A table saw is probably one of the most important additions to a woodworker’s collection of tools. It is the foundation of one’s entire workshop. Buying the best table saw is paramount to a woodworker’s success. Here are some things to consider before making a purchase.

Use

Knowing what you will use the table saw for will help determine what type of saw you need. There are four types of table saws on the market.

  • Cabinet Saws: These are typically the heaviest and most costly of all table saw types. Most are equipped with a cast iron table that is attached to a smooth surface. The motor is encased in a cabinet under the saw table. The motor is anywhere from 3HP – 5HP. The entire unit can weigh more than 600 pounds.
  • Contractor’s Saws: These are designed for portability and are a popular choice for building contractors who move from one job site to another. This is a much lighter saw than the cabinet saw. Motors are 1HP – 1 ¾ HP. This type of saw is for those who are more concerned with portability than accuracy or power.
  • Hybrid Saws: This is a combination of the cabinet saw and contractor saw. The combination of features can vary between manufacturers. Some incorporate heavy cast iron saw tables, while others use heavier gears and motors. Most are less than 2HP.

Features

Regardless of the type of saw you choose, the following features should be considered:

  • Fence: A table saw’s fence needs to be both adjustable and accurate. A fence that slides or flexes when in use can cause dangerous kickbacks. Look for a fence that can be easily adjusted, to prevent injury and frustration.
  • Tilt: Most table saws have the bevel adjustment tilt the blade to the right, although some cabinet saw designs use a left tilt. This feature is mainly a matter of preference. Right tilt saws seem to be more readily available.
  • Dust Collection: Since all table saws create a lot of sawdust, having a quality dust collection system is an important component. It will help ensure that the saw runs more efficiently and will help to prolong the life of the saw. Most cabinet saws come equipped with a 4-inch dust collection system. Contractor saws are typically open at the bottom, allowing the sawdust to fall to the ground. Hybrids are somewhere in between.

Safety

Luckily, safety features have dramatically improved in recent years to help prevent catastrophic injuries. When choosing a table saw, look for these safety features:

  • Large, ‘hands-off’ paddle switch: This allows you to keep your hands on your work, while you turn the power off with your leg or knee.
  • Riving Knife: This prevents the cut pieces of wood from kicking back, a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Blade Guards: This removable plastic piece covers the saw blade, which helps prevent accidental contact with the blade.

Buying a table saw that is within your budget is crucial – but don’t choose based on price alone. Don’t skimp on important safety features, and choose a model with a well-built blade.

Check out this video for some more advices on buying a table saw: