Axminster AC216TS Table Saw 6 Month Review

Ac216ts Full View

The AC216TS is an 8-inch table saw with an induction motor, cast iron table and a lot of versatility. Despite being the smallest model in Axminster’s ‘craft’ range, it is rather like a professional trade-rated saw, only smaller. I chose this saw following extensive research and herein will try to impart some of that research and share the deciding reasons behind my purchase, discuss some modifications I’ve made and give an outline review of the saw from an end-user point of view.

I’ve had the saw for nearly 6 months and have only just gotten around to publishing this review, in part due to procrastination and tardiness and in part because I wanted to live with the saw for a while. Before I purchased the AC216 I spent the best part of a year looking for the perfect table saw. I had a cabinet saw in mind, but I needed something compact enough to fit into a fairly small shed made smaller still by the benches, other machinery, shelving and materials that consume most of the space. An induction motor was a non-negotiable requirement. I’ve been borrowing my father’s Metabo site saw for a couple of years and its universal motor and gear-driven drive train screams in operation. Induction motors combined with a belt-driven blade are quiet so my use of echo location remains possible, and I value my hearing more than most so I try to keep the noise down where where tools are concerned.

All of my cordless power tools have brushless motors and my corded tools use induction motors where possible. Sadly to my knowledge nobody makes a mitre saw with an induction motor. Axminster used to sell one (the QMS2541) but it is long-since discontinued. Metabo still make one but it’s way beyond my budget and far too big for this workshop.

I wanted a saw with a high level of accuracy. I’m a perfectionist and for good or bad even the simplest woodworking projects should be made to engineering tolerances. “If something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” to quote Queen’s Brian May, recounting the story of he and his father building his famous Red Special guitar. I wanted a table saw that could cut accurately to within half a millimetre at the very least, and ideally better. I wanted the ability to cut accurate angles and mitres, and a rip fence that would lock square every time without the need for constant adjustment.

I wanted a cast-iron top with standard 19 mm mitre slots, a quality mitre fence and a decent throat plate. I wanted a decent rip capacity given the confined space, and to make the most of the space I have available I wanted a cabinet beneath the saw and a mobile wheel base.

When all was said and done there were two contenders. The Axminster AC216TS, and the Charnwood W619. The W619 comes with nicer extension tables and is supplied with a sliding table as standard equipment, though one is also available for the AC216. This is an accessory I intend to buy but it wasn’t a deciding factor as space constraints mean I can’t have it permanently mounted to the saw. The Charnwood also includes a floor stand, again an option available from Axminster, but wheels are optional and I couldn’t see a cabinet option for the W619. There is an Axminster store local to me and I was able to compare their range of saws in person.

I assessed the quality of the fence, the flatness of the table, the runout and rotational smoothness of the blade, the quality of the craft mitre gauge, the design of the cabinet and other aspects of the saw compared to some of the higher-end trade models. I was surprised to find I preferred the fence of the craft to the trade-rated AT254TS table saw, as I found that the trade fence didn’t reliably lock square to the blade.

I ultimately purchased the AC216tS (code 104926), the cabinet stand (104932), thin-slot table insert (104933), MB518 light-duty mobile base (106808) and the craft mitre gauge (104928). I had intended to purchase the UJK mitre fence (104579) but it was out of stock at the time of ordering. I later added a Rutlands R9026 mitre fence. It’s not quite as nice as the UJK offering as it lacks the spring-loaded bearings on the mitre bar and the plastic expansion rings it uses to take up play simply aren’t as good. I also added Rutlands premium feather boards and I will add the Axminster sliding table kit (104930) in due course.

The mitre gauge is something I might revisit in the future. For now the craft and Rutlands gauges allow me to cross-cut most pieces, and give me perfect angles and mitres for framing and shapes.

I first assembled the cabinet, which is a sheet steel construction with a right-side mounted door and a moulded front to match the design of the saw. It’s a sturdy unit though its design could be better. The shelf position leaves a lot of wasted space beneath the cabinet which, with a larger door, could usefully increase the storage space. The front of the cabinet could serve more of a structural purpose with a couple of extra bolt holes, negating the use of a pair of ribs spanning the width of the cabinet between the sides. There is also a gap at the front of the shelf through which tools and other items stored in the cabinet can fall and be lost beneath the cabinet. Retrieving them wouldn’t be much fun if you don’t have a mobile base. All of the bolt holes are slotted so everything can be adjusted to line up perfectly.

