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What to Look for in a Table Saw – 3 Tips to Find the Best One


Choosing a woodworking table saw is not as easy as it sounds. There is a huge range of table saws and the differences are very large from time to time. That is why it is good if you know what to look for in a table saw. By comparing the most important table saw features, you can find the table saw that suits you.

As a preparation to buy the best table saw that suits your workshop, it is good to make an initial selection based on the motor, the drive, and the type of table saw. Furthermore, there are a lot of features where you can make comparisons that I discuss in detail in this article.

If you’re planning to buy a new table saw, this table saw guide is a handy guide to help you find that perfect table saw. But before you read this, I recommend that you read my main article on table saws. This will help you understand some of the content of this article better. After reading that article, you can return to this table saw guide and go through all the points below. You’ll understand exactly what to look for in a table saw, and I’m sure you’ll find tips you never thought of.

What To Look For In a Table Saw?

To make the best choice when buying a table saw, you need to think carefully about how you will use the table saw. That is why in this section, I will discuss the most important points to pay attention to when comparing table saws.

What To Look For In a Table Saw – Tip #1: Motor

When it comes to woodworking table saws, one of the most important table saw features is motor power. If your table saw is underpowered for the job, cutting will be more difficult and may even result in burn marks on the wood or other table saw problems. As a result, the more horsepower your saw has, the better.

The available voltage can also be used to estimate the motor power potential.
For wood of 2 inches (ca. 5 cm) or less, a 2 hp motor is powerful enough. For wood from 3 inches (ca. 8 cm) thick, a motor between 3 hp and 5 hp is best.

What To Look For In a Table Saw – Tip #2: Drive Types

Aside from the motor’s power, another important factor to consider is how power is transferred from the motor to the saw blade. Table saws have two drive options: direct drive and belt drive.

Direct Drive

As one might expect, the blade on this type of woodworking table saw is directly connected to the motor via gears. This implies that there will be little to no power loss. Because of their small size, direct drive motors are commonly found on portable table saws.

The vibration produced by this method is less than that of a belt-driven table saw. Furthermore, there is no risk of belt wear or breakage.

Belt Drive

A belt drive motor has a V-belt and pulley system that helps transfer power to the blade. Although some power is lost in the process, these saws are made to cut through thicker pieces of wood.

This type of table saw is usually much more powerful, makes less noise, and will also collect less dust around the motor because it is further away from the saw blade. On the other hand, this type is often slightly more expensive and can cause greater kickback.

What To Look For In a Table Saw – Tip #3: Types of Table Saws

Woodworking table saws are classified into two main types: portable table saws and stationary table saws.
As a result, there are numerous types to choose from. I’ll go over each of these options briefly in this section.

Portable Table Saws

What to Look for in a Table Saw - Portable table saw
What to Look for in a Table Saw – Portable table saw

These portable table saws are made in a more compact form and with a smaller motor of about 2 hp to ensure that they are portable. If you wonder if this is the type you need for woodworking, this article will give you all the answers. They are significantly lighter than stationary table saws and typically use direct drive. Portable table saws are classified into three types:

Bench top Table saw
These woodworking table saws are small and light, making them easy to transport by one person. These table saws are intended for light work. They lack a stand and transport wheels, so they must be placed on the floor or on a workbench.

Compact table saws
Compact table saws are very similar to benchtop table saws. They have a lightweight design with a direct drive motor. In addition, they come with stands. Although this type bears many similarities to full-size table saws, their tearing capacity is relatively smaller.

Workshop saws
These are best for construction site contractors. In addition to being portable, these table saws are much sturdier than table saws and compact table saws. They are more suitable for heavy-duty work as they have more powerful direct-drive motors.

