Whether you’re a professional contractor, keen DIY’er, or woodworking enthusiast, a table saw should be a staple tool in your workshop and will be able to serve a variety of different cutting purposes.
So, to help you decide which table saw you should buy, this guide will take you through the different kinds of table saws on the market, the purposes of each one, as well as the key features all high-quality table saws should have.
Ready? Let’s jump straight in.
What Are the Different Kinds of Table Saws?
As a woodworker, it is important to learn more about the different kinds of table saws you can use for your woodworking projects.
Using a table saw to cut a taper, rip boards of wood, and make accurate miter or bevel cuts with the right adjustments, are all cuts you can make with the right table saw.
From compact table saws to those more suited for a job site, you are sure to find what you need once you learn the differences.
Portable Table Saws
The first kind of table saw available on the market is known as a portable table saw.
As the name suggests, portable table saws are designed for woodworkers and professional contractors who have to travel from job site to job site.
They are made of more lightweight materials and can usually be collapsed down for easy transportation. Portable table saws can also be purchased with a portable stand for added convenience for a fraction more of their price tag.
Benchtop Table Saws
Another type of table saw for you to consider is a benchtop table saw.
As the name suggests, a benchtop table saw is designed to be kept on top of a bench in the workshop and is one of the most lightweight kinds of table saws available next to portable table saws.
For this reason, they are usually used by soloist woodworkers and homeowners with limited space to operate who want a smaller table saw at their disposal and are usually powered by a blade-driven motor.
Jobsite Table Saws
Jobsite models, on the other hand, come mounted on a stand. They’re larger than benchtop models and used by trade professionals.
They’re also more rugged to withstand abuse on construction sites. And still designed with a light frame construction for portability.
Stationary Table Saws
Serious woodworking enthusiasts and cabinet makers generally use stationary saws. Models include contractor, hybrid, and cabinet table saws.
Contractor Table Saws
Last but not least, a contractor table saw is another type of table saw. They are the least common type of table saw available on the market today and are strikingly similar to a job site table saw.
When they were first developed, contractor table saws were designed for professional woodworkers and were very large in size.
Cabinet Table Saw
A cabinet saw has this name because it is a saw that is fully enclosed (like a cabinet). It is the far end of the other side of the spectrum compared to a contractor table saw. The motor of a cabinet saw is enclosed in the cabinet base, making it a quiet saw.
Since it is fully enclosed, dust collection also proves to be much easier. A cabinet saw has a much more powerful motor than a contractor saw and is not as portable as other saw types.
What Are Table Saws Used For?
Table saws are known as the ‘workhorse’ of all the different kinds of saws on the market and can serve various purposes. Table saws are extremely versatile and even when compared to the likes of a circular saw, a table saw vs circular saw is a no-contest.
You should really consider a table saw to be the centerpiece of your workshop. For this reason, table saws are known to vary in size and style, which means that they often vary in price point.
Most commonly, though, table saws are usually designed to be able to cut straight lines and make smooth cuts across longer boards or pieces of material. This is why if you're purely seeking a saw to perform straight clean cuts to longboards of wood, I'd advise using either a track saw or a table saw.
However, due to a table saw's versatility, they can be used to make several types of different cuts, including miter cuts, narrow cuts, and even deep cuts, which make them the better choice.
For the DIY’er or woodworking enthusiast, a table saw may be used as more of a general-purpose cutting machine and ideal for those with ample workspace.
In contrast, for professionals, table saws are often used for a dedicated reason, such as for making repetitive, straight cuts.
What are the Key Features of a Table Saw?
This feature should go without saying, but we still feel that it’s an important key feature to be aware of. A well-engineered table saw will feature a superbly finished table, and if that's what you're working with, you'll be able to cut perfectly square boards with ease.
The table area is the main part of the overall construction of a table saw, so it will need to be flat, made of strong material, and strong.
The most common types of materials used to build the table are cast iron and aluminum, although, in some exceptions, they can be made of lighter materials such as plastic.
The table’s purpose is to provide you with a safe and flat surface to precisely cut materials, all the while lowering the number of vibrations due to its mass area.
Another key feature of table saws are trunnions. They are very important to the overall running of a table saw because trunnions help effectively support the motor area.
As trunnions take the unit's weight, they’ll need to consist of a strong and sturdy construction so that it does not buckle or break.
Usually, you’ll find that trunnions are made of a material such as cast iron, as it is strong enough to support the motor, all the while offering a long service life before needing replacement.
In addition to this, trunnions are also pretty easy to spot in the overall design of a table saw.
They are usually securely fastened to the table's frame to lower vibrations and add support while tilting and positioning the blade. The trunnions are machined for accurate and smooth operation when tilting the saw blade.
Rip Fence and Rails
A table saws rip capacity is far greater than any other retail grade power saw. To accurately rip materials or make smooth, accurate cuts, you’ll need to make sure that your table saw has a high-quality rip fence.
It will need to be strong enough to provide all the support needed to precisely make the cut, all the while being able to be adjusted in accordance to the position and type of cut you’re making.
Regardless of design or manufacturer, an indication of a good rip fence can be adjusted to sit just past the middle of the blade, as this will ensure that no kickback occurs while cutting.
Besides offering safety, the rip fence needs to be able to withstand exposure to heat and friction as it is near the blade, so you should ensure that it is made of a durable material such as cast iron.
Optional Sliding Table
This feature isn’t always present on all table saws. However, many woodworkers find sliding tables to be a handy addition to have as part of their table saw set-up.
