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Table Saw Buying Guide

A table saw is a versatile addition to a workshop or job site. A table saw can quickly make a variety of cuts, providing the flexibility to handle many different projects. This guide will help you find the best type of saw for your work and discuss some of the key features and accessories that are available.

Table Saw Basics

Table Saw Diagram Showing the Miter Gauge, Rip Fence and Bevel Adjustment.

On a table saw, the blade is in a fixed position. The operator pushes the workpieces past the blade to make cuts. A table saw can make long, straight, rip cuts (with the wood grain) and repeated crosscuts (across the wood grain) much more quickly and accurately than handheld circular saws. A table saw can also make miter and bevel cuts (angled cuts).

Standard components include:

  • Rip fence: a bar on a table saw that functions as a guide for a workpiece as it moves past the blade.
  • Miter gauge: a guide that you can adjust to move the workpiece past the blade for making cuts at specific angles.
  • Bevel system: a mechanism that allows you to tilt the blade to make bevel cuts.
  • Riving knife: keeps the workpiece from pinching the blade, reducing the risk of the boards kicking back toward the operator
  • Anti-kickback pawls: metal arms with teeth that grab a workpiece if it kicks back toward the operator
  • Blade guard: a pivoting shield that protects the operator from dust and debris, as well as kickback and accidental contact with the blade.

Portable table saws are the perfect choice for framing and deck building, or for use in shops with limited space. Stationary table saws usually operate in one location as a permanent feature and often have a larger table and more features.

When using an extension cord with a table saw, make sure you have a suitable cord. Follow the device manufacturer's recommendations for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.

Watch What's That Cut Called? to learn about some of the cuts you can make with a table saw.

Table Saw Motors and Drive Configuration

Direct-Drive Portable Table Saw.

Table saws use one of two types of drive / motor combinations:

  • Direct-drive saws usually have a universal motor that links directly to the blade and transfers all of the power to the blade. These motors are typically found on portable table saws. They provide a lot of power in a small package but can be very loud.
  • Belt-drive saws 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 material. Belt-drive saws require slightly more preventive maintenance than direct-drive systems — you'll need to check the belts for wear and proper tension periodically.

Table Saw Features

Table Saw with Push Stick, Blade Guard and Anti-Kickback Pawls.

The right features can make your saw more efficient and simplify your projects:

  • Amps measure the power of the saw motor. Higher amps mean more cutting power.
  • Arbor or shaft locks immobilize the shaft and blade, making it much easier to change the blade.
  • Dust chutes and blowers help move sawdust from the work area.
  • Micro-adjust rip fences offer fine control over your work.
  • Extendable rip fences fold or slide out to offer expanded rip cutting capability when needed
  • Mobile stands provide support and portability for the saw.

Table Saw Accessories

Mobile Stand Supporting a Table Saw at a Job Site.

Accessories let you use a table saw in a variety of applications:

  • Rolling stands (image to the right) provide a stable workspace for your saw at a jobsite.
  • Mobile bases give stationary saws mobility. Most mobile bases have casters that lock to keep the saw stationary when it's 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 it's not in use.
  • Extension tables or supports mount to the side of the table saw and provide a larger more stable work surface when cutting wide stock.
  • Dado sets cut wide, straight slots in a single pass. Dados are especially useful in joinery and shelving applications.

 

Shop for Table Saws

Table Saw Blades

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 is compatible with your table saw and the type of work you need to do. See our Circular Saw Blade Buying Guide to learn about blade types.

Caution

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