Choosing a Tablesaw
How to find the one that fits your needs
Synopsis: Rich Preiss has learned a lot about tablesaws and advises that there is no single “best” tablesaw. The goal in choosing one is to first decide what you really need for your work. The solution isn’t in the machine, it’s in you. In this article, he breaks tablesaws down into four categories: the fully enclosed stationary saw, the open-based contractor’s saw, the specialty saw, and the benchtop saw. He explains their basic operation, blade sizes and arbors, horsepower, rip fence capacity, miter gauges, construction materials, and unique saws. Separate mini-articles on each of the four types of saws explain them in detail, and he charts the features and distinctions of 22 saws.
I have pushed wood over a lot of tablesaws during my years as student, furnituremaker and teacher, and one thing I’ve learned is that there is no single “best” tablesaw. Nor do you need the finest machine money can buy to accomplish the highest level of workmanship. The goal in choosing a tablesaw should be to first decide what you really need for your work (this is not to be confused with what you merely want) then to select the most appropriate tool and use it to your maximum ability. A machine larger and more expensive than you need will, at best, wind up as inappropriate in your shop and could rob the resources necessary to purchase other needed equipment.
In support of this, I would like to relate a short tale. After graduating from school, I was faced with the furnituremakers’ nightmare—I no longer had access to a shop. My landlord was doing some remodeling and had brought in an older-style 10-in. Sears tablesaw to help with the work. I was taken by the simple, rugged design that had enabled it to survive…