Types of Table Saws and Top Table Saw Brands

Ever since the first caveman figured out that a sharp stone would cut wood, mankind has been looking for better and faster ways to get that job done. Once we entered the Iron Age and discovered how to carve out jagged edges into metal, the saw blade was born and our most beloved woodworking tool – the table saw –was the next great technical breakthrough. What made this possible? The invention of the circular blade.

Unfortunately, history does not record the originator of this technological innovation with 100% accuracy. There are a variety of opinions, ranging from an English sail maker to an English ship builder to a New England spinster. The spinster story, one of the best, refers not to an “old maid” but to a Shaker woman who was an expert in the use of the spinning wheel.

The story goes that one day she was watching two men with a double handsaw struggling over a piece of wood. In essence, blade technology had essentially remained the same for hundreds of years with the basic rectangular shape of a piece of metal with teeth cut into it.

Supposedly, she came up with the idea of creating a circular disk with etched teeth where the wood would be forced through the spinning blade instead of the traditional back and forth motion of a hand saw through wood. Early saws were gear driven and powered by water but in the early 1900’s a company developed a belt drive system, with the human foot as the power source. These Saws were the same in concept as early sewing machines.

Electricity came along and in the 1920’s companies like Skil and Porter Cable put portable circular saws out into the market. From there it was a simple matter of attaching one of these motor driven circular saws to a table. In an interesting historical twist, in some early table saws, the table itself was moved up or down to increase or decrease depth of cut while the blade itself remained stationery.

The addition of blade assemblies that could be raised and lowered and tilted independently of the table was seen as great breakthroughs. But today you see more and more major table saw manufacturers designing sliding table extensions into their saws. Let’s look at the different types of table saws available today and things you should know when choosing and using one.

Types of Table Saws

While some might argue that there are five distinct types of table saws, in reality, there are only four:

  • Bench Top Table Saws.
  • Contractor Table Saws.
  • Cabinet Table Saws.
  • Hybrid Table Saws.

Bench Top Table Saws

Makita Benchtop Table Saws

Bench top saws are the smallest, lightest, and least expensive table saws on the market. Many come with inexpensive stands to which they can be attached and easily removed for transport to a job site. Their table surface is smaller in terms of both width and depth so larger pieces of wood will be more difficult to handle with these saws than with their larger cousins, the contractor saw and the cabinet saw.

Contractor Table Saws

sawstop contractor table saws

Contractor saws are heavier and larger and come with attached bases, many of which have wheel mounts to make them portable. These saws come in both high-end models with heftier construction and better motors as well as in mid priced models that will get the job done, but with more vibration and less stability.

Cabinet Table Saws

grizzly cabinet table saws

As their name implies, cabinet saws have completely enclosed bases which make them the most efficient style of table saws when it comes to dust collection. They are not portable at all as their construction involves the use of steel and cast iron, giving them the least vibration and the most stability of any type of table saw on the market today.

Hybrid Table Saws

woodtek hybrid table saws

Hybrid table saws are relatively new to the market and basically, add a cabinet to a lower end contractor style saw. Typically, they are heavier than standard contractor table saws but lighter than cabinet saws.

Many serious woodworkers won’t even consider portable or bench top table saws due to their perceived performance and safety deficiencies. Time was when the only options available were the contractor table saw or the cabinet table saw. But times have changed and manufacturers now offer a new category of high-performance table saws, the hybrid saw.

Portable Table Saws

bosch portable table saws

The most popular category of table saws on the market today is the portable table saw. Unfortunately, bench top table saws are usually included in this category and many of them could hardly be called portable. Why the confusion?

Read also: 7 Best Portable Table Saw Reviews

Portable table saws are more a subset of bench top and contractor saws than they are a unique class of table saw. Bench top saws are the smallest, lightest, and least expensive table saws on the market. Many come with inexpensive stands to which they can be attached and easily removed for transport to a job site.

Their table surface is smaller in terms of both width and depth so larger pieces of wood will be more difficult to handle with these saws than with their larger cousins, the contractor saw and the cabinet saw.

Sliding Table Saws

shop fox sliding table saws

In a standard table saw the wood is pushed through the blade either by the rip fence, the miter gauge, or a push stick. With a sliding table saw the wood is secured to a moving table set to the left of the blade and it is the table that moves the wood through the blade as it slides along a rail.

Even some professional-woodworking shops shy away from sliding table saws due to their cost. But if you believe time is money, the time saving advantages of a sliding table saw might actually pay for itself over a long period of time.

Read also: Types of Electric Saws

Top Table Saw Brands

Bosch Table Saws

In terms of performance, you do get what you pay for. With Bosch table saws you’ll find better motors, more steel and cast iron, and better precision machined parts. As a general rule Bosch table saws will be more stable and safe to operate and produce better cuts than cheaper competitive models.

