Table saws are excellent tools for a range of purposes. Professional tradespeople and contractors use them daily for various jobs, just as home-based hobbyists and DIY fans use them on personal projects.
Because of the vast range of possibilities, table saws have evolved over the years to match almost any requirement, which can make it difficult to know what one to pick. If you find yourself asking, "What table saw should I buy?", you are not alone- but you are in the right place!
Luckily, this buying guide to picking the perfect table saw covers all the bases. Whatever your reason for purchasing one of the powerful and versatile tools: we have got the answers you need.
What Is a Table Saw?
A table saw is as it sounds: a saw built into a table. The exact shape, size, and design vary depending on the type you choose, but the basic idea is the same.
The design is as follows:
There is a flat surface that is meant as the workspace. This is where you control your materials.
A round blade sticks out of the table-like area and is powered by an internal motor.
Your material of choice sits flush with the surface and is pushed into the blade to create a cut.
This is obviously an extremely simplified explanation, but you get the idea. Although every model works in this way, the rest differs significantly. Everything from whether or not it remains stationary to how much power the blade has with certain materials depends entirely on the design specifics. See our article on the best small table saw.
Types of Table Saws
Before we go into details of the functions and features to look for in a table saw, let's start with the basics. There are various types of table saws that each suit different purposes, but they all come under two categories: stationary or portable.
Stationary Table Saws
As the name suggests, these designs are meant to stay in one place. They are usually the more expensive choices and are designed for professional use in a workshop. Most models fall under one of three umbrellas.
Nowadays, contractor saws are not very common. They were the original table saws built for pros. Although they still exist, they are a bit smaller than they used to be, but they wouldn't fit in the average garage!
Contractor table saws are best for people who like a lot of counter space and work with large pieces of material. They are not exactly a fan favorite amongst DIYers.
The best of both worlds: hybrid table saw designs blend the old-school contractor designs and the ultra-professional cabinet saws. By nature, not all these models look or act the same, which is part of what makes them so versatile.
They take the best features of both and wrap them up into one package. Modern professionals with enough space to house one like to use hybrids for flexibility, style, and quality. It may not come as a surprise to hear that they are not usually particularly budget-friendly.
Cabinet table saws are at the top of the range. The specialty models are the machines of choice for professional carpenters, furniture builders, and cabinet makers. Built for cutting wood with extreme ease and precision, these saws are feature-heavy and unbeatably smooth.
They tend to be smaller than other stationary saws, but they are still not designed to be moved around. Part of the reason is their heavy-duty construction- emphasis on the heavy! The average cabinet model is made of cast iron and steel for ultimate stability and control, so you don't want to try and haul one of these around a site!
Truth be told, cabinet saws are arguably the best you can buy, and the price tag reflects it.
Portable Table Saws
Moving away from the high-end stationary models meant for professional workshops and studios- let's talk about convenience! Although the previous designs we discussed produce excellent quality cuts, they are not the most user-friendly.
Portable designs are much more manageable for beginners, DIY fans, and people who work on remote job sites.
A benchtop table saw- you guessed it- sits on top of a workbench. They are perfect for homeowners who love a bit of DIY but don't have the space for a mounted model.
Benchtop models are completely portable and can be used in just about anywhere with space to put it. Blade-driven motors give them a surprising about of power, but they are not the most accurate cutters.
One thing they definitely have going for them is value for money. You can buy a benchtop table saw from a top brand for a great price without compromising the quality. You can also find out the difference between a sliding table saw and normal table saw.
Compact models sit in the middle of the portable range. They are bigger than benchtops but smaller than classic job site saws. Appearance-wise, they look similar to contactor designs- but on a much smaller scale.
Again, they are geared more towards keen hobbyists and beginners improving their craft. Prices vary, but they are reasonably affordable.
Jobsite table saws are rough and ready to go. Think of these as mini versions of the big guys we talked about earlier, with similar features and professional-grade performance on a smaller scale. Despite being lightweight and portable, they are durable and able to handle the demand of an active job site.
You can find plenty of excellent quality saws in this category for personal or professional use. The sizes, feature sets, and prices vary greatly since this is probably the most popular category.
Our Full Guide to Buying a Table Saw
Ok, let's get down to the details. Overall, tables saws-all follow a pretty similar idea, but it is the following elements that really make a difference. Let's take a look at the specifics and what they mean for you and your projects.
