Any contractor or handyman will agree that table saws are a necessity for their work. However, when jobs bring them far outside of the workshop, carrying a standard table saw to these workspaces can be impractical, or even dangerous. A portable table saw can prevent this issue, as they are easier to position and operate in new environments. These versatile tools can be useful for plenty of operations, from cutting through a wide range of materials, ripping through wood, and performing crosscuts. If you have never experienced buying a new portable table saw, you will need all the information you can get to make the best choice, so read through this article for information on how to start narrowing down your options. It doesn’t matter if you are a woodworker, professional contractor, or hobbyist; a perfect jobsite table saw can make things much easier for you.
Many people understand the basic function of a table saw, but finding the right one for the job can be a tough task. There are several key details that you need to dig into before making any final purchase, many of which are tricky to judge accurately. Let’s help you get started on navigating the world of portable table saws.
Important Specs of a Portable Table Saw
Of course, the primary part of a saw is its blade. The topic of table saw blades is extensive, but buyers always have to make sure that any blade they use is high-quality and durable. Blade quality is based on numerous key characteristics like diameter, tooth count, arbor size, kerf size, hook angle, material, and general application. The standard diameter of a blade is 10 inches, but 12-inch blades are also available for more complex tasks. Usually, a blade edge is made from carbine, diamond-tipped teeth, or steel. All these blade types are acceptable for cutting through wood and other materials, but it’s a good idea to do some research into what blade material is best for the task at hand. We recommend looking for blades marked as “all-purpose” or “combination” to begin with before moving on to more specialized options.
Rip Fence & Capacity
The fence of a table saw, also known as a rip fence, is a guide bar for cutting that runs from the front to the back of the table. It is parallel to the cutting plane and offers a huge advantage for users looking for precision. It is essential to buy a saw with a reliable fence to lock the material down so it does not move out from the specified position. With a reliable rip fence, you can get a clean and straight cut every time. Most portable table saws fit a standard, or “T-square” fence. An average user can make the most out of the T-square fence in terms of precision and accuracy due to its simple mechanics. You can adjust the fence so it aligns with the blades and makes the cutting process simpler. Some of the high-end portable table saws do not have a fence, allowing experienced users to customize their setup when needed.
Similar to rip fences, rip capacity is another vital aspect to consider before spending money on a portable table saw. Rip capacity represents the distance between the edge of the blade and the fence, the area where the cutting and ripping is happening. Almost all jobsite table saws have a maximum rip capacity of 20-24 inches, with portable versions usually having more room than their standard counterparts. As always, consider the nature of a task before making a choice about rip capacity, though bigger is usually better.
Miter gauges are crucial parts of table saw setups, and must be checked for before purchasing a jobsite saw. Miter gauges hold the material and guide the cut material to a specific angle. These gauges can lock to provide a cut angle from 45 to -45 degrees, sliding into a miter slot on the table saw before a cut is made. A good tip would be to make sure that the miter slot is not unique to the company that builds the saw. Instead, look for saws with a standard miter slot. These will give you much less of a headache when fitting or replacing accessories like sledges.
Motor & Drive Configuration
Direct drive configurations are usually a feature of portable table saw models. These tools have a universal motor that directly links with the blade and produces immense power to drive it while making cuts. Usually, these machines are quite loud. Direct-drive saws operate on a 120V circuit and typically produce about 2 horsepower, which is sufficient for both professionals and DIY experts.
The second type of configuration is belt-driven, which is more powerful than direct-drive configurations, but are usually found only in stationary table saw models. These configurations usually sport an induction motor and use a spinning belt as the driving force to transfer power to the blades. The motor produces 3-5 hp in a single phase, increasing up to 7.5 hp in three phases. For a 7.5 horsepower output, the machine will need to operate on 240V. The belt-drive configuration is quieter and can cut through much denser material compared to the direct-drive configuration. It can also be offset to prevent the accumulation of dust, but it is hard to find this configuration in any portable table saw model.
Generally, the switch for operating the table saw is located at the front of the table. As a safety precaution, the on button is often much smaller than the off button. In case of emergency, you can promptly use the larger switch without having to worry about pressing the wrong button. Such machines and tools, when used in an unsafe manner, can pose a serious injury threat, so it is best to invest in a portable table saw with a magnetic switch that prevents the motor from overloading. Founder of WoodWorking Clarity, Goodell David, says, “There is no amount of precaution that can protect you from freak accidents, so it’s great when your saw looks out for you.”
Even portable jobsite saws tend to take up a lot of space in workshops or transports, so many of the leading portable table saws have one or more storage compartments. These allow the user to store necessary tools like push sticks, safety glasses, blades, and extra rip fences without taking up any extra space. You can also use the storage compartment for other accessories required in the work area, like replacement parts and tools.
