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How to Choose a Table Saw

Table saws are the heart of the wood shop or jobsite. They offer a combination of support, versatility, power, and accuracy that few other tools can match. But with so many options and configurations on the market, it can be intimidating to try to figure out what option will suit you best. Never fear, gentle reader - here you'll find the information you need to make an informed purchase of a machine that will make your work easier for years to come, whether it's ripping plywood for a subfloor or cutting a precise dado for a jewelry box. And no matter what you need, WEN has a table saw for you. 

Terminology

When starting your journey, here are some of the important terms you need to know to compare your options. 

Sizing

Table saws are rated by their blade diameter. Most models use a 10" blade, though some smaller models use an 8", 8-1/4", or 8-1/2" blade. The standard arbor size (the size of the hole in the center of the blade) is 5/8". Generally, 10" models are more powerful than 8" to 8-1/2" models, and can handle longer, deeper cuts in harder materials, without bogging down.

Rip capacity

Table saws have adjustable fences and rails, which allow you to set up the saw to give maximum support to whatever length or width of workpiece you're cutting. Most table saws' specification lists explicitly state the rip capacity to the left and/or right of the blade. Make sure you get a saw that's large enough to support whatever workpieces you're cutting, or that you have an alternate method of supporting them. Proper support is critical to getting a clean cut while staying as safe as possible.

Types

Table saws usually fall into one of 4 categories: portable or benchtopjobsite or contractor, hybrid, or cabinet.

  • Portable or benchtop: these are the smallest, usually least-expensive saws, and often have blade diameters of 8" to 8-1/2", though many 10" models exist. They're usually constructed with an open metal frame and handle (though some have plastic bodies), and often feature onboard storage. They're perfect for light- to medium-duty cutting, and their small size makes them ideal to set up or store in just about any location. As technology has advanced, some newer models are even cordless, although these tend to be significantly more expensive than corded models.
WEN TT0811 table saw
The WEN TT0811 portable table saw is a compact powerhouse.
  • Jobsite or contractor: this is the type of table saw that may come to mind first when you think of a table saw. They're the workhorses of the table saw world, bringing a great balance of portability, versatility, and power - they have the muscle to rip long sheets of plywood and the precision to make precise cuts for most woodworking projects. Usually, they come with (or have the option of purchasing) a folding and/or rolling stand for easy jobsite transportation or storage. Most of these models use 10" blades.

 WEN TT1015 table saw on TT1088 stand

The WEN TT1015 2HP jobsite table saw and TT1088 heavy-duty rolling stand (sold separately) make the perfect pair, packing prodigious power in a portable package.

  • Hybrid: this is a type of table saw that combines some of the mobility of a jobsite saw with the robust durability and accuracy of a cabinet saw. Most come with solid metal stands (which may be mobile), long table and rail extensions, and cast iron tables. They're great for the smaller professional wood shop that may not have the floor space for a larger cabinet saw, or just need to maximize versatility.
  • Cabinet: these are the big boys. Don't even think about loading one of these into a truck and hauling it around, or you'll hurt your back. They usually come with fully-enclosed heavy-duty metal cabinet stands (hence the name), large cast iron tables with extremely large extensions, heavy-duty motors, and very-high-quality accessories. Cabinet-style saws are designed to be used in high-volume professional wood shops on projects that require high levels of accuracy.

Motor amperage

Electric motors are rated by the amount of current they can handle, in amperes (amps). Generally, the higher the amperage, the more powerful the motor; for example, a 10-amp motor won't be able to handle cutting thick hardwoods or hardened stainless steel as well as a 15-amp motor. Most table saws use universal motors, although some hybrid or cabinet-style saws use induction motors for reduced noise and improved longevity.

How to choose a saw

Now that you know a bit more about table saws in general, you're well on your way to making a good decision. Here are some final questions to keep in mind. 

How much saw do you need, or can you afford? 

If you'll be cutting small pieces of wood for woodworking projects, or won't use the saw every day, a portable or benchtop model may suit your needs just fine without breaking the bank. If you're a contractor or advanced DIYer, go for a jobsite saw - your back, your schedule, and your crew will thank you for its versatility and power. If you're a professional woodworker, a hybrid or cabinet saw is probably the way to go, since they thrive in demanding environments.

How much space do you have? 

If storage is a concern, a benchtop or jobsite saw is probably the way to go. They're portable and mobile, making them easy to move and put away. If you're in a relatively small shop, the mobility of a hybrid saw may suit you well; if you have a large workshop to fill, then the several square feet a cabinet saw requires may not be an issue.

What's your budget? 

Corded portable saws tend to be the least expensive models, usually ranging from $100 - $300. Cordless portable saws and jobsite/contractor saws fill in the midrange, and usually go for $300 - $800, depending on the model. Hybrid saws and cabinet saws are at the top of the pole, usually costing $1,500 - $4,500.

Narrowing it down

Once you've decided on the type of saw you want, consider other factors that may be important, such as: 

  • Onboard storage: many portable and jobsite saws offer onboard storage for accessories (such as the blade guard, fence, miter gauge, etc.), making it easy to keep everything in one place.
  • Build quality: make sure you know what you're getting for your budget. Make sure your saw has robust elevation gearing, a solid chassis and table, and for precision work, perhaps a rack-and-pinion fence system.
  • Dust collection: make sure your saw can be easily connected to a dust extraction system or shop vacuum to keep it running in tip-top shape. Your lungs will thank you, and you won't need to spend extra time sweeping up sawdust.

There may be other things that are important to you that we haven't covered here, so make sure to keep those in mind as well.

Summary

Thanks for reading! We hope this has been a helpful starting point in your journey to choosing a table saw. If you have any questions about which WEN table saw is right for you, or need more information, please give us a call at 1-847-429-9263 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support team.

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