Table saws are relatively expensive compared to other hand and power tools in workshops and jobsites. But when their versatile uses are considered, their higher prices are worth every cent, especially when these can withstand years of moderate to heavy use for cutting and ripping wood from sheet boards to lumber, plastics, and even aluminum.
This begs the question: How do you choose the best table saw for your needs and wants? Let’s take a look at the qualities that a satisfactory table saw should provide its users.
Look for a Smooth Cutting Capacity
Table saws are obviously designed to make cuts and rips, even make designs on the ends of wood stock, in a smooth, effective and efficient manner. The blade should then cut through most, if not all, types of wood easily (i.e., no sudden starts and stops). The miter gauge and fence should also contribute to the precision of the cuts, from crosscuts and rip cuts to beveled cuts.
The cutting capacity of a table saw is influenced by three aspects of its design.
The type of motor
Portable table saws usually have smaller direct-drive motors operating on 120-volt circuits with a production capacity of up to 2 horsepower. These are more suitable for working on thinner material sheets.
Cabinet and contractor saws are usually equipped with more powerful motors capable of generating between 3 and 5 horsepower. These depend on a belt drive in transferring power for running the blade (i.e., rotation), as well as operate on 240 volts.
The type of blade
The blades in table saws are categorized according to their diameter, number of teeth, arbor and kerf sizes, speeds, and materials, which will affect their specific applications. The standard diameter on portable table saws is 10 inches, while many models can have blades ranging from 5 to 12 inches.
The number of teeth ranges between 24 and 80, while the materials can include carbide, carbon, and even diamond. In most portable saws for home use, the carbide-tipped blades will suffice.
The fence and miter gauge
These are the most essential parts of a table saw for precision purposes. The fence, usually a T-square fence, makes accurate rip cuts possible. The miter gauge is a must for making angled cuts and cross cuts, although many expert woodworkers also recommend using a drafting triangle for greater precision.
Since the smooth cutting capacity of a table saw cannot be determined until you actually operate it, you may have to rely on consumer reviews.
Sturdy and Stable Construction Is a Must
The best table saws have a smooth, flat and level surface where the materials can be laid for cutting or ripping. These should also have strong and sturdy legs, which may or may not be foldable (i.e., scissor-type legs), for accommodating light to heavy materials. The overall construction should also be geared toward minimum vibrations during operation, which will affect the precision of the cuts.
When it comes to the materials used on the table itself, experts agree that cast iron is the best in terms of a durable and stable surface. But because it’s heavier, as well as more expensive, than steel and aluminum, it can be an issue for many serious hobbyists. Steel or aluminum tables will then suffice.
Always Consider the Safety Features
People who use table saws are at increased risk of injuries from the razor-sharp blades and kickbacks. The latter occurs when the wood binds to the table or between the fence and back of the blade. The injuries can range from mild, such as skinned flesh, to the severe like cut fingers.
For this reason, buyers should always look for most, if not all, of the following safety features:
- Riving knives
- Anti-kickback pawls
- Flexible blade guards, which should be easy to install and remove without the use of tools
Of course, the user’s adoption of safety measures when using a table saw is a crucial part of its safe and effective use.
Look for Easy Adjustments on the Parts
At many jobsites, speed is as important as precision in using a table saw. Easy adjustment should then be considered when choosing a table saw, especially in the following matters:
- The blade and riving knife assembly should be easy to adjust for alignment purposes, from the time you first set it up to the desired realignments
- The blade height as well as fence and bevel positions should also allow for quick adjustments, while the wheels and levels must be easy to lubricate and work well
- The blade must also be raised a few inches or tilted a few degrees with the least possible number of revolutions
We also recommend looking for
- Satisfactory dust control, preferably a system consisting of a port at the back and a shroud over the blade. Both of these should ideally be hooked up to a vacuum for easy cleaning
- Good number of accessories, such as on/off paddle-type switches, onboard storage, and table extensions
Many professionals even extend the functionality of their table saws by adding more upgrades, These can include superior blades, router tables, dado blade sets, cross cut sled, and molding heads, among others.
Be sure to consider the portability of the table saw, as well as the space that it will occupy in your jobsite, too.
Choosing the best table saw for your own workshop or jobsite is a matter of personal or professional preference. You must then first list your specific needs and wants in it before looking at the features of the table saws in online shops.