Craftsman Table Saws

Although many view Craftsman Table Saws as primarily geared towards the lower end amateur woodworker and do it yourself markets, they offer several models suitable for commercial users and professional contractors.

Delta Table Saws

Owning a Delta unisaw remains a dream to all but the serious commercial craft house or professional contractor. If you want Delta quality there are other options for the serious amateur woodworker as well
dewalt table saw-W100

DeWalt Table Saws

Founded in 1922, Dewalt is one of the few table saw manufacturers that actually started out in the woodworking market with their introduction of the first radial arm saw. Their early flagship product was the Dewalt Wonder Worker – a universal woodworking machine similar in concept to Delta’s early Handishop, although the Delta machine could perform more functions. Dewalt is one of the few early woodworking tool manufacturers that remained independently owned until they were finally bought by Black and Decker in 1992.

General Table Saws

Most consumers have never heard of General Table Saws but professional woodworkers and serious hobbyists are well aware of the high quality commercial table saws and contractor table saws they offer. General started out as General Manufacturing back in 1946 in Canada, where they are still headquartered.

They offer a full line of every kind of professional grade woodworking machinery you can think of. You won’t find General Table saws at Home Depot or Lowe’s, only from specialty woodworking retailers who measure up to General’s high standards for service, both pre sale and post sale.

Grizzly Table Saws

Grizzly caters to the professional woodworker and the serious hobbyist. As an example, they don’t even make a portable table saw, the most popular type of table saw on the market today. But if you compare the Grizzly G0576 to the more popular Ridgid TS3660 or the Craftsman 22114 you’ll find the Grizzly gets much better reviews and is not that far off in price.

Hitachi Table Saws

Hitachi uses their world renowned expertise in both metallurgical sciences and plastic technologies to produce lightweight table saws. Obviously this enhances their portability and many reviews, mostly from light duty users, praise their table saws for this.

Jet Table Saws

Jet is part of the WMH Tool Group, an international conglomerate that includes another world-class manufacturer of woodworking equipment – Powermatic. The end result is buyers of Jet equipment benefit from Powermatic’s “gold standard” technological innovations Jet has table saw models within the price range of most hobbyists and homeowners as well as professional woodworkers.

Makita Table Saws

Makita caters to the portable saw crowd exclusively, with no true contractor or cabinet table saws in their product line. What’s more, they only feature three different portable bench top models – the 2703, the 2704, and the 2705. So how can they be so highly regarded with only three basic offerings? Let’s look at these models to see what we can find out.

Powermatic Table Saws

“The Gold Standard Since 1921.” That is the trademarked advertising tagline for the Powermatic Corporation, a maker of professional quality woodworking equipment. While their claim might seem a bit boastful on the surface, if you search the Internet for ratings and reviews of high quality woodworking equipment, you’ll see a host of customer testimonials which back up that claim. Today they are a part of the WMH Tool Group, which also includes the highly regarded Jet line of table saws.

Ridgid Table Saws

Ridgid table saws are a good choice for anyone interested in general home improvement. The quality of Ridgid professional tools is incorporated into their consumer lines as well, and with the backing of giant Home Depot, Ridgid table saws are good options for amateur woodworkers and “do it yourselfers”.

Rockwell Table Saws

The old Rockwell Manufacturing Company had a legendary history of acquisitions which included Delta Manufacturing Company back in 1945 and introduced the “Delta Rockwell” name into the market. Today old Rockwell table saws are sought after, almost as collector’s items. Delta introduced its first Unisaw A-100 in 1939 and today many woodworking experts are finding and rebuilding these vintage saws, as well as a variety of other Rockwell equipment.

Ryobi Table Saws

Ryobi table saws are generally recognized as the “best of breed” when it comes to consumer use. You’ll get features similar to those offered by their high-end cousins, at half the price. Some say that’s a good trade-off for a little more noise and a little less durability.

SawStop Table Saws

You can see their revolutionary braking system in action on YouTube and other internet video sites. It is truly amazing. The now famous “hot dog” demonstration shows that the second the hot dog comes in contact with the blade, you hear a loud “pop” and the blade disappears beneath the table, as if by magic! Sawstop owner and founder Steve Glass can be seen using his own finger, instead of a hot dog, in a demonstration video. The end result? A small knick on his finger.

Shop Fox Table Saws

Shop Fox professional woodworking equipment is made by a company called Woodstock International, one of several offspring of Shiraz Balolia, the founder of Grizzly. After Grizzly’s success, he expanded his attention to woodworking accessories which he designed and sold through a dealer distribution network. That company was Woodstock and later they added the Shop Fox line of woodworking tools.

Read also: Best Table Saw Under $300