How to Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money
Buy the best table saw for the money with these 5 tips from an expert! We’ll look at the trunnion system, rip fence, miter gauge, saw blade and table top.
Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money
Today we’ll look at how to buy the best table saw for the money and learn the five things we should consider when buying a table saw.
You may also enjoy Table Saw Safety Rules, Wax Your Table Saw to Reduce Friction and Best Way to Set Table Saw Blade Angle for Precision Cuts
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Originally published January 22, 2019 updated May 13, 2019
Table Saw Basics
Have you ever attended a woodworking show hosted by The Woodworking Shows? It’s a great place to check out new tools and see tool demonstrations, but they also offer some amazing woodworking classes included with the price of admission.
Recently I attended a Woodworking Shows event and sat in on a “Table Saw Basics” class presented by Chuck Bender. Chuck is a furniture maker specializing in handmade, museum quality furniture. He was the former Senior Editor for Popular Woodworking and teaches period-style furniture building classes in his Pennsylvania based workshop.
Chuck shared valuable information about how to buy the best table saw for the money, and I’d like to share with you what I learned.
What is a Table Saw?
A table saw is a pretty straightforward tool. Chuck said a table saw is essentially a circular saw flipped upside down and mounted to the underside of a table.
Related: 4 Ways to Make Straight Cuts With a Circular Saw
How a Table Saw Works
Chuck explained to the group that the purpose of a table saw is to help us “control the cut”. The table controls the force of the cut by pushing the workpiece down against the table.
The blade can be raised and lowered to control the depth of the cut. The blade can also pivot to change the angle of the cut. Pivoting the blade allows us to control the bevel of the cut.
Table saw appliances are added to control how accurately the saw cuts our workpieces. One of the most often used table saw appliance is our rip fence. The table saw rip fence allows us to make long, straight cuts.
What are the Types of Table Saws?
There are several types of table saws, but for our purposes let’s look at the three most common table saws. Those include benchtop, portable, and stationary table saws.
Benchtop Table Saw
A benchtop table saw is small and can be used on top of our workbench. A benchtop-type table saw is likely one of the saws we would want to consider for our small workshop. We can also build a DIY table saw station to turn our benchtop saw into a larger cabinet-style saw.
Portable Table Saw
A portable table saw is a little larger than a benchtop table saw and usually includes some sort of stand with wheels so it can be easily moved around our small workshop or outside of our shop to another location. A portable-type table saw is likely one of the saws we would want to consider for our small workshop.
Stationary Table Saw
A stationary saw is larger and heavier than a portable table saw, so it is usually kept in one spot. A stationary saw is a great tool, but many of us with small workshops will need a table saw we can move around like a benchtop or portable table saw.
How Much Should You Spend on a Table Saw?
Chuck said whatever our budget it’s important that we look for the “best in class” features for the table saw within our price range.
If our budget is $200 we should compare all of the saws available in that price range and select the best one. How do we select the best table saw? Chuck’s tips will help us buy the best table saw within our budget.
Where Can You Buy a Table Saw?
There are a few places where we can buy a table saw. Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are great places to see the table saws in person. We can also shop online for a table saw and have the saw delivered to our workshop.
1. How to Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money: The Trunnion System
Chuck’s first tip for how to buy the best table saw for the money is to look for the best trunnion system. He said we should compare the trunnions of each saw within our budget range.
What is the trunnion system? The trunnions attach the motor to the underside of the table and are responsible for keeping the blade in alignment.
Chuck says we should look for the heaviest duty trunnion system. If we have an option between aluminum or sheet metal trunnions he recommends we go with aluminum.
2. How to Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money: Inspect the Table Top
Next Chuck said we need to be sure the table top of our table saw is completely flat.
To check if the top is completely flat we’ll lay a straightedge across the length, across the width, and from corner to corner on the table saw.
The table saw is a keeper if the table top is completely flat. Chuck recommends we return the saw if the table top isn’t completely flat.
Related: Wax Your Table Saw to Reduce Friction
3. How to Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money: Check the Blade
Chuck told us the next order of business when we buy a table saw is to make sure the blade is cutting true.
Step 1: We’ll start by unplugging the saw. Next, we’ll raise the blade, and make a pencil mark beside one of the teeth at the front of the blade.
Step 2: Next, we’ll place a combination square in the miter gauge slot, against the tooth where we made our mark, and measure the distance.
Step 3: Then, we’ll rotate the blade, so our mark is now at the back of the saw. We’ll move the combination square to the back of the saw, and measure the distance. If the distances from the front to the back are the same, our blade is square to the miter gauge slot, and our blade will cut true.
The blade is not square to the miter gauge slot if the distances are different from front to back. The trunnion bolts will need to be loosened and the blade will need to be adjusted until the blade is square to the miter gauge slot.
All saws are a little different when it comes to making this adjustment so please refer to your owner’s manual to make this adjustment for your table saw.
Chuck gave us a heads up that some table saws are not adjustable. For saws that are not adjustable he recommended we return the saw if the blade is not square to the miter gauge slot.