The Table Size and Space
It may seem a little obvious, but it is not something you can overlook. How much space do you actually have available, and how big a saw do you need? Picking the correct scale for your table saw is essential for two reasons:
If you pick one that is too big for your workspace, you are going to feel cramped and have less space to move around. That means fewer controls, less accuracy, and more chance of an accident.
Picking a table saw that is too small for the tasks you actually need it for renders the whole thing completely useless. If you are building a full cabinet, it would be comical to try to work on a benchtop model.
The best way to find the balance is to first study the types of table saw (mentioned above) to get an idea of the scale you need. Then, measure your workspace to determine how much free space you need. Get an idea of dimensions and narrow your search from there.
You can find an extension table to work compatibly with some saws if you don't have much space but occasionally work on a larger project. Extension tables are popular in workshops and are easy to store away when they are not in use.
The function list is always a biggie when it comes to buying a table saw- or any power tool for that matter. Here are some of the main things to look for when shopping around.
Rip Fence and Capacity
Rip fence refers to a guide on your table that helps maintain accuracy and precision. The fence quality matter greatly if you want to ensure a high standard of work. It is important to note that not all models have this feature. Without it, a rip cut is not possible.
Check that the fence locks securely. Otherwise, it can move and ruin your lines.
Rip capacity is all about the distance between the fence and the blade. Your model should provide a detailed guide on how to check this, plus it is usually advertised in the specs. Anything less than 24" rip capacity is insufficient for professional work.
Blade Size and Cut Depth
Of course, the blade is one of the most important elements of any saw. Most saw blades are judged based on:
The number of teeth
Diameter (usually 10-12 inches)
Material (carbon, carbide, diamond-tipped)
The cutting power and capacity are determined based on these features, so you need to know what is what. Check for all this information and compare between models to see the differences. An inferior blade means inferior cuts.
A miter gauge is another handy feature when it comes to accurate cutting. You can set a miter saw to a specific angle before cutting the wood, meaning you get perfect results every time. If you can find a saw blade with this additional feature, it is a bonus.
Most table saws have either belt-driven or direct-drive motor. The motor shaft is a crucial element because it brings these saws to life. As a rule, portable models have a direct drive motor while stationary designs favor belt-driven. The latter is more powerful and not quite as noisy, but they cost more to buy and maintain.
Safety features should never be underestimated. These are powerful saws that can easily cut through human skin and bone, so never skip out on this part! Here are a few essential safety elements you need to have.
The blade guard is an essential safety feature. It acts as a layer of protection between you and whatever is going on beside the blade. You are shielded from dust, debris, and kickback: all things you don't want heading directly to your face.
Kickback is something that anyone who has used table saws before can tell you about. It is not only frustrating but also potentially dangerous. Anti-kickback pawls fight against it and limit the effects if it does happen.
Using a push stick or block keeps more distance between your fingers and a spinning blade. Sounds worthwhile, right?
A riving knife and splitter is something you definitely want. It is all about providing additional safety when cutting and limiting kickback.
Everyone loves an accessory. Some of the best include:
Dust Collection Chutes
Dado Capability (Dado blade)
What Table Saw Is Best for You?
Continuing on from this general buying guide, we wanted to narrow it down a little more based on what type of user profile you fit. It helps to understand the various features and what to look for in general, but it is also beneficial to think about specific purposes.
Some table saws are purpose-built for certain jobs, locations, or materials, so there is lots to consider. Here is a little more information about how to pick the right table saw.
Best Table Saws for Professional Jobsites
Jobsite table saws need to be robust and details to deliver top-quality work every time for a long time. Professionals should look for a strong saw blade with multiple cutting features and a cast iron table for long-term efficiency. Look for a job site table with enough space to cater to a range of jobs.
Stationary saws offer high performance and power. They are excellent for professional tasks. That said, it helps to have a portable model that can move about the job site and be taken to remote sites for on-location work.
Cantek and Oliver Machinery are top brand choices for professional job site table saws. Although some models are more expensive, they are worth it. Contractor saws need to be more reliable than those used for DIY purposes, so it is worth investing in the best.