The mobile base was a pleasant surprise. I’d read some reviews urging potential purchasers to opt for the heavy duty version, but I took a chance as the MB-518 far exceeds the weight requirements for the saw, cabinet and any load that will be placed on the table. The mobile base is constructed such that the machine sits inside a square or rectangle, depending on how you configure a set of eight metal side bars with equally-spaced holes. Corner plates support the four wheels; two fixed wheels at the rear and two caster  wheels at the front. The front corners also carry the screw-down articulating feet, which when engaged lift the front wheels off the floor and act as brakes that are more secure than any wheel break would ever be. It’s a neat design which adds only 20 mm or so of height to the machine and is sturdy in its construction with quality materials used throughout. 

With the cabinet and base assembled, it was time to assemble the saw. This is something of a delicate and heavy ballet. The saw’s base plate is positioned over the bottom of the saw, and the cabinet placed on top of that. Bolts fit through slotted holes in both and thread into the saw frame. The whole lot is then flipped upright with the aid of a second pair of hands.

Flipping the saw over onto the wheel base was a challenge, as there is no way to bolt the base to the cabinet. The holes in the corner brackets of the base miss the cabinet by a mile, though drilling through the sides is absolutely possible and something I would have done during assembly if I had any sense. Never one to do anything the easy way, the saw was eventually flipped, heaved and shuffled until it dropped into the mobile base, at which point the near 100 kilograms of combined saw and cabinet keep it firmly seated and allow it to roll smoothly even on an uneven OSB shed floor.

The saw is supplied with right and rear extension tables in pressed sheet steel. Fitting the rear table is optional, though the right-most table is secured to the fence rail and should be fitted for stability.

There’s a design oversight with these tables in that they are not the same thickness as the cast-iron table. The right-side extension bolts to the fence rail and is impossible to level across the width of the saw unless you add spacer washers (not supplied).

There are no supports to keep them level either; the left-side of the saw has threaded holes for the brackets that support the optional sliding table, but there are no such holes on the right side. Adding these to the right and rear frame of the saw and a couple of l-shaped braces to each table would be a huge improvement.

Next came a full setup. The AC216 is constructed much like any other high-end table saw in that its motor and blade are mounted to trunnions and in turn to the saw frame, separate from the table. Many cheaper saws hang these assemblies beneath the table which can cause a downward bow, especially so when their tables are cast in steel or aluminium. Every part of the AC216TS can be adjusted to perfection, including the table position in relation to the blade, the blade angle, riving knife position and angle, fence squareness, table tilt (which also affects the blade angle), throat plate level and motor position, which affects belt tension. The only aspect you can’t adjust is the vertical angle of the fence in relation to the table, but it was a perfect 90 degrees from the factory.

My experience in table saw setup was limited, though I understood the concepts. Axminster’s YouTube channel is however full of educational videos, some of them streamed live and uploaded after the fact. In one such video Craig Steele walks through a full setup on a craft table saw, sharing tips and answering questions from viewers along the way. Despite my five-minute attention span and common disinterest in following instructions (I prefer to figure things out) I find these videos, and the ‘woodworking wisdom’ series in general an entertaining and informative watch. There are some cool projects covered that we might attempt here in future instalments (wood turning especially) and the new ‘Out Of The Woodwork’ podcast.

Armed with the required knowledge I meticulously set up every aspect of the AC216TS. The first step was adjusting the table to set the mitre slots parallel to the blade. I found that the two mitre slots on the table were machined perfectly and absolutely parallel to each other. I pressed the fence of an adjustable square against the blade side of the right-most mitre slot, and adjusted the square until the end of its blade barely touched a marked tooth of the table saw blade in its fully raised position. Spinning the blade to reposition this tooth, I repeated the measurement at the back of the blade and adjusted the table to perfectly align the mitre slot to the blade. When checked with a ruler, the distance from the tooth to the slot was a perfect 90.5 mm in both positions.

