The scoop on different types of table saws
As a woodworker, homemaker, or hobbyist interested in investing in a table saw, there is actually a lot to know before making a purchase. Ultimately, your decision will come down to what projects you will be using the saw for most often.
There are two different types of table saws, but both kinds of table saws have sub-types that are used for different tasks and projects. The two types are Portable and Stationary. To give you an understanding about which saw will be the best fit for you, let’s dive in to how each saw differs.
Portable saws are typically smaller and lighter in order to easily maneuver. Since their main quality is being portable, the materials that they are made out of are generally lighter and less sturdy, keeping the weight of the saw at a minimum, usually weighing somewhere around 50 pounds. Portable saws produce approximately 2hp, operating on 15-amp and 120 volts.
These are usually the smallest and least heavy saws that you can buy. They are best used in a home workshop or garage and if the name didn’t give it away, are meant to sit on top of a bench for use. Since they don’t come with a stand of any sort, you will always need to place them on a platform. Because the table surface of the saw is much smaller with benchtops, the rip capacity will be limited. This refers to the amount of space from blade to fence, or the maximum width the piece must have.
Because they are a smaller type of table saw, they will be less functional than larger saws. Though they aren’t as durable, they offer good power for their size. They are also the cheapest type of table saw, being made from cheaper materials in order to save weight, and using a simple design with fewer components.
Best for: light-duty woodworking at home, done inside a garage or home workshop, perfect for a hobbyist or DIYer. They are also great for first time users.
Featuring many similar characteristics as the benchtop, compact table saws are lightweight with a smaller surface area which limits the rip capacity. The biggest difference is that compact saws will come with a stand and they are slightly larger.
Best for: hobbyists, but because they are sturdier than benchtops, they are also great for tradesmen.
Jobsite saws are still portable but they are much heavier than compact and benchtop saws. They typically will come with a foldable stand or wheels so that transporting is still rather easy. They provide a lot of accuracy that is crucial for contractors and they are very durable, so they can handle a beating and still producing great results. Unlike the smaller saws, jobsite saws will include various features, such as a dust collection port, and have a larger surface area allowing for a greater rip capacity.
Best for: professional worksites and tradesmen, having a solid combination of functionality and durability, but they can also be suitable for the home woodworker.
Stationary Table Saws
Because they have no need to move around or transport, stationary table saws are much larger, heavier and more powerful. Many are built from heavy, cast iron to provide even more stability. Some stationary saws can weigh more than 600 pounds. This durability allows for precise cuts and enough power to rip through large sheets.
What was once a more portable design and the go-to for many everyday professionals, is now a powerful, two to three hundred pound saw. They were originally designed to be a lesser version of the cabinet saw. While being a lot cheaper than the cabinet saw, they still offer a lot of power producing about 1 to 2 hp, plenty of power to cut through large materials. It is also a quieter saw, using an induction motor, however, they provide no solution to dust collection.
Best for: professional woodworkers working on serious projects, that have a smaller budget.
These are a mix between contractor and cabinet models and are highly competitive with high-end contractor models. They sport a similar motor size to contractor saws, however, hybrids have an inboard belt-driven motor, rather than the outboard motor of the contractor. There are many hybrid models that offer fully enclosed stands that improve dust collection.
Best for: professionals and home woodworkers alike, working in an enclosed space, that need the reasonable pricing of a contractor saw and the power of a full cabinet saw.
Being the most powerful saw on the market, every characteristic is superior to other types of saws. Made from cast iron and steel, they are designed to withstand heavy-duty use and produce the most precise and accurate results. The durability of the cabinet saw is made to last, with its weight typically being well over 500 pounds. The powerful motor runs on 240v, producing between 3 and 5hp, allowing you to cut through just about anything. The enclosed cabinet collects dust far better than any of the other saws.
Best for: nearly all professional contractors, especially those needing to frequently cut large stock and working in large spaces.
Now that you are familiar with the different types of table saws, your next step is to consider what you will be using it for the most. Also think about what budget you would like to spend, how much space you have to store it, and if you will need something portable. Don't forget to brush up on safety tips for the type you plan to use. Then you can make an informed decision and get to woodworking!