The Ultimate Tablesaw Buying Guide


One of the most commonly asked topics on woodworking forums is “which tablesaw should I buy” or a version thereof.

It is tough to provide an answer when the issue is so vast in scope. Even if the question is between types or brands, an appropriate response would be lengthy and dependent on a number of things

This article is an attempt to narrow down the topic and offer a quick overview of the many types of machines available.

It is not my intention to cover every single brand or type of tablesaw available. The criteria I used to choose the machines included in the article are those commonly regarded by woodworking hobbyists as the bare minimum for precise cutting and joinery tasks involved with furniture construction.



There are various requirements that should be addressed prior to picking any saw; these alone might restrict the choice of equipment.

#1 Price range: $300 to $2000+

A more costly saw, in general, will be more competent, powerful, safe, and accurate, resulting in fewer secondary operations. That is not to say that good work cannot be done on a low-cost equipment.

#2 Left or Right Blade Tilt

Many users have no preference, while others would not use either. Unless the blade is adjusted for an angle cut, this isn’t a big deal. One thing to keep in mind is that a left tilting arbor (or a left positioned motor) narrows the options for a sliding table later on. When the right side of the rip fence is employed, even a right tilting saw looks like a left tilter; most rips would be within the typical working range of this capability.


#3 110v or 220v voltage

If you don’t have 220v service and don’t want to install it, you’re stuck with a 1 1/2 or 2hp motor in the machine.

#4 1hp to 5hp power

Motors with more than 2 horsepower will require 220 volts. Of course, greater power is preferable; a 3hp motor can easily do jobs that a 1.5hp motor can only do with reduced feed rates, burning, or tripping the electrical overload.

#5 Overall Dimensions

When comparing saws with equal rip capacity, contractor type saws have the greatest footprint of all the saws described. The universal motor saws are smaller than cabinet saws, and the Hybrid saws are the same size.

#6 Availability in your area

For some, seeing the equipment in person before making a purchase or putting a mail order is critical; local service also plays a role in this.

#7 The Rip Fence

Because the rip fence is so crucial in terms of performance, accuracy, and usability, it deserves almost as much thought as the saw itself. Personal preference is also an essential factor in selecting. The decision to employ OEM rip fences or an aftermarket system should be factored into the pricing equation.

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#8 Categories

Most woodworkers believe that the tablesaw is the most important power tool in the shop; if just one piece of advice could be provided, it would be to “buy the best saw you can afford.”I believe that price is the most important factor in the choosing; if it weren’t, we’d all have an Altendorf or Martin tablesaw in our store.

“Price creep” is a typical stumbling block for potential saw customers.From the lowest to the top of the categories, you can always purchase a little better machine for an extra $200. However, before prices are considered, I believe an explanation of generally accessible saw kinds is necessary. I separated them into several groups for comparing purposes.

Bench Saw

These machines are designed for very rarely usage, exist solely for their low cost, and should not be considered for any form of woodworking including the construction of joints. They are basically glorified circular saws turned upside down.

Job-site Saw

A universal motor, similar to those used in routers, powers this sort of saw. These devices are primarily intended for use on construction sites. Because of their intended setting, they are fairly durable, portable, and can endure being moved around as required.

While these machines can provide good results, they are not designed to be the focal point of a woodworking shop, and their price positions them in or above the Compact Saw class. The job site saw is similar to a bench saw in that they are both glorified circular saws turned upside down, but they are far better built.

  • Make use of loud universal motors. These motors are less powerful than those found in bigger devices.
  • The table is tiny in size and usually built of aluminum to keep the weight low.
  • Most people can only rip to 24″.
  • There should be little “trunions” and controls.
  • Many typical aftermarket accessories cannot be utilized due to changes in the machine’s fundamental size or format.
  • Lighter and more portable than other saws.
  • There are attachments that can boost the cutting capacity and general utility of the class, but they are still designed for on-the-job use.
  • Because certain machines lack a proper mechanism of adjusting blade angle, they rely on the “yank-and-lock” approach to do so.

Compact Saw

These saws, like their descendants, are driven by a universal motor similar to those used in routers. In this category, there are just four regularly available machines: the Delta (as pictured), the identical appearing Jet, the Ryobi BT3100, and the Black & Decker BT2500 saw.

These feature better and bigger fence systems, better controls for lift and tilt, and larger tables than their job-site saw counterparts. Delta, Jet, and B&D saws are miniaturized versions of Hybrid saws. They have cast iron tables and independent tilt and raise cranks.

The Ryobi differs from these other saws in a few respects, the most notable of which is the SMT (slide miter table). The Ryobi has certain extra advantages and disadvantages, but its general qualities keep it firmly in this group.

