Both circular saws and table saws are devices used in woodworking and various DIY projects. However, if you are not an experienced woodworker, you might be wondering if these devices do the same job, or do they each have a specific purpose.
The fact is that these two devices are more alike than different. Both of them are used for making long and deep cuts in materials, and they both use an electromotor and rotate a specific blade at high speeds.
However, there are a few differences between the circular saw and the table saw. In this article, we will explain what makes them different, and what the purpose of each one is.
What is the difference between the circular saw and the table saw?
There are a few features that make these two different from each other.
Basically, the table saw is used to make fine, accurate angled cuts. It literally looks like a table that has a circular saw in the center. Usually, the larger the table, the larger the materials you can cut. The biggest advantage that it has over the circular saw is its accuracy of cuts. It is adjustable, which allows the user to make quick, easy cuts with perfect accuracy.
Besides that, the table saw can also be adjusted for angle and depth. Unlike the older models, today’s table saw allows you to cut as shallow or as deep in the wood as you need, just by turning a specific crank. You can also add additional accessories to a table saw, such as an extension table. If maintained properly, a table saw will last for many years.
On the other hand, the circular saw is a little bit different. If there is a material that is stationary or can’t be placed on the table saw for any reason, then the circular saw is the perfect solution. It is a mobile device that is powered either with an electric cord or electric battery. Although it is ideal for specific situations, the circular saw lacks the accuracy that a table saw provides.
Also, the table saw can be used continuously for a long time, but the circular saw usually lacks consistency with continuous use. However, this is completely reasonable, bearing in mind the fact that this device is handheld, compared to a heavy, stationary table saw. Also, it is going to be less accurate, since you have to try to hit the right angle yourself, instead of letting the machine do the work.
Range of use
Let’s discuss further the range of use of these two devices. The fact is that there is almost nothing that the circular saw can’t do when it comes to woodworking. However, this tool is definitely not for beginners. You have to be experienced with it to make the perfect cuts that you desire. For standard 90-degree cuts, you should use a speed square.
If the square is not used, the cut may be good, but it will almost never be perfect. Also, note that the speed square can be used for angled cuts. The other thing to note is that, sometimes, you might need to cut long, straight lines. Of course, nobody has the ability to draw a long, perfectly straight line. In that case, you should use a shooting board.
Shooting boards are usually homemade devices, since they have to exactly match the dimensions of a circular saw that you are using. Basically, it will serve as a kind of fence. If you make the shooting board perfectly fit your device, which is not difficult, you will be able to make long and extremely precise cuts. If the shooting board is done right, it will allow you to make the same long cuts that you would have made with the table saw.
It does not matter if you want to do joinery or insetting boats; you can do the work fairly easily by adjusting the cut on your blade. Finally, you should know that almost all circular saws have an adjustable plane, which allows you to make angled cuts at up to 45 degrees. You could achieve the same cuts with the much more expensive compound miter saw, but that is not necessary if you simply adjust your circular saw.
Basically, the circular saw is a great device because you can reach areas that you couldn’t reach with the table saw. However, for the best results, you have to use additional items, such as a shooting board or a speed square.
On the other hand, a table saw is a little bit different. It will allow you to make perfect cuts and do the cross-cutting very easily. However, you will still require a special jig and a bit of experience to achieve the best results.
Although it is almost perfect, a table saw has its disadvantages, too. First, as you might notice, it is big and non-portable. You will need to have a decent-sized workspace in order to install a table saw and still be able to move around with ease. Another thing to consider is price. Considering the same level of quality, a circular saw will always be much less expensive than a table saw.
At the end of the day, we can’t say that the circular saw is better than a table saw or vice versa. Although they look very similar and still do very similar tasks, they still differ in some ways.
How to use both of these devices
When working with these or similar devices, the first thing that you should consider is your safety. No matter how skilled and experienced you are, safety is always the first priority. You should always wear eye protection when working with these devices.
They produce high-velocity projectiles, and, although the shrapnel is very small, eye protection is a must. Also, both of these devices produce noises that are above the recommended decibel level. Although your ears might not hurt after a few minutes of working, be sure to wear ear protection if you use these saws every day.
