Table Saw Recommendations

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Forum topic by Kerryj posted 06-04-2010 06:40 AM 6135 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2926 days

06-04-2010 06:40 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question table saw

I’ve bounced between getting a portable or fixed table saw.

Can portables cut accurately?
What are advantages of fixed machines?
What recommendations do folks have for dust collection?
A cheap machine is false economy, but the top end machines are out of my price range. My needs are for finish carpentry. Don’t have the skill for cabinetry. What types and brands of saws might be good bets for me?

14 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 06-04-2010 06:51 AM

this subject comes up a lot. Usually it comes out so the person shopping for the saw buys a used cabinet saw in the $600-$800 range and there are good saws out there in that range. there is no comparison between portable saws and “fixed machines” the stationary saws win hands down. Take a look around Craigs list or in your local paper and see if you can find a good used powermatic and you should be happy with it if it’s in good order.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3062 days

#2 posted 06-04-2010 06:58 AM

I would give a strong endorsement for a fixed table saw with a cast iron top, and preferably a belt driven motor. This provides greater power, accuracy, stability and safety compared to portables

You will be happy with most contractor’s saws I would think. Decent used ones can be found for under $300 if you are patient.

Regarding dust collection, not sure what you mean. If your question relates to how to hook it up to the TS, a contractor saw will require that you enclose the base, and add a dust port. Cabinet saws have an enclosed base, and most have a dust port. I like to run 6” to my TS to capture more of the fine dust that is produced, but this will require a large dust collector. Dust collection is a broad topic, so you will need to refine your question a bit if this did not answer it for you.

If you have the skills for finish carpentry, you could handle basic cabinetry if that is something that you are interested.

Good luck with your decision. Choose wisely and spend more than you think you should. :)

-- PaulMayer,

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3007 days

#3 posted 06-04-2010 09:16 AM

The first question you have to ask yourself (and maybe you have) is whether you NEED portability. And I don’t mean “yeah I’d like it to take minimal space in the garage.” I mean “I need a tablesaw at jobsites and will be constantly shlepping the thing around.” If the answer to that is “yes,” you have your answer and you should probably be getting a portable regardless of how good or bad they are.

I suspect your answer to this question is “no” since you’re considering the pros of a fixed saw. Then my best advice would be to set a budget and get the max saw you can for that budget. If you’re considering portables but possibly fixed, I’m going to guess your budget falls in the sweet spot between $500 and $1500 (new). You know what that gets you? A really good portable, a really good contractor, or a really good cabinet saw. Yep, you can get really good versions of all three types of saws in that price range. Again, with the portability question answered, you’re going to be happiest with a cabinet saw. In terms of accuracy, stability, dust collection, everything.

I recommend taking a look at Grizzly’s offerings – their machines are good quality and you absolutely cannot beat them on bang for your buck.

Here’s some basic saw info I posted a few days ago in a similar thread…thought it might be helpful here (if not for you then maybe for someone else):

Before we start throwing out saws and monetary values, let’s just do a run-down of the TYPES of tablesaws you could invest in.

Benchtop: These are the small saws that are typically used on jobsites. They aren’t very powerful, tend to be really really loud with universal motors, offer small tables, less-than-robust build, etc. They are usually what most new woodworkers start looking at because they are readily available at the big box stores. While many woodworkers get by with jobsite/benchtop saws, many also end up replacing them rather quickly. They can do a decent job if tuned perfectly, but they can also present some significant safety hazards. Best saw in this class would have to be the Bosch 4100, which runs about $650 USD. Saws in this class can be had as cheap as $200 USD. My personal opinion is to stay away from this class of saw for furniture-making. That being said, they are fantastic for portability.

Contractor: True contractor saws are a little beefier than the benchtops. They can come equipped with beefier (cast iron) extension wings, induction motors (ranging from 1-2HP), solid stands, etc. One of the downsides to contractor saws is that the motor hangs out the back – therefore the footprint of the saw is a little larger than it may appear. Also, the open design of the saw can be a pain for dust collection. That being said, contractor saws (especially better models) can offer the needed stability to do precise and accurate woodworking. They also are portable (though you wouldn’t want to move them often!), but less so with the options that make them more stable for furniture-making.

