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Table Saw vs. Circular Saw: Which will suit your needs?
A necessary tool for almost any woodworking project – the saw. Whether you’re an experienced woodcutter or a hobbyist DIYer, owning a good saw is a necessity for quality work. However, many woodworkers are faced with the difficult decision of deciding which type of saw is right for their needs. Today we’re going to compare two of the most common saws in the woodworking community – the table saw vs. circular saw.
So, what are the most important factors to consider when trying to decide which saw is right for your woodworking needs? First, you may want to think about your budget. From there, you should consider what type of work you’ll be doing, your level of experience, and the level of portability you’re seeking. Both of these saws have their pros and cons, which is why it’s important to dive deep into the features and functions of both to understand which saw is right for you.
What’s the difference?
Before we discuss the pros and cons, let’s consider what’s telling these saws apart. Although, they have a really similar function, they complete that function in a very different way. There’s really no task that a table saw can handle that a circular saw can’t. However, getting that final result with a table saw may have been a bit more difficult had you used a circular saw.
This isn’t to say that circular saws are useless. Oftentimes, they come in handy, and they definitely have their advantages. Some types of projects work better with a circular saw, and vice versa. This is why it’s so difficult to decide between a table saw and circular saw – because they serve such similar roles in a workshop. So, let’s go over the specifics of each of these saws.
The table saw:
The table saw, also known as a saw bench, is constructed by a circular blade connected to an arbor. The blade protrudes through the table which the material is supported. Table saws give the possibility to control the depth and length of the cut by moving the blade and fence. The great thing about the table saw is all the features which allow more precision and overall facilitate the work.
The cuts are made by manually pushing the material across the blade edge. This allows the operator to make quick, easy, fine cuts. Table saws are also extremely useful when doing crosscuts or rip cuts. Furthermore, they can also be used for miter angles but are limited in term of accuracy and options. Generally speaking, table saws are known for making the most accurate cuts.
Therefore, table saws are perfect for beginners – as it offers a great foundation for sawing and doesn’t require extensive technical knowledge or experience. You can saw without having to worry about being precise, since the machine is handling that for you.
Depending on what kind of work you do, portability may be an important factor to consider when comparing the table saw vs. circular saw. If you’re a professional woodworker, it is especially important that you’re able to move from one jobsite to the next.
Unfortunately, despite its precision and ease of use, table saws are lacking in terms of portability. Typically, they’re heavy and bulky – likely requiring two men to pick it up to place it on a truck. However, nowadays there is a modern type of table saw called a jobsite table saw. Generally, these will be foldable and have wheels to move around. Even so, getting a jobsite table saw into the bed of a truck or moving it upstairs will likely be a difficult task.
Types of table saws
Other than the jobsite table saw, there are various other types of table saws to fit the need of the woodcutter more appropriately. The most popular among them are contractor, cabinet, and hybrid.
Contractor table saw
As the name implies, the contractor table saw is typically used by contractors. Although these table saws have some serious power behind them, they are terrible in terms of portability – which is usually important to the modern contractor. Sometimes weighing up to 400 pounds, the contractor saw is typically the less favored choice – unless you don’t require mobility in your saw.
Similar to a contractor saw, a cabinet saw is almost impossible to transport. This is the table saw you’ll want to look into if you’re a seasoned contractor that works from one location. In terms of power, the cabinet saw is the colossal of all table saws. It’s highly durable, powerful, and has an excellent dust collection system. However, all these features come with a price, so don’t be surprised if you have to spend several grand on this saw.
Hybrid table saw
Hence the name, a hybrid table saw is a combination of the contractor saw and standard cabinet saw. While dust collection is typically an issue with contractor saws, hybrid saws place a greater focus on the dust collection system. It usually has power similar to a cabinet saw, but usually run for a lot less money. It’s also relatively lighter than a cabinet saw, making it a bit easier to transport. As a contractor requiring heavy-duty projects, this is the table saw I would go for.
Jobsite table saw
As mentioned previously, the jobsite table saw is likely the best choice for anyone looking for portability. They may have slightly less power than the aforementioned saws but have many great features to make up for it. Many of the parts are removable or adjustable to make it more compact. Plus, they also have on-board storage to keep tools and extra parts. Nowadays, jobsite table saws are the most popular type of saw, so companies are placing a lot of focus on improving them and adding the best features.
Check out the video below for more information on the different types of table saws!
Another important thing to consider when comparing the table saw vs circular saw is the price. Although table saws are heavy-duty, powerful, and extremely accurate – they tend to run on the expensive side. Depending on the specs, the brand, and the features – the price will vary greatly. On the cheaper end, a budget table saw will be around $200, but a high-quality saw with all the best features will likely run you 2-3x that price.
Table saws typically last for many years – sometimes even a lifetime. Oftentimes, table saws will come with a 2-3-year warranty. Nevertheless, there are parts that will need checking and maintenance to ensure efficient operation. Not only will maintaining your table saw increase its lifespan, it is necessary for safety reasons too.
As far as necessary maintenance – you should ensure your blades are sharp, your alignment is on point, and your guts are clean at all times. Eventually, you’ll need to replace certain parts such as the belt and blades. However, these are pretty basic installations that a simple 2-minute YouTube video can help you figure out.
Now, using a table saw might seem like a relatively safe task considering the machine is doing most of the work. However, this is far from the truth. Thousands of injuries happen every year due to table saw accidents. Typically, this is due to human error and lack of safety precautions. You should always wear safety gear such as safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, and a hardhat. If you don’t already know woodworking safety, check out the top safety rules for woodworking.
