Do I need a table saw ?

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Forum topic by Karamba posted 11-12-2015 02:47 PM 1626 views 0 times favorited 65 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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116 posts in 357 days

11-12-2015 02:47 PM

I guess this is not a new topic but I would like to put it in a different perspective, If you make money from woodworking there is no question, you need a table saw, Even though it is possible to do most of the work a table saw does on a track saw there is a big difference between measuring an marking all your cuts and simply setting the fence once for all similar cuts.
However if all your outcome is limited to what can fit in your house even if it is a major stuff like new set of kitchen cabinets would you justify getting a table saw for it ?
Money is not an issue and I am graciously allowed to use two stalls in the garage but I still would prefer to avoid keeping something that large in there. Moreover it must stand in the center. Do you think I would manage with a Festool track saw and probably complementing it later with a band saw?
I was getting by quite satisfactory with my hand tools, even ripping long boards with a hand saw on and then smoothing it with a hand plane etc. with softer woods But with hard maple and oak that becomes quite difficult.

65 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


6467 posts in 1571 days

#1 posted 11-12-2015 03:33 PM

You can easily go without a tablesaw. People had been woodworking for thousands of years before it was invented. Would I want to? No. Is a track saw a suitable substitute? No. They are great tools, but it’s just not the same for repeatability.

And this is coming from someone moving more and more towards hand tools.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Alexl's profile


57 posts in 362 days

#2 posted 11-12-2015 03:35 PM

I started building my cabinets using only a high quality circular saw and homemade track. The results were adequate but the cuts took forever to set up. I work in the evenings and with the homemade track saw i was able to build 1 cabinet a night. When i broke down and got a table saw, my productivity moved to 2-3 per night. I also can now purchase larger dimension lumber and rip it down to size easily and save a little money. The biggest issue with using a track saw is there is no repeatability. Can it be done without a table saw? Probably, But i think you will not regret adding a table saw to your shop. For most, it is the heart of a woodworking shop.

EDIT: jmartel beat me to the repeatability!

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5105 posts in 2615 days

#3 posted 11-12-2015 03:42 PM

Only if you want one…It’s up to you…

-- At my age, an "all--nighter" is not having to get up and pee...!!!

View JayT's profile


4680 posts in 1632 days

#4 posted 11-12-2015 03:43 PM

You are going to get a lot of people saying that you do need a table saw. I’m not one of them.

I’m in the process of getting rid of my table saw. Like you, I use a lot of hand tools, so the main purpose of machinery for me is to shorten the tedious task of dimensioning. As you point out, ripping hardwoods is a workout. The solution—get a good bandsaw. A good quality 14in or larger bandsaw will be able to rip hardwoods with no issues. Sure, it’ll take longer and leave a bit rougher cut, but so what? As a hobbyist, I have the time (plus a couple extra minutes ripping boards isn’t much in the grand scheme of a project done mostly with hand tools) and I’ll use my planes to true up and smooth out the edges anyways.

There are quite a few woodworkers, even some professionals, that do not have a table saw. Michael Fortune, for one. He has several bandsaws and does all his work with those. My reasons for switching to a bandsaw are versatility (curves and resawing) and saving space. Others’ reasons might be different, such as safety, but in the end, a table saw is a powerful and convenient tool, but not a necessary one.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1410 days

#5 posted 11-12-2015 04:00 PM

Absolutely need a TS? No. There are many ways to make cuts in wood. Although I’m just a hobbyist, productivity means something to me, and I would not be without one (mainly furniture and segmented turning). While I really enjoy hand planes, I still use a bench planer for dimensioning. While I can use hand saws, no thanks, only when one of them makes sense in the given situation. It’s very much a personal choice of how you want to spend your time, and no one else but you can make that decision.

View BurlyBob's profile


3468 posts in 1686 days

#6 posted 11-12-2015 04:04 PM

I got to agree with Rick! Your the final judge of whether you buy one or not.

View rwe2156's profile


2116 posts in 901 days

#7 posted 11-12-2015 04:14 PM

A tablesaw is the most versatile machine in the shop, and that’s why it is considered the cornerstone of tools.
I can’t imagine building an entire kitchen (or anything else) without one, but it is possible.

I’ll echo what HokieKen said. You have to think about what your time is worth. We make the mistake of thinking our time is worthless when we’re off from our 8-5 jobs.

Lots hobbyist guys have the same power tools as a commercial shop because they work all week and don’t have the time to mess around with hours and hours of grunt work like planing, ripping, etc. If you can rip boards 20:1 machine vs. handsaw is that worth enough time saving for you? Plus, cuts on a power machine will be more accurate, further reducing the time jointing with hand tools.

Lots of guys like me want to do hand work, so we focus on things like joinery and finishing.

If the only issue is the labor of ripping hard wood, then any kind of ripping guide for a circ saw will suffice.

