Any woodworking shop’s throbbing heart is the table saw. This tool is typically placed up in the middle of the workplace because it is used for all jobs. A woodworking table saw has the disadvantage of taking up space in your workspace. What if you only have a small workshop? Can you do woodworking without table saw? And what is a good a table saw alternative?
There are 4 worthy table saw alternatives. If your workshop is too small to place a table saw, you can use a circular saw, a band saw, a jigsaw, or a track saw. Depending on your budget, space, and requirements, one of these tools can take over from a table saw.
Replacing a woodworking table saw is a difficult task because of its versatility, but if it cannot be placed due to lack of space, a solution must be found. In this article, I will introduce you to the advantages and disadvantages of these 4 table saw alternatives so that you can discover how to rip wood without a table saw.
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Why Do You Need a Table Saw?
A table saw is a versatile machine. It allows you to accurately cut both large and small pieces of wood, trim boards, create bevels, make slots, and much more. Because of this saw being versatile, it is the most used tool in the workshop. That is why you should have a table saw.
The table saw works very accurately because it is a stable tool where you feed the materials and do not move the saw over the material. This ensures that smooth and straight edges are always created. It’s also feasible to create repetitive cuts fast by setting up the guide once. Like that, every section will have the exact same size.
In my main article on table saws, I go into much more detail about the woodworking table saw, so if you’re new, or just want to learn new things, that article is the perfect starting point.
To be honest, I couldn’t imagine woodworking without table saw. When you watched my YouTube videos earlier, you will have noticed that I use it on every job I work on. In the meantime, I’ve constructed a number of woodworking jigs and wrote a lot of table saw tips to help you get even more out of the table saw.
So if you’ll ask me, “is a table saw necessary?”, I would say, absolutely! However, if you can’t fit a table saw in your workspace, you’ll have to find a table saw alternative that fits your needs and get the job done. So if you want to know how to rip wood without a table saw, the list below will inspire you for sure.
What Are The Table Saw Alternatives?
A variety of tools can be used to cut wood. I’ve collected a list of the most equivalent tools that you may use in your workshop if a table saw isn’t an option, to help you find the best table saw alternative.
You’ll notice that every item on this list is a power tool. Wood can be cut with hand tools, on the other hand. Handsaws are available in a wide range of forms and sizes, each capable of performing specific jobs. Cutting using a handsaw, on the other hand, needs not just more time and energy, but also a great deal of practice in order to create perfect straight cuts, particularly if you want to make long cuts.
Each of the tools from the list below has its advantages and disadvantages. However, there is no real winner from this list. What can be considered a disadvantage for one person is an advantage for another. So you will have to make a choice based on your budget and requirements. At the bottom of this blog, I introduce you to my personal favorite table saw alternative, and I also let you know why I would prefer this one over all other table saw alternatives.
The circular saw is perhaps the most popular alternative to a table saw. In terms of operation, the circular saw uses the same cutting principles as table saws. They use the same variety of blades and can mimic much of the action that a table saw delivers.
The big difference with a table saw is that a circular saw is portable and very compact. To cut the wood you will move the saw over the wood instead of moving the wood over the saw as with the table saw. As a guide to make the cuts perfectly straight, you can use a simple straight rule clamped to wood. An alternative to this guide is the circular saw guide. Click here to see how I built my circular saw guide and download the free plans.
The disadvantage of using a circular saw is that the guide has to be clamped again and again. That requires a little more work and also carries the risk that cutting the exact same size repeatedly becomes a more difficult task.
Another excellent alternative to the table saw is the band saw. In many ways, the band saw is actually even better than the table saw. Just like with a table saw, you can make longitudinal, cross-cut and miter cuts with the band saw. On top of that, you can make smooth, curved cuts thanks to the thin blade. Unlike the round blade of the table saw, the band saw will leave a straight cut where you stop the cut.
The main disadvantage of the band saw, however, lies in the construction of this tool. The band saw runs in a loop around the machine, which ensures that you are limited in width. You can cut a maximum of parts with a width that is equal to the distance from the band saw to the column.
Another disadvantage is that the band saw is also noticeably slower than the table saw and there is always a cutting depth over the full thickness of the wood, where you can cut shallow slots with a table saw.
The band saw is a handy tool for certain cuts, but it is not a very good replacement for the table saw. The band saw dimensions may be slightly smaller than the table saw, but for very small workshops this won’t make a huge difference.
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In essence, a track saw is a circular saw with guide rails that is put on the wood and used to make absolutely straight cuts. A track saw, on the other hand, will give you far superior quality and convenience of usage. The necessity for a straight reference edge is eliminated by placing the rail on the wood along the mark you created. When you have a lot of long, straight cuts to make, this can save you a lot of time.
A track saw is a versatile tool. You can easily make an oblique cut, and adjusting the depth is also a piece of cake. The track saw is a compact and light tool that takes up minimal space in the workshop. The rail itself is made from a thin piece of aluminum with a non-slip layer on the bottom. It is light, easy to store, and in some cases, no clamp is required when placed on the wood. Due to the non-slip layer on the underside, the rail remains firmly in place during cutting.
A disadvantage is that smaller parts are more difficult to saw. This is easier with a woodworking table saw, especially if you make yourself a crosscut sled. In terms of price, this is the second most expensive alternative after the bandsaw, but the quality that is achieved with a track saw is the best from this list of table saw alternatives.
For more in-depth information, check out my article, Is a track saw worth it? (The truth)
The jigsaw is the last on this list and also an excellent woodworking table saw alternative. In addition, with the jigsaw, just like with the bandsaw, you can make straight or curved cuts through most types of wood. The jigsaw is the smallest in the list of table saw alternatives. It is a portable unit that is easier to use and maintain compared to table saws and the alternatives above. Their thinner blade thickness and lack of weight do have the disadvantage that the jigsaw is more prone to deflection and more difficult to make perfectly straight cuts, even when using a long line as a guide.
Due to the thin saw blade, there is also the risk that the saw cut cannot be perfectly square. The thicker the material you have to cut, the greater this risk is. You will need to have a hand planer or sander nearby to smooth out the edges cut from a jigsaw.
The jigsaw is the most affordable table saw alternative from this list. But because of the bending of the saw blade, it is recommended to only cut with this saw in thin materials and over short lengths. The longer the cut, the more likely the jigsaw will create imperfections, which will require you to spend extra time correcting them with a hand planer or sander.
The Best Table Saw Alternative
If you can’t fit a woodworking table saw in your workshop then you need to find a table saw alternative that comes as close as possible to the results and versatility of a table saw. In my opinion, of all the table saw alternatives listed above, the track saw is the best.
With the track saw you can make perfectly straight cuts, just like with the table saw. But now you might think, hey, you can do that with the circular saw too. That is correct, especially if you have a circular saw guide that you can use for this. However, a track saw has even more advantages.
This way you can easily set the track saw in depth, but also make bevel cuts. A track saw is light, and the guide allows you to, at whatever angle you are cutting, simply place it on top of the wood and along the marking line. The anti-slip layer at the bottom ensures that it stays firmly in place, saving you a lot of time. The track saw will also have better dust extraction due to its fully closed hood.
Related article: What is the best track saw (My honest opinion)
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