There are many aspects involved in purchasing a table saw. You have everything from entry-level models to professional production-level cabinet table saws. In this article, we're taking a look at the most popular job site table saws. These highly portable saws are on the cheaper side compared to cabinet saws. This makes them the tool of choice for draftsmen, job site carpenters and even DIY enthusiasts.
Functionality aside, it's a blade that gets the job done. So no matter what features you need, start with a quality table saw blade. After that, set the optimal table saw blade height and you'll be more likely to end up with a quality product in the end.
Check out our best portable construction site table saws article for more great recommendations
Buying a Table Saw for the Jobsite
As you can imagine, table saws have increased in power from benchtop to cabinet models. Looking specifically at worksite table saws can narrow things down considerably. To buy a table saw for a job site, you'll need a 15-amp motor. With plenty of tearing power, all you need is 120V AC power.
The first cordless table saws are entering the industry. However, we don't currently have a viable replacement for the 10" table saw. Best performance is still achieved using a corded power source.
Belt drive direct drive motor
The vast majority of construction site table saws use direct drive motors. You'll usually only find belt drives in more powerful cabinet saws. However, there is a twist with the site model. Skilsaw has two models that use worm drive motors. They have a light duty Skilsaw SPT70WT-22 and a heavy duty Skilsaw SPT99-12 table saw.
table saw blade
A standard table saw blade is 10 inches in diameter, which will give you about 3-1/2 inches of cutting power at 90°. Many cordless table saws that run around have blades in the 8-1/4 inch range. These require you to give up some depth of cut. If you need maximum depth, you can get more versatility with a table saw with a 10-inch blade.
Blade speed | Cutting speed
For table and construction saws with direct drive motors, the motor speed is the blade speed. If you're considering a contractor or cabinet saw, that's a different story. Regardless, professional table saw blade speeds are typically between 4000–5000 RPM. Don't let the numbers below dissuade you. There's a limit to how much power you can draw, and each manufacturer has to decide how they're going to channel that power between blade speed and torque. So higher is not necessarily better.
If you're on the woodworking side of your worksite table saw use, the lower RPM can actually help you. High speeds can burn hardwood or require faster feed rates when the blade is cutting. Lower speeds help alleviate these problems.
The arbor and trunnion hold the blade and allow it to move up, down and at an angle. Their quality increases with saw power and price. The arbor—the shaft that holds the blade in place—is almost always 5/8-in. on a construction table saw. Just double check the size before buying a blade.
table and fence
When buying a table saw, use an aluminum table for tools made on the jobsite. The lighter weight makes them more portable than shop saws with cast iron tables.
A high-quality table saw requires a fence system that maintains a perfect square with the table. This makes your cuts exactly parallel to the edges. Obviously, framers have more leeway than site carpenters, and there is a huge difference in fencing quality. Less expensive saws have fences that move out of square easily as they slide along the surface of the table. Avoid these if you want high quality results. Fence systems need to be easy to keep square with the blades.
One of our favorite systems is the rack and pinion design of the Skilsaw Heavy Duty model. Several other brands use the same concept. Since the fence locks into place and the table moves, there is no slight misalignment that comes with clipping the fence to the table.
Tear and discharge capability
When choosing the best table saw for your job site, you'll want a cutting capacity over 24 inches. Why this number? 24″ is half the width of the slab. Some models will give you as much as 35″. Since you ideally want to have the waste edge opposite the fence, the more capacity the better. But again, construction site table saws are designed for professionals, More built-in forgiveness at work. Presumably you can lean the scrap side against the fence if necessary.
The output capacity is almost always the depth of the table. Professionals using a construction site table saw may choose to place a sawhorse or other support to hold the material after it has passed the saw blade. Some models on the market give you some extra outfeed support. Most of the time, however, you'll just have a buddy helping you guide the cut from behind the saw.
Throat plate and dado stack capacity
The needle plate is the removable part that surrounds the blade and sits flush with the table. Removing it gives you access to the blade for removal or riving adjustments. The narrower the blade gap, the better for two reasons. First, it helps prevent material from falling into the blade area or between the blade and needle board. Second, it gives you material support very close to the cut to help reduce tearing when the blade exits the cut.
Framing work is full of rough cuts, and rarely more than one blade is used at a time. But sometimes you may need dados for field custom builds. If this sounds like you, find out the dado stack capacity of the saw. It requires a longer mandrel and you won't be able to use a normal throat plate. Some manufacturers offer dado throat plates if they are able.
You'll be doing most of your miter cuts on a miter saw. But when you're cutting more material than your miter saw can crosscut, you turn to a table saw miter gauge. These are usually not that precise, but some manufacturers put more thought and robustness into them than others. If you do a lot of long miter cuts, definitely pay attention to this accessory.
How to Buy a Table Saw That Considers Dust Extraction
Dust removal can seem like an afterthought when buying a table saw for a job site. Usually when working outside unoccupied, collecting dust may not seem necessary. In stores, however, things have changed.
Inhaling sawdust isn't doing your lungs any favors. This is why dust removal is so important. Of course, collecting all the dust also makes cleanup easier to handle when working inside or in an occupied structure. Since we're not talking about specific dust regulations, even a standard shop vacuum does a good job of helping keep the mess under control.
You'll find a riving knife on every modern table saw. This helps prevent kickback as material is squeezed along the back of the blade. You also get a putter to help keep your hand away from the blade. Knowing how to use a table saw safely involves using these tools.
One of the first things many pros do is permanently (and intentionally) lose their blade guards and anti-kickback pawls. While often cumbersome to install and store on board, they significantly reduce the risk of injury from kickback. Table saws cause thousands of injuries each year, and there are plenty of people running around telling how they got hurt. So practice installing them until it feels natural, and then actually use them in the field.
Another safety feature to look for is blade brakes. If yours doesn't, you'll know. The blade will continue spinning for what seems like forever before it finally stops. Having blade brakes gives you an extra layer of protection, although it still takes a few seconds to come to a complete stop.
How to Buy a Table Saw Conclusion
Finally, some job site table saws include flesh detection, which can set the blade down if contact with a finger or arm is detected. There is a substantial premium to the cost of these saws. There's also been plenty of litigation over whether it should be required on every table saw and whether more than one company has the right to manufacture the mechanism. However, they will save you from more serious injury if you touch the spinning saw blade.
Now that you know more about how to buy a table saw, go out and buy one. Remember to check back and let us know which one you got! Have we missed anything you're looking for? Let us know in the comments below.
Like the table in our photo? This is Skilsaw's Heavy Duty Worm Drive Table Saw and we highly recommend it!