What's important in a table saw?

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Forum topic by Dan Corbin posted 07-10-2012 10:45 PM 3439 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Corbin

57 posts in 2129 days

07-10-2012 10:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tablesaw

My next big tool purchase will be a table saw (since the one I was borrowing had to be returned), but I’m lost in the Sea of Too Many Options (which is somewhere between the Red Sea and the Caspian Sea, for those of you who are wondering). There are a million different table saws on the market, and they all have different features.

I have used small table saws in the past where the fence could only go so far from the blade, and I absolutely hated it. So my first and only criteria has always been the ability to rip at least 30” on one side of the blade. But since joining LJ, I have become deeply enamoured (don’t tell my wife) by woodworking islands much like this aircraft carrier of an outfeed table.

Now I can’t tell if a $500 Ridgid is a waste of money on more tool than I need, or a $120 Skilsaw is a waste of money on too little tool! What are the features you think are a must for a table saw?

-- ~ Dan, North Carolina,

23 replies so far

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2543 days

#1 posted 07-10-2012 11:02 PM

I’m on tablesaw #3, and I still want a new one. The single most important feature for me: Cabinet mounted trunions. They make alignment a super breeze.

Mostly everything else can be fixed with aftermarket accessories (outfeed tables, miter gauges, fences, etc.), but alignment is done one of two ways depending on how the trunions are mounted (table or cabinet).

I have my eye on one of steel city’s cabinet saws that run on 110.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3342 days

#2 posted 07-10-2012 11:13 PM

What’s important is different to each of us, so make sure you get what you like/need. In general, accuracy, stability, table size, ease of use, noise level, power, reliability, ability to accept standard accessories, price, upgrade potential, resale, etc, are all desirable traits. If you’ve got the space, something full size with a belt drive induction motor, like the R4512, is the minimum I’d suggest for furniture work. You can definitely get by with less, but you’ll likely outgrow a lesser saw much faster….it’ll be smaller, less stable, louder, less upgradeable, less reliable, will have less resale when you sell, and will have fewer accessories options available. Go to a good woodworking store (like Woodcraft or Rockler) and check out some of the nicer saws even if they’re out of your price range….it’ll give you a reference of what a good saw has to offer vs a lesser saw. I do think a cheap $120 benchtop Skil saw is a waste. If money is the driving force, better off buying full size used saw for the same $120 (lots exist). If space is a huge factor, there are some better portable jobsite saws.

The saw you linked to is a great example of getting a saw with upgrade potential….that saw is a basic older Ridgid contractor saw (full size cast iron table with a belt drive induction motor) that has an aftermarket fence added (possibly a Jet Xacta II), custom wings and outfeed built onto it, and a really nice storage area built around it. There are pros and cons to everything….note the great table space he has to work with, but also the lack of a mobility. You have to consider your circumstances…

Here’s a good link from Rockler about different TS types….once you break similar saws down into the proper classifications, things should make more sense.

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

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2366 days

#3 posted 07-11-2012 12:25 AM

I have a reconditioned X5 Delta Unisaw that I purchased from Redmund and Sons Tools in Atlanta. It has met all of my expectations and is very accurate and reliable which are key to any table saw. Generally speaking, you usually get what you pay for and both the Powermatic and Delta table saws are proven entities with a long history of good performance. These are saws that you buy and keep them for life.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View dnick's profile


986 posts in 2349 days

#4 posted 07-11-2012 12:53 AM

Once you identify your maximum budget, compare the saws in that price range & forget the cheaper models. I thought I had a really good saw for 7 years, but when I had to replace it, I upgraded & now the old saw seems like it was a toy. Generally, bigger ( & heavier ), is better if you have the space.

-- dnick, North Hollywood, Ca.

View Loren's profile


10269 posts in 3615 days

#5 posted 07-11-2012 01:56 AM

Depends on the work you do. An old Craftsman or Delta
contractor’s saw can be mounted in a big melamine table
and retrofitted with a biesemeyer fence and then you’ve
got a saw that can cut cabinet parts all day for under
$500 but it takes up hella space.

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3544 days

#6 posted 07-11-2012 02:49 AM

You’ve got some great advice like Scotts ,besides having a full size saw and enough power the fence is number one on my list. Since the fence dictates every measurement you cut on a table saw you need a good fence. In my opinion buying a saw that you need to change the fence is a total waste of time and money . What ever you buy check out the fence how well does it move and how solid does it lock down. There are tons of threads on LJs about what table saw to buy and table saw reviews. If money was not an issue I would always recommend a Saw Stop over all the saws I’ve ever used.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3035 days

#7 posted 07-11-2012 04:09 AM

A good fence and good workpiece support can make a so-so saw act like a winner. IMO, most TS accidents are caused by inadequate workpiece support. If you’re doing more than just pushing the board, you have a problem.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Cando33's profile


5 posts in 2144 days

#8 posted 07-11-2012 05:54 AM

Decide what accuracy you want, and how large your stock will be. that informs what type of saw you need.