These machines require more maintenance than the next level up, are less dependable in terms of holding settings, and are considerably underpowered. Although these machines are a step in the right direction, they are not fully fit for a busy woodworking shop; nonetheless, this does not imply that some individuals do not utilize them in this capacity.

These devices may be suitable for occasional usage in a small space. The main advantage of these machines is their inexpensive cost; these machines typically cost between $300 and $400, with the low end contractor saw costing around $550.

  • Make use of loud universal motors. These motors are less powerful than induction motors employed in more powerful equipment.
  • The table depth is around 22″ compared to the more normal 27″ on the other varieties (the B&D is 23 1/2″). This takes up less space on the infeed and outfeed.
  • Smaller trunions and controls (with the exception of the B&D, which is more akin to the Dewalt 746).
  • The changes in the machine’s fundamental size or format prevent the use of a few common aftermarket attachments (mostly an issue with the Ryobi).
  • The best fence system on these saws is about as good as the worst fence system on contractor saws.
  • Although far more portable than contractor saws, they are not as tough (for dumping into the back of a vehicle) as job-site saws.
  • Dust collection is really good on the Ryobi and B&D.

Contractor Saw

This widely used saw was initially designed for the construction industry. The trunion is fastened to the iron table and the engine hangs out the rear of the stand to qualify for this distinction.

Within their own group, these devices are divided into two primary sub-categories. The first is a low-cost entry-level machine (pictured); this is a basic saw with no frills that typically costs around $550. The other category includes the same basic machine with an enhanced rip fence with higher capacity and a few other additions that make the machine more user-friendly, such as cast iron extensions rather than stamped steel.

The low-end machines in this class provide the woodworker with enough power, precision, and usefulness built into the tool to construct furniture without the aggravation that lower machines do; they are good buys that may be steadily improved if needed.

The more expensive machines feature improved fence systems but no additional major accuracy or power enhancements. Although they are good machines, their $800 price tag is too close to that of competing machines to make them excellent buys.

There are several enhancements that may be made to the basic machine to increase its performance. If taken to its logical conclusion, this will be a case of false economics; no matter what is done to these machines, accessories will not make them into cabinet saws. For example, it is not uncommon for contractor saw owners to eventually spend as much on accessories and modifications to their machines as a cabinet saw costs and yet wind up with a subpar (but functional) machine.

Trunions that attach to the iron table make it more difficult to match the miter gauge slots to the blade.

Some saws of this sort have difficulty (to varied degrees) maintaining blade parallelism alignment with the blade tilted at an angle due to the way the trunion is positioned and the influence of the cantilevered motor.

  • To avoid unauthorized usage, employ straight wired switches, often with replaceable keys.
  • These devices have little or no dust collecting capacity out of the box. With the installation of appropriate fittings, a dust collecting system may be designed to perform better than even cabinet saws.
  • Use tiny (knuckle-busting) hand wheels to raise and tilt the blade.
  • There are several rip fence and extension wing variations, resulting in a broad range of pricing within the category.
  • To compensate for manufacturing design shortcuts, users frequently improve the rip fence, pulley, belt, extension wing, and trunion alignment systems on these saws.
  • The cost of these improved components might significantly raise the price of the saw.

Hybrid Saw

These saws are a cross between a contractor saw and a cabinet saw, however they are essentially a contractor saw in a box. This type of saw was formerly uncommon, but it looks to be gaining popularity among manufacturers, since many new variants have been developed recently.

These machines truly embody the class of equipment that high-end contractor saws aim to be at around the same price.

The Dewalt 746, Jet Supersaw, Craftsman saws, Hitachi CF10, and saws reintroduced by Jet and Delta originally named “tilting arbor” (poor choice of names since all saws today are tilting arbor kinds) are examples of this sort of equipment.

They distinguish themselves from high-end contractor saws by having a superior trunion, improved blade controls and switch gear, dust collecting, and certain well-designed attachments.These devices are likewise priced between $600 and $900.The biggest difficulty with the more expensive machines in this class is that they are around the same price as the low-end cabinet saw, which is plainly superior.

The Grizzly 1023s, for example, is near enough to these machines in price and potentially offers enough advantages above them that the question becomes whether to continue in the Hybrid class or move into the low end of the Cabinet saw class. This choice will be easier to make if the requirements are well outlined.

