With more than a few options available, it's essential to ask what makes a good table saw before choosing one.
There are several features to consider that can make or break these high-powered tools, affecting your project for the better or worse.
By using this table saw buying guide, you'll be well on your way to finding the best one for your shop.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Table Saw?
Several components affect the usability of a potential table saw.
From the tool's style to the power it holds, every DIYer and contractor has specific needs to be met.
Here are some of the most common and essential things to look for when buying one:
Table saw is a somewhat all-encompassing term that includes a variety of different models and styles.
There are two main categories to consider: portable and stationary.
Under portable saws, you will find a wide selection.
Benchtop saws need to be mounted on a workbench or a table because they don't have their own support stand.
Hobbyists often prefer this style, as they're more lightweight and easier to store thanks to their smaller size.
Their direct-drive motor also adds to their portability and versatility, as it's lightweight and a good value.
Compact saws are very similar to contractor saws at first glance, but they often have a smaller body.
You can typically mount them on small tables, and they offer an adequate amount of power. However, they are larger than benchtop saws and use small-toothed belts for power.
Contractors are most likely to use jobsite portable saws because of how powerful they are. They can also be portable, although they're larger than their counterparts.
The build quality of jobsite saws is exceptional, as they're meant to take quite a beating over time.
Unlike the others, they will typically come with a stand or mounted on an existing table saw stand.
While there are portable saws, you will also find stationary ones.
The original type of table saw is the contractor saw. They're popular due to their considerable aggressiveness.
They are typically heavier and larger than jobsite saws, as they can weigh up to 300 pounds.
Contractor saws have either induction or direct-drive motors, which can be quieter when in use.
They're best suited for dealing with more extensive materials, but they can also be quite bulky. They will need to be mounted on a stand due to their heaviness.
If you're searching for a cross between cabinet saws and contractor saws, hybrid models are ideal.
They have a smaller motor size and feature an internal mount for the motor.
Their difference lies in the trunnion design, allowing the saw assembly to be bottom-mounted.
You'll have up to two horsepower with most models, and they have a more improved dust collection system.
You might also prefer the belt-driven motor that most of these saws have.
As the top-tier option for contractors and woodworkers, cabinet saws are the creme de la creme.
You'll find them in most factories and professional workshops as they boast a three-phase routine.
They're incredibly durable and are typically constructed of steel and cast iron to last an extended period.
Cabinet saws have virtually zero vibration, which allows for excellent accuracy. They also have phenomenal dust collection to help keep your workshop free of debris.
These models often have up to five or eight horsepower to put to fair use, especially the industrial models.
Once you've chosen the right type of saw for your needs, it's now time to consider the blades you'll be using.
Your blade is the second-most important part of cutting through material, especially as each one is designed differently.
Manufacturers have developed specific blades for certain materials, different performances, and with varying sizes and diameters.
Standard table saw blades are typically 10 inches and allow for a three-and-a-half cut capacity.
You can also find 12-inch standard blades with an assortment of teeth per inch.
There are several different blade materials to think about, such as carbon, carbide, or diamond-tipped.
Depending on the performance you expect and the materials you're working with, certain types of blades are recommended.
A few examples of the different types of blades include:
- A smaller number of teeth
- Larger gullet sizing
- Creates rougher cuts
- Cuts quickly through the material grain
- Best for fine and clean cuts
- Ideal for cutting across the grain
- Provides a smoother finish
- Requires steady saw feeding
- Offers smooth wood and wood composite finishes
- Cuts through thicker materials
- Features a large gullet
- Will include dadoes
An essential part of any table saw buying guide is to consider the RPM.
For most table saws, the RPM for the motor is also the RPM for the blade, unless you're considering contractor or cabinet saws.
The majority of professional rigs will offer somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 RPM.
It's important to note that just because a saw has high RPM, it doesn't mean it's the right tool for you.
Some materials, such as acrylic, require a lower value to ensure the material isn't damaged.
High blade speeds are also known to cause burns in hardwood, so you might not need a model with the highest possible RPM.
Beginners might not consider the importance of an arbor, but it speaks to the integrity of your entire machine.
Both the arbor and trunnion work together to hold your saw blade, allowing it to move as needed.
Most higher-end machines will have an arbor made with exceptional quality, typically to meet the saw demand.
5. Fence and Table
Another critical component of a table saw is its table.
Most jobsite saws will have an aluminum table that allows them to be more lightweight and portable.
On the other hand, some stationary models will have a cast-iron table, which is far more durable but also heavier.
The fence is another feature to consider, as it ensures your cuts are square. It is responsible for making sure cuts are parallel with the edge of the material.
