What you should know when buying a table saw

December 15, 2014

A table saw may be the most expensive woodworking tools you’ll own, so here’s how to make the right purchase within your budget.

What you should know when buying a table saw

Types of table saws

Contractor saws: They’re called contractor saws because, theoretically, they can be loaded in a truck and transported to job sites. They’re usually lighter than cabinet saws but could weigh a hefty 300 lbs or so. These saws usually have open stands and use 10" blades.

Cabinet saws: Cabinet saws are table saws built on top of a storage cabinet so they’re meant to stay in place in a workshop. Look for a cabinet saw with an iron table, which is more stable and gives you a consistently flat surface to work on.

Hybrid saws: Hybrid saws feature a combination of beefed-up cabinet saw qualities with those of lighter weight contractor saws.

Portable table saws: Also called mini table saws, portable table saws sacrifice power for easy movement. They can handle many smaller home jobs and are usually the most affordable of the table-type saws. Saw stands can be purchased for portable saws.

Factors to consider when buying a table saw

Voltage: Most cabinet saws are set to 220 volts electricity because they need extra power. Contractor saws are set to the standard 110 volts that’s more widely available. Hybrid saws sometimes have a switch to use 220 volts, giving you more power so your saw won’t bog down under a heavy workload.

Horsepower: More horsepower means a faster, more powerful saw, which helps you accurately cut denser woods and keeps the saw blade from binding.

Table saw blades: The right table saw blade depends on your budget. Steel blades are the most affordable and work well on softwood. High-speed blades are mid-range blades, harder than steel so they stay sharp longer. Carbide-tipped saw blades are the most expensive, but are much stronger. A blade’s tooth type affects the cut. You’ll need to choose a blade to match the material you’re cutting.

Mitre gauge: A mitre gauge helps you with fast and accurate mitre cuts. They should come in 45 and 90 degree stops and be perfectly aligned to the blade for maximum accuracy.

Bevel capability: Many saws can tilt to make angled cuts. Most tilt left but some can tilt both ways for personal preference. Look for angle stops that match popular bevel sizes.

Rip fence: The fence helps keep the work-piece in line with the blade, so it needs to be easily adjustable but solidly constructed. Longer fences are more accurate but require a larger table. Always test the fence for construction and ease of use, making sure it stays in line with the saw blade at every setting.

A table saw is a great investment for any woodworker, so be sure the one you choose matches your skill level and power requirements.

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