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Best Contractor Table Saws

By: Amy Livingston on May 11, 2018

Contractor saws are a good blend of size and capacity

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. 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. $1,970) 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. 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. Munkittrick notes that changing the blades on the SawStop is a bit more complicated than for most saws. 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" T-glide fence.

Despite its excellent marks from professional reviewers, this SawStop saw earns only a fairly good overall rating of 4.1 stars from about 35 owners at Amazon. While many owners echo the pros' comments about its easy assembly, great build quality and unique safety features, some question whether it's really worth its high price. Several buyers say their new, expensive saws had quality-control problems, such as bowing in the table or the wings or legs that can't be leveled. Also, a few owners say trying to run damp lumber through the SawStop can trigger its flesh-sensing feature, shutting down the saw without warning. On the plus side, users who dealt with SawStop's customer service generally say it's excellent.

For those who can't or won't spend close to $2,000 for a table saw, we also saw some good feedback for the Ridgid R4512 (Est. $600). Seth Keller of the Woodworkers Guild of America says he's "amazed at the whole package that Ridgid delivers in this table saw": a sturdy build, a good fence, an "admirable" miter gauge, and a 13-amp motor with "plenty of power to rip 6/4 hardwood." He also loves the foot-activated mobile base and detachable, European-style riving knife system.

Keller has only a few quibbles with the Ridgid R4512. For example, its throat plate has a 1/2-inch-wide slot that's inadequate for "delicate work." It's possible to add an aftermarket throat plate for dadoes, but not a zero-clearance throat plate. Also, he says the stock blade that comes with the saw is only "so-so" and recommends replacing it right away. All in all, Keller considers this a great saw for a home shop, but not adequate for professional work.

The Ridgid R4512 receives an overall rating of 4.4 stars from more than 835 users at Home Depot (the main site where Rigid tools are sold), and 89 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. 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. This Ridgid saw comes three-year warranty and a lifetime service agreement, but the latter requires registration, and Ridgid's customer service gets mixed feedback.

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What every best Table Saws has:

  • Smooth, accurate cutting.
  • Good safety features.
  • Easy adjustment.

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