The defining feature of all table saws is the stationary surface upon which woodworkers place the pieces to be cut. This allows for an arrangement where the items are brought to the blade rather than vice versa. The fact that the wood glides over the top as it’s being cut means users have better control and accuracy when compared to using handheld power tools.
In other words, buying a table saw is one of the most important investments you will ever make as a woodworker. Whether you are just buying your first saw or stepping up to a more advanced model, this tool has the potential to open up a whole new level of craftsmanship. This means you’ll want to choose a model that will bring you great satisfaction for years to come, but this will only be possible when you have a good understanding of the different table saw types.
While the contractor’s table saw comes off as a bulky piece of equipment at first glance, it’s actually designed to be somewhat portable so it can be carried from one jobsite to the next. These saws typically feature an open-base design that helps in reducing weight, as well as undersized fence systems for enhanced mobility. Most models don’t take up much room, which is why you might want to take a closer look at this type if you have little real estate in your premises.
Contractors saws are best suited for DIY enthusiasts and individual craftsmen. Although most of them can’t withstand the rigors of production work, it’s still possible to produce fine pieces with a little bit of skill. Some high-end models could also be compared to cabinet and hybrid saws in terms of performance, but the enhanced mobility does come at a price when it comes to smoothness.
As the name implies, the hybrid table saw is designed to have features of both the contractor’s and cabinet saws. While it typically resembles the former thanks to it’s closed base, a trained eye will be able to pick out the smaller footprint and lightweight construction. Hybrid saws offer about as much horsepower as their contractor’s counterparts, but what sets them apart is the smooth performance that comes as a result of their belt-drive systems.
This type of saw offers enough power and versatility to serve serious woodworkers whose primary focus doesn’t involve producing fine furniture. Some models can comfortably handle large stock pieces, albeit with some finesse on the user’s part. As for cutting accuracy, outfitting a hybrid saw with a quality professional fence means you get the same results as you would from the average cabinet saw.
It’s safe to say that this category forms the pinnacle of performance, power and reliability as far as table saws are concerned. Most cabinet saws are designed to remain stationary once placed in the premises. The use of cast iron parts in the base assembly means that the average cabinet saw will weigh somewhere between 400 and 600 pounds. This weight helps in counteracting the vibrations produced by the motor, a component whose power rating will usually be in excess of 3 horsepower.
It goes without saying that these tools are the most expensive types of saws. Thanks to their reliable operation and ability to handle heavy stock, these saws are suitable for just about any task. Cabinet saws are mostly relied upon in professional settings, but a serious hobbyist could still benefit depending on the kind of projects they tackle.
Because of the expense involved in buying a table saw, this is something you want to ensure you get right the first time. Depending on how you intend to use it and the size of your budget, some of the features to keep in mind when looking for the best table saw include:
-Power: If you hardly ever cut pieces exceeding 2 inches in thickness, a table saw with a 1.5-2 horsepower motor will sufficiently accommodate your needs. Such tools will also operate on a regular 120V circuit, but the voltage requirement doubles when you start looking at table saws whose motors fall in the 3 to 5 horsepower range.
-Rip Fence: This is what ensures the wood is cut in a straight line, which means it has to stay parallel to the blade. This will only be possible if it glides easily in its slot and lock firmly into position when being moved for different cuts.
-Drive belt: If you can afford it, go for a table saw with a poly V-belt. Compared to regular V- and wedge belts, these produce less vibration, allowing for smooth operation of the tool.
-Dust Collection: Although having a dust collection mechanism on your table saw will not necessarily guarantee you of dust-free operation, it will definitely make a huge difference in air quality.
-Safety features: Being in close proximity to a sharp blade spinning at a few thousand RPM means you’ll want your table saw to have a decent set of safety features, including magnetic switches, flesh sensors and riving knives.
The table saw you end up buying will form the backbone of your workshop for a long time to come. This means it’s worth your time to search for table saw reviews from reliable publications, read discussions on online forums and shop around as well. It would also make sense to go for the best saw you can afford instead of trying to save a few bucks only to end up regretting later on.