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Can You Use a Portable Table Saw for Woodworking (Solved)


In the world of woodworking, cutting wood is the most prevalent action. If you want a beautiful and precise edge finish, you must first choose one of the wood cutting tools. When it comes to woodworking table saws, you can choose between a cabinet saw vs table saw. However, if you compare them, you’ll quickly notice that these two types of sawing machines, that effectively do the same thing, have a significant price difference. Seeing that, you’ll ask yourself, “Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking?”

Yes, you can use a portable table saw (or also called contractor saw) for woodworking. However, due to the lightweight, the vibrations generated, and the less qualitative materials used to build this tool can result in less accurate cuts than cuts made with a cabinet saw.

Experts in the woodworking sector frequently use both the portable saw and the cabinet saw. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Before purchasing a portable table saw, it’s critical to understand what a table saw exactly is. Once you know that, you can better understand the comparison of a cabinet saw vs. a contractor saw on this page, and get the perfect answer answer to the question “Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking?”

Cabinet Saw vs Table Saw (Contractor Saw)

What Is a Cabinet Table Saw?

A cabinet table saw is an electrically driven professional cutting tool with a circular blade protruding out in the middle that resembles a cabinet. To change the thickness of the wood to be cut, the blade can be raised and lowered. Furthermore, the blade may be adjusted to any angle up to 45 degrees.

Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking - Cabinet saw Sawstop 10 Inch
Can you use a portable table saw for woodworkingCabinet saw (Sawstop 10 Inch)

The cabinet itself is made of metal, while the cutting surface is made of cast iron. This makes this saw much heavier than the portable table saw, and will therefore remain firmly in place during sawing. They usually have a larger table, often with an extension, which is usually also made of cast iron.

This style of saw can make very quick cuts and can cut thicker, tougher timbers thanks to a stronger motor. They are less vulnerable to unpleasant vibrations when cutting heavy objects due to their considerable weight. Cabinet table saws are intended to be used in a stationary position.

What Is a Contractor Saw?

A contractor saw, also called a portable saw, is a table saw that can be transported from site to site due to its lightweight. This is an entry-level model often purchased by DIYers because of its lower price range. The blade can be adjusted in height as well as at any angle up to 45 degrees.

Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking - Contractor table saw DeWalt flexvolt 60V MAX
Can you use a portable table saw for woodworkingContractor table saw (DeWalt flexvolt 60V MAX)

The materials used for this type of saw is cast iron around the saw blade, aluminum for the extension tables (when available), and plastic to finish and protect the motor. This makes this saw much lighter than the cabinet table saw. This makes it more sensitive to vibrations and movement during cutting.

Due to the use of lighter materials, and frequently moving this type of saw table from site to site, this can affect the accuracy of the cuts. For most assignments, this will have little influence, but when you have to make very precise connections, this can cause problems.

If the contractor saw is the type of saw you are looking for, than you can start your search to find the right woodworking table saw for you. My guide, 5 affordable table saws for beginners, can help you with this for sure.

Differences Between a Cabinet Saw vs Table Saw

Now that you know perfectly what a cabinet saw is and what a contractor saw is, this can help you gain insight into the differences between a cabinet saw vs table saw (contractor saw). This will help you to find an answer to the question, “Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking”.

Both saws essentially perform the same thing: they cut the wood to the specified size and angle. But why would you choose an expensive cabinet saw over a less priced mobile contractor saw, or vice versa? Everything is contingent on the desired outcome.

The cabinet saw’s big and sturdy cutting surface comes to help if you need to cut a large object correctly. The machine’s great weight will also assist, and it will remain perfectly in place even when the saw blade is under a lot of pressure or when vibrations occur. The interior construction of a cabinet saw is quite complex and allows you to accurately perform different types of operations on different materials within a very short time. So if you are a professional, and you require a high degree of finish and accuracy, the cabinet saw is the best choice.

The disadvantage of the cabinet saw is the high price, but also its size. You can’t just move this type of saw quickly and it does take up some space in your workshop. So if you have less budget, space, and the size of the wood you want to cut is smaller, then the best choice is the portable saw.

To give you a complete answer to the question “Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking?” the answer is yes, but there are some limitations. A contractor’s saw can be used for projects such as for example, building cabinets. Small deviations made by a portable saw, on the other hand, can cause problems. This can be caused by vibration, deformation of the fence, or deformation of the system in which the saw blade is placed due to inferior used materials to build this type of saw.

The precision of a cabinet saw will be noticeably better than a contractor table saw.
As a result, you need to do research to choose the ideal option for you based on your needs, price, and available space. My article, What to Look for in a Table Saw – 3 Tips to Find the Best One, can be a great source of inspiration for that. Be sure to check it out.

Contractor table sawCabinet saw
PriceAffordable price, good for beginner woodworkersPrice can be 10 times higher than a contractor saw
Saw tabletopCast iron and aluminumCast iron
WeightLight/portable table sawHeavy/stationary table saw
AccuracyLess accurate due to inferior used materialsVery accurate
StabilityLots of vibrations, causing the table saw to moveVery stable table saw due to its weight
Motor1-2HP>3HP
Can you use a portable table saw for woodworkingCabinet saw vs contractor saw comparison

Can You Use a Portable Table Saw for Woodworking – Conclusion

So you can perfectly use a portable table saw for woodworking, but you have to be aware of the possible problems that this entails. The real correct answer to the question, “Can you use a portable table saw for woodworking”, will therefore depend on what you expect from your woodworking table saw.

I myself have been using a Makita MLT100 table saw for years. I bought this contractor table saw for several reasons. First, there was the low purchase price. But also its compact shape was attractive to me because I have a very small workshop. A final reason was that I often want to take this table saw with me to other places to be able to perform precise work.

As you could already understand from this article, a portable saw is not as accurate as a cabinet saw. That was also the case with my table saw. There were a few things that prevented it from giving the desired result that I wanted. Many will probably put it on the Makita brand, but from experience, I know that other brands also cause problems. I was already able to make a few adjustments, like strengthening the fence and making a crosscut sled. This is already giving me much better results. Check out the links, so you can see how I built the fence and crosscut sled and download the free plans to build them too.

You now know just a small part about the portable saw now by reading this article. That is why I suggest you read my article “is a table saw worth it“. By combining the information in both articles, you will get better insights in the portable table saw, and know if this is actually the right tool for your workshop.


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