Last updated on July 29th, 2021 at 09:35 pm
There’re different types of table saws, and choosing the right type for your particular range of projects is not the easiest of tasks. However, it’s not an impossible one too.
Whether you’re a hobbyist, a weekend warrior, a contractor or professional woodworker, with the right approach and knowledge, you can definitely get the perfect one sitting in your garage or workshop in no time.
But first, in order for you to make the right decision, you need to ask yourself sincerely. What kind of use do you hope to get out of the table saw? Answering this question correctly will help you determine the type you need.
The type of table saw suitable for a hobbyist who just needs it to make basic cuts for small home improvement projects will not be suitable for a professional finish carpenter, cabinet maker or even a contractor.
So to make the best choice, you need to know about the different types of table saws out there. Then, you will be in a better position to decide the one you want.
Basically, there are 7 types of table saws which include:
- Benchtop or portable
Benchtop or Portable Table Saws
Obviously, the name says it all. The greatest or standout feature of a benchtop table saw is its portability. They are designed to be placed on a table or any other support before operation.
These models are probably the first one people consider when they’ve got the hunch that they need a table saw for their projects. Why? Because they are almost the least expensive ones.
You don’t have to break the bank for you to afford one of these, and you won’t have much explanation to give your wife either, if you happen to get one without her consent.
Apart from that, they take up far less space in the workshop and are easy to store away when they are not in use.
They are also very good options for contractors who move from job site to jobsite handling one project after another because they can easily be loaded into the truck, offloaded and setup quickly even by one person.
Generally, they function the same way as their larger counterparts, but on a smaller scale. There’s also a difference in size and quality in their parts.
For instance, a benchtop table saw comes with a direct drive universal motor which is less expensive compared to the heavy induction motor found in larger models.
The universal motors have a shorter life span compared to induction motors. So, unlike the larger models which will stay and last even to see your great grand kids, a benchtop unit may not even last your life time.
The direct drive means the motor is directly connected to the blade. That is why they are also very loud compared to cabinet type saws that make use of belt drives.
Also the table of benchtop or portable table saws are made with aluminum instead of cast iron, in order to sacrifice weight for lightness and portability. Sacrificing weight will also mean that the saw will be less stable, thereby producing more vibrations during operation.
Conclusively, for benchtop models, portability is the desired feature. The price for portability however, is to sacrifice some quality.
That is not to say that benchtop units are not good. In fact for a hobbyist or even a contractor, they are probably the best.
However, they are not the best option for finish carpentry work. But they are very good for basic cuts needed in a small workshop, home improvement project and sometimes for jobsite use.
Jobsite Table Saws
Jobsite table saws are quite difficult to group separately because even the benchtop models can be used on the jobsite too.
Generally however, the jobsite units are quite larger in overall size and are slightly more expensive than the benchtop models because they come with folding stands that makes it easy to station them easily on the jobsite.
Some or even most of these folding stands (such as this Bosch) come with tires on them. Which means, you don’t have to pick them up from the ground when you’re done using it. You can just fold up the stand and roll the whole setup to your truck and take it with you from jobsite to jobsite.
Contractor Table Saws
The contractor table saw can be seen as an upgrade to the portable benchtop unit. It comes with an open base with a cast iron table and with the motor hanging from under the cast iron table.
They are lightweight but far heavier than the benchtop units, with their weight ranging from 250 lbs to 350 lbs.
Contractor saws are portable enough to be moved from jobsite to jobsite, but these are not machines you want to be lifting by yourself as can be done with the benchtop or portable models.
They’re not tools you can take with you to the jobsite every day. For instance, if your project is going to take up to a month, you can just take it there once, and leave it there until you finish that project. Then you can take it from that jobsite to another one or back to your workshop as the case may be.
Contractor saws are ideal for small shops, because although they occupy a larger footprint than the benchtop models, they are more portable than cabinet style units that are much larger and heavier. Like I said earlier, they are also jobsite saws. Even the name tells the whole story.
Unlike benchtop models, contractor table saws come equipped with brushless motors which are more powerful and quieter than universal motors.
The motor itself hangs off the back of the saw, with the trunnions attached to the underside of the table.
Contractor style units come with tables that are made of cast iron. However, that cannot be said of the extension wings, because they are made of different and much lighter materials such as stamped metal, open webbed cast iron and even manufactured laminate wood because this materials are less expensive compared to cast iron. This aids in reducing the price making it more affordable.
As regards the fence, contractor saws are fitted with higher quality fence than portable or benchtop models. Examples of such quality fence in contractor saws is the Accu fence system in the Powermatic 1791227k, the T-Glide fence system in the Sawstop CNS175-TGP52 and the Biesemeyer style fence in the Delta 36-5000.
Unlike benchtop units, you can decide to upgrade your contractor table saw fence with an aftermarket fence, if you are not satisfied with the quality of the fence that came with it. This will increase its accuracy. However, most of the time, the fences that come with them are top quality.
