Recently I decided to buy a table saw. I had been driving over to
a friend's house and using his all the time. In case you don't know,
tablesaws can be really expensive. I did a little research
before deciding on one and thought it might be useful to share.
The required features:
- Cast iron body and wings
- Iron is more rigid than stamped steel, the other metal typically
used to make the table surface. It will remain perfectly level and
not sag (like MDF covered wings on some Craftsman models I saw) or
bend (like some stamped steel wings might if you put too much weight
on them). It's also heavy so if you're interested in a "portable" saw
you might want to steer clear of the iron.
- Good fence system
- A good fence system is key to the usability of the saw. You don't
want to have to measure from the blade to the fence (twice to make
sure the fence is parallel!) everytime you use it. It must have
readable markings and a micro-adjustment control. It must be locked
parallel when you pull the level down. Some fences have magnifiers; I
found that I do not like these very much.
- Think about voltage
- I wired a 240V, 30A circuit for my tablesaw and it does make a
difference. If you have the room in your breaker box and the
inclination to do this, I'd recommend it. Some saws cannot be rewired
to run on 240V. Some saws only run at 240V. This is something to
think about when you are in the market to buy a saw.
- Accessible On/Off
- This is a safety feature... I want a power switch that I can
operate with my knee. Ideally it would be user-positionable and have
a very large, easy to use off switch -- in case my hands are busy
holding a board that is jammed between the blade and the fence and I
need to power the saw down. Some power switches on table saws are
"magnetic". This is a good thing because if you blow a breaker the
switch turns itself which saves you from launching a board across the
shop if you turn back on the breaker without turning off the saw.
- Overload / overheat shutdown
- Another safety feature... overload protection turns off the saw if
you are putting way too much load on the motor and are in danger of
overheating it. Realistically on a 20A curcuit I expect for a breaker
to pop before reaching this point, but it's a good thing to have on
- Left tilt blade
- Most saw blades tilt right (towards the fence). Some saws tilt left
(away from the fence). Making a bevel cut with the blade tilting towards
the fence is a bad move: the wood between the fence and the blade can
jam and bind. So with right tilting blades you want to lower the
blade and move the fence over to the other side of the table before
making your cut. Making a bevel cut on a left tilting blade is more
convenient; since the blade already tilts away from the fence, you
don't need to move the fence to make the cut safely.
- Good dust control
- My wife yells at me when I get sawdust on her Harley.
- Enclosed, internal motor
- The motor driving the saw should be sealed to protect it from
dust. Ideally it should be tucked away in the interior of the saw so
that the saw doesn't take up so much room in the shop.
~$500 "Contractor" Saws
22839||$500||1.5hp, 13A,120V||+nice fence,
-open motor, -steel wings
36-650||$600||1.5hp, 15A,120V||+ok fence,
-steel wings, -external motor
|Jet JWTS-10JF||$525||1.5hp, 18A,120V||
|Rigid TS2412||$470||1.5hp, 13A,120V||
~$850 Hybrid Saws
Also this review in American
magazine was really helpful and well worth reading.
What I bought:
I ended up buying the Jet JWSS "Super Saw". I've had it since
November 2003. It's a good saw but I have had some problems. The
handle of my fence broke off because of a defective bolt which sheered
in half as I was locking the fence in place. The bolt in question is
1/2" thick and there is no way it should have failed. When I took
assembly back to my local dealer, though, they said they had seen it
I waited approx 1.5 months for the new part (which was too long, in my
opinion). Luckily I could still use the fence with vice grips for a
The tail of the handle bolt was stuck in the fence assembly so I had
asked the dealer to get me a new handle and a new collar piece too.
Unfortunately they could only got me a new handle and I had to mess
around with a screw extractor for an hour in order to get the old bolt
remnants out of the collar before putting the new one on.
I appreciate the blade guards and splitter on the saw... for safety I'm
determined to use these things. But when I built a cross cut sled for
this saw I found that the blade guard does not lift up/back far enough
and the anti-kickback rasps get in the way. I drilled through the
rasps and stuck some stiff copper wire in them to keep them up when
they aren't needed. But it sure would have been nice if they could be
disabled/enabled enduser modification. It also would be much nicer if
the blade guard got more out of the way when it is not needed.
The only other comment I have about the Jet saw is that I have already
had to realign blade by adjusting the trunion. Doing so was somewhat
of a pain because of the location of one of the bolts (the front-right
Also, I ended up running a 220V line for this saw and have to say that
it makes a big difference. I strongly recommend doing so if you have
a saw that can be wired to run on higher voltage.