Contractor table saws come with open, fixed legs, rather than the rolling stand of a portable saw or the enclosed base of a cabinet saw. They're bulkier than portable saws, but in most cases they also have larger tables, making it easier to cut plywood and sheet stock. Most contractor saws run on standard 120-volt electricity (unlike cabinet saws, which require at least 220 volts). However, many of them can also be set to run on 240 volts, boosting their performance. Note that despite the term "contractor" saw, some less-expensive models are clearly designed for the home do-it-yourself market and are not suitable for woodworking professionals.
It costs a mint compared to other table saws in this category, but its state-of-the art safety features make the SawStop Contractor Saw CNS175-TGP36 (Est. $1,950) worthy of consideration by anyone who can fit it into their budget. As detailed in the introduction to this report, SawStop was the first maker of table saws to include technology that stops a spinning blade nearly instantly if it senses the presence of skin. This feature is now also available on a Bosch portable saw, the Bosch REAXX GTS1041A-09 (Est. $1500), but SawStop's is still the only contractor saw to offer it. Some could argue that the improved safety of modern blade guards makes this safety feature unnecessary, but for some buyers – especially those who already have lost part of a finger to a spinning saw blade, or suffered a close call – it's well worth the money.
Moreover, the SawStop Contractor Saw would be an excellent table saw even without its unique safety feature. Professional testers and home users both praise the saw for its ease of assembly, superb fit and finish, and smooth, powerful operation. Glen Huey of Popular Woodworking is also impressed with its excellent dust collection and low noise and vibration. And David Munkittrick of the Woodworkers Guild of America says this contractor saw has all the features you'd expect on a high-end cabinet saw, including "heavy duty arbor bearings, a 1.75 HP motor with plenty of power, large blade adjustment handles that won't skin our knuckles every time you adjust blade height, a shrouded blade for better dust collection, riving knife, blade guard and onboard storage for accessories."
Reviewers have only a few complaints about this saw. Huey says the handles for the blade tilt and adjustment are flimsy, and he dislikes having to unscrew the throat plate to adjust the riving knife and brake system. He also recommends a few upgrades to this already expensive saw, such as cast-iron wings, an integral mobile base, and a "beefier" 36-inch fence. Also, a couple of owners at Amazon.com say trying to run damp lumber through the SawStop can trigger its flesh-sensing feature, shutting down the saw without warning.
The biggest drawback of the SawStop Contractor Saw, however, is its price. For those who can't or won't spend that much for a table saw, we found saw some good feedback on retail sites for contractor saws at a fraction of the SawStop's price. For instance, the Ridgid R4512 (Est. $550) receives an overall rating of 4.4 stars from more than 450 users at HomeDepot.com (the main site where Rigid tools are sold), and 91 percent of owners recommend it.
For its price, users say, this is an outstanding saw. It's solidly built, with a cast-iron surface and that damps vibration and a rip capacity of 30 inches. Users say it cuts smoothly and accurately, with low vibration and noise. Reviewers disagree about the ease of assembly, with some saying it was very easy and others describing it as unreasonably time-consuming. We also saw a few complaints that the blade has a tendency to wobble from side to side when it's raised or lowered. And although this Ridgid saw comes with a lifetime warranty, users who ran into problems say they had little luck with the company's customer service.
The Craftsman Pro 21833 (Est. $600) is similar to the Ridgid in size and construction. At Sears.com, it receives a rating of 4 stars overall from more than 220 users. They praise the saw's fit and finish, its powerful, quiet operation, and its smooth-rolling wheels. However, many users had trouble assembling the saw, saying the instructions are confusing and the box doesn't always contain all the needed parts. A few users complained that they couldn't get the blade or fence true, even after hours of adjustments. And the customer service from Sears is rated even worse than Ridgid's.
For homeowner projects rather than fine woodworking, owners at Sears.com like the budget-priced Craftsman 21807 (Est. $285). Its cast-aluminum table can't compete with the cast iron used on better contractor saws, and the 64-pound weight makes for more vibration -- and thus less precision. On the plus side, users find this smaller saw easier to move around the shop, and they also say it's very easy to assemble. One major complaint users have is that the miter gauge – which many users describe as flimsy and sloppy – has a non-standard slot, so aftermarket accessories liked by many woodworkers won't fit on this saw. There are also some complaints that the dust collection bag below the saw is ineffective and hard to change. But for the price, the majority of owners consider it a good deal.
Elsewhere in this Report: