The variety of choice – table saw types
When it comes to choosing a table saw, the first thing you need to think about is what type of saw you’ll need. Table saws are generally categorized according to their portability and whether they are heavy-duty enough for professionals or primarily designed for hobbyists.
If you’re planning to do most of your work outside or at a field site – which is common among contractors – you’ll most likely need a compact or jobsite table saw. These saws are relatively portable thanks to a small, often foldable table. In many cases, compact table saws either come with an attachable stand or have a folding stand integrated into the design, with the saw itself on wheels so it can easily be moved around. Keep in mind that while compact saws may be powerful, they typically won’t offer the large blade diameters and rip capacities of stationary saws.
Another more versatile class of table saws is the benchtop saw. These table saws rely on a bench or mounting stand for support, or they can be used on the ground if you need them at a worksite only occasionally. Benchtop saws come in a huge variety of sizes and designs, making them suitable for everyone from DIYers to professional woodworkers.
Stationary saws are not portable at all and come in a variety of size classes. Contractor saws are relatively heavy-duty without being too large or expensive, while cabinet saws are ideal for a professional woodworker’s shop because of their immense power and advanced features. Hybrid saws offer a middle ground between the two.
Table saw maintenance tips
When it comes to table saws, maintenance is important not only for keeping your saw working for years to come – it’s also an essential part of working with your saw safely. So, it’s essential to keep a maintenance log for your saw so you always know how many hours you’ve logged on the saw and what maintenance tasks you’ve taken care of.
One of the most important things you can do every time you use your saw is to perform an alignment. Aligning your saw is critical to getting accurate cuts and preventing dangerous kickback. To do this, you’ll need to install a straight blade and measure that the bevel angles are accurate, that the rip fence is aligned to the blade, and that miter stops run perfectly parallel to the blade. Be sure after adjusting everything that one piece you moved earlier on hasn’t fallen back out of alignment.
Another essential maintenance task is to oil your saw’s inner components. Consult your instruction manual to disassemble your saw, then start by cleaning out any sawdust trapped in the inner gears. Once the saw is clean, apply a dry lube to the trunnions, gears, and any other moving metal parts.
Finally, make sure that you keep the table of your saw clean and polished so that you can slide materials easily over the surface. You can prevent rust from building up by waxing your table’s surface, or remove scratches and rust by sanding out any imperfections and then waxing over them.
Keep in mind that not all parts of your saw are designed to last forever. When you notice a part being worn down, replace it. That protects the rest of your saw’s components from damage and keeps you safer when using the saw.
The price of a table saw varies considerably depending on the type and quality of the saw you need. Compact, portable table saws like the Makita, Skilsaw, Dewalt, and Bosch models cost under $1,000, and as low as $350. On the other hand, stationary contractor table saws like the SawStop CNS175-TGP36 cost over $2,000, and cabinet saws like the SawStop PCS31230-TGP252 cost over $3,000. That said, budget-friendly stationary saw options are available for under $1,000, like the saw from ShopFox.
Features to consider while buying the perfect table saw
If you know what type of table saw you need and have a budget in mind, it’s time to think about what features you need in your saw. Here, we’ll explain all of the important factors to consider when choosing a specific table saw and how they can affect your projects.
Motor – power on
The motor is the heart of any table saw and is an important consideration if you’ll be cutting through heavy-duty materials, such as thick hardwoods or metals. There are two main types of motor drives that table saws use.
Portable table saws like the Makita, Skilsaw, Dewalt, and Bosch saws typically have direct-drive motors. These motors produce about 15 amps of power, which is plenty for cutting through thin materials and softer woods.
Stationary table saws typically use a belt to transfer power from the motor to the saw blade. Typically, these saws are capable of producing between 3-5 hp of force, which is enough to cut through most materials as long as you have the right blade for the job. Be aware that many belt-drive saws require a 240-volt current, which requires a special type of power outlet.
Blades and ripping capacity
When it comes to table saw blades, bigger isn’t always better. A larger-diameter blade can allow you to make large cuts more quickly, but it can also make it more difficult to achieve precise cuts or cuts of shallow depths. All of the saws that we reviewed accept blades that are 10 inches in diameter.
Another important thing to consider when choosing a blade is how many teeth it has. Blades with more teeth can help with controlling your cut and preventing kickback, but it depends on your application. More important is the material your blade is made of, which can affect which types of materials – woods, metals, and more – that your blade is suitable for cutting.