Stationary Table Saws

What to Look for in a Table Saw - Stationary table saw
What to Look for in a Table Saw – Stationary table saw

Stationary table saws are typically larger and more robust. They are not portable due to their size and weight.
These machines outperform portable table saws in terms of power and accuracy. They use a belt-drive motor as a drive. While portable saws typically have aluminum tables, stationary saws frequently have cast iron tables. Stationary table saws are classified into three types:

Contractor Saws
Contractor table saws are ideal for professional use because they have large belt-driven outboard induction motors. They are not portable due to their heavy weight.

Hybrid Saws
This type is a cross between contractor and cabinet saws.

Cabinet table saws
The most powerful woodworking table saws on this list are cabinet saws. They are strong, long-lasting, and can withstand heavy loads. They are extremely accurate and have a powerful motor rated between 3 and 5 horsepower.

How To Choose a Table Saw? A Handy Checklist.

If you want to choose the best table saw, you better pick the one that suits you and your workshop projects.

Everybody will have different needs, so it is impossible to suggest one model. What you can do is compare the saws that are offered on a few table saw features. Start making a comparison with the feature that is most important for your projects or your workshop.

Below I give you a checklist that can help on how to choose a table saw.

  • What material is the tabletop surface made of?
  • How much table space do you have
  • Are there any table saw extension tables
  • Is the table saw adapted to your electrical network
  • What is the rip distance on the left and right side of the saw blade?
  • What size of blade can you use
  • can you use dado blades
  • How long is the warranty period?
  • What is the cost?
  • What accessories does it come with?
  • What is the weight?
  • Does it have a dust collection?
  • What are the safety features

What material is the tabletop surface made of?

Table saw tops can be made of two different types of metal. Either they are made of cast iron or aluminum. The choice you will make will have a major impact on both use and maintenance.

Cast iron is heavy, which means that the table saw becomes less mobile. Therefore, cast iron is often used in cabinet table saws. A tabletop made of cast steel is very stable and the chance of deformation is minimal. A disadvantage is that cast steel requires more maintenance, and you have to treat it against rust. You can read how to do this step by step in my article, how to clean a table saw top.

Aluminum table saw blades are much lighter, but also more susceptible to deformation. Due to the low weight of aluminum, this is the most commonly used metal for portable table saws.

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How much table space do you have

The table space is the table on top of your saw, on which the wood slides as it moves through the blade. Your saw’s table space will ultimately determine the size of wood you can safely cut.

Table dimensions for portable saws are typically smaller, whereas cabinet saw dimensions are much larger. Consider carefully which projects you want to tackle, and then select the appropriate table space. Another factor to consider is the amount of space available in your workshop. Make sure you choose a table saw with enough working space around it. This is one of the five tips I discuss in my article 5 Basic Table Saw Tips You Shouldn’t Ignore.

Are there any table saw extension tables

Extension tables allow you to quickly and easily extend the size of your table space and remove it again when you don’t need them so that you can save space in your workshop. Thanks to the extension tables, you can cut larger pieces of wood.

When comparing saws, it is good to see whether there is a possibility to add extension tables later. Some may already receive extension tables, but then these are basic.

This is an option that you will find more often with stationary saws, where an extension table can possibly also serve as a router table. This is useful in smaller workshops as this combination can save you space.

Is the table saw adapted to your electrical network

Pay close attention to the voltage of the plug of the woodworking table saw you are looking at. All portable saws and most contractor saws will be able to be plugged into the mains. Some more expensive contractor models can handle both. It’s not until you get into the stationary bases that have a lot more horsepower that they will require buoyancy.

What is the rip distance on the left and right side of the saw blade?

Ripping a plank means cutting it in the same direction as the grain of the wood. The ripping capacity of a saw is defined by the distance between the saw blade and the stop. The greater the spacing, the more likely it is that larger planks will be ripped.

A large ripping capacity is required when cutting plywood or wide planks, for example. Although each side of the blade has two ripping capacities, having a larger ripping capacity to the right of the blade is most important.

If you’d like to learn more about the cuts a saw can handle, or learn the difference between rip cuts and crosscuts if you’re new to woodworking, I recommend reading my article, What Kind Of Cuts Can A Table Saw Make – 8 Basic Uses.