The shaft lock (or “arbor”) is a motor shaft on which table saw blades are mounted before work is started. Generally, the shaft lock hole has a diameter of 5/8 inches. This is a critical part of the design of the table saw, as arbor holes are the point of contact between the blade and the rest of the machine. Most table saws will have uniform arbor sizes, but the bearings may need to be replaced if they sustain any damage.
Best Portable Table Saws of 2023 Reviewed in Detail
Dewalt is a well-known name that users trust for excellent quality tools, and this product is no exception. This machine has modest size, perfect for DIY fans who do not have a workshop space or cutting unit. The device operates on a 15-amp motor that delivers a rotational speed of 5800 RPM, allowing rapid cutting of various materials, like dense hardwoods and wet lumber.
Furthermore, it has a transparent guard with 8.25-inch steel blades that are excellent for precise and accurate cuts. The tool is light and has a small footprint, making the device easily portable. The onboard storage helps you safely move all the associated guards, fences, and wrenches. This model is also highly durable and is protected from drops, knocks, and bumps by a metal roll cage.
This sturdy saw allows for amazing crosscuts and has excellent ripping properties. The steel rip fence works like a riving knife system that allows the user to make long, broad, and straight cuts. You can adjust the miter gauge between 0 to 60 degrees from both sides to allow you to angle your cuts perfectly. At just 15 pounds, the device is highly transportable and easy to carry to any new workspace. Furthermore, the machine has a safety key and safety switch that ensures that the user is fully secure while operating it. The package comes with five different blades, making this device versatile across many materials and applications.
The SKILSAW table saw uses a brass worm drive gearing system that delivers high performance from the motor to the blade. The highly efficient design of the machine allows for fantastic torque, and the dual-field motor stays cool even during heavy-duty tasks. The fence on this device is top of the line, better quality than most other fences on the market. It provides 25 inches of rip capacity, a necessity for tasks like cutting large sheets of plywood. This tool weighs 44 pounds, which is appropriate for a metal-built table saw such as this device, and allows for easy transportation. However, the depth of the cut may be disappointing, as the design limits most cuts to 2-5/8 inches.
This Rockwell table saw is highly portable and affordable. Despite being stuffed with features, the tool is relatively inexpensive, making it suitable for contractors and DIY lovers. This product is capable of 3000 strokes per minute due to the powerful 5.5 amp motor. The device operates on a 120V circuit, so you can easily plug in almost anywhere. You can also adjust the ripping fence within a 6-inch range. Similarly, the miter gauge can be adjusted anywhere between 0 and 60 degrees. The package comes with a jigsaw blade, so it is easy to make scrolling cuts with this device.
The final product is from Bosch, another very popular brand. An elite feature of this table saw is its gravity-wheeled stand that plays an important role in the device’s easy mobility. The high-quality rubber tires make it easy for you to move the table saw around any jobsite with ease. Users love the SquareLock rip fence, a useful feature in tight workspaces. The onboard storage also comes in handy as it allows you to carry the required tools to the workspace without an extra trip. The carbide blade is a highlight of the machine, as it comes with a multi-functional blade wrench and allows exceptionally swift cutting through wood. Lastly, the package comes with many helpful accessories making it an efficient purchase.
Very safe relative to competitors
Provides large space for projects
Easy to move around any workspace
Sturdy materials and design
Micro-adjustments are difficult
Very large and heavy
Best Portable Table Saws FAQs
Q: Are table saws safe to use?
Yes, it is safe to use the tool, but safety measures are crucial for table saws. Reading the manual and watching instructional videos are a good first step before using a table saw.
Q: How should I dress while using a table saw?
It is best to avoid loose-fitting clothes, jewelry, and neckties while using a table saw as these can get caught in the blade and may result in damage or personal injury. Always use safety glasses!
Q: How long can I use a table saw?
You can use it for up to a few minutes continuously depending on the quality and type of work, but the saw should not be left running for extended periods of time. Blades can last up to 4 years before needing a replacement, if they are used properly.
Q: How long should table saw blades last?
Table saw blades can last between 12 and 120 hours of continuous use, depending on the quality of the blade and material they're used to cut.
Q: What can I do with old saw blades?
If you are tired of having your saw blades resharpened, you can recycle them. Any place that recycles metal should take them.
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Expert Contributions By Goodell David
Like many people reading this, I started woodworking out of necessity. Years ago, my house suffered severe water damage. I had to rip out old boards and do a semi-extensive remodel. When I got the quote from the contractor, I nearly fainted! A friend of mine said he could help me out a bit and we should try fixing it ourselves.
So, we got to work. To my surprise, the end result was pretty appalling – I don’t know why I thought it would work. However, I fell in love with the process and decided to keep trying, but with smaller projects next: drawers, chairs, kitchen cabinets, banisters. I turned my entire house into an experiment and eventually, I got very good! After that, my friends and neighbors started coming to me with opportunities. What began as a hobby became my main source of income in about two and a half years. So, I quit my job and dove right into it and I have never looked back.