Table saws make the most accurate cuts
Table saws cut more or less the same way as a circular saw (covered in their own report): 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, but the best-rated models typically cost $300 or more.
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 – weighing as much as 200 to 300 pounds. 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 their 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 stops the spinning blade when it senses the presence of tissue, such as a
finger or forearm. 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.) In 2017, the CPSC
proposed a new rule to make SawStop's technology mandatory on all table saws,
but that rule is still under review. See the Buying Guide for more
Finding The Best Table Saws
"Best Portable Jobsite Table Saw Shootout!"
"Table saw reviews"
"Archives: Table Saw"
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,
Home Depot, Lowe's, and Sears. User reviewers don't have the breadth of
experience that many experts enjoy, but they 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 saw.
We take all of this feedback into consideration in
naming 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.