Best Table Saws for Beginners
All the features we mentioned in this guide are valuable additions for anyone looking to buy a table saw. If you are a beginner- either just starting out in your career or a keen DIY fan who wants to up their game- you want to find one that does a great job of the basics and is easy to use.
Above all, beginners need to pick a table saw with the best safety features. You really don't want to risk an accident with one of these machines, so forget about the fancy tricks and focus on what matters. Additionally, anyone using their table saw at home should look for a model with high-quality dust collection, unless you want to do a lot of cleaning up.
DEWALT is the go-to brand for DIY power tools and saws for beginners. Although these machines are professional-grade, they tend to be more user-friendly and offer some excellent affordable models.
Best Table Saws for Big Jobs
Contractor table saws are large, powerful models that are best for your workshop. You want a top-quality table with a stable work surface if you are going to be working with heavy materials. Unlike a table saw designed for job sites, these are not meant to be moved around.
You want a model with as many features and as much rip capacity as possible. Big jobs can involve many elements, so you need to be prepared to handle them all. Several premium brands are renowned for their contractor saws, including Masika saws and Cantek .
Best Table Saws for Small Tasks
Even a basic table can cope with plenty of tasks as long as the saw blade is strong and has a few key features. If you don't need as much table space, you should consider benchtop models. They are excellent choices for speed, accuracy, and compact power.
Don't be fooled: just because they are small doesn't mean they don't pack a punch! Many new models come with enhanced rip capacity and cutting power. Once again, DEWALT is the stand-out brand for this type of table saw.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few frequently asked questions about table saw designs and capabilities that may help narrow down your search for your perfect model.
How much do most table saws cost?
The price range on table saw models is pretty impressive. A decent design can cost anywhere from $250 to more than $10000. It comes down to the size, power, and features- with the brand name making a difference sometimes as well.
You can pick up a simple table saw for around $200, which is fine for basic DIY jobs. If you want something with a strong feature set and professional quality, the price increase to between $400 and $600.
A portable table saw for use on the job site is usually at the lower end of the price range, mainly sitting around $450. Large stationary saws come in closer to $1000. You can find a cheaper table if you shop second-hand, but be sure to check the safety and performance first.
Cabinet table saws are usually the most expensive. These specialty designs may be smaller, but they work with the most precision and power. On average, a brand-new cabinet saw costs upwards of $2000. It sounds like a lot, but anyone making furniture professionally to sell should consider it an investment in their work and career.
Are table saws useful for DIY projects?
Yes, they are- as long as you respect and that they are dangerous machines. Take safety seriously when using a table saw, and you can find them to be extremely useful tools.
Whether you are a hobbyist dabbling in furniture making or love to do bits and bobs around the house and want a more efficient way of working: you are sure to love having your own table saw.
Is a table saw and a circular saw the same thing?
No, circular saws are not the same as table saws. A circular saw is a hand-held tool that provides far less accuracy than table saw blades. Rather than have a blade built into a table that you push materials across, you hold the machine and press it into whatever you want to cut.
The blades look the same, but that is pretty much where the similarities stop. There are pros and cons to both:
Table saws are more accurate and powerful.
Circular saws are much more affordable and generally a lot safer to use.
Table blades are better for professional furniture building in a workshop.
Circular saw tools are versatile and easy to carry around a job site.
Can a table saw cut metal?
A standard table saw blade is not designed to cut through metal. However, you can buy separate blades that can be switched out and used for these jobs. Look for one with tungsten carbide tips or one that is sold specifically as a metal-cutting blade.
Take care when swapping out and fitting the blades, and be sure to set the speed and check everything is secure before you start cutting.
All the variations of the humble table saw have many benefits for professional contractors, DIY lovers, and beginner hobbyists alike. The trick to finding the right one for you is to think about what you actually need it to do.
To sum up our buying guide, the primary considerations you need to make are:
How much space do you have available?
Do you need to move your table saw from place to play, or will it stay in a workshop?
What materials are you cutting, and how much force do they require?
Is the saw easy to use if you need to have previous experience?
How safe is the saw?
Take your time when shopping around. Compare models for prices, feature sets, and capabilities. Some fancy extras may be appealing but unnecessary for your purposes, so try not to get distracted! What matters the most is that you can comfortably and safely use your new table saw in your workspace and achieve the results you want.