What size of blade can you use

Table saw blades come in different sizes. These will determine the cutting depth in the wood. You can use smaller blades than your saw is rated for, but never use a larger blade than specified.

Finding the right saw blade is a topic that is far too extensive to describe here. Before that I wrote my article, Understanding Table saw blades | Always find the perfect one.
In that article you will learn all the differences about the table saw blades and thanks to this knowledge you will always have the right saw blade for your table saw and the wood you want to cut.

can you use dado blades?

Dado blades allow you to quickly and efficiently cut grooves in the wood. Where you would have to make several cuts with an ordinary saw blade, a dado blade can do this in one cut. Dados work by stacking different types of blades side by side on the arbor of the table saw. The more blades you add, the wider the groove cut into your wood.

However, a table saw should be equipped for this, and whether this is the case will depend on the country where you live. The thing is, it’s illegal in some countries to use dado blades, and you won’t be able to buy a table saw in that country with a custom arbor for dado blades.

To find out in which countries dado blades are illegal and cannot be used, you can click through to my article, Can I Use Dado Blades On My Table Saw? solved!

If you live in a country that allows dado blades, and once you’ve found a saw that can handle dado cuts, you’ll want to see how wide the blades can be stacked. This will depend on the length of the arbor, but it will vary from machine to machine.

How long is the warranty period?

Although at first sight, this has nothing to do with the quality of the woodworking table saw, I think this is saying something.

A brand that has a long warranty period always gives me confidence. For me, this is a sign that it is a quality tool and that the manufacturer is also confident.

What is the cost?

Cost is decisive for many of us, especially if we have to do it with a limited budget.

Then select all table saws that fall within your budget and make a choice based on all the other points that you can find in this article.

To help you, at the end of this article I will give you inspiration from which you can make a choice that best suits your workplace and the projects you want to tackle.

What accessories does it come with?

Some table saw manufacturers offer their table saws with various accessories such as a fence and miter gauge. Take a good look at what you get for the money you pay. Sometimes a more expensive table saw can get you more, so you end up paying less.

What is the weight?

Weight is an important factor to consider when looking for a portable table saw. If you have to move the tool a lot, you will soon regret not taking this into account.

If you have already made a selection of portable machines, put them next to each other and compare their weight. You will be amazed at how big the differences can be.

Does it have a dust collection?

Long-term exposure to sawdust has been linked to lung cancer and rare types of nasal cancer. As a result, it is critical to pay close attention to dust collection when buying a table saw in order to remove as much dust from the air as possible.

Today’s table saws have dust collection outlets that allow you to easily connect the table saw to your existing system.

It is critical, however, to compare the diameter of the dust collection outlet to the diameter of the system connections in your workshop. Reducers are available, but they should be avoided to the greatest extent possible.

What are the safety features?

Table saws are among the most dangerous tools in a woodworking shop. Every year, approximately 30,000 table saw accidents occur worldwide. Many manufacturers already take this into consideration and include safety features in their woodworking table saws.

Pay attention to a few details, such as the location of the switch (is it easy to reach, if not, see how I solved this), the presence of an emergency button, the supply of protective caps, and so on.

A table saw with a saw stop system is another option. Saw stop and Festool, for example, are two companies that provide this service. When the blade comes into contact with human skin, the saw stop will stop it in less than 5 milliseconds. A small electrical current is passed through the saw blade to power the machine. When human skin comes into contact with it, a short circuit occurs, causing the blade to stop.

What Woodworking Table Saw should I buy?

The answer here will be different for everyone because of the different features. What will be an advantage for one will be a disadvantage for another.

Most hobby woodworkers will look for a portable table saw, while (semi-) professionals or those with larger workshops will go for a stationary table saw.

If a portable table saw is something for you, I can recommend that you view my article “5 affordable table saws for a beginner in woodworking + checklist“. It’s a handy guide to help you figure out which table saw is right for you and where to compare prices. Then be sure to check out this article.


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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

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