Choose a table saw that will work for you
Table saws are the traditional center of most home and professional woodworking shops. In addition to handling a wide range of cuts, including everything from compound cuts to dado cuts, table saws can chew through a variety of materials when equipped with the right blades. There are several types of table saws and features to choose from, and the choices you make will be largely determined by how you plan to use your saw. The following questions will help you determine exactly what you need:
Type, Power and Capabilities
Before you get into more detailed features, you need to decide what type of table saw is right for you - a stationary/cabinet saw, contractor's saw or portable/bench-top saw. Each type offers different degrees of mobility, power, performance and capacity. Each type also comes with a different price range. Stationary saws are the most expensive, with contractor and portable table saws on the other end of the spectrum. Since purchasing a table saw represents a significant investment, it's important to take into account both your current needs as well as future ones. If you anticipate your use will change or increase, you may want to spend a little extra money to ensure that you get the features and capabilities you anticipate needing. For lighter use, a basic saw with moderate power may be more than enough.
Stationary/Cabinet Table Saws: Stationary table saws are also known as cabinet saws because of the cabinet that protects and quiets the powerful motor. Stationary saws usually weigh in at more than 400 lbs. and provide stable, solid performance. Stationary models are best for busy workshops with heavy-duty requirements or in cases where all work is done in one central location. Stationary models cannot be transported from jobsite to jobsite. Powerful 3 to 5 horsepower (hp) motors have demanding electrical requirements, so check the amp and voltage requirements to be sure your shop is wired to handle them.
Contractor's Table Saws: Contractor's saws have an open, attached stand and typically weigh between 200 and 300 lbs. They are moveable but still require two people to lift them into a truck for transport. Contractor's saws have enough power, accuracy, stability and workspace to handle heavy-duty worksite and workshop tasks. They're widely available with motors in the 1 to 2 hp range to handle tough cuts without the more demanding electrical requirements of 3+ hp models.
Portable/Bench-Top Table Saws: If you need to be able to move your saw by yourself or reposition frequently throughout the day, you'll want to consider a portable saw. Their cutting power, accuracy, stability, support and cutting capacity are designed for light- to medium-duty tasks, and they generally carry a lower price tag. These models are compact and won't overtax the electrical system in most homes and workshops. Some models include removable stands, but stands can also be purchased separately.
|Type||Blade Diameter||Power||Weight||Key Benefits||Recommended Application|
|Contractor's Table Saws||10"||1-1/2 to 3 hp||200 to 300 lbs||
||Medium- to heavy-duty home and professional use|
|Portable Table Saws||10"||3 to 15 amps||40 to 100 lbs.||
||Light- to medium-duty home and professional use|
|Stationary Table Saws||10" or 12"||3 to 5 hp or more||400 to 800 lbs.||
||Frequent, demanding professional and home use|
Bevel Capability: Most table saws allow you to tilt the blade to the left for angled cuts, though some right-tilt models are also available to accommodate personal preferences. Look for easy adjustment and positive stops at common angles, so you can make fast, accurate bevel cuts.
Miter Gauge: The miter gauge is a removable guide used for fast, accurate miter cuts and crosscuts. Look for one with positive stops at 45º and 90º. If a gauge isn't included with your saw or you need to upgrade, you can purchase one separately. Also, check the miter gauge slot on the saw table; it must be perfectly parallel to the blade, or your miter cuts won't be accurate.
High-Quality Controls: Look for smooth, precise adjustment and a durable design. All controls should be easy to access and comfortable to grip, particularly if you use your table saw frequently.
Rip Fence: A rip fence is a guide for cutting parallel to the edge of the workpiece. Longer fences offer better control. The fence should fit snuggly, slide freely, lock down solidly and be perfectly parallel with the blade at every setting. You can purchase rip fences separately for upgrade or replacement.
Splitter (Riving Knife): A splitter is an important anti-kickback feature that separates the wood after it has been cut to prevent binding. Look for a splitter with adjustable kerf to accommodate different blades and materials.
Anti-Kickback Pawls: These jagged teeth prevent the workpiece from kicking back at the operator, so they need to stay sharp and bite at the right angle.
Electric Brake: An electric brake stops the blade quickly after each cut, enhancing safety and helping you get ready for the next cut quickly.
Magnetic Switch: If a table saw with a magnetic switch is left on during a power outage, it won't start back up when the power is restored, preventing the workpiece from shooting back out of the saw. This could be particularly important for high-powered models that may potentially blow fuses.
Easy-Change Blade System: Some saws offer one-step blade changes, either with or without a tool. If you switch blades frequently, an easy-change system helps minimize downtime.
Dado Blades: If you need to make grooved cuts for inserting shelves or joining pieces of wood, look for a table saw that accepts dado blades. Many table saws accept dado blades with a maximum width of 13/16".
Dust Port: Table saws produce a lot of sawdust, but table saws with cabinets keep dust fairly well contained. On all types of table saws, look for a dust port if you want to connect to a dust collection system as you cut.
The Home Depot has a large selection of rip fences and miter gauges for updating or adding functionality to your table saw.
Stock up on blades, and make sure you always have the right one on hand for all the materials you'll be cutting.