The choice in a table saw is a crucial decision that every woodworker must make sooner or later. Indeed, making the right choice can mean the difference between poor and satisfactory results in woodworking tasks, as well as the difference between intact and amputated fingers, even hands.
Know the Types of Table Saws
If you’re in the market for a new table saw, you should first know their types. You can then more easily determine which type addresses your specific needs in terms of cutting capabilities, price range, and voltage requirements, among other factors.
Portable table saws
These are designed for portability thus their popularity among carpenters who spend more time on jobsites. These saws usually have a lightweight universal motor that can perform many of the basic functions of their larger counterparts but with a few caveats. These include the smaller scale of the tasks, as well as the less durable aluminum top, less stable operation, and more vibrations.
But for most DIY tasks, portable table saws are a great choice.
These have an open-based design with a relatively lightweight quality, thus their suitability for basic furniture making, trim work, and cabinetry projects, among other carpentry tasks. These may also have extension wings, solid cast iron table top, and more powerful motor combined with a lager blade, albeit only a step up from the portable table saws.
These are designed to address the tougher needs of professional woodworkers, especially in terms of durable construction and heavy-duty performance. These are then built with more steel and cast iron materials, more powerful blades and thicker blades, and heavier parts including the gearing, trunnions, and arbor assemblies.
The result: Cabinet saws can cut through thick boards and lumber easily for prolonged periods, such as the entire day with little rest periods in between. These also have little to no vibrations so the precision of the cuts can be maintained (i.e., blade and board alignment).
These are scaled-down counterparts of the cabinet saw, a hybrid between the heavy-duty design of a cabinet saw and the affordable price of a contractor’s saw. These are relatively strong and sturdy with most of the basic features of cabinet saws but with a lighter weight. Many serious DIY enthusiasts prefer hybrid saws for this reason.
When you look at the range of table saws in an online shop, you should be able to see what category it belongs to. If not, you can compare their features and ask the customer service representative about these aspects.
Consider Your Needs and Wants
When you have the relevant information about the features and functions of these table saw types, you can make comparisons in relation to your specific needs and wants in the tool. You may have to spend an hour or two deciding about the most important features in relation to your budget.
The most important factors that expert woodworkers recommend considering are as follows.
What type of woodworking tasks are performed the most?
You should first consider your current needs in a table saw before making allowances for your possible future needs. If you’re a DIY woodworker with small craft and cabinetry projects on your plate, a portable table saw will be a satisfactory choice. But if you have a small professional shop, a cabinet saw will be a worthwhile investment.
As previously mentioned, cabinet saws are the best choice for heavy-duty professional use although these are the most expensive. Hybrid saws are more suitable for the serious hobbyists and even for people with small professional shops.
What are your desired individual features?
Most types of table saws perform similar basic functions, such as making rips and crosscuts, cutting panels, and creating shapes at the wood stock’s edges, even cutting at a 45-degree angle. But the individual features will also make a significant difference in the final results.
We suggest looking at the following features aside from the motor and blade aspects, which are largely influenced by the type of table saw.
- Fence, which should be accurate yet can be easily adjusted. It should remain perfectly parallel to the blade always, as well as lock solidly in place instead of flexing or sliding to either side when the saw is in use
- Miter gauge, which should be sturdy as well as glide easily on the table saw’s miter slots without sloppiness in the track. Otherwise, there will be inaccurate angles. The angles should also be easily adjusted yet remain locked in place during use
- Tilt, which refers to the degree of bevel adjustment ranging from 0 to 45 degrees. The tilt itself can either be to the right or the left – and your choice is a matter of personal preference
- Dust collection, preferably one that can be connected to a vacuum for easy cleaning
Don’t forget to consider the safety features, too. Table saws are the most dangerous piece of equipment in a woodworker’s shop, statistically speaking, so safety features are a must. These can include a large on/off paddle switch, anti-kickback pawls, a riving knife, and blade guards and brake, to name a few.
Your choice in a table saw is largely a matter of personal preference but it also pays to consider important factors, from the cutting capabilities to the safety features.