Table saws make the most accurate cuts
Table saws cut more or less the same way as a
circular saw: a round blade, usually 10 inches in diameter, spins as it works
its way through the wood. The main difference is that the blade is fixed in
place, sticking up through a gap in the table, and the operator moves the wood
past the blade instead of moving the saw itself. Table saws support and guide
lumber and wood panels as they pass over the spinning blade, making it easier
to make accurate repeat cuts than with a circular saw.
Types of Table Saws
Portable Table Saws
Reviewers recommend these models for easy transport to jobsites and for easy storage in a small workshop. Portable table saws come in two types. Benchtop saws sit on top of a workbench and are light enough to pick up and carry; jobsite saws are mounted on folding stands, usually with wheels for easier transport. The main drawbacks of a portable saw are its lower power and smaller table, which makes it tricky to cut larger lumber and sheet material such as plywood. Prices for portable saws start at less than $200.
Contractor Table Saws
Standard table saws are also called contractor table saws, even if they're really intended for the home do-it-yourselfer. These table saws have open, fixed legs, and they take up more space than a portable or benchtop table saw. They're also heavier - as much as 200 to 300 pounds. It's still possible to move one, but it usually takes two people. On the plus side, their tables are often larger, making it easier to cut 4 by 8-foot panels of plywood or sheetrock. Prices for contractor saws range from around $600 to nearly $2,000.
If you are a woodworking professional, you'll want a cabinet saw in your workshop. These are the heaviest, sturdiest and most precise table saws, with powerful motors that require a 220-volt electrical outlet. Cabinet saws require a large, dedicated space because of their guide rails and large tables (often with big extension wings). Then also tend to have the best safety and dust-control features. Woodworkers with enough space (and money) usually make a cabinet saw the permanent centerpiece of the workshop, though a few cabinet saws have mobile bases. Cabinet saws cost $1,600 and up.
The main differences between saws of the same type
lie in their power and accuracy. More powerful saws can handle thicker or
denser wood, cut faster, and run all day without wearing out the motor.
Accuracy depends on a variety of factors: low vibration, meticulous build, and
an accurate fence and miter gauge that are easy to set.
Table saws are getting safer
Table saws can pose a serious risk of injury, since
part of the spinning blade comes up above the surface of the table where it can
come into contact with the user's hand as it guides the wood. Thanks to
voluntary safety standards introduced by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in
2007, pretty much all table saws now come with blade guards that minimize the
risk. Modern guard systems are easier to remove and replace as needed –
an important feature because inconvenient blade guards are apt to be left off
Today's table saws also include riving knives,
which ride up and down with the blade when its height is changed, rather than
splitters that are fixed in place. The problem with the old splitters was that
they had to be removed for certain types of cuts, and users might forget to put
them back on before making rip cuts. This increased the risk of kickback
injuries, which occur when the spinning blade kicks back a piece of wood toward
the user with tremendous force, causing serious injury to any part of the body
Blade guards and riving knives can't prevent all
injuries, though. A 2011 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that 20 percent of all table saw injuries were caused by saws
with riving knives, and 25 percent were from saws that had their blade guards
The latest advance in table saw safety is a feature
that senses the presence of tissue, such as a finger or forearm, and either
stops the spinning blade or drops it below the table surface. A company called
SawStop was the first to offer this technology, and currently, it holds the
exclusive right to sell saws with this feature in the United States. (Bosch
introduced a portable table saw with blade-stopping technology in 2016, but was
forced to take it off the market after a successful patent-infringement suit by
SawStop.) However, saws with this safety feature are much more expensive than
others in the same category. Even portable saws with this technology start at
$1,300 – more than twice the price of our Best Rated portable table saw.
Finding The Best Table Saws
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"Portable 10-inch Table Saw Reviews"
"11 Best Portable Table Saw Reviews"
To make our recommendations for the best table
saws, and the best table saw bargains, we consulted comparison tests and
single-product reviews in tool-related publications such as Pro Tool Reviews, Woodworker's
Journal, Popular Mechanics, Tools of the Trade, and Fine Homebuilding. Many of
these reports are several years old, but most of the models tested are still
available. Most professional reviews focus on portable table saws, but we found
a few that cover contractor and cabinet saws.
To learn about how table saws perform in real
people's homes, we consulted owner-written reviews at retail sites like
Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, and Sears.com. User reviewers don't have
the breadth of experience that many experts enjoy, but can provide keen
insights on the model they bought, including things that might not crop up in
the relatively short time professional reviewers have to spend with a given
Taking all of this feedback into consideration, we
then named our top picks for portable, contractor, and cabinet table saws.
Selections are made based on a table saw's cutting performance, accuracy, ease
of use, features, and durability.