About two years ago, I started thinking about making a major change to my woodworking and wanted to write a bit about the journey, just in case others are in a similar situation.
Most woodworkers consider a table saw to be the centerpiece of the shop and an indispensable part of their woodworking. Learning woodworking in school shop class, I was indoctrinated with the same thinking. At some point, however, I started to question whether that was really true for me. First off, my shop is only about 110 sq ft and the table saw took up an inordinate amount of room. Secondly, I was needing some capabilities not easily provided by my arsenal of machinery at the time.
Not long after that train of thought started running, I heard an interview with Michael Fortune, who is a professional woodworker in Canada. In the interview, it was brought up that he doesn’t have a table saw in his shop and utilizes a band saw centric shop, instead. That thought rattled around for a while and I decided that instead of making a rash decision that might be regretted later, I would map my work for a year and figure out if a table saw was really necessary.
At the end of that year, I hadn’t come up with a single task that couldn’t be done without a table saw and several that would have been much easier with a band saw, so this past spring the table saw went up on the online classifieds . . . .
. . . . . sold within a week and was replaced by a Shop Fox W1706 14in band saw.
So how has it worked out?
In the over six months since the change, I have no regrets. The biggest gain was a lot of space. The band saw tucks back against the wall when not in use and has allowed me to bring some other things into the shop that never would have fit before. It used to be that when working at my bench, I was constantly bumping into the table saw behind me and having to adjust how I was standing because of the lack of space. That is no longer an issue.
The major task of the table saw was ripping material to width and the band saw handles that with ease. Yes, it leaves a bit rougher cut, but those are quickly cleaned up with a hand plane. Dadoes and rabbets are done with hand planes or a router. Cross cuts are now mostly done with hand saws, either off the saw bench or with the miter box, and cleaned up with a shooting plane and board. The saw bench is one of those items that just didn’t fit in the shop before, but now has a home.
There are definitely occasions where a table saw might have been faster, but there are also situations where the current way is faster or better. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. There have also been some changes the other way. I’ve been able to safely work on smaller pieces and have done a lot of resawing to get thinner stock that just wasn’t very easy to do before.
I’m not saying that anyone else should sell their table saw, as every situation is different. In my case it works because of the small space and the fact I do a lot of hand tool work. If my shop was large enough to easily accommodate a table saw and a really good bandsaw, I might never have made the decision. Now, however, I think that even with a larger shop, I would just add another, larger bandsaw dedicated to ripping and keep the Shop Fox for smaller work.
If you’ve contemplated if a table saw is necessary, whether because of space, safety, budget or some other concern, I’m here to say that it is possible to do woodworking without one. Think it through in relation to how you work and maybe someday, you too will say, “Look Ma, no table saw.”
-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson