How to Choose a Table Saw
The top performers in our review are the Ridgid R4513, the Gold Award Winner; the DeWALT DWE4791RS, the Silver Award Winner; and the Bosch 4100-09, the Bronze Award Winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 systems.
For any woodworker, a workspace is built around the table saw. For contractors, builders, homeowners and handymen, a mobile version can be an important part of any project. If you’re replacing a rotting roof or a damaged subfloor, a table saw is a significant upgrade to a circular saw and sawhorse combination. With a table saw, you can quickly and easily make accurate cuts, and it’s easy to work through a lot of lumber in a short time.
The Different Types of Table Saws
Even the most rudimentary and high-end table saws share the basic circular blade mounted on an arbor. From there, table saws are classified by four different categories: benchtop, contractor, cabinet and hybrid table saws.
Benchtop saws are highly portable and are meant to be placed on another surface for operation. You can purchase separate rolling stands for benchtop table saws or enjoy the convenience of moving them from place to place. They’re usually the least-expensive saws and take up little room in a garage or truck. Usually they weigh between 50 and 100 pounds and often have feet that can be adjusted to whatever surface you’re working on.
Contractor table saws are often significantly heavier than their benchtop counterparts and usually have larger tabletops and cut capacity. The most significant difference is that they feature a stand that can be set up for use on any site. This means you can easily take your saw to the most convenient location for your project.
Cabinet table saws are permanent fixtures in a woodshop. Usually they take the most prominent place in your workspace, and they require a lot of room. For serious woodworkers, they have significant advantages. They have the best dust control and least vibration. If you do finish work, like cabinetry, minimizing vibrations means your cuts are more accurate and working with large pieces isn’t as cumbersome. You can do extremely intricate work, and you can lean onto the machine and it won’t budge as you work.
A hybrid table saw is a compromise between cabinet-style saws and portable table saws. Often they sacrifice some weight of the tabletop or add wheels to the base. The best hybrid saws give you good dust control, their vibration resistance is better than smaller machines, and you can move it around if necessary.
Table Saws: What We Evaluated, What We Found
During our evaluations, we noticed that the most popular selling saws were the benchtop and contractor saws. We further narrowed down our selection saws available through major national retailers, and we only considered well-known national brands. We also wanted to include manufacturers with the clout to support their customers and stand behind their products.
While evaluating, we narrowed down categories that would be the most helpful to you and then compared the table saws side-by-side. We looked at the placement of switches, how easily they could be moved from site to site, and how quickly we could get to work without excessive adjusting and assembly. We wanted to see how quickly and easily you could set up the saw, raise the blade, install the safety features, change the blade and then get to work.
We looked for ease of use, consistent and powerful cuts, accident-prevention measures, and the warranties and support of each manufacturer.
What You Should Look For In a Table Saw
Ease of Use
One feature that appeals to both homeowners and contractors is portability. Most amateur woodworkers use their garage as a part-time woodshop, and it’s important to be able to maximize the available space and move tools around when necessary. Contractors who work on site need to be able to pull their table saw from a truck and work onsite. We looked for benchtop table saws that were lightweight and had logically placed handles for easy carrying. For larger contractor-style saws, we wanted a rolling stand that could be set up with little effort – single handed or gravity assisted was a plus.
Another important consideration is the table saw’s fence. The fence is a wall on the table set as a guide for the wood. The fence should be easy to set to your cutting width, and it should fall parallel with the sawblade without any effort. You should also expect it to stay in place if you bump it with lumber. While many homeowners don’t require tables with large cutting capacity, a contractor would likely require a saw that can cut a sheet of plywood in half – 24 inches or more. You often sacrifice some portability and weight for larger tabletops.
If you’re working out of your garage or on a jobsite that needs to be kept clean, the dust collection is an important consideration. Most of the saws in our lineup have a port that a wet/dry vacuum hose can attach to, and the Rockwell RK7241S had a passive collection bag below the machine. We also looked for a convenient method of changing blades, and storage capacity for extra blades and accessories on the machine where they won’t get lost.
Cutting & Power
All of the table saws that we considered drew from a standard 120-volt circuit. Unless you’re buying cabinet style table saws, most small to medium machines, and all the saws on our lineup, work on a 15-amp outlet. In the benchtop and contractor style machines, there is very little variation in horsepower, and they generally run between 1.5 and 2 HP. There was quite a difference in blade revolutions per minute (rpm), and without stock (cut lumber) on the table, they went from 3650 to 5000 rpm.
There was also some variation on the cutting depth – they ranged from 3 ¼ inches to over 3 ½ inches with an upright blade. Fifteen-amp machines, however, are generally meant to cut thinner wood. If you’re working with hardwoods, for instance, table saws in this class would struggle to get through more than two inches of stock.
All of the blades would bevel from zero to 45 degrees, and the Bosch 4100-09 went from -2 to 47 degrees. Each table saw included a blade, usually from the same manufacturer. They were mostly general-purpose blades, often with a low teeth count. These are generally better for rough cuts and not finish work. We recommend buying a high-quality blade meant for a specific job, whether you’re cutting through plywood for subfloors and roofing or doing finish work for cabinetry.
Nationwide, about 40,000 people in the U.S. go to the hospital with table-saw-related injuries, and about 10% of those end in amputation. While the technology exists to automatically stop a blade that comes into contact with the skin, very few manufacturers have incorporated it into their designs. There are other safety measures to prevent accidents, and it’s important that you familiarize yourself with how they work when you are considering which saw to purchase.
Every saw we considered included a plastic blade guard, a safety feature that’s been available in the U.S. for several decades. Some projects require that you remove the blade guard, and in most cases, you’ll want it removed during transport. If the blade guard is difficult to install, or requires tools to attach it to the splitter, it may be more convenient to leave it off. The splitter is a metal blade that keeps the lumber separated as it exits the blade. You should be able to easily attach the guard to the splitter without additional tools.
Additionally, most table saws come with anti-kickback pawls – two serrated blades that drop down from the blade guard or riving knife. If the wood is forced backwards, the pawls will prevent the stock from hitting you by digging into the wood. These should also be easily installed and removed.
Table saws are generally meant to be used with the fence on the right side. If your saw blade tilts toward the fence, the wood can be pinched and more easily kicked back, especially if the fence isn’t perfectly parallel with the blade. If you’re a new woodworker, or not accustomed to a right-tilting blade, the left tilt is a safer bet.
The last safety feature you should look for in a table saw is an on/off switch that you can easily reach in an emergency. Most of the saws we evaluated had large, prominent switches on the front of the unit. If both of your hands are handling wood, you should be able to use your knee or hip to shut off the motor without taking your hands off the work.
Support & Warranty
All of the saws we evaluated came from reputable manufacturers that guarantee no defects from workmanship for at least one year. Some of the saws have extensive warranties that cover several years or even service guarantees that include free service and parts. Most also have unconditional money-back guarantees if you change your mind within a short time after purchase.
Table Saws: Our Recommendations
After researching the best benchtop and contractor table saws on the national market, we determined that the Ridgid R4513, the DeWALT DWE7491RS and the Bosch 4100-09 are the best table saws on the market. The controls are logically placed and well designed, they’re easy to move from place-to-place, they give you consistent and accurate cuts, and they have generous warranties and support. Finally, they have safety features and enough power to help you get through almost any project meant for this class of saw.