Choosing a Table Saw

What you need to know when choosing a table saw. This important homestead tool allows you to cut all kinds of lumber and plywood with great accuracy, safety and ease.

| August/September 2003

Learn what you should know when choosing a table saw, and how to evaluate the options when you are choosing one of these indispensable power tools

Elation is what you feel when you first discover a good tool, and table saws certainly are good tools. In March 1982, I switched off my first table saw and, as the blade spun to a halt, I couldn't have been happier.

Table saws allow you to cut all kinds of lumber and plywood with great accuracy, safety and ease. I've owned three over the last 20 years, and used a half-dozen other machines while working professionally as a cabinetmaker and carpenter.

Table Saw Basics: Straight, True and Square

If you're planning to build or remodel your home, make furniture or cabinets, or maybe begin a small-scale woodworking venture, you should consider making a table saw your first major tool purchase. Table saws are extremely useful because they create straight, smooth and accurate cuts in lumber, wood-based sheet materials and even some types of plastic. Radial arm table saws, which have the saw mounted above instead of underneath the table, make straight cuts, too, but not in as many different ways as a regular table saw.

Table saws (sometimes called bench saws) have three main parts: a horizontal table that supports wood during use; a circular saw blade that extends up through a slot in the table; and a rip fence that guides the wood over the spinning blade.

The spinning table-saw blade remains stationary during use while the fence slides the wood over it, allowing you to safely cut everything from small, narrow strips of solid wood, to full-size sheets of plywood and particleboard. This means that table saw results are more accurate than anything you can conveniently produce with a hand-held circular saw. And while accuracy has been a hallmark of stationary table saws, the mid-range, portable table saws have become more versatile, powerful and safer in the last 10 years. A wide range of sizes are available, from small, ultra-lightweight models costing less than $100, to heavy-duty, non-portable cabinet saws that weigh 500 pounds.

Mike Kiernan
9/19/2012 4:22:32 PM

1 thing that does need to be said, and remembered, is that the quality of cut depends on both the operator's skill but also the type blade used. Usually these saw's are sent with the most basic of blade's, that being a 'rip' blade with either a 24 ct or a 40 ct. If you need a clean cut, before you buy the saw, make sure that the saw can accomidate a 80 ct plywood blade. I've used these type blade's for year's and they solve a huge number of splintering and 'kickback' problem's.

9/19/2012 3:58:28 PM

A good, accurate and easily adjusted fence is a necessity

gilbert pacheco
1/25/2012 4:15:51 PM

Buy the best that you can afford because you will use it for almost every woodworking project you take on. When you are done with it, a sheet of plywood turns it into a sturdy good sized work ,table. For people with small shops, a base with wheels allows you to push it out of the way or move the newly created workbench closer to the project you are working on. Create a cabinet with drawers under the saw to provide more space for all of the accessories that will find their way into the shop.

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