When it comes to a table saw, you have to physically push the material in the right direction to make a cut. However, if the material is thin, it might require you to get dangerously close to the blade. In that case, you will need a specific push stick.
What most carpenters use is a piece of hardwood, usually between one and three feet long. It will allow you to push the material much further without getting close to the blade. You can also buy a push-stick from some retailers.
Another thing that you should know is that a table saw is not meant to cut warped and misshapen wood, because it might cause the wood to kick back and splinter. For these cases, you should use a circular saw. You should also know that most table saws have an emergency button. It will automatically stop the blade in case of an accident. However, there are some modern table saws that feature self-stopping blades.
There is a specific laser that detects your finger, and it will immediately stop the saw, preventing you from getting cut. When this happens, it will make the saw stop working. However, your safety always comes first, so we can conclude that this feature is more than excellent.
When it comes to a circular saw, the way it is used is much different. First, it is mobile, so you can take it to the material, unlike the table saw, where you have to take the material to the device.
However, a table saw will offer a surface that supports the material, but, with a circular saw, you won’t have that kind of support. You will have to manually find the right support to put below the material that you want to cut.
Notice that the circular saw usually comes with an adjustable depth-rail blade. Be aware that, if your cut is supposed to penetrate the material, you have to be sure that there is nothing below the area that might come in contact with the saw. Be especially careful if there is a metal surface beneath the saw, because it will break or damage your saw in a split second.
One of the biggest challenges when working with a circular saw is to keep your cuts accurate and correct. Since the blade is not fixed like it is with a table saw, you have to do the cuts manually.
If your hands are not steady and precise, you will have a lot of problems trying to make the perfect cut. However, even if your cuts are bad starting out, you will usually get better over time, and, soon, you will be able to make great cuts.
To make the perfect cut, you will usually need different kinds of additional items to help you out. The one thing that you should know is that you will almost never be able to make cuts as precise as with a table saw, but these machines have a different purpose, and you should treat them like that.
On the other hand, with a table saw, you will never be able to reach some points that you can reach with a circular saw.
What to look for when buying a circular saw vs table saw
It can be a bit tricky sometimes to choose the right circular or table saw to suit your needs. Especially if you are not experienced in that field, you might make some of the beginner mistakes and maybe even overpay for the device. Luckily for you, we have created a short buying guide to help you out.
Depending on the type of work that you plan to do, there are a few things that you should consider. First, you should consider whether you are an enthusiast or an amateur, and choose the device with features that meet your needs. If you are looking for a circular saw that will provide you with more control, you should aim for a worm-hole drive circular saw.
Depending on the materials that you want to work with, you might need to choose a saw with a higher max RPM. This will allow the device to produce more power and, therefore, will make your job easier.
You also need to know that you should buy an aluminum or magnesium base plate in order to avoid bending. Although this might not be the cheapest solution, if you plan to use your circular saw frequently, you should definitely consider the right base plate.
When it comes to a table saw, things are slightly different. You should know that there are “portable” table saws; however, they are not nearly as portable as circular saws, and they are still much heavier compared to circular saws. Also, be sure to inspect the tabletop when buying a table saw. Be sure to inspect the blade, as well, especially if you are buying a used table saw.
You might also want to check the blade one tooth at a time to make sure they are all sharp and to check for any wrong curves in the tooth shape. Those curves might occur if the device is overused or too old.
Even if it might not seem like a big deal, you will notice a big difference when you start cutting, compared to using a brand new blade. If buying a used table saw, you should check if the blade was maintained correctly. The blade requires proper maintenance in order to have a long lifespan.
As you might have noticed, circular saws and table saws are not as similar as they might be at first glance. They both have an electromotor, a rotating blade, and they are both used in woodworking. However, you should choose one over another depending on what kind of work you need to have done.
You might have also realized that both of these devices have their pros and cons, so you should consider that when buying one, as well. In the end, be sure to check our short buyer's guide for a few useful tips if you want to buy either of these two devices.