Types of Table Saws, Uses & Our Recommendations

If you are a woodworker, then buying a table saw is a big investment you are going to make.

A table saw is a woodworking tool that is powered by an electrical motor and comes with a circular saw blade to cut wood. Not only does it give you a precise cut but also makes it easier to complete tough and huge woodworking projects.

If you are a novice and you working on your first project, you may find it difficult to choose the right table saw from the options available. However, you don’t need to worry; in this article, we are going to look at the different types of table saws available in the market and which one will be most suitable for your needs.

All Types of Table Saws

There are two basic types of table saws based on portability and functionality. They are divided into portable and stationary table saws. All others are sub-types that fall under each of these two categories.

Portable table saws are mostly lightweight and small in size and can be easily carried around by anyone without much difficulty. However, these features can be enjoyed at the cost of the saw lacking in power, usability, and precision.

The ones that are more powerful and accurate are difficult to move around and may need several people or a mobile base in order to be transported elsewhere. They are known as stationary table saws.

Therefore, if you are shopping for a new saw, you need to keep these details on top of your mind so that you make the right buying decision.

When you know the types and uses of different table saws, you will be able to make the most of your purchased table saw.

Portable Table Saws

There are two sub-types under the portable table saw category. This includes the bench top and job site table saws.

Just as the name suggests, portable saws are made to be move-able, lighter, and smaller. Most portable saws are also built without stands or legs. They can be clamped on the floor or placed on a custom made or commercially bought stand.

portable table saw

Their construction does not involve sturdier or heavier material in order to keep their weight down.

Hence, if you do not have adequate storage space, this is a great choice for you. What’s more, a majority of portable table saws come with 120V, direct drive 15AMP motors which do not produce power over 2HP.

1. Bench Top

Benchtop saws feature a compact and very light construction that makes it possible for anyone to move them around.

Because of it’s portability, they are a great choice for those who want to accomplish some light-duty work either in the workshop or garage. However, it can only offer enough power and precision to perform basic woodworking tasks.

benchtop table saw

A benchtop table saw does not come with stands or legs but rely on a work-bench (as the name suggests) for support.

You just need to clamp it to the surface beneath or customize a stand to attach it. Another advantage of the benchtop table saw is that it is the cheapest option. This is because it’s top is designed with cheaper materials like aluminium and plastic.

When compared to a full-size table saw, the construction of a benchtop uses fewer components. It also comes with a universal brush motor and a blade with a maximum size of 10-inches.

However, because of the aluminium or plastic construction, these saws are less durable and stable to work with.

They make use of a lightweight universal motor which is fairly loud.

Another drawback is the size of the table saw which makes it inefficient for splitting large sheet materials. Sure, you can add extension wings, but this will require you to spend more time in setting up the saw.

Who Should Use & What for?

A benchtop table saw is ideal for woodworkers who spend most of their time in a workshop or garage. Because of their low cost, they are ideal for beginners who are trying to accomplish their first project(s) when compared to cabinet table saws.

Our Top Recommendation

A great choice would be the Dewalt Dwe7480. It is budget-friendly, lightweight and suitable for limited space environments, making it an ideal choice for those who prefer light work.

2. Jobsite Table Saws

The jobsite table saws have a more rugged and robust construction as well as offer more functionality than the benchtop saws.

Also known as contractor saws, these saws are preferred by many contractors. However, they are different from contractor table saws which you will see later on in this article.

jobsite table saw

Jobsite table saws are designed to be compact and portable so you can carry them anywhere. They are designed for functionality and produce more accurate results than the bench top table saw. Also, their rip capacity is bigger (24”) and the fences are more reliable. Some of them even include extension tables.

Despite being portable, they feature a stand that comes with transport wheels. These stands are also designed to be fold-able so as to take up less space.

Jobsite saws feature direct drive motors that are durable and powerful enough for heavy-duty use. Other great specifications like dust collection ports, on-board storage space and riving knives are usually considered standard for the job site saws. This is probably because they are not found only in the benchtop table saw.

Who Should Use & What for?