Any variations in your fence's quality can mean the saw will move out of its square if the material is pushed.
T-square fences are often preferred because they're useful for hobbyists and professionals. They offer reliable accuracy and can be adjusted as necessary.
6. Miter Gauge
Table saws are highly innovative and useful for making straight and angled cuts.
The miter gauge is necessary for allowing the mechanism to pivot 45-degrees in either direction.
The gauge will help guide your material at a specific angle, so your cuts come out as precise as possible.
You'll need to make sure you can adjust both the bevel and miter to access compound and clean right-angle cuts.
7. Motor Power and Drive
It can be tempting to invest in a table saw with the most impressive motor, but it might not be necessary.
Most hobbyists won't need to get their hands on something as powerful as a cabinet saw for infrequent use.
Even professionals might not need more than 15 amps of power, as it allows you to rip through anything easily.
When it comes to motor drive, there are a couple of types to consider.
Direct-drive motors are typically built into portable saws, as they produce a lot of power and are lightweight.
Their main disadvantage is that they are also exceptionally loud, which is why you'll require hearing protection.
On average, direct-drive motors operate on 120V and provide up to two horsepower, which is more than enough for most.
Belt-drive motors are far more powerful and can be found in stationary table saws.
A belt and an induction motor provide power to the blades, producing up to eight horsepower.
There are two types of phasing you'll find in belt-drive motors: single-phase and three-phase.
Another unique component of this motor is that it prevents dust from entering the mechanism.
Lastly, they're much quieter and cut through thick and dense material with ease.
What Is a Good Table Saw for Beginners?
As a beginner, you won't want to put too much money into your first table saw, especially if it's your first time buying one.
You can easily find models from brands such as SKIL, DeWalt, and Bosch that fall within a reasonable budget but offer plenty of power.
Our recommendation would be to consider a jobsite or compact saw, such as the DeWalt DW745 or the Bosch GTS1031.
A few essential features to consider when learning how to choose a table saw for beginners include:
Often overlooked, dust collection is one of the most convenient features a table saw can have.
This accessory is required to collect dust to prevent you from breathing it in, and it keeps your workspace clean.
It is also crucial for ensuring you have complete visibility of your cut line for accuracy.
Whether you're a beginner or a professional, safety features are imperative for any table saw.
Modern models typically have a riving knife, which prevents kickback if materials are pinched.
You should also receive a push stick with your saw to ensure your hands are kept away from the blade.
Beginners should always use the anti-kickback pawls and the blade guard, as they significantly reduce the likelihood of injury.
Another essential safety feature is the blade brake, which offers extra protection, even if it adds more time to the job.
If you happen to come across one of the higher-end models, you might encounter flesh detection.
Flesh detection allows the blade to drop away if it detects a strike of flesh. It can add a hefty sum to the cost of your saw but is well worth the investment.
What Can I Use Instead of a Table Saw?
Even though table saws can be a beautiful addition to your shop, they can also be expensive.
There are a few different tools that we would recommend as an alternative.
If you want a more affordable option, we highly recommend a circular saw.
Circular saws allow you to make quick and rough rips as well as accurate and well-finished cuts.
They have exceptionally high-quality blades for an assortment of materials and allow you to make various cuts.
- Small and portable
- Relatively affordable
- Allows plunge and crosscuts
- Great for bevel and rip cuts
- Not ideal for curved cuts
- Leaves rougher edges
- Can have high kickback rates
Miter saws have boomed in popularity among woodworkers, especially if you do miter and crosscuts.
When in use, the saw is lowered for the cut, and the cutting angle is easily adjusted.
Like stationary table saws, miter saws are often allocated to one part of the shop as they can be heavy.
What makes them unique is they allow both horizontal and vertical angled cuts for optimal flexibility.
- Allows for accurate and precise cuts
- Creates consistent bevels and effortless crosscuts
- Easy and safe to use
- Not ideal for large stock
- Low portability
Do I Need a Stand For a Table Saw?
Due to their heaviness and the blade's movement, some stand is highly recommended for table saws.
Portable models work exceptionally well on workbenches or tables, in comparison to traditional stands.
A stand is imperative to ensure you make quick and accurate cuts, as well as protect your safety.
You can opt to buy a pre-fabricated stand from a hardware store or make one yourself.
What Makes a Good Table Saw?
So, what makes a good table saw?
Many features are useful, including blade and motor RPM, motor type, saw type, and beginner-friendly features.
When you've learned how to choose a table saw, you'll easily be able to find an affordable quality model for your shop.