This is because sliding tables are very easy to install and run parallel to the blade. When not in use, they can be easily unattached from the saw and folded away into storage, which will help to keep your workstation or workshop organized and decluttered.
Smaller sliding tables usually need to be purchased for an additional cost; however, bulkier, ‘professional’ table saws usually feature a sliding table which is an integral part of the machine.
This usually consists of either a built-in beam that runs close to the blade or a sliding table that can be dismantled.
Regardless, both kinds of table saws will enable you to make more versatile kinds of cuts (such as miter cuts), all the while providing you more support and space when cutting larger pieces of lumber.
Table Saw Blade
One of the more important components of a table saw is the blade. Start with nothing but a quality blade, and if your brand new table saw happens to be fitted with a standard low-quality blade, I'd recommend you change your table saw blade to a Diablo blade. They're awesome!
Apart from the blade quality its self, the number of teeth is what defines the blade and is definitely something you need to consider. You also want to research the kerf size, arbor size, diameter, application, speed, material, and application.
The diameter of a standard blade is 10-inches. This offers a 3 and ½ inch cut capacity at 90-degrees. You can also find 12-inch blades as well.
Blades are typically made from carbide, carbon, or diamond-tipped teeth and can cut through various materials other than wood.
The last thing I'd mention when it comes to table saw blades is to take care of them. Every once in a while you should conduct some general maintenance on your table saw by cleaning and sharpening your table saw blade.
Honestly, it might take you a few hours and you could be spending that time working on projects, but spending money on new blades instead of time on maintaining your existing blades will get expensive.
The miter gauge guides the material you are working with at a specific angle for a more precise cut. A miter gauge's locking mechanism can pivot between 45 to -45 degrees and slides into a miter slot.
While a table saw equipped with a miter gauge won't deliver the same level of accuracy compared to say a table saw vs miter saw, they can still very accurate angled cuts with the right adjustments.
That said, if you don't own a miter saw and you're content with using your table saw to make angled cuts, you always simply adjust the miter gauge to make a clean cut.
Motor and Drive
Table saws come in direct drive or belt-drive configurations. Direct drive configurations are more commonly found in a portable table saw. It has a universal motor that drives the blade directly and produces power. It also tends to be on the noisy side. A direct-drive configuration also produces up to 2hp, suitable for a DIYer or a professional contractor on a job site.
A belt drive configuration is more powerful and often found in stationary table saw models. It can produce between 3 and 5hp. You can also offset the motor of this configuration to prevent dust from becoming trapped. You will find that a belt drive is much quieter than a direct-drive and can cut through much denser materials.
You can typically find all the switches for a table saw on the front of the machine. The On switch will be smaller and often recessed, while the Off switch is much larger and more prominent, so it is easily visible and accessible in the case of an emergency.
Magnetic switches can also be purchased to protect the motor from becoming overloaded. It is an additional safety feature.
The amps refer to the power output of your table saw. Higher amps equate to higher power and a better ability to cut through dense materials.
Arbor and Throat Plate
The arbor is a motor shaft and is what the blade mounts onto. The throat plate is also known as a table insert and is removable. The throat plate sits flush around the table's blade and prevents materials from becoming trapped between the blade and inside the arbor.
Additional Accessories for Your Table Saw
You can also purchase several additional accessories for your table saw if you want to upgrade it without having to purchase a whole new woodworking machine.
Dust collection is important because it keeps your workspace clean and adds to your overall safety and visibility while working.
A table saw produces a lot of dust. To avoid making a mess and breathing in those dust particles, consider purchasing a dust chute. You can connect the dust chute to a vacuum to suck up the dust and debris while you work.
If you require a greater rip capacity and a much more stable work surface, then you should consider purchasing a table extension for your table saw. It typically attaches to the right of the table saw, but this will depend based on the model you purchase.
If you're not willing to purchase a table saw extension and would rather make one yourself, you can always build a crosscut table saw sled with an extension made out of Plywood.
A featherboard is an additional safety device you can use to apply pressure to a material. This pressure keeps the material flat against the rip fence. It is typically attached to the table saw with clamps in the miter slot.
Table Saw Safety Features
Now let's take a closer look at some safety features so that you know what to expect when using a table saw for the first time. The following terms describe basic components every table saw is equipped with and are essential for you to understand how to use a table saw safely.
The riving knife and splitter protect you when cutting material. A riving knife is often considered more superior to a traditional splitter. It sits behind the blade and travels the height of the blade. It prevents kickback and can be detached. It allows for the safest cuts possible as you woodwork.
A push stick is another safety device. It is something you can use to keep your hands and fingers as far away from the blade as possible. The push stick allows you to maneuver your material towards the blade while preventing injury.
A blade guard can protect you from debris while woodworking. It shields you from both dust and any kickback. Many woodworkers today use a combination of a blade guard and a riving knife. It doesn't obstruct your view as you work.
A magnetic switch becomes useful for safety when there is any kind of power outage. It shifts the power of your table saw to the off position, so it won't automatically turn back on when the power is restored. It is also good at protecting your table saw from becoming too overloaded.
There you have it! Thank you for reading our guide on the different kinds of table saws and each one's important components.
A table saw will no doubt be a brilliant addition to your woodworking shop, and apart from using your table saw to cut the obvious, wood. You can also make some slight upgrades to your table saw to cut metal with the right blade.
When shopping for a new table saw, it’s important to consider the different types of table saws available on the market and your personal circumstances, and what you need to use the table saw for.
Why not bookmark this page? That way, you’ll always be able to come back whenever you need a little refresher on the types of table saws available on the market.