Types of Table SawsWhen you start doing your research to determine which table saw to buy, you quickly realize that things have changed. No longer is there just one type of table saw. Instead there are several different styles, all of which have their advantages and drawbacks. Understanding the differences between these saw types can help you make an informed decision when it is time to buy.
Portable Table SawsPortable table saws are saw that can easily be moved from one place to the other. They usually feature a stand with 2 or more wheels, making them easy to transport from one job site to another. This is a huge advantage for contractors and carpenters who often do most of their work on-site.
Unfortunately, you make some sacrifices for this advantage in portability. These saws come with smaller motors, and have aluminum tops instead of the traditional cast iron. These measures are necessary to make the machine light enough to transport. The result is a machine that runs a little bit louder and has less power, meaning it will struggle with some sheet materials and most hardwoods.
Contractor Table SawsContractor saws are semi-portable machines that range from 250 to 350 pounds. While they do not come on wheels like the portable saws, they are built so they can be disassembled enough to move. For example, the motor hangs off the back of the saw, making it easier to remove.
These saws usually feature a cast iron table top, a step up from portable saws. The extension panels (or 'wings') are often not made of cast iron, but finding one that is equipped with cast iron wings will stabilize the machine and reduce vibration immensely. The rest of the assembly is durable, but not quite up to the grade of more expensive stationary saws. These machines are probably one of the more affordable options for the serious home craftsman.
Cabinet Table SawsCabinet saws are what you would probably find in the shop of most professional woodworkers. These machines fully enclose the motor in a cabinet-style base, and are constructed almost entirely of cast iron and steel. These saws have larger motors, yet run quieter than the other saw types because of the cabinet enclosure. There is no stock of wood these machines cannot breeze through. Saw the hardest hardwoods with precision and ease all day long.
Because these machines are so solidly built, they are by no means portable. These saws are a long term investment, and will be a fixture in your workshop for years to come. Cabinet saws are also by far the most expensive table saws on the market.
Hybrid Table SawsHybrid table saws are the next generation in table saws. These machines attempt to bridge the substantial gap between contractor and cabinet saws, both in function and price. Hybrid saws adopt the most important features of the cabinet saws, and put them in a package that is smaller and more affordable. Like the cabinet saws they feature the enclosed motor base design. They feature a smaller motor, but it is still a step up from contractor saws. The wings are smaller, making the machine lighter and easier to manage. While it is by no means portable, it still has a smaller look and feel and, more importantly, a much smaller pricetag. These saws are a great option for the home hobbyist who needs more than a contractor saw can offer, but is not ready to invest in a cabinet saw.
Whether you are a professional carpenter or just a weekend woodworker, there is a table saw out there that suits your needs. Do your best to understand the differences between the types and you are well on your way to buying the perfect table saw for you.
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