The blade was also perfectly centred within the slot of the zero clearance throat plate. There is a lot of adjustment afforded by the slots through which the table securing bolts protrude, and this can be a frustrating adjustment to make as the table tends to move more than you’d like. I suppose it’s something that becomes easier with practice and experience, but it would be nice if some kind of jig could be bolted to the arbour and used to align the table perfectly.

I then mounted the right-side and rear extension tables, the fence rail and the supporting bracket for the crown guard hose. The bracket is a bit of an afterthought and the hose tends to fall off more often than not, but that issue is easily remedied by a pair of nylon zip ties. The fence rail is a larger version of that which you find on the craft bandsaws. It includes a scale that you can attach and view via the magnifying glass mounted to the fence. I didn’t install this and can’t comment on its accuracy.

Ac216ts Inside View

The riving knife is a traditional fitment whereby the knife is secured by a pair of bolts between a pair of plates. It can be adjusted in all planes via 4 grub screws in the left-side plate, and there is sufficient room in its slot to optimise the distance from the blade to the knife edge to within an acceptable range of 3 to 8 mm. The position of the riving knife makes the grub screws a bit of a pain to access, particularly the two at the top. I used the fence as a guide to set the knife parallel with the blade. It took a few tries and, I’ll admit, a lot of creative profanity but I got it adjusted to perfection.

Getting the riving knife adjusted accurately is imperative as it plays a key part in table saw safety, and a riving knife that is not parallel to the blade can force the workpiece either into the blade or toward the rip fence. This can lead to kickback, burning, excessive blade wear and excessive load on the machine, or inaccurate cuts as the fence is pushed out of square. Extreme misalignment may also result in the guard making contact with the blade.

Herein lay a problem however. The included blade has a kerf of 2.2 mm and a 1.5 mm plate. The  included riving knife is 2.2 mm thick. The riving knife should be more than the thickness of the plate, but crucially less than the thickness of the blade kerf. This is to prevent the knife binding in the kerf when you make a cut. I encountered this issue early on with the AC216, especially when cutting sheet materials. Cutting timber was fine, as there is enough give in the timber that it can spread to allow the riving knife to pass through. Not so with engineered sheet materials like MFC or MDF and thicker hardwood ply, as well as some hardwood timbers like Oak and Maple.

This is a daft oversight that goes against even Axminster’s own technical information. I reached out to their support and they did provide a new riving knife which they had verified to be thinner, and it did resolve the problem. Ideally though a knife of 2 mm or so should be fitted as standard, or a blade with a thicker kerf.

The fence is fully adjustable via 4 screws mounting the fence to the clamping mechanism. I set the fence square to the front of the table, and verified its alignment by checking that it locked square to the mitre slots and also square to the blade itself. One of my favourite aspects of the AC216 is that the fence locks at the front only, so there is no rear locking mechanism to pull the fence out of square.

While I would be glad to see a rack and pinion fence upgrade for this saw, I have found the included fence a pleasure to use and it locks square without any adjustment. My only real gripe is that the bolts securing the fence are made from a soft metal, and strip easily when tightened. Mine stripped easily and were replaced with M6 x 12 mm Philips-head bolts.

I set the blade angle stops both at 90-degrees and 45-degrees using a Wixey digital angle gauge. These are adjusted by moving a pair of collars on the threaded adjustment bar beneath the saw once the blade is in position. I was able to adjust both to exactly 45.00 and 90.00 degrees, which results in an extremely accurate bevel and smooth, perfectly square straight cuts. I didn’t bother adjusting the visual gauge and I can’t comment on its accuracy.

Ac216ts Craft Mitre Gauge

The craft mitre fence was perfectly square out of the box. One of its nicest features is a run of bearings along the mitre bar. These are spring-loaded and adjusted by opposing grub screws. When set correctly they apply pressure against the mitre slot and take up any play. There is no play at all with this gauge in either of the two mitre slots on my AC216 table, and consequently the cuts you can make with it are perfectly square and extremely accurate. It lacks a decent fence, though there are pre-drilled holes to add a custom fence if desired. The stops at common angles were perfectly set out of the box.

