As your woodworking skills increase, you might want to tackle more complex projects. A table saw yields much more accurate cuts than a regular saw, so consider investing in this tool. Use our buying guide to discover which table saw is right for you.

The Workhorse of Woodshops

A table saw is the anchor of a tool inventory because it's the most versatile and used of all tools. It's capable of a wide variety of uses, with few limitations. To better understand its capacities, read our buying guide to learn about different kinds of saws.

Table Saw Basics

On a table saw, the blade is in a fixed position. The operator pushes the workpieces past the blade to make one of several types of cuts.

  • Rip Cuts: These are long, straight, and go with the wood grain.
  • Crosscuts: These go against the wood grain.
  • Angled Cuts: There are two types of angled cuts, miters and bevels. Miter cuts are made on the face of the wood, while bevel cuts are made to the edge of the wood.

 

Table saws also come with a variety of standard components.

  • Rip Fence: This is a bar on a table saw that functions as a guide for a workpiece as it moves past the blade.
  • Miter Gauge: This adjustable guide lets you move the workpiece past the blade for making cuts at specific angles.
  • Bevel System: To make bevel cuts, use this mechanism to tilt the blade into the appropriate position.
  • Riving Knife: To keep the workpiece from pinching the blade, use this tool. It also helps to reduce the risk of boards kicking back toward the operator.
  • Anti-Kickback Pawls: Metal arms with teeth will grab a workpiece if it kicks back toward the operator.
  • Blade Guard: A pivoting shield protects the operator from dust and debris, as well as kickback and accidental contact with the blade.

 

Types of Table Saws

Making long, straight rip cuts (with the grain) and repeated crosscuts (against the grain) is much easier, quicker, and more accurate with a table saw. At the most general level, table saws can be divided into two types: portable or stationary.

Portable table saw

Portable Table Saws

Portable table saws perform many of the same functions as larger stationary saws, but have a decided advantage in their mobility, such as being the perfect tool for framing and deck-building. They’re also a good choice for small shops with limited space.

SHOP PORTABLE TABLE SAWS
Stationary table saw

Stationary Table Saws

These are usually set up in one location as a permanent fixture and 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.

SHOP STATIONARY TABLE SAWS

Drive Configuration

Table saws use one of two types of drive/motor combinations: direct-drive or belt-drive.

Direct-drive table saw

Direct-Drive Saws

In this configuration, a universal motor links directly to the blade and transfers all the power to the blade. These motors are typically found on portable saw blades. They provide a lot of power in a small package, but can be very loud.

Belt-drive table saw

Belt-Drive Saws

These typically feature an induction motor and a belt that transfers power to the blade. The motor can be offset away from the sawdust, enabling it to last longer. Induction motors are quieter and capable of cutting denser materials. Make sure to periodically check the belts for proper wear and tension.

Accessories

  • Rolling Stand: With this, you can provide a stable workspace for your saw at a jobsite.
  • Mobile Base: Give your stationary saw mobility with a base that has lockable casters to keep the saw stationary. Mobile bases are good options for small or shared shops so you can roll the saw out of the way when not in use.
  • Extension Tables/Supports: Mount these to the side of the table saw to make cutting wide stock easier and more stable.
  • Dado Sets: Dados (wide, straight slots) are especially useful in joinery and shelving applications.
SHOP TABLE SAW ACCESSORIES

Blade Size

Most table saws use 10 inch circular saw blades. Different blades are suited for different types of cuts and materials. When purchasing a blade, make sure it’s compatible with your table saw and the type of work you do.

SHOP TABLE SAW BLADES

Blade Types

A few common blade types include:

  • Steel: Inexpensive and great for working with softwood, but can dull quickly with hardwood.
  • High-Speed Steel: Harder than regular steel so it can stay sharper longer.
  • Carbide-Tipped: The most expensive but also the most durable, they stay sharp much longer than steel or high-speed steel.
SHOP TABLE SAW BLADES

Caution

Always unplug any power tool from its power source before servicing, adjusting, or changing accessories. Follow the device manufacturer’s operating, maintenance, and safety instructions, including those on wearing safety gear.

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