If you are a budding woodworker, D.I.Y guy or a contractor that does joinery and other projects, you will have eyed up a table saw as a valuable piece of equipment. The fact is, a table saw is a one stop shop when it comes to cutting materials into any shape, angle and style, which makes it so appealing. Especially for bigger materials and pieces of wood, a table saw makes light work of cutting them. Here are some tips to help you get the absolute most out of any table saw you are eyeing up.
What Makes A Contractor Table Saw Different To Other Table Saws?
A contractor table saw is often not easily identified because it is larger and heavier than a portable or benchtop table saw, but not quite as big as a cabinet saw. They often have smaller motors, but because the motor hangs off the back on most contractor saws, they are identifiable this way.
As well as these differences, often a contractor saw is not quite as heavy as a cabinet saw, and is a little noisier, however in a workshop there is normally a lot of loud noise anyway. A contractor saw is often far cheaper than a cabinet saw because it doesn’t include the same amount of features. This makes our next point even more important…
What Are The Main Things To Check Your Table Saw Includes?
Weight and size
A contractor saw is a big piece of equipment. Note that a contractor saw often can’t be placed up against a wall due to the motor on the back, however most table saws wouldn’t be up against a wall except for during storage. Have you calculated how much room you have?
Also the weight of a contractor saw is important – the heavier your saw, the less vibrations and movement you will get, which equates to truer, squarer cuts.
Power and RPM
As a general idea, most contractor saws pack from 1 1/2 hp to 3 hp, which is more than enough for most jobs. Provided that you cut slowly and let the blade breathe and not get too hot, even a 1 hp motor would be fine, however it will take a bit longer if you are cutting thick materials. Most contractor saws have a good combo of a powerful motor and RPM, it is more important to check things such as build quality, reliability and reputation of the product from other users.
The main feature that sets contractor saws apart from cabinet saws is often their lack of sawdust collection. This is an intrinsic flaw in the design of them due to the motor hanging off the back end of the saw. In saying this, some contractor saws have a better dust collection system than others, and this is should be at the top of your list.
Dado plate included?
Some contractor table saws will have the capability for dado sets, but it needs to be ordered separately. If you cut grooves, make sure this is included with your saw.
There are some incredible safety features for contractor saws on the market today. From a simple riving knife and power trip switches, through to saws that can tell whether the material it is cutting is human flesh or not. Some saws will automatically shut off within hundredths of a second if it detects flesh, which can save a finger.
As a side note according to Consumer Products Safety Commission, in the United States alone there are 10 severed limbs or partial amputations per day from table saws. Make sure that you give yourself as much safety as possible.
What Are Some Useful Extra Features To Look For?
When cutting oversized pieces of material, having a table extension from your contractor saw can make work easy. Instead of having to recruit a helper or fashioning your own from assorted materials, a sturdy and trustworthy extension can be a huge help.
A quality table saw won’t need a warranty, but sometimes things go wrong that are outside of your or the manufacturer’s control. Most saws will come with a one year warranty and a return period, and if the one you have been considering doesn’t have a warranty, don’t touch it.
The contractor table saws will give you the option of maximum rip to the left and to the right of the blade. Often cuts will only be made to one side of the blade, but on the odd occasion there will be a need to rip a big piece of wood in half, such as a sheet of plywood. How often would you need to do this and do you need the capability to do a 48” rip?
What Sort Of Jobs Will A Contractor Table Saw Be Best For?
Most anything that can be done with a cabinet saw can be done with a contractor saw. This includes building projects and joinery endeavours of almost any size to be completed. The only difference is that a cabinet saw will get the job done faster (due to their bigger motors), and cleaner (due to their better dust collection system).
This is why it is recommended that if you are going to be using the saw for sustained period of time that you hook up to a vacuum hose to get rid of the dust. If you can’t do this, wearing a mask is ideal as it isn’t necessarily the wood chips on the floor that you want to worry about, it is the stuff that floats in the air that will hurt you in the long run.
A cabinet saw will also be able to take on larger projects – which is why large contractors and joinery firms will own one, but a quality contractor saw will still be able to do a ton of work and will be able to complete any residential task, and quite a few commercial tasks.
Who Would A Contractor Table Saw Benefit Most?
A contractor saw has almost all of the benefits of a cabinet saw, except that it can run on normal household power, has a smaller motor and doesn’t collect dust as well. A contractor saw is aimed to suit a contractor who operates out of a small premises without spending a ton of money on a cabinet saw. In saying that, it will suit a hobbyist just as well, as it gives far more control over precision and accuracy than a portable table saw, it can rip far bigger pieces of material and they often have a very long lifespan.
Make sure to check out our list of table saw ranking categories for more recommendations.