Although they’re mainly meant for small shop owners and hobbyists, a good contractor table saw will serve anyone, even a professional woodworker for a lifetime.
It can be used for different types of woodworking projects such as furniture, trim work, carpentry and cabinetry work.
In general, a contractor model has more capacity than a benchtop model and you will achieve more accuracy with it due to the higher quality fences that come with them.
Mini Table Saws
As you can tell from the name, these table saws are generally smaller than benchtop models and they even use smaller diameter blades like 4 inch blades.
These are usually a fraction of normal table saws and are thus less expensive, and also very easy to carry around. They’re generally used by homeowners, hobbyists, model builders and even professional carpenters and contractors for cutting very small pieces wood trim.
By using a mini table saw, a very small part of the material being cut is lost because the small 4 inch blade has a very small kerf or thickness compared to that of larger models.
It’s also quite safer to handle as there less chances of kickbacks. Even if there is, it won’t be as dangerous as that of a large cabinet model.
Cabinet Table Saws
As far as table saws go, the cabinet table saw is one of the most common type of table saw you can go for. In fact, one of the central tool of any established or professional woodworking shop is the cabinet styled saw.
With a cabinet unit in your workshop, you can cut the thickest of stocks and the hardest of woods with ease. These machines come equipped with raw muscle from powerful 3 HP to 5 HP motors, so they slice through the hard stocks like a hot knife through butter.
They are called cabinet table saws because the major working parts of the machine including the trunnions, the arbor assembly and the motor are all enclosed and concealed in a cabinet style based which extends from the table down to the base or floor.
This fully enclosed cabinet style base enclosing the motor and other working part dampens the noise produced during operation, making the machine a lot quieter than the other types of table saws.
The cabinet style base also makes dust collection very easy. In fact, it is much easier to collect dust and keep a cleaner workshop when using a cabinet saw.
As a hobbyist, you may not want to go for this one, because they’re pretty expensive. Apart from that, the table is very large, therefore it requires a lot of space which you may likely not have in your workshop.
It’s a massive saw in every way. The trunnions are made of heavy and massive cast irons, and you can say the same about the arbor assembly as well. Hence, it’s one of the heaviest piece of machinery that will ever grace your workshop if you ever get one of these.
These are not meant to be moved once they are setup. The good thing about a cabinet table saw is, it retains whatever settings or any adjustment you make on it, partly because of the weight of the parts and the professionalism with which they are made. It does not come out of alignment once it’s setup.
The enormous weight of the cabinet saw helps to absorb vibrations produced during operation, which in turn helps make sure that a smooth operation is maintain and accuracy is at its peak.
Another interesting thing to note about cabinet units is that, the trunnions holding the motor and arbor assembly which in turn holds the saw blade is bolted to the base of the saw, and not to the underside of the table unlike the contractor styled units.
This setup is very good because, with the trunnions mounted to the base, it is very easy to adjust and align the blade with the miter slot and fence respectively.
A cabinet styled unit is not a must have for every woodworker especially hobbyists. As I’ve mentioned earlier, they are pretty expensive and not everyone have the space for them.
However, for a professional craftsman, it’s what you need. The freedom and accuracy you will experience on a cabinet saw cannot be duplicated with the other portable saws.
Apart from that, they last for several lifetimes. A cabinet saw you buy today is going to outlive you, your kids, your grand-kids and maybe their grand-kids.
So, if you want to pass something really valuable on to your kids, a good cabinet styled unit might just be the type you need.
Hybrid Table Saw
If you want to get a cabinet table saw, but you don’t want to spend as much money, then getting a Hybrid table saw might just be the next best option for you. These saws are just like a sandwich of high end contractor saws and cabinet saws, and they come at a lower price than cabinet saws.
The cabinet base of hybrid models are either fully enclosed or partially enclosed to minimize noise and improve dust collection.
They usually come equipped with 1.5 to 2 hp motors, allowing you to run them on standard 120 volts household circuits.
Their trunnions can be either cabinet mounted or table mounted. It’s advisable that you go for one with a cabinet mounted trunnion because these are fairly easier to adjust than ones with their trunnions mounted on the table.
Sliding Table Saws
Sliding table saws are more like horizontal panel saws used for cutting large panels and sheet goods like plywood and MDF to size.
These models come with heavy duty 3 hp to 7 hp three-phase induction motors, allowing you to cut smoothly with them.
They’re also called European cabinet saws and are most likely the largest of all the types of table saws. Apart from the saw fence, these have a sliding table on the left side of the blade, which is usually mounted to the underside of the table by means of a folding arm.
This sliding table is used for making crosscuts and ripping down large panels and sheet goods. Sometimes, these models come equipped with 2 blades. One, a scoring blade smaller in size, mounted in front of the regular saw blade to reduce splintering the lower face of certain types of materials.