Related: Best Way to Set Table Saw Blade Angle for Precision Cuts
4. How to Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money: The Fence System
Just like it’s important for us to look for the best trunnion system, it’s just as important for us to look for the best table saw fence. Chuck said we want to find the most rigid rip fence for the table saw within our budget range.
Also, we could upgrade to an aftermarket fence if the rip fence that came with our saw isn’t rigid enough. Chuck said a quality aftermarket fence “makes a cheap saw run better.”
Parallel the Rip Fence
Once we have the saw home and we’ve verified the blade is cutting true we should parallel the rip fence to the blade.
We can parallel the rip fence to the blade using a similar method as we did to make sure the blade was cutting true.
Step 1: We’ll start by unplugging the saw. Next, we’ll lower the blade and lock the rip fence in position.
Step 2: Next, we’ll place a combination square in the miter gauge slot, against the front of the fence and measure the distance.
Step 3: Then, we’ll move the combination square to the back of the rip fence. If the distances are the same from front to back, our rip fence is square to the saw blade.
The rip fence is not square to the blade if the distances are different from front to back. The rip fence will need to be adjusted until it’s parallel to the blade.
All rip fences are a little different when it comes to making this adjustment so please refer to your owner’s manual to make this adjustment for your rip fence.
Chuck said some woodworkers allow the back of the rip fence to push away from the blade a few thousandths of an inch. Chuck prefers to set his fence precisely parallel to the blade.
5. How to Buy the Best Table Saw for the Money: The Miter Gauge
This might come as a surprise, but when it comes to the miter gauge, Chuck said: “throw it away!” He said the table saw gauge that comes with most saws is often too small.
Instead of using the stock table saw miter gauge he suggested we make a table saw sled. It’s an easy DIY project that will be larger and more useful than the stock miter gauge. YouTube is a great place to search for miter saw sled ideas.
Table Saw Blades
The common types of cuts we make with our table saw are rip cuts and crosscuts.
A rip cut is made with the grain of the wood or along the length of the board.
A crosscut is made across the grain of the wood or across the width of the board.
Just like a rip cut is different from a crosscut, there are different saw blades designed specifically to make each of these cuts.
Rip Cut Blade
When we sight down the teeth of a rip cut blade we’ll notice the tops of the teeth are flat. Chuck said using a rip cut blade to make rip cuts “will be quicker, cooler and cleaner”.
When we sight down the teeth of a crosscut blade we’ll notice the tops of the teeth are “V” shaped or form a valley in the center of the blade.
Combination saw blades can make both rip cuts and crosscuts, but Chuck told us “combo blades don’t do either job really well”
Chuck recommended for us to have all three blades on hand. We should install our rip cut blade when we’re going to be doing a lot of rip cuts. We should install our crosscut blade when we’re going to be doing a lot of crosscuts. We should install our combination blade when we have both rip cuts and crosscuts to make.
How to Maintain Your Table Saw
Here are three easy ways for us to maintain our table saw.
Wax Your Table Saw
We should regularly wax our table saw to keep it looking its best, reduce oxidation, reduce friction and to maximize performance.
Please skate over to Wax Your Table Saw to see the simple procedure and which wax I use on my table saw.
Keep Your Saw Blades Clean
Did you know our saw blades can get dirty over time? Cleaning our saw blades improve the quality of your cuts, and reduce the corrosion of our blades. Plus, it’s easy to do!
Please skate over to Clean Saw Blades for Peak Performance and Quality Cuts to see which cleaner I use and how simple it is to clean our saw blades.
Precisely Set Your Table Saw Blade Angle
Setting our table saw blade angle with a digital angle gauge is easy, precise, eliminates guesswork and ensures precision cuts every time.
Please skate Best Way to Set Table Saw Blade Angle for Precision Cuts to see why you need a digital angle gauge in your workshop.
Now you know how to buy the best table saw for the money. We should consider the trunnion system, rip fence, miter gauge, saw blade and be sure the table top is completely flat.
Thank you for stopping by. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott
Great article. It reminds me of what I should be looking for when I buy my next table saw.
Hi George – Thank you for stopping by. I’m glad this was helpful for you. Good luck with your new table saw!
Thanks for the tips on table saws. I’m just starting out and will make a lot of mistakes! But I will try to improve.
Hi Bob – Thank you for stopping by. I’m glad you found these table saw tips helpful. Good luck on your woodworking journey!
Scott, I found the information very rewarding, I’m moving my shop from a rented building to a garage on property I purchased. I intend to buy a table saw in the near future to add to my arsenal of wood working power tools. As I said, very rewarding, some hot items to look for when making a purchase.
very interesting bought a dewalt 10″ contractor”s saw thanks for th tips
Hi Jonathan – Thank you for stopping by. I’m glad these tips were helpful for you. Good luck with your new saw!
One other item to consider, the length of the arbor for the blade. Some arbors are too short and won’t accommodate a dado stack. If you ever want to do box joints or finger joints, a dado stack would be useful.
Hi Kathy – That’s a great tip. Thank you for sharing!