Contractor table saws come with open, fixed legs. Since the motor hangs off the back, the whole unit is bulkier than a portable saw, but in most cases the table is larger, making it easier to cut plywood and sheet stock. Many contractor saws are heavy and not very portable, usually requiring two people to move around. 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. Some also blur the difference between themselves and so-called hybrid saws, a category of tools that resemble cabinet saws, but that are lighter weight and run on 120-volt electricity (heavy duty cabinet saws typically require 220 volts). Table saws that traditionally have been called hybrid saws are on the decline, with few professional or user reviews available for models currently on the market.
It costs a mint compared to other table saws in this category, but with its state-of-the art safety features the SawStop CNS175-SFA30 Contractor Saw (Est. $1,600 and up) has to deserve consideration by anyone who can fit it into their budget. As detailed in the introduction to this report, SawStop table saws are the only ones to currently include technology that will stop a spinning blade nearly instantly should it sense the presence of skin (such as from a finger or forearm). While some might debate the need for this technology given the improved safety of blade guards on current-generation table saw, the technology has been thoroughly tested and has been proven to work as claimed, potentially sparing users from devastating cuts, or worse.
Each time the SawStop Contractor Saw is turned on, it verifies that all its safety features are working. An in-depth review at Fine Woodworking gives the SawStop top marks for fit and finish, smooth running and tool-free blade guard changes, noting that "all saws should have such well-designed guards."
Editors at Popular Woodworking also praise the SawStop Contractor Saw for its excellent dust collection, power and accuracy. Glen Huey finds few flaws, but criticizes the need to unscrew the throat plate to adjust the riving knife and brake system.
While the safety features of the SawStop Contractor Saw are exemplary, the fact remains that not everyone can or will want to spend that much for a table saw. Fortunately, we also saw some solid feedback for fixed contractor saws that cost a fraction of the price of the SawStop.
The 1.75-horsepower Ridgid R4512 (Est. $550) and the similar Craftsman Pro 21833 (Est. $550) don't have the extra safety provided by the SawStop but do earn mostly positive reviews. At HomeDepot.com, for example, nearly 300 owners give this contractor saw an overall rating of 4.4 stars, with 91 percent saying that they would recommend it to a friend. At Sears.com, the Craftsman Pro 21833 earns a little less positive feedback from nearly 180 owners resulting in a 4 star rating; the blade guard assembly earns high marks for ease of use.
The instruction manuals for both the Ridgid R4512 and the Craftsman Pro 21833 get some criticism from users; quite a few owners say these saws can be difficult to assemble and adjust. Despite the mostly enthusiastic reviews, some owners report serious faults -- for example, factory defects in the arbor and motor assembly. Several say the blade alignment changed any time the blade was raised or lowered, in a way impossible to correct. Both saws are made by Dayton. The Craftsman Pro 21833 has a 15-amp motor as opposed to a 13-amp motor on the Ridgid, however the Ridgid saw has a longer warranty (three years as opposed to one).
For homeowner projects rather than fine woodworking, owners at Sears.com like the budget-priced Craftsman 21807 (Est. $250). This contractor saw comes equipped with a riving knife, quick-release blade guard and extension tables to facilitate cutting plywood. The cast-aluminum table can't compete with the cast iron used on better contractor saws, and the 73-pound weight makes for more vibration -- and thus less precision. A review at ToolboxHero.com notes that it's aimed at homeowners; the miter gauge slot isn't industry-standard, so aftermarket accessories liked by many woodworkers won't fit on this saw. This is also a top complaint of owners who leave negative reviews at Sears.com
For homeowners on a tight budget, the Skil 3310 (Est. $160) could be a consideration. Editors at Popular Mechanics note that it wouldn't be fair to expect a table saw in this price range to compete with more expensive pro models (Skil is Bosch's budget brand). Still, they find the Skil 3310 powerful enough for homeowner projects, and say that with care it's possible to get accurate cuts. The table is small -- just 26 inches wide by about 19 inches deep -- but some owners say this is an advantage when it comes to storing. Nearly 130 owners review the Skil 3310 at Lowes.com, with many saying it's a good value if you don't expect too much. Despite a mediocre 3.7-star rating, roughly 80 percent say that they would recommend it to a friend.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Table Saws
Editors discuss the different types of table saws and how table saws have become safer than ever. Top choices, top values, and some alternate choices are named.
Portable Table Saws
Need a table saw that's light weight and low cost? These portable table saws are easy to lug from your workshop to your job site.
If woodworking is your profession, you need a professional grade cabinet saws. We look into the details and make our recommendations.
Not sure what you need to consider before buying a table saw? This guide will help you cut through the details to find the best choice for your needs and budget.
These are the expert and user reviews we used to find the best portable, contractor and cabinet table saws. We rank them in order of helpfulness.