A table saw is an essential addition to your power tool arsenal if you are seriously bothered by the lack of precision and ineptness of a circular saw. This is especially when it comes to cutting a material to width along the length of the board as well as in trimming small portions. A Table saw is capable of ripping, crosscutting, mitering, and beveling a material to form almost anything ranging from the toolbox to the boat, making you easily see what is happening due to stability, and storing itself easily away. This guide will help you find the best portable table saw for you. We have also featured 5 short, portable table saw reviews towards the end.
via Mark Hunter
A table saw can swiftly make smooth and precise straight cuts, groove cuts, and joint cuts of any size in wood-based sheets as well as plastic, giving the flexibility to deal with a variety of tasks for different projects. For home remodeling, this kind of saw cuts simple trim portions as well as contributes to construction of extension jambs for making a window fit in complex or thick walls.
Nowadays, there is no need to drive until a wood mill for processing wood on a table saw. This is because you can easily get a portable table saw for using it at home to shape your own cabinet or furniture, or even kick off your new interior design business. The best portable table saw is that compact and extra light in weight due to which you can carry it with you from one work site to another effortlessly.
- 1 Overview of Portable Table Saws
- 2 Working
- 3 Portable vs Cabinet vs Contract vs Hybrid Table Saws
- 4 Choosing the Best Portable Table Saw
- 5 What to Consider ?
- 6 5 Best Portable Table Saws of 2016 Reviewed
- 7 Conclusion
Overview of Portable Table Saws
Few years ago, cutting wood demanded a big saw or a series of planks that were given the desired shape for acting as a cutting tool. Now, this is eliminated by portable table saws that are highly efficient, compact, as well as are available at a very low cost for fulfilling a variety of cutting demands of different industries.
Portable table saws prove to be handy in two situations. First, when there is a lack of space for work and when you need to work out. In the former case, the portable versions replace large table saws to accommodate in small working space or save much space in the workshop. In the latter case, such a tool helps a professional to work in a moving van, move from one working site to another for projects, or need to ascend several floors to reach the site. The best portable table saws are those that easily fit into a jeep or van.
According to portable saw reviews, such tools are required by professionals such as interior decorators, construction workers, and carpenters who keep moving or have a small place to work. Also known as jobsite saws, portable table saws have been progressing since the last decade. Today, they are highly robust, portable, and accurate without compromising on power.
For moving to a van or truck, there are models that come with stand on wheels although they might be bulky. However, you should really not care about how bulky it is, as there are wheels to move.
A table saw is ideal for ripping (both intricate and heavy) timber to any size from a specific angle in a particular depth. It features a mounted saw blade powered by an electronic motor. Regardless of the type, a table saw features three key parts namely, a circular saw blade reaching up via a slot in the table, a horizontal table for wood support, and a rip fence guiding the timber over the rotating blade.
This blade, however, becomes still when the fence allows the gliding of timber over it. As a result, you can safely cut anything from small, thin solid wood strips to full-size plywood or particleboard sheets. Unlike handheld circular saw, a table saw gives more accurate result. While a stationary table saw promises accuracy, the portable models promise safer, more powerful, and more versatile performance.
The blade is usually in a fixed spot and the user feeds the work pieces through it for cutting purpose. The blade is capable of long rip cuts with the grain and recurrent cuts across the grain more quickly than that of a handheld circular saw. A table saw also has a rip fence as a bar acting as a guide for the timber passing from the blade. There is also a miter gauge, an adjustable guide for shifting the timber past the blade for cutting at particular angles. A beveling mechanism exists to enable tilting the blade for bevel cuts. A table saw is by far the safer and most efficient option to perform a variety of joinery tasks.
Portable vs Cabinet vs Contract vs Hybrid Table Saws
Four kinds of table saws are available for achieving a variety of results for wood and plastics.
- Portable Table Saws: These saws perform the same function as a bigger counterpart but on a smaller scale. The heavy induction motor is replaced by a lightweight universal motor that makes these units a bit loud as well as a bit short on muscle. Further, instead of cast iron, there is an aluminum top, which can lead to less operational stability and more vibration. However, the recent improvements have made them safer and more powerful for most common ripping tasks. They are ideal job sites and small shops and are not for cutting thick hardwoods or accurate fine woodworking. For these tasks, there are other types of table saws that also appeal to serious hobbyists and professional woodworkers.