For example, if you want to build professional cabinets, a tablesaw with some panel cutting capabilities is necessary.

View b2rtch's profile


4851 posts in 3015 days

#9 posted 07-11-2012 10:29 AM

Don’t forget dust collection.
I agree with everything above but dust collection is also very important.
Older saws do not have dust collection and it it difficult to make an effective one.
(If you look closely at the picture of my saw below, you notice a new base with the dust collection built in and the outlet for the dust collection on the left side.)

Did someone mention a riving knife?
Take your time until you find what you want.
If you want to buy a saw for the the long run you need a cabinet saw with at least 3HP.
It took me while to find this Unisaw ( there are plenty Unisaw around):

and to built this around it:

I Live in Salt Lake City Utah, every week there several “new” used Unisaw for sale in the local classified.
This week there is an older one, with the bullet motor, for only $260.00.

This is the kind of saw you want.
Buy something like that and install a new fence and so on.
At the end you will have an excellent saw for a very reasonable price.

The work around the contractor saw is beautiful but I cannot see any dust collection and for me this is a “no-no”.
Not only the dust is messy and dangerous but also it will kill you with cancer of the lungs.

-- Bert

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2215 days

#10 posted 07-11-2012 12:03 PM

I have a couple tips as well. My first table saw was a 120$ Ryobi RTS-10. I outgrew it the first time I used it. I then upgraded to the Ridgid R4512. I couldn’t be happier with that saw. There have been some issues with the early models, but the new ones have been good.

One thing people are not mentioning is safety. I personally would never buy a saw without a riving knife. That removes the possibility of all the older craigslist saws for me. As a newbie, you will make mistakes and do something that you maybe shouldn’t because you don’t understand the proper technique yet.

A good fence is important, but not a deal breaker. The fence on the R4512 is a little sub par. You can upgrade a fence fairly cheaply though.

Other must haves for me:
An Arbor that takes a 7/8” dado stack
STANDARD sized miter tracks (some of the benchtop saws have smallef/narrower tracks
Riving knife (as I mentioned)

Also, make sure you have provisions for whatever saw you buy. Any of the full power saws will be 220v. A larger contractor/hybrid saw like the R4512 is still pretty big. The top is 56” or so long to the end of the rails. You will need to budget for a blade or two as well. As a general rule the included blades horrible, and shouldn’t even be used.


View MedicKen's profile


1612 posts in 3429 days

#11 posted 07-11-2012 02:12 PM

The table saw is probably the most discussed topic on this forum as well just about any other WW site. For me its not an easy choice but there are a few questions you have to ask yourself. What kind of wood working are you planning on doing? Are you going to be building cabinets where you will be using mostly sheet goods? Or, are you building hardwood furniture? The saw for each task are completely different. If cabinet work is your main interest a saw with a MIN. of 30” rip capacity and 1.5 to 2hp should be fine. If you are building hardwood the rip capacity is usually not needed but a MIN of 3hp will be. Also, what power do you have available, 110, 220, 15A or 50A? What do you have for shop space? Does the saw need to be portable to allow parking of cars in the shop, which I strongly recommend against. As you can see decisions that you need to make and are very personal to your style of work. Good luck

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Dan Corbin's profile

Dan Corbin

57 posts in 2129 days

#12 posted 07-11-2012 04:33 PM

Y’all have been incredibly helpful, yet again! I’ve been jonesing for the R4512, but finding the price tag a little hard to swallow when faced with $120 saw right next to it. Now I can look at the $120 saw and point out a dozen reasons I don’t want it anymore.

The Biesemeyer fence is a nice fence, and I’m definitely putting that on my wishlist, too. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for on one EBay or Criag’s List. Thank you for pointing me that way.

-- ~ Dan, North Carolina,

View C_PLUS_Woodworker's profile


601 posts in 2874 days

#13 posted 07-11-2012 04:43 PM

Do you want to cut hot dogs with it?

View DLawson's profile


8 posts in 2124 days

#14 posted 07-11-2012 05:29 PM

I bought the R4512 a few months back. It replaced a $170 Craftsman saw—one of those desktop models with a stand so it looks sort of like a table saw. The Craftsman gave me $170 worth of knowledge about why it wasn’t a good choice.

The only complaint I have about the R4512 is how hard it is to unpack solo. Of course, the instructions say not to do that, but I was impatient.

-- Really, the tree did the hard part.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5622 posts in 2780 days

#15 posted 07-11-2012 05:50 PM

Rip capacity. Dust collection.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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