Jobsite saws are a great choice for woodworkers who are looking for more accuracy. The fact that they offer a mixture of both functionality and portability makes these saws perfect for professionals.

Professionals and woodworkers working at job sites demand more functionality and power which benchtop saws aren’t  able to offer. On the other hand, the user will enjoy great functionality but less portability.

Our Top Recommendation

We recommend the Bosch 4100 for job sites. It is an ideal choice for those who are looking for more features and are actually working on moderate to expert level woodworking projects.

Stationary Table Saws

The stationary table saws are not portable and are designed to be placed at a single spot. But you can still use a mobile base if you wish to transport the saw around the workshop.

What makes them stand out from portable table saws is the fact that they are larger and heavier as well as more powerful and accurate.

In this category, there are 3 sub-types of saws including cabinet, hybrid, and contractor table saws. Below is a comprehensive explanation to understand all of them.

1. Hybrid Table Saws

The hybrid table saw is the newest addition to the variety of table saws that comes with combined features of the contractor saw and the cabinet saw.

If money does not matter and you have enough space in your workshop, then cabinet saws would take the lead. However, since money is a consideration to many, manufacturers have now decided to come up with hybrid table saws that incorporates the features of affordable contractor saws without missing the amazing features that cabinet saws have to offer.

hybrid table saw

Hybrid table saws have a 1-3HP motor that allows them to be used with the standard 110V service. They are lightweight and come with open leg stands.

There are some models that come with full enclosures, making it difficult for the buyer to differentiate them from industrial cabinet saws. In either case, the motor is mounted inside the completely enclosed base and not on the back of the saw.

When compared to contractor saws, they are generally more powerful and functional. They also have a more innovative drive belt mechanism, better gearing, and substantial trunnions and arbor bearings than most contractor saws. They comes with an enclosed cabinet base for collecting dust, reliable fences and larger rip capacities.

Who Should Use & What for?

A professional woodworker or an ambitious home woodworker would love what the hybrid table saw has to offer. They are sturdy and offer many benefits to a serious hobbyist. The hybrid table saw is great for domestic supply because of its small motor that only needs the 110v to run it.

Our Top Recommendation

The Shop Fox W1819 is a perfect choice of a quality hybrid table saw. It has all the features explained above. Plus, though not as cheap compared to a basic table saw, this one is a great investment and would surely last longer than other.

For more options, check our guide on: Best Hybrid Table Saws

2. Contractor Table Saws

Contractor table saws have an open-base design and are relatively light weight – around 250-350lbs. Initially, they were even more portable and had a smaller design as compared to larger cabinet saws.

With the emergence of new contractor saw designs, they feature large outboard induction and belt driven motors which have become more powerful over the years. These saws are specifically aimed at professionals.

contractor table saw

With the progression of their design, the motors use longer belts in order to drive the blade. As a result, there was an increase in vibrations and a decrease in its dust collection ability. If the motor hangs off the rear, you are likely to experience problems with dust collection.

Although it is not entirely portable, the contractor table saw comes with a bigger table for ripping large sheet materials.

In some cases, the table size is almost similar to that of cabinet saws. While the table of a cabinet table saw is constructed from heavy cast iron, the table of a contractor table saw is usually made from lighter weight steel.

Contractor saws are now even equipped with quality fence systems that are easy to use and produce professional grade cuts.

Who Should Use & What for?

Because of their accuracy and power, the contractor saws are for professional woodworkers or home woodworkers who are working on serious projects and require more accuracy.

The contractor saw is also an inexpensive option for the hobbyists who desires to accomplish wood projects of any sort including small cabinetry projects, carpentry, furniture making and trim work.

Our Top Recommendation

Our top choice for contractor table saws is the DeWalt DWE7491RS. This is excellent for advanced projects. With it’s top-notch saw blade designed for difficult cuts, you will have to look no further.

For more options, check our guide: Best Contractor Table Saws

3. Cabinet Table Saws

A cabinet tables aw is more powerful, bigger and heavier than the rest of the stationary table saws. The name comes from their fully enclosed cabinet style base.