- Contractor Table Saws: These standard models were originally meant to be portable for moving from one site to another. Featuring an open fixed leg design and an affordable price, these tools are relatively lightweight (250 – 350 lbs). Before portable ones, these were the only choice for small shop owners. Although most such tools possess a cast iron table top, stamped metal or open webbed cast iron may make up the extension wings. This is responsible for more stability and less vibration. The gearing and trunnions are less rough than those on costlier saws. The motor hangs off of the tool’s rear, which makes it easier to remove the motor for haulage but takes more space and needs two people to move, unlike portable models. Similarly, contractor models are larger than portable ones, which is enough to rip 4×8 foot panels. These saws are yet the most economical options for a do-it-yourselfer or home shop owners, and are fit for small cabinetry projects, carpentry, basic furniture work and trim work. Modern contractor saws have high quality fence system and specifically designed high quality blade for high speed for more advanced wood projects. They are ideal for plywood and sheet stock cutting.
- Cabinet Saws: These are ideal for professional woodworkers, as they are the sturdiest, heaviest, and most accurate models with 220v powerful motors. As the name indicates, cabinet saws are fully enclosed with a cabinet style base and fulfill the durability and performance requirements of professional woodworkers. These models need a large space due to their large tables with big extension wings and guide rails. They come with best dust-control and safety options, with a few units having a mobile base. These models are more substantial in construction works than contractor types and feature heavier trunnions and gearing, more cast iron and steel build, and more powerful motors. Such tools can rip through the thickest hardwood effortlessly and incessantly with little vibration. Further, they are quieter, allow easier dust collection, have flatter tables and reliable fence, and come with more exacting standards.
- Hybrid Table Saws: These saws bridge the gap between the professional-type cabinet saws and economical contractor saws. They come with the most valuable features of cabinet saws within the price range of contractor saws. Operating on standard household current, these models feature heavier enclosed bases for better precision as well as dust control. A few are also moveable. Some of them come with a cabinet saw-style base as well. Regardless of the model, the base is fully enclosed and the unit has more sizeable trunnions and bearings, better gearing, and more advanced drive belt than majority of contractor saws. They are lighter than cabinet saws and run on motors with 1.5 – 1.75 HP range (usable with 110v). Many believe that hybrid saws represent the wave of the future for home shops. Overall, hybrids are well made, are sturdy, and provide several benefits to serious hobbyists.
Choosing the Best Portable Table Saw
Choosing the right portable table saw is essential to perform the woodworking jobs in the most efficient manner. For example, heavy duty tasks such as cutting thick items all the day by putting much strain on motor need a heavy duty saw. Portable saws are ideal for regular, daily DIY woodworking tasks.
Well, portable table saws are available in a variety of sizes, applications, and shapes. This can make your buying task a bit confusing and even frustrating. Well, the good news is that you can avoid this experience by knowing your exact needs and then looking for features that can fulfill them in the most effective as well as economical manner. For knowing your needs, you need to answer the following questions first:
- Are you working with a table saw for the first time? If yes, then you need to go for an entry-level, small portable model.
- What kind of wood or plastic material, you will be using? This will help you choose the model made for dealing with that specific kind of wood or plastic.
- How frequently you are willing to use the saw? Once in a while? One day long? Regularly? This will help you determine the motor power requirements along with safety and durability features.
- What kind of cuts you, will you make? Will it be ripping lumber only, crosscutting, or re-sawing? Knowing this will make you choose a model exclusively made for such a task.
- Where you will be working? At home or at a work site? This will help you decide the apt degree of portability.
What to Consider ?
Factor 1: Popular Brands
Before looking out for any features, it is essential to choose a brand from whom you will buy the product. When it comes to portable table saws, the portable saw reviews have admired three major brands namely, DeWalt, Bosch, and Makita. However, there are a few more reliable brands, namely Porter Cable, Rockwell, Ridgid, and Ryobi.
DeWalt is one of the oldest players offering the most admired table saws suitable for any construction and carpentry needs, which never fail to exceed your expectations in terms of performance. Bosch is another ancient and experienced player known for its innovative and high quality saws at competitive prices. Makita is also an experienced brand leading with power tools for the DIYers and construction professionals. It is respected for its best motor quality.
Factor 2: Size
The right size of your portable table saw will be the one that fits within the space you have for it, whether at home or at shop. Therefore, it is essential to know the dimensions of your work space.
Factor 3: Portability
To ensure maximum portability, you should ensure that the model has a fully compact structure as well as takes care of ease of transportation. Do not be surprised to see portable models that you can hang on wall or on an edge in between the uses. You will even find saws on mobile bases with a small body and powerful design as well as models that you can fold up. However, those on rolling stands may or may not fold up compactly.
Such compact options, simply boost portability. In simple words, you need to ensure that your table saw should not consume much space, regardless of whether it is folded or not. For transportability, look for big wheels and detachable trolley strand, apart from compact designs. Do analyze each of these features meticulously for comprehending the saw requirements exactly.
Factor 4: Motor
For performance in action, you need to know the amount of generated horsepower (HP). Well, a range of choices is available in the market, but the right selection depends on your usage purpose. If you wish to operate a shop or cut hardwoods of three inches thickness or more, portable table saw reviews recommend a range of 3-5 HP. But this is something that a portable model is not used for. Therefore, for such models, 0.75-2.00 horsepower range is fine. They generate less kickback and consume less energy.
