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Table Saw Buyer's Guide

Meet the woodworking machine. Much more accurate than hand-held saws, table saws are a must for difficult projects. With this power player, you can efficiently cut down large pieces of wood, feed stock and duplicate cuts with no hassle. Plus, the variety of accessories available for table saws makes them incredibly versatile.

The 5 Questions
  1. Portable or stationary? If you're a professional who will use the table saw on multiple job sites, you want a lighter, smaller and generally less expensive portable model. However, with a portable table saw you may not get as clean a cut as with a stationary, or "contractor" table saw. Stationary table saws are generally heavier, larger and installed as a permanent fixture in a workshop. They're more powerful than portable table saws and allow you to use more accessories. If you're a DIY buyer, choose based on your needs - you can select a stationary model or a portable one, which could come in handy if you have limited work area. Another option is a "hybrid" table saw, which finds the middle ground between a contractor and portable model. Ideal for small shops, it's stable but easy to move - you'll get just a little less power than a contractor table saw.

    Direct drive or belt drive? Most portable table saws will have direct drive motors, in which the motor is linked directly to the blade. Stationary table saws will usually have the more powerful belt drive motor, in which a belt conveys power from the motor to the blade.

  2. Blade Type?

    Size? DIY buyers are more likely to use table saws with smaller blades, like a 10". Table saws with 12", 14" and 16" blades are used for commercial and industrial work. Also consider what kind of stock and material you're going to work on – you'll need a bigger blade for harder material.

    Material? Choose based on application and preference. High-speed steel blades are less expensive, but still work well in hard wood. Carbide-tipped blades are more expensive, but stay sharp much longer.

    Number of teeth? With more teeth, you'll get a finer cut, which is important for finishing. Blades with fewer teeth give you a rougher cut and work well for ripping and rough cutting.

  3. Motor size? A single phase motor will work for DIY buyers or small shop owners. Professionals should consider a three phase motor. A three phase is better suited for long-run, high demand applications, providing a more consistent power supply under heavy load – plus, it saves money in the long run if you use the saw frequently. Single phase motors can go as low as 3/4 HP, all the way up to 5. Three phase motors range from 3 to 5 HP. Choose based on how much power you need and your electrical configuration.

  4. Electrical Configuration? Single phase motors utilize a regular 120 Volt plug-in, but three phase motors require 208 Volts (lowest) or 240 Volts (highest), and go all the way to 460 Volts. If a table saw has a higher voltage, it's usually suited for a larger shop.

  5. Which accessories will you use? Read about them below and decide which ones are right for you. Make sure that the table saw you choose supports them.

Accessories for Contractor, Hybrid and Portable Table Saws

Fence and Rail Systems: Serve to hold one side of the wood you're cutting in a straight line. You'll cut more safely, quickly and accurately. Larger fences are better suited for more demanding cuts. Fence sizes are available in tiered pricing, depending on personal preference.

Miter Gauge and Cutoff Fence: Are used to make repeated angled and cross cuts. A cutoff fence can be used in tandem with a miter gauge, and are not for use on portable table saws.

Insert: Creates the desired clearance around the blade.

Outfeed Table: Establishes space for a sole operator to rest large pieces on. They can be placed on any side to extend your table.

Mobile Base: Provides wheels to move a stationary table saw.

Roller stand: Angles a table saw if you're working solo and don't have outfeed tables.

Safety Accessories

Anti-kickback kit: Diverts material away from the saw blade with a riving knife and cover the blade with blade guards.

Push stick: Pushes smaller materials through the blade while keeping your hands away from danger.

Special Accessories

Dado head: Consists of multiple blades joined together and is used to make grooves for fixed shelving and cabinets. They are available in ranges by preference and material size.

Tenoning jig: Makes strong square joints. Usually for a shaper, but can be applied to a table saw for the same function. Not for use on portable table saws.