Choosing the Best Table Saw
Choosing the best table saw is important because it’s one of those tools that every serious contractor, home renovator or do-it-yourselfer will want to have handy. The best table saw will allow for precise ripping and cutting of wood on a flat table surface, regardless of size. Table saw safety is also an issue, and more and more products are incorporating new table saw fence systems (see the DeWalt DWE7499GD Table Saw with Guard Detect for example) and other mechanisms to help you work more safely. The SawStop table saw has the most aggressive safety system…and the most aggressive table saw lawsuits to do with it. It does this with a circular blade which is mounted on an arbor. All table saws are electric, so you won’t be looking for a new lithium-ion driven model anytime soon. Most table saws come with accessories to measure and guide wood through the blade as well as a guard to ensure safety during use.
Types of Table Saws
There are three or four basic types of table saws and choosing the best table saw means understand the advantages and disadvantages of each:
- Benchtop “Portable” Style – These saws are the most popular among those looking for the conveniences of a table saw, but who want to spend the least amount of money possible. They consist of a table saw that can be placed on a bench or table. Often they will come with legs that you assemble or purchase separately. Because of the reduced size and makeup of the motor structure, these saws tend to provide less power than Contractor or Cabinet style table saws. When shopping Bench Top models you really want to pay close attention to the quality of the fence, the blade lifting mechanism and the bevel mechanism, to be sure that it is going to give you the performance and quality you need. Less expensive models have fences that quickly
- “Jobsite” Style – This saw is nearly identical to the benchtop portable saw, except that it typically adds a more robust motor structure and – more importantly – adds a folding stand with wheels for the ultimate in portability. These saws also have higher quality fences for more precise measurements and better cut width adjustments. Look for smooth mechanisms, lightweight materials and motor size to see which jobsite saw will be best for you.
- Contractor Style – The Contractor Table Saw typically has its motor mounted on the back of the saw and it includes an integrated folding stand with roller wheels. These saws are the defacto standard for professionals who travel from job to job and are even becoming increasingly popular with the do-it-yourself crowd since they provide increased cutting power and convenience. These are heavier, but usually have wheels mounted to the bottom of the legs. The motor hinges off the rear of the saw and drives the blade.
- Cabinet Table Saw – These are very heavy, but once they are set up they stay there. The cabinet table saw has a closed base, hence cabinet. These typically require more power and need a 220V outlet. They are the most expensive but probably will not bog down under the same condition that would make a portable saw bog down or even stop. Since these are heavier, they often vibrate a lot less and the durability increases.
Table Saw Motors and Drive Configurations
- Direct Drive Motors – Most portable and benchtop models will use this type of motor which connects the motor directly to the blade. There is some speculation that this wears the motor out sooner due to the proximity of the motor to the sawdust generated by the saw, however if taken care of you shodul enjoy many many years out of any saw designed in this manner.
- Belt Drive Motors – These systems, typically found in cabinet and contractor-style table saws, have a belt that transfers power to the motor. The motor is located away from the actual blade, amking it further from dust and also enabling it to be removed (in the case of contractor-style table saws) for easier portability.
The Best Table Saw Accessories
- Sliding Extension Table – As you would assume, this is any sort of extension which fastens to the table, extending its width and allowing for easier cutting of larger sizes of wood.
- Dado blade kits– A dado A dado blade kit is actually a series of blades that go onto a special dado plate, allowing a wide cut to be made at once. These can be used along with a sacrificial fence to creat rabbet cuts.
- Smooth Ripping Fence – This is a piece of metal that sits on top of the table and slides parallel to the blade in order to guide wood in a straight line to make an even cut.
- Flexible Miter Gauge – The miter gauge sits in one of the two grooves located on either side of the table saw blade. The miter can be set so that accurate mitered cuts can be made to a piece of wood.
- Crosscut Sled – A crosscut sled is an excellent tool that can be built yourself and which can make the process of repeated fixed-length cross cuts much easier. It also adds a cerrain level of safety to the table saw in that it helps to prevent kickbacks through providing a very straight and accurate cut with ample rear support to stabilize the wood as it approaches the blade.
- Tenon Jig – This is a jig (metal or wood) that holds a piece of wood vertically so that the table saw can cut across the end.
Blades Sizes and Types
The two common sizes are 8″ and 10″ blades. An 8″ is good for light cutting such as crafts and thinner stock. The 10″ is good for thicker stock and angle cuts. There are three basic types of steel saw blades you’ll find on a table saw, whether it be a portable unit or a cabinet style saw:
- Steel Blades – These are the cheapest blades you will find. They are good enough for cutting wood, however they will dull over time (and quickly if used on hardwoods)
- High-speed Steel Blades – These are somewhat harder than the steel blades, being engineered to last longer and provide extended cutting time without going dull..
- Carbide Tipped Blades – These premium-priced blades will last the longest, even when cutting into hardwoods.
Hopefully, this guide gives you enough information on selecting the right table saw for your needs. While most will opt for the less expensive benchtop models, we know there are more than a few woodworkers who will opt for the hybrid or cabinet model.