Hybrid: A hybrid saw is an enclosed version of the contractor saw. Its motor is inside the saw cabinet, but power ratings and other features (and price) tend to be on par with contractor saws.

Cabinet: Cabinet saws are named such for two reasons. 1) Everything is enclosed in the saw cabinet and 2) The trunnions are mounted to the cabinet and not the table. These are the saws that are the most stable, most precise, most powerful, and most expensive. They typically require 220V power, although there are a few models that can run on 120V. Cabinet saws are intimidating for the first time tablesaw buyer and they seem like way way too much saw to start out with. But if you’re committed to furniture-making and are able to afford one, going straight to a cabinet saw is a good choice IMHO. But plenty of excellent woodworkers make wonderful things with contractor saws and even benchtops. At the end of the day, jumping to a new cab saw right of the bat while you need to invest in other shop tools is probably cost-prohibitive. Note that you can reduce your cost significantly by buying used.


Aside from the TYPE of tablesaw, look for the following features:

Riving knife – most new saws have this safety features. It is a thin piece of metal that keeps the kerf open after it passes the blade. Most new saws have a riving knife. A splitter is the same thing, except that a riving knife travels up and down with the blade, maintaining the distance between itself and the blade as the blade height is adjusted. A riving knife or splitter is very, very important in preventing KICKBACK, one of the two most common and serious types of injury caused by tablesaws. If you get an older saw, there are aftermarket options for adding a splitter, and even a riving knife in some instances.

Cast iron table / wings – Cast iron is darn heavy, but will give your saw more stability. It is preferable to have cast table/wings over whatever else is out there, e.g. stamped steel, etc.

Robust blade guard – The key here is the ease of taking off and putting on the blade guard. Some operations require you to remove the guard. But, unfortunately, many folks leave it off because it can be such a pain to get it back on. A tool-less blade guard is more likely to be put back on.

Skin detection – A really nice safety feature, but also very expensive. If you have the funds, consider a Sawstop. If not, forget about it and move on, and make your saw as safe as possible via other methods.

Well now that I’ve typed a novel….hope some of it was helpful and I apologize if any was obvious. Good luck – ask lots of questions! It may seem like we’re trying to get you to spend more money, but in the end the good advice you’ll receive here will save you money and make you a happy woodworker!

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3062 days

#4 posted 06-04-2010 11:11 AM

I agree totaly with Jim. I’ve been through it myself. The fixed it alot better.

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View Rick's profile


9596 posts in 3030 days

#5 posted 06-04-2010 11:33 AM

WOW live4ever!! What a writeup!! Even if some of it is obvious to some it probably isn’t to others and that’s what makes it such a FANTASTIC NOVEL!! GOOD STUFF My Man!!!

I was going to post here about my new LITTLE RIDGID R4516 Portable Contractors Table Saw at $369.00 but now I’d be Embaressed to! ...LOL… Your first statment is VERY Correct ”For What Purpose” are you going to use it.

In my case I’m a ”Hobby Woodworker” who enjoys doing many different things. My choice was based on size because I’m trying to keep everything down to a Manageable size in a Small Basement Shop. Cut Capacity on Blade Depth, & Max Width of Cut, Blade To Fence (MIN was 24 inches) and a LOT of Homework and Tool Reviews. Also as you pointed out a GOOD Riving Knife with Anti Kickback Pawls and an easy to handle Blade Guard.

Although my RIDGID is considered Portable, has Wheels and a Handle. it is Permanately Mounted on the Metal Base that my Old Mastercraft came off. It also has a Completely encased Blade Shroud (Easily Removed for cleaning) under the Table that ends in a 2-1/2” Dust Collector Holder that hooks Nicely onto my Shop Vac and it gets at least 90% of the Dust Created.

Should I post a Picture?? Oh! Go ahead Rick! OKAY!! ( I do that all the time, saves a lot of Arguing.)


Okay. One More ONLY! ...LOL…


It’s attached with a Piece of 3/4” Ply. I put 1-1/2” Dia. X 3/8” Thick Neoprene Discs between the Ply and Metal Base PERHAPS to absorb some Vibration. Also 1/4” Pads under the Saw Base Feet for the same reason.

