In this buying guide, I am going to cover essential information you need to know before buying a table saw. What is the best table saw for the money? What is the best beginner table saw? For straight, accurate cuts, you need an extremely precise machine. A table saw is that machine. These saws are found on just about any
For straight, accurate cuts, you need an extremely precise machine. A table saw is that machine. bThese saws are found on just about any job site and in plenty of DIYers’ homes. Particularly when making long cuts or doing fine finish work—where accuracy is everything—a table saw is the tool of choice.
A table saw consists of a table (of varying sizes, depending on the saw) and a blade protruding from underneath through a notch in the table. When you place the work piece on the table and align the guide properly, you simply slide the workpiece through the blade, giving you a precise cut.
Table saws are no different to any other type of power tool. When you come to do a project there is nothing more frustrating than not having the right tools or the best tools for the job. A quick look through any hardware store will throw up any number power tools including table saws and if you are new to them, it can be daunting to look at them. After all table saws really are a power tool and when you are looking to buy your first one you need to be armed with a lot of information. Before you do this you need to have some idea of what you are going to use the table saw for.
Table saws are one of those tools that once you have one you wonder how you could ever have done without one. They are very efficient at what they do and save you hours of time and a lot of aching hands and arms. As you would expect there are a number of different features available and we are going to look at some of them in this article.
First let’s take a look at the ‘power’ part of the table saw power tool. Most homeowners who are into DIY will be able to use a one and a half horsepower motor. This will be sufficient to cut through just about any wood up to two inches in thickness. Of course there are more powerful motors than that, up to 5 horsepower or so, but 1-1/2 is more than sufficient for the home worker. With all this power and with safety in mind table saws need a firm base. Some table saws come with a stand. They are more expensive as you would expect but it is more than worthwhile as the stands are custom-made to fit the table saw.
Most people get by with blades of 10 inches in diameter although 12 inches are in common use and will cut through thicker wood as you would expect. Different blades can be used depending on the application. A crosscut blade has 80 or so small teeth and is used for controlled and precise cutting with a smoother finish. This is used to cut against the grain. The rip blade however cuts along the grain and has bigger and fewer teeth for faster cutting. The miter gauge is one of the most useful parts of a table saw. It allows you to make cuts at angles other than perpendicular.
Table saws have what is called a rip fence so that you can get a perfectly straight edge when cutting. The blade guard acts as the main safety feature of tables saws. The idea behind the blade guard is that it allows the wood to pass the cutting blade while preventing your fingers from following it.
Knowing all these features makes it easy to decide on the table saw that you need for own use. Safety is always the paramount concern, modern table saws have all the safety features you need to ensure safe and enjoyable wood cutting.
Types of Table Saws
Portable table saws are designed for jobsites and are also known as jobsite or bench-top table saws. These tools can be moved around jobsites with little difficulty as needed, making them ideal for medium and large jobs in particular. Portable table saws are also a favorite of homeowners, especially those who don’t have a lot of storage room.
Contractor table saws take up more room than portable saws but aren’t as large as cabinet saws. These are not meant to be portable and more ideal for use as a stationary saw (and are sometimes looped into that general category) for use in shop applications.
Cabinet saws are what you want if you’re looking for a saw to last you a lifetime (or even several generations of lifetimes). These are the most heavy-duty of any table saw and completely enclose the motor and arbor, hence the name cabinet saws. Like contractor table saws, cabinet saws are sometimes looped into a general stationary-saw category.
Hybrid saws combine the benefits of contractor and cabinet saws, namely the lower prices of contractor saws with the higher quality of cabinet saws. In essence, hybrid saws are smaller versions of cabinet saws. They weigh less and have a less powerful motor, but are plenty sturdy for serious woodworking. Hybrid saws are fairly new (compared to other types of table saws) to the market but are filling a void by making higher quality table saws available at lower prices.
How to Choose a Table Saw
Table saws are extremely valuable tools to have, especially if you take the time to make sure you’re getting the right saw for your current and future projects. Ask yourself:
Do you need to move the saw often?
If you need to frequently transport your table saw to and around jobsites or anywhere else, or if you have limited room for storage, consider a portable table saw. If you have the room to store a large saw and don’t need to move it, you can consider a contractor or cabinet saw.
How much cutting capacity do you need?
How large is the stock you’ll be using? Also, how easy is it to make those cuts that test the limits of the saw? Make sure to get a table saw that can comfortably handle your jobs.
How much power do you need?
The more powerful the saw, the larger and denser the materials you can cut. Also take into account how often you’ll be using the saw. Frequent or long-term use will require more power than an occasional cut.
How much should the table saw weigh?
The heavier the saw, the more accurate it will be, in general, particularly when comparing contractor and cabinet saws that aren’t designed to be moved. With a portable saw, weight will play a bigger role as you’ll need to be able to move it around often while also getting enough stability for maximum accuracy.
Is the saw accurate?
Generally speaking, all table saws are accurate tools. However, you’ll find the most accuracy with a cabinet saw, followed by a contractor saw and then a portable saw. Of course, the quality of each saw within those categories will affect accuracy as well. Since table saws are designed for accuracy, make sure yours does the job with the accuracy you need.
What table size do you need?
A large table comes in handy for large stock and also maneuverability (the ability to move stock around on the table). Some portable and stationary saws come with table extensions, which is another option to increase your work space.
What about the tabletop material?
The most important aspects of tabletop material deal with vibration and flatness. For accurate cuts, you need a flat table. For the actual material, you’ll have a few options, some of which produce more vibration than others. Less vibration makes it easier to make more accurate cuts.
Is a fence system important?
Yes. Extremely important. A good, strong, easily adjustable fence system helps guide your stock through the cut. The better the fence system, the more accurate the cut.
How about beveling and blade height?
For the best finished work piece, you need accurate, easily controlled features. Also, blades can bevel to the left or the right—which do you prefer?
Do you need out-feed extensions?
These help catch stock as you push it through the blade and are particularly helpful when making long cuts. Without out-feed extensions, the weight of the stock can shift to the part hanging over the table, making you struggle to hold down the still-uncut portion, which reduces accuracy.
Do you need a stand?
Contractor and cabinet saws all come with stands. If you get a stand with wheels, it’ll be easier to push those heavy saws around the shop if necessary. You can get stands for portable saws, which can be helpful in making cuts more accurate as well as increase its portability even more.
What style of blade guard is best?
You want a blade guard that gives you the best visibility of the blade. Also important to consider is how easy it is to remove. There are some cuts that can’t be made unless you remove the blade guard, so being able to quickly remove and eventually replace it could save a lot of time.
Do you need a riving knife?
A riving knife separates the two pieces as they travel through the blade. You should also take into account how easy it is to remove, as you’ll have to get rid of it when making certain cuts (the same cuts that require you to remove the blade guard).
Do you need dust collection?
All table saws now come with dust-collection hookups, but some are better designed for it.
Where is the on/off switch?
The switch should be front-mounted and easy to reach with your hand or knee without looking when you need to turn it off.
What about miter slides?
A good, high-quality slide will easily guide the stock through the cut accurately. Digital miter gauges are sold separately and drastically increase accuracy. Plus, they can be used for table saws, band saws and router tables.