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Things you should know Before Buying a Table Saw

Updated on March 3, 2016

Important woodworking tool

For your do it yourself type person, and friendly neighborhood Craftsman, there has been the on going discussion centered around the question, is a table saw the most important woodworking tool you and your woodworking friends should have. Continue reading this article to discover what separates one table saw from the other models available, and what questions you need answered.

The truth of the matter, a table saw is the best tool available for making, crosscuts, dado, rabbit, bevel, and long straight rip cuts. When cutting softwoods, hardwood lumber. Sheets of plywood, medium or high-density particleboard and OSB, with the ease of use, safety, precision and accuracy of a good quality table saw. For any serious woodworker, Craftsman, and do it yourselfer, a table saw is simply a woodworking tool we really should have.

Features you will need

Selecting the best table saw

Looking at table saws, we soon discover there are three basic styles to consider. The first thing we should determine however, what do you need the table saw to do, and secondly, will the table saw be set-up in a serious woodworking shop. Will the table saw need to be portable so it is easily moved from one job site to another, or be used by a craftsman in a home workshop.

Bosch 4100 Portable table saw Set-up

Portable Table Saw Features

Portable table saw

The most inexpensive table saws available on the market today, consist of a lightweight motor similar to those used on a circular saw. Narrow kerth cutting 10 inch Blades, mounted in a lightweight plastic housing, and small table, equipped with the most basic features. Designed as a Cheep, lightweight, easy to carry and slide under a workbench compact get the job done kind of table saw.

Many of these table saws do not come with any legs or saw stand making them easy for a Handyman to store on a shelf, or a contractor the option to throw a small lightweight saw into the back of their truck. Where, once at the job site the saw is set on a workbench or portable work stand.

There are however, better quality portable table saws available with worth wile options, for instance, a set of folding legs that make storage easy, with a set of wheels making the saw easy to move. Being a bit more expensive, and heavier the wheel options make up for the added weight by providing the saw and saw stand the ability to easily roll over uneven terrain, and up or down narrow stairs found on a lot of job sites. Best of all, mounted to a rock solid saw stand, a portable table saw is safer and easier to use.

Portable table saws do have their drawbacks however; they lack the power that is required to perform demanding cuts, they lack good dust collection, and have small worktables that make it a bit of a challenge for a woodworker to make, accurate, repetitive cuts to large sheets of plywood, paneling, sheets of OSB or hardwood moldings.

You do get what you pay for

Contractor table saw

Contractor table saws are equipped with a sturdy set of steel legs, much-improved table with expandable sides, and an easily adjusted rip fence assembly and dust collection port for your shop Vac, when compared to the portable saws. Standard models use a 10-inch blade that unlike the portable saws where the blade is mounted directly to the motor. The Contractor saws blade is belt driven by a more powerful 115-volt electric motor that will operate using standard 20-amp household receptacles.

Something worth mentioning, contractor table saws are not the first choice of the general contractors in my neighborhood. They prefer the portable table saws, for the simple reason, they are lightweight, inexpensive, do not take up a lot of room in the job trailer and do a reasonably good job cutting stuff they need to cut. You will find the contractors saws in the workshops of the local Handyman and carpenters.

The truly serious Craftsman, Handyman, and finish carpenters have embraced the new hybrid contractor table saws. These saws combine the basic features of a cabinet saw, enclosed cabinet with better dust collection system, high-end rip fences, and smoother running blade assemblies, and use the largest electric motors that will operate on standard household electrical outlets.

Precision cuts and high en features

Cabinet Table Saw

Cabinet table saws are the top of the line saws, used by serious no nonsense woodworkers and cabinetmakers in their woodworking shops. Cabinet saws claim to fame, is there ability to make smooth, accurate, and most importantly, repeatable cuts with a superior dust collection system.

Cabinet table saws have a strong rigid frame, generally set-up with 3-5 horsepower, 220-volt AC electric motors that are completely enclosed in the saw cabinet for better dust control, and use a three-drive belt system, to power the blade and reduce vibrations. The rip fence is also much improved, no more flimsy, hard to adjust, fences like those that are standard issue on contractors or portable table saws.

When determining weather or not a table saw is running smoothly, simply use a nickel to check for excessive vibrations. Start the saw, stand the nickel on edge on the saw table, if the saw vibrates excessively, the nickel will fall over, indicating a vibration problem exists.

Important Table Saw Features

Rip Fence, Miter Gage, and Crosscut Sled

Any discussion on the merits of different styles of table saws is not complete without first spending a little time discussing, rip fences, miter gages and crosscut sleds.

The name Rip Fence is self-explanatory, but there is more to it than meets the eye. The basic function a rip fence provides is to allow the woodworker to adjust the distance between the edge of a saw blade and the fence based on how wide a board they need for their woodworking project, subsequently making it a lot quicker and easier to make repetitive cuts.

In the perfect woodworking world, the rip fence is, rock solid, easy to adjust and perfectly true, in other words, perfectly square to the saw table, and perfectly perpendicular to the saw blade, none of this that is close enough stuff. Rip fences that are not true, will create more problems for a Craftsman, Handyman or Diy’er than they will ever solve.

The Best Miter Gauge

Then there is the Miter Gauge, often under appreciated, this little handy item slides along the channels in the surface of the saw table. Located on either side of the blade the miter gauge comes in handy when making crosscuts to small moldings and pieces of wood. However most contractors that use the portable table saws throw the miter gauge into the back of their job trailer, or the trash, and simply use their compound miter saw to do that job faster and easier.

Why use a Table Saw Sled

The best, most complete Cross cut sled, miter gauge, fence

The Importances of a high quality Cross Cut Sled

Which brings us to the Crosscut Sled, a must have accessory for any table saw owner, in my humble opinion anyway. Cabinet saws, contractor saws or hybrid table saw, a good crosscut sled simply makes any table saw easier to use.

There are several crosscut sleds available on the market today, which add support and better control of the material. They are not standard equipment with most saws, however they are a worth wile addition to any woodworkers looking to make crosscuts on wood shelving or hardwood moldings.

There are no two table saws that are the same, for this reason, a crosscut sled requires adjusting, ensuring proper operation. There are sleds that use only one of the channels on the table and others that use both. They must run perpendicular to the blade and the channels in the saw table to ensure smooth accurate cuts. The best thing about it, generally they only need adjusting one time for a particular table. After the initial set-up and adjustments are preformed, a good crosscut sled will provide years of reliable service when called upon to make smooth, accurate repeatable crosscut or even miter cuts using a table saw.

Enjoy using a table saw on your next woodworking project. Mike

The author of this publication, Mike Teddleton owns the copyright to Things you should know Before Buying a Table Saw. The rights to publish this article in print or online can only be granted by contacting me the author in writing. You may use the intro and link back to the article directing the reader back to my post here at HubPages where they may find the story in its entirety


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    • Teddletonmr profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Teddleton 

      8 years ago from Midwest USA

      Katie, With Christmas presents to buy, and the seasons starting to change. All our hobby gardeners, will soon be looking for projects they can do inside.

      No woodworker or handyman's workshop is complete until they have a good table saw.

      There are bluebird houses to build, storage shelves needed in the garage, garden shed and laundry room.

      Thanks for stopping by, your comment, and remember. The men in your life love woodworking tools they can use to build you stuff...

    • katiem2 profile image


      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Mike, Tools are such a popular gift item for men. Thanks for the helpful tips and insights on Woodworking Gift Ideas Should Include a Table Saw.


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