These Pics where taken at time of Assembly. I’ve used it a number of times and am VERY happy with the Factory Settings and Overall Quality of the Saw. Cuts Pine and Ply like Soft Butter even with the Factory Blade. I’ve also since added a Mobile Base. YES!! It is NOISEY, but I might be able to do a little something about that, as you can see the Back is Wide Open.

That’s it!! WHEW!!! Once Again, Great Posting live4ever!!!

Kerryj: Hope this is of some Help.


-- LIFE is what happens when you're planning on doing Other Things!

View knotscott's profile


8012 posts in 3373 days

#6 posted 06-04-2010 12:41 PM

Hi Kerry – Some of the better portables are capable of accurate performance (ie: Bosch, DeWalt, Ridgid), but unless you need the portability to move the saw from jobsite to jobsite, a stationary saw has every mechanical and performance advantage. The larger table surface in front of the blade is significant and is safer. The added mass makes the fixed saw significantly more stable and safer. The materials of construction of a stationary saw are more robust, and thus the long term reliability is superior…. portables can be cost prohibitive to repair. Stationary saws are typically belt driven with quieter induction motors that exhibit more torque and less vibration. Depending on the particular design, many of the parts of stationary saws are fairly standard, so can often be easily upgraded as needed/wanted…wings, fences, belts, motors, hand wheels, miter gauges, etc. Some of the stationary saws have built in mobile bases, but all can be mated to a mobile base and can be easily rolled around the shop. DC can be good with either type depending.

Nearly all the major names have offerings that can be made to be functional saws. I suggest buying the saw, and not the brand….brand names get tricky in this day and age…check out each contender on it’s own merits. “Live4ever” has put together an excellent post describing the common types. Jet, Delta, Grizzly, Shop Fox, Craftsman, Steel City, PM, General International, Hitachi, DeWalt, Shop Fox, and PC all have good stationary offerings on the market, though some may be NOS (new old stock). The end performance of either type is largely determined by alignment and blade selection. Used saws often offer the best bang for the buck, but sale prices can push new saws to huge discounts.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3072 days

#7 posted 06-04-2010 06:34 PM

The only reason to buy a portable saw is that you really need portability. Most of us do not. I do less than 10% of my work away from my shop. There have been occasions when it would have been convenient to have a TS on site with me, but I always find other ways to get the job done. Once (and only once) I made a trip back to my shop to make a couple of cuts on the TS.

If you don’t really need portability, don’t even consider a portable saw. Even a used or low priced new stationary TS is better than the best portable TS.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3267 days

#8 posted 06-04-2010 07:04 PM

All the advice above is excellent.

I wanted to chime in a bit here as I have both a portable and a fixed TS. I have the portable as I have the need to use it on a jobsite and to move it around while there. There is nothing more convenient then being able to move the saw as you work through a large site. That said, I have the fixed cabinet saw to make accurate finish cuts on some of my finer projects.

The portable saw (mine is a Bosch 4100) is excellent for ripping and cross cutting construction grade lumber….but the accuracy and adjustments are just not up to the cabinet model. The portable has a shorter arbor (no chance of using larger dado sets), a small top (by the way…most of them are not truly flat (this will cause your cuts to be off line a bit), and the portables are way underpowered for use with thicker hardwoods. You can diminish this lack of accuracy with good jigs….but you cannot do much for the lack of power in the motor.

My cabinet saw sees tremendous use (I have a grizzly g6091 – which I purchased before SawStop put out their new line – My next saw will have the SS technology). I have an incra mitre setup, and several (actually too many to count) jigs that help me cut very accurate pieces. It has sufficient power to cut through very hard woods, is quieter and much more stable then the job saw…..

Like said above…unless you must have portability for job site use….get a cabinet or at least the hybrid model of a TS….I always recommend the Sawstop or the Grizzly (when the budget does not allow for a SS).

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Rick's profile


9596 posts in 3030 days

#9 posted 06-05-2010 02:36 AM

Oh Boy! Everybody Hates Portable saws! Maybe I should take mine back??? ....LOL….

Actually I forgot to mention that I use it only for Basic Functions as I’m not a Cabinet Maker or anywhere near. All in All I Totally Agree with ALL above that a “Cabinet Table Saw” is the best choice.

