When someone mentions woodworking, the first tool that often comes to mind is the table saw – perhaps because table saws have served as the anchor tool in numerous workshops for many years. Table saws can range from small portable models that can be taken out to jobsites or moved to your home improvement project to large machines suitable for the most intricate woodworking jobs. Pricing can vary just as much with small units costing as little as several hundred dollars and state of the art models running up into the thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there are very capable table saws that can fit just about any budget.
A table saw consists of a platform or table that has a circular saw blade that can be extended up above the table’s surface. Table saws can be used for cross cutting, but their primary value comes from their ability to rip materials precisely – using the table’s fence, woodworkers can achieve much better rip cuts than when using a circular saw with a straight edge. It’s also much safer to use a table saw for narrow rips than trying to use a circular saw for the same cut.
Most table saws have similar designs regardless of price, but build quality and power usually increase substantially when you get up into the pricier models that are designed for professional woodworking applications.
Types of Table Saws
If you have an unlimited power tool budget, you might want to add a professional grade table saw to your workshop, but for most DIYers the more budget friendly models should be able to perform any task you may have planned. The primary types of table saws to consider for your workshop:
- Portable table saws – these are small units that could also be considered to be bench top tools. They are fairly light and are designed for use on jobsites – they can be sat on the floor, on job built platforms, or many have accessory stands that can be used to bring the saw up to working height.
- Contractor table saws – these often have larger motors than the portable models and usually have a cast iron table for stability rather than the aluminum tables often found on the smaller units. Contractor table saws are designed for easy disassembly so they can be moved to jobsites, but they’re not as convenient to move as the truly portable saws. These saws normally provide all the power and features you might need for a DIY project.
- Cabinet table saws – saws in this category are considered professional level and are what you might find in a cabinet or serious woodworking shop. These saws are very heavy and once in place and calibrated, shouldn’t be moved unless absolutely necessary. Cabinet saws have much more power than contractor and portable saws, but they’re often more quiet due to the motor enclosure.
- Hybrid table saws – these are a cross between the contractor and cabinet models. They feature an enclosed motor, but it’s a little smaller than those found on the cabinet saws. The main purpose of the hybrid saw is to provide a model that’s a little nicer than contractor saws, but not at the professional level of the cabinet saws. If you want a table saw with a little more power and features than the contractor saw, models in this category can be excellent choices without having to pay the substantial prices of the professional grades.
Table Saw Safety
Spinning saw blades can cause severe injuries and with the powerful motors table saws possess, you have to be especially careful of dangling apron strings or loose fitting sleeves when working. You should always unplug your table saw before changing blades or making any major adjustments that might bring you into contact with the blade area. When pushing small pieces of wood through the saw, use another piece of wood or something similar to prevent your hands from getting too close to the moving blade.
One of the biggest safety issues with a table saw is kickback – this can occur when the material going through the blade binds and the force of the saw kicks the material back toward the operator. Always be prepared for the possibility of kickback when using a table saw and don’t forget to wear eye and ear protection at all times.