A Woodworker’s Guide to Table Saws

A Woodworker's Guide to Table Saws

If you’re interested in woodworking, you may want to consider buying a table saw. This style will offer you the advantage of speed and accuracy when working on your projects. Before you make a decision about buying one, though, consider your choices carefully.

Decide What Types of Projects You’ll Be Working On

How often will you be using the table saw? It can be tempting to go all out to buy a table saw with all the bells and whistles, but you may not really need a model with an overabundance of features. Keep in mind that the more features on the saw, the more you’ll likely have to pay for it. If you’re only planning to use the saw occasionally, you may be better off buying a contractor saw or a portable table saw as opposed to picking up a hybrid model with full dust extraction capabilities.

Be Open to All Brands

Just because you aren’t familiar with a particular brand of table saw, don’t refuse to consider one of their models. Every model on the market has particular advantages and disadvantages, which is how you should determine the best saw for your needs.

Try it Before You Buy it

Ask your friends who own table saws if you can try out theirs to get a feel for the model while deciding which one you should buy. Ask whether you can test out one or more floor models at a tool or home improvement store to help you make up your mind.

Table Saw Features

Fence: Make sure the fence is heavy and that it slides easily up and down. If you buy a saw and you find that the fence isn’t ideal after all, you can get a replacement or an upgrade fence in most instances.

Blade Size: It takes some time to change the blade, so look for a saw that will take at least a 10” blade.

Weight: The heavier the saw, the less vibration when making cuts. This will give you more accuracy when using it. You may be looking at a relatively lightweight portable saw for convenience, but it may cost some accuracy when you’re using it.

Extension Wings: A table saw with strong extension wings is a definite advantage if you plan to make large crosscuts. Having to rig your own extensions is a time-consuming process.

Safety Features: Look for features that will keep you safe, such as foot switches, flesh sensors and magnetic off switches when shopping for table saws. You can expect to pay a little more for them, but choosing a higher-grade model is worthwhile if it means getting the benefit of a safer product.

Choosing the Right Blade

Table saws are used for cutting more than just lumber, including plywood, hardwood, particleboard, plastic laminate, MDF and other materials. You’ll need to change the blade on your table saw, depending on the type of material you need to cut. The four basic blade types are as follows:

FTG blades, also known as rakers, have square tops and hit the wood in a similar fashion to a chisel taking out the ends of a mortise. These durable blades rip, as opposed to sawing, which produces a fast cut.

ATB blades are angled so that every second tooth leans in the opposite direction. The shape of the tooth allows it to slice wood fibers cleanly. The steeper the bevel angle, the cleaner the teeth will cut, but the quicker the blade will dull. You’ll find 40-tooth ATB blades sold under the name “all purpose” blades.

ATBR blades are set up in a pattern with four ATB teeth followed by a raker tooth. The ATBR designation describes the pattern. When in use, the ATB teeth make a clean crosscut and the raker teeth are in place for ripping.

Combination blades are also known as “all purpose” blades. The paten has the teeth of a TCG blade alternating between a raker tooth and a chamfered tooth. The chamfered tooth roughs out the cut and the FTG tooth following it cleans it up. This type of blade is used for cutting through materials such as aluminum, brass, Corian, and plastic laminate. Pointy ATB blades would not be the right choice for these materials since they would go blunt too quickly.

Take your time and consider all the above when selecting your table saw and you’ll be more likely to be pleased with your choice, regardless of the woodworking project you undertake. Buyer’s remorse is for the other guy!


  1. Bill "Pop" Golden09-20-2018

    Just a couple of comments. A Freud rep gave our club a lecture on saw blades. One of the things he brought up was that Freud considers any saw with less than 3 hp. under powered. That’s the place for thin kerf blades. I have a General International contractors saw. It has served me well over the years. It has a 2 hp motor just a little bit more than most contractor saws. A woodworking club I attend is made up of mostly old geezers like myself. (78) We’ve been wood working for a long time me since 7th grade. A question was asked “how many of you use a guard on your table saw”. Not one hand went up. Why? We want to see what’s happening around that blade. Like were are my fingers at etc. The guard obscures vision and a good many operations difficult to saw the lease.

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