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If you’re a woodworker, you already know the value of a good table saw. These ubiquitous power tools can work through a wide range of material, from wood to sheet metal, making angled cuts, bevels, rip cuts, and cross-cuts. They’re fast, and much more accurate than hand saws and mitre saws. That’s why you’ll find at least one at every professional woodshop and job site.
Table saws, as their name suggests, are often built into large tables that cost thousands of dollars and weight hundreds of pounds. But they’re also available in smaller, less expensive models designed to be brought out when needed and then stored away when through—perfect for contractors, repairmen, and DIY enthusiasts working at home.
When choosing a table saw, think carefully about the types of projects you’ll be tackling. Are you a contractor or serious DIYer? Are you a professional woodworker? Or is this something you only need occasionally, or for smaller hobby projects? This will help determine the type of table saw that’s right for you.
Large, industrial saws, called cabinet table saws, are installed in woodshops, schools, and other permanent locations, and are designed for heavy-duty work. They have permanent power sources—often 220 volts—and extendable table surfaces, and they can cut through most material. They also cost quite a bit, and of course require a lot more space.
Contractor table saws are smaller and portable, perfect for storing in a tool shed or garage. It’s easy to put them in the back of a truck or SUV for transportation to a job site. They provide a lot of power, meaning you don’t need to waste time travelling back and forth between the job and your shop.
Bench table saws are the smallest of the bunch, and are meant to be bolted to a table or workbench, or attached to a stand. They provide less power and have smaller rip capacity, but they also cost a lot less and are good choices for hobbyists with smaller projects.
Horsepower (HP) translates to cutting power. Expect 0.75 to 1.5 HP from smaller bench saws, making them excellent for making things like small shelves, or cutting material up to ⅝-inches thick. Contractor saws feature two- to four-HP motors, and large cabinet saws typically have motors that run five HP or more. The more powerful the motor, the easier it is to cut through strong material and harder woods. The machine can also run longer and faster without overheating.
Tablesaws typically carry 10-inch blades, though blades can be as large as 12 inches, and smaller models often have blades that are 8.5 inches. Because the blades are adjustable, you can make very shallow or deep cuts, depending on the size of the blade.
Rip capacity describes the maximum width of the material that fits between the saw blade and the table saw’s adjustable guide, known as a fence. Generally, this starts at around 18 inches and runs up to 60 inches on professional cabinet models. Make sure your table saw can accommodate the width of the material you plan on cutting, whether it’s the back of a bookcase, the side of a treehouse, or the top of a table.
Table saws feature two different types of motors: universal and induction. On a universal motor, the power source is linked directly to the blade, providing a lot of power. However, they can be noisy. Induction motors connect to a belt that transfers power to the blade. It’s quiet and still powerful, but the downside is that the belt requires periodic tightening, and that’s something you’ll need to stay on top of to get the best performance out of your saw.