As your woodworking skills increase, you may discover that you want to tackle more complex projects. And, since table saws yield much more accurate cuts than hand held saws, consider adding one to your tool arsenal. Choosing the right table saw, however, depends on your particular needs.
The first thing to consider when choosing a table saw is how you are going to use it. Two types are available:
Portable Table Saw
Portable Table Saw Portable Table Saws make long, straight rip cuts (with the wood grain) and repeated crosscuts (across the wood grain) much more quickly and accurately than ordinary circular saws. Portable table saws perform many of the functions of larger stationary table saws but have a decided advantage in their mobility. High mobility makes them the perfect choice for framing and deck building. They’re also a good choice for small shops with limited space.
Stationary Table Saw
Stationary Table Saw Stationary Table Saws are usually setup in one location as a permanent fixture and generally have more power than portable saws. Added power enables the saw to run knives and cutters designed to mill and remove large amounts of stock. Stationary saws usually accept more accessories than portable saws.
Table saws are also available in two drive configurations:
Direct-Drive Motors are linked directly to the blade and transfer all of the motor's power to the blade.
Belt-Drive Motors have a belt that transfers power from the motor to the blade. In belt drive systems, the motor can be offset away from sawdust generated during operation, causing the motor last longer. Belt drive systems require slightly more preventive maintenance than direct drive systems. So you’ll need to check the belts for wear and proper tension periodically.
The more accessories that a saw accepts, the more applications it can be used for. Typical features include:
Extension Tables mount to the side of the table saw and provide a larger more stable work surface when cutting wide stock.
Out Feed Extensions give extra support during long rip cuts.
Accessory Tables increase the versatility of your table saw and can turn your table saw into a router table, shaper, or even a scroll saw.
Sliding Mitre Tables slide in the mitre slot, square with the blade and provide very accurate mitre cuts.
Dado Heads cut wide, straight slots in a single pass. Dados are especially useful in joinery and shelving applications.
Mobile Bases give stationary saw mobility. Most mobile bases have casters that lock to keep the saw stationary when it is in use. Mobile bases are good options for small shops or shops in shared spaces so you can roll the saw out of the way when not in use.
Two common blade sizes for table saws are:
Eight-Inch Table Saws are a good choice for crafts and other applications associated with thinner stock.
Ten-Inch Table Saws provide the extra cutting depth needed for angled cuts in thicker stock.
Types of Blades
The most important part of the saw is the blade. Different blades are available for different applications. A few common blades include:
Steel Blades are inexpensive and work well for cutting softwood. Steel blades dull quickly in hardwood.
High-Speed Steel Blades are harder than steel blades and stay sharp longer.
Carbide-Tipped Blades are more expensive than other blades, but they stay sharp much longer than steel or high-speed steel.