The Table Saw Guide

The Handyguys suspect that a lot of handguys would love to own a table saw.  But, is this a tool that the average handyguy should own?  Brian and Paul discuss whether this tool should be included in your toolkit workshop.

The issue of table saws was brought up by Bill, a regular listener:

I am just getting into woodworking and am looking to build a T.V. Cabinet and a wall sized bookcase.  I know, when I do something, I go all out.  I have all of the other tools that I need except a table saw.  So, I am looking for a good table saw recommendation at around the $400 price range.
Thanks and keep up the great show!

Bosch Portable Table Saw
Bosch Portable Table Saw

Before we answer Bill’s question, the Handyguys would like to take this time to address the whole issue of table saws and the handyguy.  Is this a tool that the average handyguy needs?  Sure… we would all love to have one, but is it a necessary expense?  The truth is that many handyguys do not have room for a table saw and many fix-it jobs around the house do not require a table saw.  Furthermore, if you need to rip a board (cut it lengthwise), you can make a guide or jig for your circular saws to make a safe rip.

So, unless you are going to be doing some serious woodworking and/or cabinetmaking, you may not require the functionality of a table saw.  Try using a friend’s saw in the few circumstances that require this beast of a tool.

Is renting an option when you need a table saw?   The Handyguys address this issue during their “Buy, Borrow or Steal” segment.   The problem with renting is that you are normally limited to table top, portable or light weight contractor saws.   You will not be able to rent a heavier cabinet saw.   In addition, the handyguy may only require making a few quick cuts with a table saw which makes renting an expensive option.   As always, listen to the show for more details.

If you require your own table saw, you should understand the basic types of saws and determine how are you going to use the saw.   Is portability important or is precision the highest priority.   Portable table top saws can be had for less then $500 and for as low as $100.   Beware of the cheaper saws because they often have fences that do not work well (to say the least).   The Handyguys discuss this in more detail on the show.

Jet contractor saw
Jet contractor saw

A step up to the portable table top or lightweight saw is the contractor saw.   This saw has a more solid fixed base and a heavier aluminum or cast iron top.   It is heavier and more powerful.   You can move it but it may require the strength of two handyguys.   This saw is intended for the pro contractor and makes a handy addition to the job site.   Many handyguys will use this variety of table saw for their stationary workshop.   The contractor saw has some downsides because it lacks the power and dust collection ability of a higher end cabinet saw.

Grizzly cabinet saw
Grizzly cabinet saw

The next level of saw used to be a cabinet saw, but now there is a class of saw called a “hybrid.”   This saw has an enclosed base like a cabinet saw but uses the motor and mechanisms of a contractor saw to keep the price down. The cabinet provides some of the weight and stability of a cabinet saw but the hybrid does not have the power and features of a full cabinet saw.

The cabinet saw is the king of the table saws.   It starts at about $1000 and can scale up to several thousands of your hard earned cash.   Typically the cabinet saws have 3HP and above motors and require 220 voltage.

Once you get a table saw, you must learn how to tune the saw and use it safely.   You can get some great tips on table saw usage at   Check out all of his videos, including this one on table saw safety:

The Wood Whisperer is a great site to learn about woodworking
The Wood Whisperer is a great site to learn about woodworking

Oh, getting back to Bill’s question.   The Handyguys don’t forget to answer it.   They also discuss looking for a used table saws and the new Sawstop technology.

Please listen to the podcast for all the details on Table Saws.

Handyguys Podcast discuss tools

8 thoughts on “The Table Saw Guide

  1. Because of some close calls on the table saw over the years, I always have a push stick hanging on the table saw near the off/on switch. I start with a 10 inch piece of scrap wood ,that fits in my hand and then cut in a shape of a ducks head with a open mouth on one end. Drill a hole on other end to hand it up on saw. Besides keeping you fingers away from blade,it makes a good hold down for ripping small pieces.

    1. Thanks Alton – That’s a great tip. Too often some of us just grab a piece of scrap to use as a push stick. Having something made for that purpose, whether home made or purchased, always at hand sure does make things safer.

  2. I have always had a table saw. The first was one of those $99 dollar models that could fit in the trunk of my small Chrysler. Now I have a portable contractor’s table saw that easily lifts out of my basement onto the back of my pickup. I highly recommend you buy the best tool you can afford. I use mine on different job sites so weight and portability prevented me from getting a cabinet saw.

    For $500 look at the DEWALT DW744S, but for what you decribe you are going to be building I recommend if you have the space to use it, you save your money until you can get a cabinet saw.

    Hope you post your cabinets on LumberJocks when you get them completed.

    A couple of hints on how to work with an inexpensive table saw.

    Spend a little extra time when you have your fence set at the right distance parallel to the blade and use two F clamps to keep everything in place.

    A feather board is an inexpensive tool to help keep a straight line straight.

    If you remove (or break) the splitter, make sure you give the board plenty of room for kick back, and don’t try to catch it. I left a hole in the drywall to remind me of the importance of the splitter and the danger of kick back.

    Don’t be afraid of taking more then one pass to cut threw a board over an inch. Especially pressure treated lumber which brings me to the next point.

    Hearing and breathing protection are easy to overlook. The sawdust from pressure-treated wood can irritate the nose, eyes, and skin, and is harmful to ingest.

    Use a push stick – Some were already discussed, but I use a modified 2 x 6 block

    With any power tool – be careful.

  3. More cheap table saw advice
    Build a sled, a piece of plywood and a 2×4 can make life so much easier. That plastic miter gauge never seems to be 90 degrees, even after you glue and screw it (yes I did).

  4. Wonderful site. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your sweat!

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