Consider 1.75 HP for cutting hardwood that has a thickness of below an inch as well as for cutting joinery occasionally. It is also recommended to check the voltage or available electrical power. Portable saws usually use 120-volt power, which is ideal for home shops and job sites.
Factor 5: Motor Drive Configuration
Well, there are two types of drive configurations to choose from, direct-drive and belt-drive. Direct-drive motors directly connect to the blade for moving all power to it. On the other hand, belt-drive motors come with a belt for transmitting the power to the blade. Because the motor can be balanced away from the generated sawdust, the motor certainly proves to be more durable. However, such configuration needs a bit more preventive maintenance, which means you need to look after belts periodically, for proper tension and wear.
Factor 6: Blades
The most common table saws come with 10-inch blades. Along with the size, the type of blade is also important. Varieties of table saw blades are available, each of which differs in terms of range of cuts and applications it covers. Listed below are the types of blades available.
- Rip Blades: These are efficient for cutting in the direction of the grain. They have very deep, coarse teeth that are fewer in number than other blade types but cut relatively faster. They result in rough cuts that you need to sand further.
- Crosscut Blades: These give a better finish and clean cuts across the grain by alternating each tooth to the center line’s left and right. This mechanism also gives a wider cut gap to take care of, at the time of measuring it.
- Combination Blades: These are a blend of crosscut and rib styles and work for crosscutting, ripping, and mitering tasks. They are simply not all-purpose blades.
- Hollow Ground Blades: These ones are perfect for making highly clean cuts on acrylic.
- Special Cut Blades: These are specially made for cutting hardwood, plywood, metals, and masonry. A few specialty blades are designed for making dado cuts through several rows of wider teeth and chippers. Just ensure that the model you get can accommodate the desired type of specialty blade.
- Carbide–tipped Blades: These ones come with a hardened tip for longer cutting span as well as durability.
You should also consider the number of teeth, as it determines the smoothness level of the cut. Majority of blades have 24 to 80 teeth, except for the specialty blades. As a rule of thumb, the more the number of teeth, the smoother is the cut. However, the cut speed is slower with higher tooth count. This holds true even if you push harder (it is actually a mistake). Doing so will actually lead to kickbacks.
Factor 6: Miter Gauge
This is a common feature, but is a choice of preference although it is quite handy to have. A miter gauge refers to the required slots on a blade’s side in the table top. It helps in escorting the wood as you work on it. Therefore, the miter gauge needs to be strong as well as needs to have adjustable angles that should be stiff while the lock is tightened. Further, the gauge should slide in the miter slots effortlessly without any mechanism slackness. Any kind of slop can lead to imprecise angles at the time of use.
The miter gauges on portable models range from flimsy to cabinet-like quality. Many saws come with T-tracks for capturing the gauge bar, so that it becomes easier to have wider crosscuts. Broadly, there are two types of slots: T-slot and rectangular slot.
A rectangular miter slot possesses only three sides, while the other one holds a narrow groove on a side of the slot’s base to form an upside-down T. The latter gauges tend to possess a notch on a side of the slide, which prevents lifting the miter gauge out of the slot while at work.
The rectangular miter gauge fits into a T-slot gauge, but a T-slot one will not fit into the rectangular one. T-slots are also versatile to fit in commercial accessories.
Factor 7: Tilt
Conventionally, a table saw blade tilts to the right with the help of 0-45 degree bevel adjustment, which is available on most models. However, a few models come with a left-tilt mechanism, which you may or may not prefer to have. Regardless of the side, tilting is essential for exact and precise cutting.
Right tilt is what most carpenters prefer, as it makes it a bit simpler to cut exact angles. Such unit also can accommodate much more accessories. On the other hand, a left tilt is usually considered safer as fence is positioned to the blade’s right side for a majority of cutting tasks. This is because it angles the blade’s top far from the fence, and prevents pinching the stock by blade between the fence and beveled blade.
Nevertheless, those who are used to right-tilt blades may find it a bit tough to adjust with a left-tilt blade.
Factor 8: Fence
This is perhaps the most distinguishing feature after blade and motor. The fence has to be accurate by sitting exactly parallel to the blade as well as by being effortlessly adjustable. If it slides or flexes, it can force the blade to bind with the work piece to cause kickbacks. Even a fence that is tough to adjust evenly along the table’s edges can be risky and irritating to use.
Most portable models possess wide capacity fences extend up to 24 inches so that you can cut 4 x 8-ft. plywood sheet in half. The scales pointing to the cut’s width are either separate or continuous. With continuous scales, you only line up the fence with the required measurement. In case of separate scales, you need to lock the fence on fully extended rails, and glance at the dimension on a different scale. According to table saw reviews, many users prefer continuous scales.