Dust extraction is handled both above and below the table. Surrounding the blade is a plastic moulding which directs dust through a hose toward 1 half of a 100 mm extraction outlet. A second hose mounts to the crown guard and to the second half of the outlet. The system is efficient and when paired with a suitable extractor collects most of the dust produced by the saw.

It’s a lot better than a portable job site saw like the Metabo or the Dewalt and Bosch equivalents, which spray dust everywhere. I need to work on the extraction in my workshop; a CamVac is imminent.

The last piece of the puzzle is the throat plate. The stock plate has a slot wide enough to accommodate a bevel angle of nearly 50 degrees. The optional plate has a near-zero clearance slot for straight cuts. Both plates secure to the cast iron table with five M5 Philips screws, all of which ended up needing replacing as they too were a soft metal and easily stripped. They are M5 countersunk bolts, 12 mm long and are readily available.

Ac216ts Blade At 45

To either side of each of the mounting holes is a grub screw, adjusted beneath with a provided Allen key. These level the throat plate in relation to the table top, but are a pain to adjust as the plate tends to move when it’s tightened. I modified both plates by drilling through the grub screw holes and flipping the screws to allow adjustment from the top.

This solved the adjustability problem and allowed the plates to be more easily levelled, though I don’t care for the positioning of the grub screws either. The plate is easier to level and more stable when the screws are positioned evenly around the plate. I added new holes, tapped them with an M3 thread and added some 6 mm flat-point grub screws as they were the closest suitable size I could find.

The throat plates are made from a relatively soft alloy and they do flex and warp. Making your own is possible using a flush-trim bit to replicate the shape, though it would be nice if the table aperture was rectangular like it is on the Charnwood W619. I’ll make better plates when I have the time and spare material, and may try to find someone willing to re-shape the table aperture as I’m not equipped to machine the cast iron to that extent.

The AC216 runs quietly and smoothly, and rips through material with ease. It makes Short work of hardwoods and softer woods alike, as well as manufactured sheet material and even tough materials like solid HPL. The included blade, an Axminster branded ‘Axcaliber’ 48-tooth blade is very good indeed. The rip fence doesn’t move with proper technique, and the adjustments in height and tilt remain firm once the locking knobs on their respective hand wheels are tight. The finish from the stock blade is excellent, as is the finish from the Axcaliber 24-tooth ripping blade I later purchased.

One aspect of the AC216 I really like is the position of the NVR (no-volt release) power switch, which prevents accidental startup is power is lost. The Metabo I’ve been using has its power switch positioned well beneath the table to the right of the saw. This necessitates you stand, or lean, directly behind the blade to switch the saw off – directly in the path of flying wood should a kickback suddenly occur.

The first table saw I used was an Elu flip saw with large power and stop buttons positioned facing upwards on the front ledge of the table. The switch of the AC216TS is front-mounted though at the top left position, easily located without leaning over and easily operated whilst remaining outside of the blade path. Unlike the Metabo, the AC216 has a large safety cutoff switch that must be rotated out of its retained position before the saw will start, and can easily be tapped with the back of a hand or a knee to switch the saw off. I find myself using this switch to turn the saw off as though there is a discrete stop button, I’m less likely to forget to engage the safety. The blade has no electronic brake but comes to a slow stop within a few seconds.

This saw’s best trait in my opinion is its accuracy. Through fine adjustment I have the saw cutting to within 0.1 mm, which is exceptional for any table saw. There is a small amount of runout caused by the blade itself, which is not perfectly flat. I may look into a blade upgrade, but regardless the results I am getting from this machine are outstanding given that it is a modestly priced saw aimed more toward the serious DIYer than anyone with engineering expectation.

Ac216ts On Cabinet

Making things with the AC216TS is a real pleasure. From a simple box to hold some assorted chisels to cabinetry and a pair of loudspeaker enclosures with mitred panels, the efficiency and quality afforded by this new addition to my workshop is beyond doubt. I’d recommend this saw to anyone with similar requirements, seeking a compact, professional-quality table saw in the sub-£1000 price bracket.

I’d also encourage anyone considering a portable job site table saw for stationary workshop use due to their small footprint look at the AC216TS. The difference in safety and quality, not just in the machine but also the results you can achieve are easy to see. It’s true that bad woodworkers blame their tools, but even an average woodworker is better set for success when armed with a quality tool.

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