I want to buy a portable table saw for constructing outbuildings around my property, and for making furniture in my shop. What should I look for?
For a portable table saw that will suit your needs, you have two main choices: a benchtop model or a contractor model. Benchtop saws have aluminum tops and are the lightest and most easily movable. The best models include folding support stands with wheels for easy portability and vacuum connection ports for effective dust control. The name “benchtop” is a little misleading, though, because these saws are typically operated on stands. Quality benchtop models cost about $500. Some cheaper table saws that look similar are available, but their capacity and power will disappoint any serious user.
Contractor table saws are heavier and don’t have folding stands, but they do offer a more stable, cast-iron working platform that’s typically larger than what you’ll find on a benchtop saw. Contractor table saw prices start at about $800.
So the core question is how important portability is for you. If you won’t be moving your saw often, a contractor model may serve you better. It’ll be larger and thus more stable, though few contractor saws can connect to a vacuum for sawdust control. If you really need the benefit of easy portability, then a benchtop saw is the way to go. There’s no significant power difference between benchtop and contractor models.
If you decide to go with a benchtop saw, consider building a stationary out-feed table in your shop. Build it so the saw will fit right into a cutout in the surface, and you’ll enjoy a large support area for cutting plywood and other materials safely, all without sacrificing your saw’s portability.
Photo courtesy Robert Bosch Tool Corporation: A folding stand and wheels make for an easy-to-move benchtop saw.
Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on Google+.