The saw I DO use for Accurate cutting is my NON Sliding Mitre Saw. Soon to be replaced by a Makita LS1016L. Up until a week or so ago this saw was selling everywhere (Canada) for Apprx. $625 to $700. In this weeks “Flyers” Everyone is dropping their price by $100. Not just on this saw but Bosch etc. as well.

Same for a LOT of other Top Name tools of all kinds. I’m wondering if something else might be going on here, i.e. “Supply & Demand”? Less expensive Models are selling well? Just Speculation on my part.

GOOD Thread You Guys!!!


-- LIFE is what happens when you're planning on doing Other Things!

View Kelly's profile


2025 posts in 2941 days

#10 posted 06-13-2010 10:40 AM

Like reggiek, I have both a portable and a cabinet saw. Like him, I have the Bosch for site work. My shop saw is a Unisaw.

Comparing the two saws is to compare night and day and neither is dispensable.

Having a portable on the job saves money by allowing things to get done. However, it is limited and doing sheet goods without tipping it requires experience. Too, it’s not as likely to give dead accurate cuts on large sheet goods. The cabinet saw sings when you turn it on. You know you’ve started a machine. Too, when I set the fence to one inch, I know that’s what I’m getting.

I can’t think of too many add on items I could buy for the Bosch. Also, making zero clearance inserts may be a bit more difficult (I made so many a while back, I haven’t needed a new one and I don’t remember).

The Unisaw, or any other cabinet saw will accommodate over arm blade guards with dust collection. I have a Jet folding back support table with rollers. I can cut from here to Idaho (I’m in Washington) between the fence and the blade. Finally, this saw will be alive long after several of the portables, be it Bosch or some other, have died. The cabinet saw will eat up oak, maple and what have you. The Bosch will get through it, but I have to wonder how the small motor reacts to it.

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 3292 days

#11 posted 06-13-2010 01:27 PM

I didn’t see that anyone mentioned HP as a difference between portable and cabinet.
Just my two cents….
I cut a lot of 8/4 hardwood. With the portable saw I had I found the motor would bog down, causing the blade to chatter and burn, the cuts were not so good. Most portable saws have motors of 1.5 to 1.75 hp.
A cabinet saw motor will generally start at 3 hp. I have a cabinet saw now, and the power of the cut is phenomenal. It cuts hardwoods like butter without any of the issues I had with the portable saw.
If you decide to go cabinet you won’t be disappointed !


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View Kelly's profile


2025 posts in 2941 days

#12 posted 10-02-2010 10:21 PM

I have both a Bosch portable and a Unisaw. The Bosch is just a place to store things when in the company of the Unisaw. Comparing the two is like comparing my Astro Cargo van to my Grumman step van. They are both worth their weight, depending on what you are doing.

As noted, the Bosch is easily moved. For that, there is a price: Smaller table, less power, less accuracy, slower set ups and slower cutting operations. Still, the Bosch does a fair job of making big boards into little one. In fact, I am as happy with it as I was with my old Delta Contractor’s saw and it is as good as any old Craftsman table saws I used, thanks mostly to improved fences.

The cabinet saw isn’t so easily moved, but that is done on large scale jobs. It takes a couple hours to break it down and about a day just to set it up again. Loading it into either van is doable, but a task none the less. The cabinet saw usually just requires setting the fence, but the Bosch gets double checked often. Then there is the matter of out feed and side table dimensions. Everything’s easier in a Rolls, so to speak (my cabinet saw cut a lot of time off a given day).

If you’re just going to fiddle, the smaller saws can be adequate to your needs. That said, think ahead to what you’d like to be able to do and how much effort you want to put into doing it.

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4090 days

#13 posted 10-02-2010 10:52 PM

I didn’t read all of the posts above but when it comes to doing precision work on a table saw… a cabinet of fixed TS wins hands down.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2790 days

#14 posted 10-03-2010 10:30 PM

My humble opinion. Either would be fine. Depends on your space. I have found that setup, blade choice and jigs or fixtures produce accuracy. I have mostly bench top tools and they are not the limiting factor…... unfortunately.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

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