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    I am relatively new to the woodworking hobby and have been looking around at table saws for a while now. I'm wondering if anyone has main items that I should be looking for when I consider the final selection? I notice a lot of differences, such as motor size, weight, fences, etc. etc.

    Any recommendations are greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Hunter----there are a lot of considerations, but all saws pretty much work the same ways. Here's what I consider important.

    ---Rip fence is probably the biggest feature separating fair saws from excellent saws. The "T-Square" design is one of the best, where the fence is attached only at one rail. This is used by Biesemeyer and it's clones----this is an advantage over the two-point system, which can work very well, but requires a bit more fussing over alignment, depending on the design.

    ---Cast Iron wings, as opposed to steel, will give you a more solid surface with less vibration.

    ---Accuracy and ease of alignment are really more important to your safety than is the power of the saw. A well-aligned saw, with a good blade can cut all sorts of hardwoods, with ease---even with as little as 1 to 1 1/2 horsepower. This is found in good milling/finishing of table surfaces and good milling of adjustable features.

    There are other features, but these are some I've found to be important. Kelly Mehler's Table Saw Book lists these and a few other features to consider.


    • #3
      Most decent saws have enough precision and power to spin a blade with sufficient power and low runout, so it boils down to features, robustness, fit and finish, distribution philosophy, warranty, and gut feel.

      Re: features - I agree with "Daveferg" about the importance of the rip fence design, and cast iron wings vs stamped steel. There are significant differences in miter gauges too. Many are junk, some are solid cast iron with adjustments on the slider bars to take up slop.

      Some tools are sold mail order only which typically offers lower pricing, but has the disadvantage of s/h and no dealer support.

      Compare all the saws in your price range then decide which one best suits your needs. I also think it's a good idea to look at the top of the line models just to get a reference.


      • #4
        You really need to decide how you want to set up your table saw. As has been said above, the rip fence is one of the most important aspects of the table saw, as is the miter gage, but you can either purchase a table saw with a good fence or purchase a table saw at a lesser price that does not have a good fence and get the fence on the aftermarket.

        Many woodworkers tend to buy the tablesaw based only on the saw itself since they already either have the aftermarket fence and accessories or have a specific one in mind to purchase when they buy the saw.

        The systems that have good features in all areas (i.e. motor, machined surfaces, fence, rails, etc.) tend to be cabinet saw systems and are quite expensive. A contractor's saw is usually a trade-off of accessories. Decide which accessories you think are important to the work you want to do and whether you want these items to be very good and included with the saw or whether you want to find aftermarket add-ons.

        I took the route of picking the best saw for my needs (although my most recent saw was "stumbled" onto) and looked for an aftermarket fence & rail system. I built my own tables. I am happy with the setup I have because it is custom to me and my uses.

        The first saw system I bought I was happy with for a little while and then began to see that while the system was a good all-around use system it could be a lot better if set up for the uses I wanted it for.

        I know it's a lot to consider, and I would recommend also that you buy and read Kelly Mehler's Table Saw Book before doing anything. Make a list of the features you think are important based on the information from the book and why they are important FOR YOU. Then pay a visit to several different places selling table saws and play with the displays while looking for the features from your list. Odds are that you will not find one that is great in all of the areas you are looking for. Rate the saws and make your decision.

        The most important thing is to know what you want before you shop. It's easy to get lured into the pretty, shiny, and neat aspects of many saws. But the basic models tend to hold up better and last longer.

        I would look for:

        - HP
        - Voltage
        - Miter Slot
        - Rip Fence & Rails
        - Repeatability of Adjustments (Height and Angle of blade)
        - Frame stability
        - Smoothness of top
        - Size of Cast Top

        Also figure that the stock blade is junk. You will need to factor in the cost of a good blade into the purchase price. Just my $0.02.

        [ 01-04-2004, 10:47 AM: Message edited by: spowell ]


        • #5
          I would also look at replaceint the miter gauge. If you are going to do fine woodworking.

          Andy B.


          • #6
            To add a couple of thoughts---first, see if you can get the July and Oct. 2002 issues of Am. Woodworker-----they had an excellent comparrison of types of saws and features in a two-part series.

            Second, consider what you want/need before looking at your budget. Sometimes it's better to wait rather than plunge into buying something of poor quality or something your needs will soon outgrow.

            Finally, when shopping, be sure to compare apples to apples. If you buy a saw knowing you're going to replace the fence, be sure to compare the total cost to a saw with a good initial fence. And, if you get bitten by the Incra bug and think there's no other fence system better in the world----start looking for saws or dealers who might sell you a saw without a stock fence, to which you could add the Incra.

            But, most important is a saw's safety features. Things like good switch location and a good blade guard are also important. The ease of removing and re-installing the guard is important since there are always cuts where a guard can't be used. You just don't want to get in the habit of leaving the guard off because it's a pain to install. Good luck.


            • #7
              Agree with all above and would add one more.
              Unless you are really blessed with shop space factor in mobility which most of us need. A quality lift does add some additional outlay also.
              Just another item to factor into consideration.

              Seen many users get all set-up in shop and forgot to consider this. Then they need to slid it across floor to get out of way. Grab a wing, or fence to get the extra leverage needed and guess what you'll end up doing. Try to set-up once the ts as far as tables,wings,other alignment ---- not every time you need to make space for that extra sheet of ply or spray job. That get real old real fast
              Wish I had the answers ..... even half of \'em


              • #8
                All great advice.

                2 things I'd add are
                1) Go to a specialty woodworking store. If you go to home depot / menards / and Lowes. You will many brands but as far as contractor saws you'll see Delta / Jet lower end saws most likely. You may not buy a top of the line but it's a good idea to see what is out there to have a frame of reference to make a good decision

                2) Quoting Brian Tracy - "Make your decision slowly" Consider what you want to do, go poke around ask alot of questions to alot of different people and when you think you like something go see it more than once, play with them. If you can test cut on one, that doesn't hurt either. Push the fences, test the materials. He says " if you make all major purchases slowly you are most likely to make teh best decisions and get the best prices" If you decide to buy one of the saws at Woodworking store, you'll find they have specials all the time. Pick the saw you want, and go hunt for the right price or the right time. I saved 10 % off my contractor saw b/c I called around and found an open house at a stor about 30 minutes from my house. That's 10 % lower than anybody can buy it off ebay even.