Find The Best Table Saw for Your Home Workshop
Whether you are a hobbyist woodworker or a professional one, you already know the importance of using the right tools in order to get the results you want. There are all kinds of tools for woodworking but one of the more versatile tools is a table saw.
If you know anything about a table saw, you know that there are many different types, and not every type is right for everyone. In this table saw buying guide, we will help you discover different types of table saws, various features you need to consider and other important things you need to complete your woodworking setup.
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The Ultimate Table Saw Buyers Guide
If you already have a collection of woodworking tools, you would want to add a table saw to your arsenal to take your woodworking craft to the next level. Here is what you need to know about different types and features of table saws in order to choose the right one.
Table saws can be broadly categorised into portable and stationary saws. Some of the common types of portable table saws include benchtop and jobsite table saws. On the other hand, the stationary category includes contractor, hybrid and cabinet table saws.
Benchtop Table Saw
As the name suggests, this type of table saw is designed for compact spaces making them ideal for small workshops. It’s easy to get it out of the way when you need to use other tools to finish your work. One of the biggest advantages of benchtop models is their compact size and affordability.
These are also lightweight which means you won’t find it difficult move it around. This is also the reason, it is preferred by individuals who take up woodworking as a hobby or who want to do some DIY stuff. Since these are compact in size, the motor is not the most powerful out there but it still offers enough ripping capacity and precision for light jobs.
In terms of cons, you will need a separate bench or table for this saw. These are narrow in size which means you will have limited ripping capacity and these have shorter reference rip fence which means you will need to spend some time practising to achieve clean cuts. Also, making mitre cuts can be a challenge for beginners though with practice you should be able to master mitre cuts.
Jobsite Table Saw
These are bigger in size as compared to benchtop models but still compact enough to be portable. These are designed for professional tradesmen. The biggest advantage of a jobsite table saw is that it offers better capacity, alignment and accuracy as compared to a benchtop model. These are also more rugged and designed to handle the rigours of a construction site.
These are designed for quick and simple jobs but the motor capacity is typically limited to 15 amp universal motor which means that it can be used only for jobs up to a certain size. These table saws usually feature aluminium tops which makes them less durable.
Contractor’s Table Saw
As the name suggests, these are designed for professionals. Also known as open stand saws, these are be bigger in size and also, heavier. The saws come attached to a stand or a base on wheels.
One of the biggest advantages of these saws is that these are extremely powerful with bigger ripping capacity and greater power as compared to the types mentioned above. These also tend to be more accurate and durable as compared to other saws.
In terms of cons, these are relatively heavy in the range of 250 to 350 pounds making them a bit challenging to move. Since the motors are hinged, the dust collection might not be really effective in these type of saws.
Cabinet Table Saw
These are the most versatile and most powerful table saws and naturally, the most expensive. In these type of saws, the machine is mounted on a cabinet stand. Essentially, it is an upgrade over every feature you will find in a contractor’s saw.
One of their biggest advantages is the exceptional accuracy. The high weight helps in almost complete elimination of vibration leading to exceptional precision. These saws are capable of cutting the toughest of materials. Since these tend to be heavier and bigger in size, these are mostly bought for professional use.
Hybrid Table Saws
This is the type that combines the best features of a cabinet saw and a contractor’s saw offering you the best of both worlds. It can also be said that these are essentially a contractor’s saw that do not match the original cabinet saws in terms of accuracy or power.
One of their biggest advantages is the enclosed cabinet which ensures better dust collection. Some models include a sliding table for better cross cutting efficiency. You will find a wide variety of drive mechanisms including single v or multiple v belts.
In terms of cons, these are not as powerful as cabinet saws which means these are mostly used for smaller projects. These also happen to be louder and produce a lot more vibration than cabinet saws.
Important Features You Need to Consider
Having discussed various types of table saws available in the market today, we will now focus on some of the more important features you need to consider in a table saw to get the best value for your money.
Type of Motor/Drive
There are two types of motors including induction and universal motor. The biggest difference between an induction motor and a universal motor is that an induction motor only runs on alternating current whereas a universal motor can run on either alternating current or direct current. In simple terms, you can use a battery to power a universal motor but a battery cannot be used for powering an induction motor.
Smaller table saws typically use universal motors as these tend to be compact and lightweight whereas bigger saws typically use induction motors as these are more reliable, quieter, efficient, powerful and heavier. Inductions motors are also more expensive.
