about getting the JET Deluxe Xacta.
We hope you enjoyed this guide. If you have any feedback or tips for other woodworkers about these table saws, let us know in the comments below!
© Machine Atlas 2022