$ for $, personally I would never buy a tracksaw over a TS.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View bonesbr549's profile


1137 posts in 2488 days

#8 posted 11-12-2015 04:15 PM

no tool is mandatory. If you think about it, you can use a handsaw. Powertools do make life a tad easier. I love Festool, and have used my MFT/3 with the TS55 tracksaw for a long time and it is great. However when cutting small pieces, or miters, or ripping small width stock, the table saw is just a natural. I still say the TS is the center of my shop, but the tracksaw is perfect for sheetgoods and many other tasks.

Thats my opinion, but that and 2.50 will get you a cup of coffee. Cheers.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View Tedstor's profile


1625 posts in 2054 days

#9 posted 11-12-2015 04:21 PM

I have a Craftsman 113 Contractor’s Saw with a Delta T2 fence. Its a good machine for a lot of functions, but its not a very big saw, and is terrible for breaking down larger stock (particularly sheet goods).
I plan to buy a Makita Track Saw in order to ‘supplement’ my table saw…..but not to replace it.
In terms of speed, accuracy, and efficiency…..the table saw is king.

View TheGreatJon's profile


293 posts in 654 days

#10 posted 11-12-2015 06:02 PM

I agree that it is not critical. Woodworking existed before electricity.

On the other hand, if you are thinking about making cabinets, it is going to immeasurably easier if you have a table saw. If space is your primary concern, there are a ton of options open to you. You can get a benchtop saw or any larger table saw with a mobile base so you can wheel it into a corner when not in use. However, I would also point out that you can get yourself a high quality cabinet saw and remove one or both of the wings (actually you would most likely just never install them since I doubt they arrive assembled). If you don’t need the added table area, that would cut the TS footprint by about half.

-- This is not the signature line you are looking for.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

483 posts in 1101 days

#11 posted 11-12-2015 06:26 PM

I I only had room for one big floor standing tool in my workshop it would my workbench. 2nd would be my bandsaw than I guess the tablesaw would be third. The issue with a tablesaw is it works best/safest with straight/square stock so for working with non sheet goods the tablesaw, jointer, planer are kind of a package deal. You can trade one or more of those for hand tools (I would trade jointer first, tablesaw 2nd if I had a bandsaw/tracksaw, planer third but that’s me) but your going to be spending a lot more time prepping stock on that bench.

For working with sheet goods it’s hard to beat a good tablesaw even with as good as newer track saws are.

View MrUnix's profile


4031 posts in 1620 days

#12 posted 11-12-2015 06:43 PM

Hmmm… do I need a car? No… I can walk if I want, take pubic transportation, hitch a ride with a buddy, get a bicycle, etc… But it sure is a lot more convenient! I personally feel dead in the water without a table saw… but others are quite happy using hand tools (ie: walking :)

The difference in footprint between a cabinet saw and a benchtop is a common misconception as well… they both take up roughly the same amount of floor space unless you wind up adding something like a 52” fence and extension table. That isn’t much of an issue for me as I would never need that kind of capacity, although I do have a 50” commercial Biesemeyer fence and overarm guard sitting in the wings if/when I decide to put it on the saw… for now, if I have the need to cut down large sheet goods, I find it much easier to use a circular saw than man handle a 4×8 sheet onto the table saw. Here is a pretty typical c-man benchtop (removed from it’s stand) sitting on top of a Unisaw:

As you can see, the footprint of each saw is roughly the same.. and that Unisaw has a 13” extension wing on the right side instead of the stock 8” one, so it’s a bit wider than normal. The difference in size (front to back) is just a few inches as well. And while the difference in floor space may not be much, the difference in performance and capacity is HUGE. My machines live (mostly) in the garage, tucked out of the way until needed… and everything is on a mobile base, so when it’s time to make sawdust, they get wheeled out for use.


-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 651 days

#13 posted 11-12-2015 07:13 PM

Im with Brad. Some wish to go old school and use a hand saw. God bless em. Im gonna throw that boy up on my uni and throw chips.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1772 days

#14 posted 11-12-2015 07:23 PM

The way I work, I would not be w/o a table saw. However if I were to forego it I would use the bandsaw for rip cuts. I think a track saw is useful for breaking down sheet goods, but don’t really see it as a substitute for a table saw. I think the set up time for every cut would be quite tedious.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Karamba's profile


116 posts in 357 days

#15 posted 11-12-2015 07:25 PM

Hmmm… do I need a car? No… I can walk if I want, take pubic transportation, hitch a ride with a buddy, get a bicycle, etc… But it sure is a lot more convenient! ...
- MrUnix

You hit the nail on the head. I actually do not have a car and commute 24 miles round trip to work by bicycle every day all year round and have been doing it for my whole working life. Is a car more convenient ? It takes half an hour to drive to work due to the usual traffic and 45 minutes by bicycle. My bicycle costs nothing compared to the price of car. No gas , no insurance, no traffic tickets ( actually I got one on the bicycle too) maintenance is limited to replacing tires and a chain once-twice a year and most important keeps me fit and energized.

I am inclined to think that a table saw is like a car. You get used to it and cannot live without it only because it never came to your mind that you can actually cope with just a bicycle.

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