Coming to the fence style, the T-style is quite popular. It possesses a square tube or a heavy bar affixed to the table’s front along with a broad, dual-sided fence sliding besides the table’s top. There is a locking mechanism on the front.
While selecting a saw, it is recommended giving enough time to concentrate on the fence. Consider have an easily movable, lockable in place fence that remains parallel to the blade all times.
Factor 9: Table Type
It is recommended selecting a cast-iron table, as it is safer than a steel counterpart. This is because it stays flat as well as minimizes vibration. Further, a cast iron table top ensures more stability as well as weight. If you choose an open or stamped steel or aluminum are not that heavy enough to control vibration.
Factor 10: Dust Collection
Just like other table saws, portable models generate much sawdust. Therefore, it is essential to choose a unit with a dust collecting mechanism. An ideal mechanism not only cleans the gearing, but also keeps the motor cooler, which is required whether you are using the tool at home or job site.
A few models may have an enclosed motor compartment with an attached dust bag beneath the unit for gathering sawdust. The others usually come with a shroud flanking the blade and a port at the rear for attaching a vacuum cleaner or a bag.
Factor 11: Safety Features
Table saws are safer, but still do not rule out the fact of being inherently dangerous. However, according to portable table saw reviews, the major advancement in portable table saws recently is the safety gear. Keeping this in mind, here are the safety features for you to consider.
- Riving Knife: This metallic part keeps kickback and consequent serious injury away. This metallic part works behind the blade, with both having the same width. A good riving knife is such that you can automatically raise and lower it with the blade automatically.
- Anti-kickback Pawls: Existing on a side of the riving knife, pawls are small and are loaded with springs. They are made up of metal and have teeth jutting toward the table top. They prevent kickback, but there is always a risk of damage to the stock’s surface.
- Blade Guards: In most models, there is a removable guard as a dual or a single plastic piece covering the blade’s top. It aims to avert accidental contact of the body or hand with the blade.
- Blade Brake: This stops the blade when the blade comes in contact with a body part. This feature makes the unit costlier, as you need to replace the blade after the break is used. At present, only SawTop models have this feature.
5 Best Portable Table Saws of 2016 Reviewed
This is a lightweight table saw with a Modular Guarding System for fast, precise cuts with application-specific adaptability. It features a portable design encompassing a bit 20-inch rip capacity and a 15-amp motor for hardwoods. It also has a miter gauge, blade guards, 10-inch, 24-tooth blade of carbide, rack and pinion fence rails for smooth and fast fence adjustments, 0-45 degree tilting ability, and telescoping fence rails for forming a portable pack.
JC Haywire: “At first I was unimpressed with the build quality of this saw. After extended use, however, I am won over.”
This one almost has all the features of the aforementioned table saw, but comes with larger rip capacity of 32.5 inches as well as rolling stand. This rip capacity is enough to cut effortlessly a myriad of bigger shelving and trim materials. The rolling stand ensures easy set up and stability. There is also 2.5-inch dust collection port for efficient removal of dust.
Steven W. Gerber: “Just completed a big trim project on my house. Performed very well. Also appreciate how easy it is to move, set up and store with the integrated stand. No more cutting wood on my knees.”
This is another lightweight and compact model that cuts tiles, aluminium, metal, plastic, and wood. Consider it for enjoying both portability and versatility. It features a riving knife for unlimited capacity for ripping and crosscutting, conventional blade guard, t-shank jigsaw blades, rip fence, vacuum port, and adjustable miter gauge for angled cuts from 0 to 60 degrees angled cuts. The advanced BladeRunner comes with better control as well as capacity over the previous version.
L.Sievers: “I use this machine to fabricate carbon fiber panels and it performs flawlessly even on composite materials.”
This one is perfect for long wood cuts with just one-handed handle and beveling capacity from -2 to 47 degrees. It features a heavy-duty motor for fast completion, straight remaining fence for consistent outcome, and Smart Guard System for better control. The steel base is durable enough to absorb impacts. This unit also comes with miter gauge and storage beneath for accessories.
Adgate: “I have owned Dewalt, Porter Cable, and Ridgid table saws. This is slightly heavier than I prefer, but the stand is excellent, compact and portable. I use this saw for hardwood flooring.”
The one is designed for a DIY hobbyist or contractor for accurate cuts and larger rip cuts with 30 inches. It comes with an aluminum table top with extension, guard, easy to access ON/OFF switch, miter gauge, sliding fence, and retractable 10-inch blade for effortless cleaning.
Amazon Customer: “Only used a few times, but is quite, and cuts square. For the money you can’t beat it.”
So, have you found your best portable table saw? Well, if not, you can go through portable table saw reviews featured on our site. We strongly recommend comparing the different models , and reading customer reviews featured on various e-commerce sites.