Best Table Saw
Dewalt DWE74591RS Table Saw
This lightweight jobsite table saw provides both power and portability. Featuring a 32-1/2″ rip capacity and 4800 RPM, the Dewalt DWE7491RS Table Saw is the perfect table saw for a beginner or intermediate level woodworker. It has a unique rack and pinion system, a rolling stand, and a site pro system for tool-free installment. You can set this bad boy up in less than 30 minutes and start making amazing woodworking projects.
The circular saw:
The circular saw, also known as the skill saw, is usually handheld and powered via electric cord or electric battery. It has a blade rotating at high speed which allows it to cut through all kinds of materials such as plastic, wood, masonry and metal. Circular saws are perfect for any kind of material that can’t be moved or placed on a table saw. Being both cheap and efficient, the circular saw is an excellent choice for your average DIYer or someone that simply needs to cut a few boards to size.
Although versatile, circular saws don’t offer any kind of support for the material like table saws do. Therefore, you will need to place support under the material and ensure it is level before making any cuts. As you can already tell, circular saws are much more user-dependent and may require some practice.
There are two main types of circular saws- cordless and corded saws. A cordless saw is perfect if you’re only doing light work and you need to move around while working. On the other hand, the corded saw offers more power and with that, deeper cuts because it is powered all the time. To get around the issue of mobility, you can always use an extension cord with your corded saw.
Circular saws are extremely versatile and can carry out plenty of tasks such as long rip-cuts, miters, crosscuts and bevel cuts. Nevertheless, they are mostly used for cutting narrow pieces of material or making 40- and 90-degree crosscuts. The accuracy of the cuts is entirely dependent on the skill of the user. Even following a guide rail or straight edge may be difficult for inexperienced users.
When it comes to dust, circular saws are great at making a mess. Considering they don’t have a sawdust disposal system, sawdust is guaranteed to get scattered all over the place. This may not be a big deal if you’re working outside, but it can be a hassle to clean if you’re working in your house or garage.
Having all this in mind, circular saws are typically not considered the best choice for beginners due to the technical knowledge they require. Sure, they’re cheap and easy to use – but getting a precise cut is a whole different story. This isn’t to say it’s impossible for a beginner to perfect the craft, but it will take some time and research before you feel confident in your sawing skills.
Portability is definitely where circular saws shine over table saws. Weighing less than 15 pounds, taking your circular saw to a jobsite will be a breeze. Because of its versatility and lightweight, outdoor workers generally prefer to use a circular saw.
Another major difference between the table saw and circular saw is the price range. While table saws are quite expensive and a big investment into the creation of a workshop, circular saws are much more affordable. This is why many beginners on a tight budget prefer to buy a circular saw – at least to start out.
Types of circular saws
There are many different types of circular saws available on the market. Similar to the different types of table saws, each circular saw is designed for different types of jobs. Among the most popular are worm drive, sidewinder, and hypoid circular saws.
Worm drive saw
The worm drive circular saw is one of the most powerful types of circular saws on the market. Its motor is located on the back and its blade is located on the left-hand side. It’s mostly used for plunge-cutting or cutting wider boards. The long teeth and level of power makes this hand-held saw suitable for more heavy-duty jobs.
Sidewinder saws or in-line circular saws have their motor mounted close to the blade. For light work, the sidewinder saw is great due to its lightweight and compact nature. This also makes it much easier to handle and great for overhead cuts.
Hypoid circular saw
Similar to the worm drive saw, hypoid saws have a motor located at the rear of the device. However, worm drive saws have a different power transmission and don’t require oil. Similar to the worm drive saw, the blade is located on the left side, making it easier to view the direction of your cuts.
To learn more about the different types of circular saws, be sure to watch the video below!
The great thing about circular saws is they’re relatively maintenance free. However, you should periodically make sure your blade isn’t dull or missing any teeth. As long as your blade and brush are in good condition, your circular saw should work just fine.
Unfortunately, a circular saw isn’t going to have the same lifespan as a table saw. However, the important thing is to maintain your tool and you should get a good few years out it.
Similar to a table saw, safety rules are especially important to consider. As mentioned previously, always wear the appropriate safety gear to avoid injury. Circular saws are fully owner-operated, so be careful when maneuvering your saw.
Best Circular Saw
Skil 5280-01 Circular Saw
The Skil 5280-01 Circular saw is the perfect circular saw if you’re looking for speed, precision, and ease of use. Weighing only 6.95 lbs and delivering 5,300 RPM, this circular saw is no joke. Having unique features such as a built in dust blower and built in laser guide cut, the Skil 5280-01 is one of the best circular saws currently on the market.
Finally – which saw is right for you?
The truth is, most professional woodworkers are going to have both a table saw and circular saw in their workshop. Both have their advantages in certain situations, and both have their limitations. However, assuming you’re a beginner – think about which one will suit your personal needs.
A table saw is a great option because it does most of the work for you. They’re extremely user friendly and you won’t have to worry about precision. However, they’re expensive and not very portable. Jobsite table saws may have wheels, but nothing will beat the portability of a 10-pound circular saw.
On the other hand, circular saws may be cheap and portable, but they require the operator have full control. This means mistakes are much more likely to happen, especially if you don’t have any experience with sawing. Plus, circular saws aren’t going to have the standard 2-3 year warranty that comes with most table saws.
Hopefully, we helped you narrow down your choice a little further. Thanks for tuning in, and as always – Happy Woodworking!