There are many different types of table saws. The type you choose will depend on your needs and budget. I am going to tell you about the most common ones that exist in the market today, so that you can make an educated decision when it comes time for purchase.
Broadly speaking, table saws can be split into two categories: portable saws and stationary saws. There are also subdivisions within these categories.
Stationary Table Saws
Stationary table saws are very heavy and are meant to be fixed in place. It’s not practical to lug them around from place to place as they can weigh up to 600 pounds!
These are really badass saws that can rip tough materials. They’re usually made of cast iron for incredible durability and reliability.
Stationary table saws usually have tables around 24” x 30” in size.
Contractor Table Saws
Contractor saws and jobsite saws are often confused with one another, but there’s actually quite a distinction between the two.
Contractor table saws are a halfway point between cabinet saws and jobsite saws. They’re not quite as big as cabinet saws, but not quite as tiny as jobsite saws, either.
Even though they’re smaller than cabinet table saws, they can still weigh about 300 lbs, which is quite a hassle to lug around regularly.
Most contractor table saws have an induction motor which is much quieter than other types of motors. They’ll use one or two belts for the balde.
As far as power goes, you can expect between 750 to 1500 watts, which is enough for cutting through tough materials as well.
Even though contractor saws may have wheels, lugging around so much weight can be tough unless you have a truck and a crew to move everything around.
As more portable models became easily available, contractor saws started finding more permanent homes in workshops and the wheels became redundant.
Hybrid Table Saws
Hybrid table saws fall between contractor table saws and cabinet table saws.
The motor size in a hybrid table saw is quite similar to that in a contractor saw, but the trunnion design is different. The trunnions are the supports on the table saw.
In hybrid saws, the mount starts from the bottom of the table. In cabinet saws, it starts from the top.
Generally, supports that start at the top are easier to adjust than supports that start at the bottom.
Also, contractor saws have outboard motors(meaning they sit outside), and hybrid saws have inboard motors(meaning they sit inside).
Hybrid saws can be found fully enclosed or with open legs. The main drawback of an open-leg design is that sawdust can fly everywhere. An enclosed design keeps all the sawdust inside the assembly.
Hybrid saws have 1100 to 1500 W motors, which is more than enough power for even tough cuts.
Cabinet Table Saws
Cabinet table saws are the big daddy of all woodworking tools. These are the best of the best and biggest of the biggest table saws you can find, and these are typically used by businesses and factories.
If you’re a super-serious hobbyist with a fat wallet, you can definitely consider it.
These are built from cast iron and steel, making them very long-lasting and heavy-duty. A cabinet table saw is pretty much a one-time purchase.
Cabinet saws are very well-built, so there is minimal vibration. Less vibration and a sturdier design also results in greater accuracy.
The induction motors in cabinet saws produce between 2000 to 4000 watts, which is a lot more than the contractor and hybrid table saws you saw above.
That also means cabinet saws won’t work with your typical 110V outlet.
Due to the sheer power of cabinet table saws, you can really cut any kind of wood imaginable. They also have a huge rip capacity of up to 50″.
Cabinet saws are also highly customizable. The only drawback is that they’re huge, weighing up to 600 pounds or more.
Portable Table Saws
Portable table saws are very lightweight compared to their stationary counterparts and can easily be moved from the workshop to the jobsite and back.
Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t have utility, though. They’re still really well-design and can handle most of the cuts you need to make.
Benchtop Table Saws
Benchtop table saws are great entry points for folks looking to get started with woodworking.
If you’re looking for your first table saw, you should definitely consider a benchtop table saw.
Benchtop table saws don’t have a stand, but since they just weight around 50 pounds, they are not too difficult to move around if needed.
Realistically, you’re going to put your benchtop table saw in your workshop and are not going to move it around much.
Benchtop table saws have universal motors which are not as quiet as induction motors, but they do the job.
Since these are lower-end table saws, don’t expect them to have the rip capacity or raw cutting power of cabinet saws.
Because the rip fence is shorter, it may be more cumbersome to rip longer pieces of wood or to use a miter gauge for a crosscut. Still, it’s doable if the wood is small enough.
Benchtop table saws are great for beginners but the only downside is that avid hobbyists may end up outgrowing them very soon.
Jobsite Table Saws
Jobsite table saws and contractor table saws are often confused with another. This is probably because both names are associated with workers and craftsmen.
Jobsite table saws have wheels for easily moving them around.
Jobsite table saws are very much in-demand in the market right now. They’re very well-built and have decent power. Even though they are more suited to a carpenter or a tradesman, they’re a good midway point for hobbyists looking to get serious.
Because they’re targeted to heavy-duty applications, they’re very well-built and have a more powerful motor than the average benchtop table saw. They have larger rip capacities and many have extending tables for longer cuts=
These models also have a lot more accessories you can use.
Even though jobsite and contractor saws are often used interchangeably, as you saw above, contractor saws are much bigger and have greater power than jobsite saws.
Compact Table Saws
Compact table saws are the bigger brothers to benchtop saws. They are more stable and bigger to accommodate larger cuts.
Compact table saws fall halfway between hobbyist and tradesmen use. Hobbyists will appreciate the slightly larger size and larger rip capacity, and tradesmen will appreciate the durability and sturdiness.
There are a lot of types of table saws that can be used for different purposes. The type you purchase should depend on what your needs and budget is.
For example, if you’re just starting out as a hobbyist woodworker and want to get serious about it soon, then getting yourself an entry-level benchtop table saw might not be such a bad idea because they come with the basics but still have some nice features like extension tables which will help when cutting longer pieces of wood or using crosscut jigs.
If you’re looking for something more professional yet affordable, then maybe consider buying one of those mid-range jobsite table saws that we discussed earlier in this article because even though they do cost quite a bit up front, they can be a good investment in the long run, especially if you’re going to use it a lot.
If you want something more professional and have a larger budget, then go for a cabinet table saw because they are made specifically with power and precision in mind.