The choice of motor will depend on your particular requirements. If you can afford to spend the money, it does not always mean that you should opt for an induction motor. Induction motors tend to be slow starters and take longer to warm up. Also, these tend to be heavy and are not designed to being turned on and off regularly. If you are in the habit of turning the saw on and off regularly, consider investing in a universal motor. Universal motors are noisier and produce a lot of heat which means you will need to replace those carbon brushes frequently.
When it comes to drive types, you will find two types of motor/drive combinations including belt drive and direct drive. In a direct drive saw, you will typically find a universal motor which is connected directly to the blade which means all the power is directly transferred to the spinning blade. You’ll find this drive type typically on portable table saws as these tend to be less powerful and very loud.
In a belt drive saw, the power is transferred to the blade with the help of a belt. These saws typically feature an induction motor. Since the motor is offset, it typically lasts longer. These motors also tend to be quieter and capable of cutting through denser material.
When it comes to table saw blades, these are typically categorised based on their application, number of teeth, arbour size and diameter. Most commercial table saws use blades that are 10 or 12 inches in diameter but you will also find blades as small as 5 inches in diameter. As far as the number of teeth is concerned, it ranges between 24 and 80. The number of teeth is important for clean cuts and cutting speed.
Blade Tilt/Bevel system
The bevel system is used for tilting the blade. It refers to the direction in which the blade can be tilted for making angled cuts. Out of the left and right tilt, the left one is considered more optimal as fence is typically on the right side of the blade. When the blade is tilted right and fence is also on the right, the chances of work-piece getting caught against the fence are higher which can lead to safety hazards.
Dust Collection System
When you use a table saw, it will generate a lot of sawdust and you will need to find a way to collect it. The higher end saws typically have better dust collection features.
A table saw is a powerful but dangerous tool. Many woodworkers have lost their fingers due to lack of safety features but it has led to a lot of innovations which have made modern table saws safer.
Sometimes, the blade can kick back a work-piece leading to injuries. In some cases, the kickback might push the wood to move in an unpredictable manner causing your fingers or hands to come in contact with the blade. Therefore, it is important for you to pay attention to the safety features when buying a table saw to avoid such accidents.
Fence and Mitre Gauge
There are many different types of fences to choose from. Experts recommend choosing a fence that has a longer clamping area going against the rail. It essentially creates a T-shape. This design helps in enhancing accuracy and will allow you to easily position your work piece.
The mitre gauge is essential for making cross-cuts or angled cuts. While most people prefer using a mitre saw for making mitre cuts but sometimes, you would want to use a table saw for making those cross cuts. These might not be as precise as a mitre saw but some models provide better accuracy as compared to the others.
The powers switch should be easily accessible and should be big in size. In case you feel the work-piece is getting pinched, you would want to cut the power quickly and having a big switch within your reach will allow you to operate it with your knee, hand or any other part of your body quickly. A small switch is difficult to operate especially when you need to cut off power immediately.
Experts recommend a sunken switch with a cover to prevent accidents. It is especially important in houses where children can access the area where table saw is being kept.
A magnetic switch is also a good option as it does not allow the motor to restart after a power interruption. Consider a situation where power goes out when you are making a cut. You move away from the table saw to check things and suddenly the power comes back which automatically turns on the table saw. You won’t be in control of the work-piece and it can lead to kick back and unintended injuries.
All the models of table saws being sold these days come with a riving knife. However, if you’re buying a used saw, you need to make sure that it comes with a riving knife as fitting an aftermarket one is a huge pain. It sits behind the blade and prevents the work piece from getting pinched between the rear of the blade and the fence. It is essential for preventing kickback and is one of the top safety features in a table saw.
These work as a latch and help in reducing the chances of kickback. They look like tiny saws with pointy teeth and are mounted after the riving knife. The design ensures that the teeth dig into the wood in case it starts moving backwards thus preventing any kind of kickback.
This lock prevents me blade from turning which allows you to change the blade easily. Without a shaft lock, you’ll find it challenging to unscrew the nut that holds the blade.
Overall, there are hundreds of table saws available in the market in a wide price range making it rather challenging to choose the right one. The first thing you need to do is to pay attention to your requirements and budget. If you are a hobbyist and are going to use the table saw occasionally, consider investing in a benchtop model. A cabinet saw makes much more sense for a professional woodworker who is going to use their table saw almost every day.
In addition, consider investing in an established brand with good customer service and warranty. Stay away from cheaper models as those are unlikely to have a long service life.
The above mentioned tips should help you in finding a table saw that fits your needs and is available within your budget.