In fact, they do not have much difference with cabinet-enclosed hybrid saws as far as looks are concerned.

cabinet table saw

Each component of this type of saw is designed to be durable and endure heavy-duty use. For instance, they have more powerful motors with 3-5HP and call for a 220V circuit to operate.

Furthermore, the trunnions, gearing as well as arbor assemblies are heavy duty. The heavy-duty trunnions hold the motor and arbor assembly in place and are attached to the cabinet base (and not the table) – which makes it easy to bring the saw blade into alignment with the fence and slot miter.

Cabinet saws are robust and well-constructed, using cast iron and steel. The cabinet saws are known for their fully enclosed base which holds the motor making it quiet and renders dust collection easier.

Their tables are flatter, huge, and come with larger extensions. The bearings and pulleys are also more sturdy than their counterparts.

The fences are more reliable and accurate, and you won’t need to keep readjusting once you have made all the necessary adjustments.

The miter gauges are easy to use and you can rely on them. A miter gauge makes it possible to make any kind of cross cuts or angled cuts.

All these amazing inclusions enable the cabinet saws to cut through the thickest hardwood, plywood, pine, large material sheets, pressure treated lumber, and many more with little vibration and effort.

Their weight ranges from 200-600lbs making them hard to move around. You can mount it on a mobile case if you want to move them from one place to another. Another drawback is that they have higher expenses including high electrical power requirements.

Who Should Use & What for?

Cabinet saws are designed to be extremely durable and robust, making them ideal for use by professional contractors, factory shops, and specialized schools.

Although they have a greater expense, they are still the preferred saw of serious amateurs and professional woodworkers who demand serious performance, functionality, and top-notch results. Their ability to accurately cut and shape wood into amazing finished products makes them invaluable.

Being this heavier and having bigger sturdier parts, cabinet saws may be ideal for you if you have adequate space to hold them. Sometimes they weigh over 500 pounds, which means that they would probably stay at one place once set up.

Our Top Recommendation

For this category, we highly recommend the Grizzly G0690. Grizzly is one of the most trusted brands in the market today and this model is the go-to cabinet saws for beginner and professional woodworkers.

For more options, check our guide: Best Cabinet Table Saws

Choosing the Perfect Saw For Your Needs

First things first, you need to understand that different types of table saws are designed to perform specific jobs.

It is important to note that the table saw you choose will depend on the type & level of woodworking activities you perform and also the amount of time & budget you wish to spend on the project.

Skill Level

For instance, if you only work for a few hours in a week on craft and small cabinetry projects, then you should opt for a cheap tool such as the contractor saw.

But if you are a serious hobbyist, then you need a table saw that offers functionality and can still be used for small-scale operations, such as the hybrid table saw. Otherwise, choosing a low-end model when you need to finish advanced woodworking projects will slow you down.

Space

Before you commit to a specific table saw, you should also determine the space available and the kind of access that your workshop offers. You do not want to purchase a full-scale cabinet table saw when your shop cannot afford adequate storage space.

Motor

Another thing you need to consider when choosing a table saw is the type of motor it sports. Smaller and portable saws feature direct-drive motors that run on 120V circuits and produce no more than 2HP which can only be used for cutting thinner material sheets.

Larger table saws, on the other hand, feature motors that operate on 240V and produce between 3-5HP. This is sufficient for cutting thick hardwoods and material sheets of nearly any size. These motors also use a belt drive to transfer power to the blade.

Conclusion

You now know the different types of table saw options available in the market for tackling different woodworking projects.

We hope that we have cleared any misconceptions regarding all sorts of table saws and that you will find this comprehensive guide useful when you plan to buy your next table saw.

Take a close look at the quality of the construction, the fence system, stance and mass of trunnions, the horsepower of the motor, extension wings, and so on.

Also, do not forget to compare brands from different manufacturers so as to know where to invest your money on.

Better yet, read reviews and do extensive research on the manufacturer so that you can be sure that you are working with the most trusted brand in the industry.

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