Unlike many consumer industries where there are many different types of products available, the table saw industry is relatively simple – there are four types of table saws. However, the moment you go into the details of these table saws, complex terms and excessive claims by companies begin to obscure the real utility of the various types of table saws. Purchase the wrong type of table saws, and you may well end up with a costly ornament that will grace your basement or shed for the rest of its useful life. Worse, you could begin cutting with such a saw and end up in a dangerous mishap. Now it is true that there are safety precautions for using table saws that lower the chances of such accidents, but then, why take the chance? Below we have explained the top four types of table saws along with detailed pros and cons analysis to help you decide what kind of table saw is best.
1. Benchtop/Job-Site Table Saws
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If you’re not associated with an industry that requires extensive woodworking, chances are that the benchtop table saw will be the only type you’ll be familiar with. These are highly portable and comparatively light table saws that are carried around by carpenters and other woodworking professionals for ripping jobs that typically do not demand a huge amount of motor muscle. Given their utility in actual job environments instead of the workshop, these portable saws are also called job-site saws.
Such job site portability requires lightness, and to ensure this, they are fitted with aluminum tops, which as a rule you will never find among the best table saws of the other categories. Ostensibly the aluminum is to reduce weight and therefore promote mobility, but sometimes the cost of mobility is poor stability and excessive vibration. This in turn creates greater risks of cutting oneself or sustaining other serious injuries when trying to cut the stock.
Another problem that is faced by regular users of benchtop table saws is the lack of an induction motor. Induction motors are heavy and in all probability, you would not be able to carry the job site saw. However, the power of the universal motors used in their stead is no comparison for the induction motors, and worse, they tend to produce a lot more noise. Finally, they cannot handle the heavier and larger stocks.
However, if you’re highly mobile, then asking what kind of table saw is best will likely get you only portable benchtop table saws as the answer.
Prices of good benchtop saws begin in the $200 range and can go up to $600 (though some special models can reach $1,000 as well). However, in general they are cheaper than all other types of saws available today.
- Highly portable for on-site cutting
- Can Handle medium to moderately large stocks
- Virtually only option for anyone needing a saw on the site
- Noisy and weak in performance
- Aluminum top not the most stable
- Difficult to handle heavier stocks
2. Contractor Table Saws
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Contractor saws were originally designed to be portable like the benchtop saws, but instead of being lifted, they were meant to be pulled along the ground. These weigh in the range of 250-350 lbs and are generally far more powerful than job site saws. Like the heavier types of table saws, they have the vital induction motor, but it hangs from the back of the apparatus. This was originally meant to facilitate the movement of the saw over long distances by first removing the motor. While this benefit still exists, the emergence of portable saws has led this feature of contractor saws to become an anachronism that allows the dust to collect near your body at the time of cutting.
Interestingly, contractor saws have the cast iron table that is essential for a stable and fast cutting machinery. Indeed, if you would ask what kind of table saw is best for combining stability with moderate mobility, the solution is likely to be contractor saws. Admittedly the motor is weak at 1-2HP but the possible stock size is larger than that of benchtop saws. Lastly, it is the most powerful saw that can run using the natural circuitry of the hosue, since its power demand is not higher than that of the most power hungry domestic appliances.
Contractor saws cost upwards of $500 and can go up to $1200 or so. They are costlier than benchtop saws but cheaper than good quality cabinet saws.
- Decent induction motor
- Cast iron table top
- Easily removable rear motor
- Uses the home electric supply
- Larger stock size compared to benchtop saws
- Portable over short distances
- Heavier than benchtop saws, cannot be carried
- Motor location creates dust problems.
3. Cabinet Table Saws
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If no specific condition be there and one be asked what kind of table saw is best, the answer will easily be cabinet saws. As anyone who knows how to use a table saw professionally will tell you, cabinet saws come with 3-6HP induction motors that can cut through even the most resistant and/or the largest of stocks . Furthermore, as the name suggests, they come with a cabinet style base which holds the motor. This ensures that the motor is quieter, and that there are less chances of instability arising during heavy cutting.
Furthermore, cabinet saws have heavy duty construction materials, which ensure that the saw is never at risk of breaking down. Most common construction materials for such saws are cast iron and steel, with aluminum almost never being an option.
As may be expected, these 600 lbs behemoths are extremely difficult to carry around, and therefore, are virtually stationary. The power supply required must be at least 220V. This obviously means greater spending on special circuiting, and this is one reason why only professionals use this type of saw. Finally, they tend to take up a lot more space than other types of saws, and often need a large room dedicated to themselves.
Quite costly in terms of the initial investment, cabinet saws are generally not found below $1200, and excellent quality table saws are generally priced higher than $2,000.
- High quality construction (using cast iron and steel)
- Very powerful motor
- Cabinet design for stability and less noise
- No limit to the maximum stock size
- A must for professional concerns
- Need special wiring to supply 220V electricity
- Large and unwieldy
4. Hybrid Table Saws
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A rather later innovation among the different types of table saws, hybrid saws seek to provide the very best of cabinet protection along with the portability and affordability of contractor saws. They may have proper fully covered cabinets or smaller ones with legs, but either way, they cover the motor and thereby reduce the dust spread and allow for smoother and quieter operation.
Of course, the inclusion of a cabinet makes the product rather bulkier than what some of the more ordinary contractor saws, but if portability is not an issue, one can benefit from the greater stability that this weight brings with it.
Pricing of hybrid saws is more complex, since they are available at prices as low as $800 and as high as $2,000. In general, however, the more a hybrid saw moves towards becoming a standard cabinet saw, the more the price tends to rise.
- Cabinet Included For smoother operation
- More stable and durable
- Offers better dust collection
- Heavier than contractor saws
As the short explanation provided above indicates, there is really not much to be confused about as far as the pros and cons of the different types of table saws are concerned. If you are highly mobile, a job site saw is perhaps the best option. For slightly more sophisticated and sedentary folk, the contractor or hybrid saws are advised, while for the highly specialized commercial concerns, cabinet saws offer perhaps the only viable solution. However, there is no thumb rule regarding which type of saw is the best, and it is therefore important to check out individual table saw reviews before choosing a certain saw.