  • Trunions are attached to the iron table, making it more difficult to line the miter gauge slots to the blade.
  • The trunions for this sort of saw are around the same size as those for a contractor saw, although they are built somewhat differently.
  • These saws eliminate the issues associated with contractor saws, such as blade parallelism faults when the blade is angled.
  • Have good to excellent dust collecting capabilities.
  • Contractor saws have better controls.
  • Poly-vee belts and machined pulleys are common (which is beneficial).

Cabinet Saws

Cabinet saws are distinguished by an enclosed stand and a strong trunion that is attached to the cabinet rather than the iron table. Many believe these devices to be the “king” of saws. Many small cabinet businesses rely on these equipment as the foundation of their operations.

Every machine in this class is basically the same. Within the class, there are two sub-categories: Delta Unisaws and their Taiwanese clones, and Powermatic and General machines. The latter are at the top of the class, with somewhat better overall fit and quality as well as triunion design. The Delta and clones symbolize the spectrum’s middle and bottom ends.

In general, you receive roughly what you paid for in this class. The lower end machines will take a bit more work to get them to perform as well as the others, and they are equipped with inferior grade bearings and other elements that the user will never see. As one progresses up the cost ladder, the machines get more sophisticated and employ better components like as bearings.

When comparing the prices of the low and high end of this class, it may be difficult for a hobbyist to justify the additional expense of the high-end machines. When in doubt, always go with the center of the pack, which in this situation would be Delta / Jet.

In terms of value in comparison to the preceding kinds of machinery, a cabinet saw is an EXTREMELY GOOD foundation on which to build a woodworking shop. It contains all of the necessary accuracy characteristics and may be outfitted with extras to improve whichever elements are required.

  • At the top end laden with extras, one might be better off moving up a category, but in the medium and low end of this class, these machines are excellent buys.
  • The strong trunions attach to the cabinet rather than the iron table, making it considerably easier to match the miter gauge slots to the blade.
  • Motors are available in 2hp, 3hp, and 5hp capacities; the motors are powerful enough to readily tear 2″ hardwood.
  • Have rather weak dust collecting qualities; yet, they are effective for keeping dust contained within the cabinet.
  • Large, easy-to-turn hand wheels are provided for blade lift and tilt.
  • Have magnetic switch gear that is safer.
  • The machine’s size and weight, together with the more large trunion, arbor, and bearings, make it steady and accurate.

European Saw

Because the design and features of these devices vary greatly, this section only provides a superficial look at them.

These machines, like cabinet saws, have an enclosed platform, but the metal is many times thicker. The key features that distinguish these devices from cabinet saws are:

  • Designed for use with sliding tables
  • improved dust collection
  • Featuring scoring blades
  • Overall improvement in safety and utility
  • Cost

Depending on the brand, these machines can be customized with a broad range of choices, which might cause issues for a potential customer. Furthermore, these machines are more distinct than clone-like contractor and cabinet saws. The major characteristics that distinguish these devices are:

  • Accessories for a high-quality sliding table mechanism
  • Cost of blade bore size
  • Because there is no miter slot, there is generally no need to align either the blade or the table on these machines.
  • Motors ranging from 3+hp to 5hp in single phase, as well as 3 phase and greater horse power. The engines are strong enough to readily tear 2″ hardwood.
  • Dust collection is extremely good, not as good as the BT3100 or DW746 but very good when compared to other saws.
  • For blade rise and tilt, have big, easy-to-turn hand wheels.
  • The machine’s size and weight, along with a better overall design, make it steady and accurate.
  • Are built with scoring saw arbors With a 10″ main blade, the scoring blade may be left in place and only elevated as necessary. When using a 12″ or bigger main blade on most machines, the scoring blades must be removed.
  • They frequently lack the ability to attach a dado or molding head cutter to the arbor. The arbor might potentially have a metric bore rather than the normal American 5/8″ bore.
  • Electrical features such as soft-start and blade braking are common.
  • The movable tables are significantly closer to the blade than on traditional saws. These sliders function much better and provide a far superior base for jigs.
  • On European saws, the blade guard is coupled to a riving knife that raises and lowers with the blade. The blade guard is simple to remove and reattach.
  • These machines are much safer to use than American saws due to the sliding tables and protections.
  • A low-end European saw costs the same as or less than a high-end cabinet saw with an aftermarket sliding table. Other models might be significantly more costly. In these devices, the cost-quality ratio is fairly linear.
  • Availability: If you do not live within driving distance of one of the few retailers that offer them, your best chance to viewa one is at a woodworking event or by paying a visit to an owner.

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While these designs will allow you to get started with woodworking and work on enjoyable projects, they will also allow you to begin working on larger woodworking projects. On a budget, you may beautify your house and make one-of-a-kind home decor pieces and furniture.


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