Wanted to report back that I got the Delta Shopmaster S36-300 saw shipped from Mendard’s referenced above. Paid $14 for shipping from Ohio + tax, I think it was about $183 all in. The saw was delivered timely (about 3 days via FedEx despite a quote for 8 days for economy shipping). The box arrived shrinkwrapped and in excellent condition. I talked to a rep beforehand and they advised that while I would have to handle return shipping if I returned without a real reason, I would not have to pay for return shipping if the saw arrived damaged or broken. I am happy to report the saw arrived in good shape.
The saw as far as I can tell is probably the same base saw as far as the base materials, motor, arbor, and stand as the S36-295 now being sold at Lowes. However, the 300 has in my view, a few notable upgrades. It appears to be being discontinued, at least at Menards, and I have not seen it advertised elsewhere. It has the following upgrades:
a significantly better fence system. The fence is removable and clamps down on bolts on the rails at the front of the saw and the back of the saw. There are three bolt positions – one to the left of the blade primarily for stop block use on crosscuts, one to the right of the blade that rips very small widths up to about 16 inches, and one on the extendable portion of the table to the right that rips up to 31". The fence adjusts by basically moving the clamped on fence and the attached outfeed extension along the rails, which results in moving the right extension of the table a bit further out, so maybe not the best for small spaces. The fence locks by locking down the table extension. I may not be explaining this well, but it was a very smooth adjustment, especially for a non-premium jobsite saw, that locks firmly and stays very square. The 295 comes with a T-style fence similar to the Bosch fence (but skinnier, flimsier), that slides and clamps on the front rail only. It was by no means the worst I have seen, and is likely better with tuning, but the system on the 300 needed no tuning and remained consistently square and easy to adjust.
Greater rip capacity. While the saw table tops appear to be the same size and material (paintend aluminum) on the S36-295 versus S36-300, the rightmost portion of the table appears to be permanently affixed to the table on the 295 with I think a 16" right rip capacity, while it extends out to 30+ inches on the 300. The table extension is very convenient for cross cuts on larger pieces as well.
Outfeed support extension. Not the most robust piece, but adjusts to be compact for storage and extends out about a foot and a half from the table for outfeed support. I did find it helpful when ripping a few 5 foot sections of 2x4. I imagine it would be even better if cutting a large section of plywood.
Now, I didn’t throw a whole lot at the saw this weekend. I was working with cedar 2x4s to repair some portions of my deck, but it had plenty of power to rip down the 2x4s. We’ll see if it can handle hardwoods down the road, but it did not struggle at all with this task.
I can’t comment on precision at this point because I was only doing deckwork with rough 45 miters for outdoor screen framing rather than picture frames or something requiring tons of accuracy, but even without truing everything up, the corners fit together quite well.
The included stand was very sturdy compared to others I have seen. It has bolts that do not come out of the stand when the saw is removed (so they cannot be lost), which was a nice touch and should prevent some frustration and/or unsafe practices down the road. There is also a small hole on the side of the saw table for storing the allen wrench. Also a welcome touch.
As for downsides, there were a few, but they are not dealbreakers for my usage, and appear to be consistent with other saws in the sub-$250 price range.
First, the Menard’s website appears to be incorrect, as there is no dust collection port on the saw. Again, I plan for mostly outdoor use, so that’s okay with me. If you’re going to be doing a lot of work, you may want to consider rigging up a bag to the bottom.
Second, there was a curved plastic piece that was mounted to the motor housing and extends below the blade of the saw. It appears to be intended to prevent people/ animals from accidentally coming into contact with the running blade from underneath. Mine was very closely mounted to the blade, such that the blade actually cut into it and would not run with it installed. I do not know if this is typical or not, but I ultimately removed it. It worked wonderfully after removal. Just be careful if you have kids or animals in the area (which you probably shouldn’t with a running saw, anyway).
The miter gauge is kind of junky, but everything at this price point is, and it is in some way a product of the need to use and store it on a small jobsite saw, so I won’t knock it for that. I don’t know if the slots on the table are standard size or not, but they are squared off (not T-shaped) and should work well with a cross-cut or miter sled. On saw storage for the blade guard and anti-kickback pawls is also lacking.
That’s really it. I’m very pleased with the saw, and I feel the online gamble worked out really well, especially for the price. The saw feels just as sturdy as the DeWalts I was looking at, and the stand feels even sturdier. I think the double rail fence system seems to work as well as the rack and pinion setup at least at this point, with the only downside being that rips beyond 4 inches or so require a wider work area compared to the rack and pinion setup. I’d say the Delta is a vast improvement over the $180 and $250 options from Ryobi that I played with in store at least from a fence mechanism standpoint, and it is way, WAY better than any of the real bottom of the barrel stuff from Blue Hawk, Craftsman Evolv, etc. that’s at a comparable price point to the sale price.
I’ll add the caveat that this is my first table saw experience outside of using my father’s portable Craftsman saw probably 15-20 years ago, which I really can’t remember, and after using a SawStop cabinet saw at a woodworking class a few months back, so I do not have a ton of experience on which to draw comparisons, but so far, I’m very happy.