The table saw is an incredibly versatile machine that can greatly improve the accuracy, quality and variety of cuts a woodworker can make. For most people, the table saw is one of the first major tool purchases made. Choose wisely.
Things to do before you buy
Buy a book on using a table saw before you buy a table saw. It is a cheap investment that will give you a good idea about what table saws can do and how to make them do it. And, a book is always a good reference tool for later on. In addition, every major woodworking magazine offers regular tool reviews. They are very good at evaluating the equipment. Get an issue or two, read them, and use their insights to guide your choices.
Determine the kind of work you expect to do most of the time. Softer woods like pine or cedar won't require the same cutting power as oak or maple. Cutting plywood or sheet goods will require a wider fence capacity and support table than ripping narrower boards. If you are a weekend warrior, you can get by with less of a workhorse than if you are in the shop morning to evening every day.
Determine how much you can afford to spend on a table saw. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. What will your budget allow? And what accessories will you need? You may want an after-market rip fence. You will almost certainly want at least one quality blade. A standard miter gauge will work, but a quality miter gauge will work well.
When all is said and done, the accessories can easily add up to more than the cost of the saw itself. It is easy to overextend yourself, so do some homework. Set a budget, and stay within it. My advice is to spend as much as you can for as good a saw as you can get. The investment will pay off for many years.
The various types of table saws and their relative pros and cons
This is a small, portable saw, usually with a direct-drive motor, that can be purchased for less than $500.
This is the most common type of table saw and probably the type of saw you will end up buying. It has most of the features of a high-end saw but, generally, less power. Most are belt driven. Prices range from $500 to $1000.
This is a high-end saw for a high-end user. It is belt driven by large-horsepower motors. Prices range from $900 to over $2000.
Other considerations when you're purchasing a table saw
These saws can last many woodworkers for a lifetime, so you'll want to invest more at the beginning for a tool you will pleased and proud to own for years.
By Donald Moore