Note that while most table saws come with blades, it is easy to replace the blade and use different blades for different purposes. Just ensure that the blade diameter and maximum RPM of the blade match the diameter and speed of your saw.
Ripping capacity describes the maximum amount of distance the rip fence can travel to one side of the saw blade. In effect, this determines the maximum width over which you can make a continuous cut with your saw. However, keep in mind that you can achieve wider cuts by using additional support for your material rather than just your saw’s table.
Rip capacities vary between saws, and are generally larger for stationary saws than for portable saws. For example, the Bosch and Skilsaw saws have 25-inch ripping capacities, while the stationary SawStop and Jet saws have ripping capacities of more than 50 inches each.
Get it even – the table
Ensuring that you have a flat, level table is extraordinarily important for getting high-quality cuts. Accordingly, getting a table that is level and won’t warp over time is extremely important – and not all tables are made equally.
Cast-iron tables, like those found on the stationary Jet, ShopFox, and SawStop saws, are the most resistant to warping or bending over time. On the other hand, many portable saws use less durable materials. Be sure to check customer reviews with these saws and to avoid models that have repeated issues with warping.
Fence and miter gauge
The fence is the piece of material against which you push your material to achieve the desired width of cut with consistency. Almost all portable and less expensive stationary saws, like the ShopFox saw, come with low-quality fences that you will need to replace after-market to get good cuts. For this reason, make sure that the fence can be removed and replaced on your saw (it can be on all table saws we reviewed).
Miter gauges are used when you need to make cuts that aren’t at a 90-degree angle. You may not need a miter gauge if you don’t take on many complex woodworking projects, and some table saws don’t even come with a miter gauge. However, it’s generally a good idea to opt for a saw with grooves in the table to accept a miter gauge in case you need one later.
Keep it clean – the dust collector
Most table saws, and especially stationary saws, come with a system for collecting dust produced by cutting wood and expelling it through a dust port. The dust ports on most table saws can be adapted to a shop vac, although some specifically require that you use an included dust bag rather than your vacuum. Keep in mind that some stationary vacuums have ports larger than four inches, which can be hard to adapt your existing vacuum to, and that if you’re working outside a collection bag may be easier than requiring a vacuum.
Also be wary that some saws, and especially budget table saws, have frequent problems with dust building up on the interior components. If this is a problem, it should be apparent in customer reviews – it is generally a good idea to steer clear of those saws.
Depth, capacity and bevels
Most table saws allow you to adjust the cutting depth of the blade so that you can make deeper or shallower cuts, or adjust how far the blade protrudes above your material. Note also that most saws allow you to make beveled cuts – cuts at an angle – although the available bevel angles can vary widely between saws.
Enjoy the speed
The speed of your table saw’s blade, measured in RPM, is an important aspect in the quality of your cuts. Typically, a faster blade – like the 5,000-rpm blade on the Skilsaw saw – will produce more accurate cuts with less kickback. In general, it is good to opt for the saw with a higher blade speed if you are between two otherwise similar saws.
Get the safest you can find
Safety is extremely important when using a table saw. So, pay close attention to safety features when choosing a saw. You should always choose a saw that has a blade guard and a riving knife. The blade guard covers the top of the blade when pushing your material over the blade. Riving knives sit behind the blade and help to prevent kickback.
Accessories – pretty up your instrument
There are a huge variety of after-market accessories that can be added to your table saw to expand its functionality or make it easier and safer to use. For example, there are on/off switches, accessories for extending the table, and wheels that allow you to control the height and tilt of the blade. Typically, these accessories are available for any table saw offered by a mainstream manufacturer.
A table saw is an inexpensive investment, so you want to be sure it will last for years to come. Many table saws only come with a one-year warranty from the manufacturer, while the table saw from Jet comes with an impressive five-year warranty.
Table saw safety tips for users of all levels
There are a number of important tips for using your table saw safely.
- Always wear proper protective clothing, including eyewear and ear protection. However, don’t wear gloves as they can get caught up in the saw’s blade.
- Always stand off-axis to the blade. This way, you’re out of the way of kickbacks and won’t get sawdust spewed in your face.
- Always allow the blade to come to a complete stop before making any adjustments to the blade or your saw.
- Make sure to check your material before starting a cut for anything that could catch on the blade, such as nails or staples.
- Make sure that your rip fence is parallel to the blade or kicked out slightly towards the rear of the fence. This helps ensure that the material will not catch as it passes through the blade.