When buying a table saw, especially for the first time, there are a few important things one needs to pay attention to before taking the leap.
What to look for when buying a table saw
First off, it helps a lot if you know how you intend to use the machine, this way you can determine what rip capacity (the distance between the blade and its parallel fence) to go for – cutting WITHIN the rip capacity of the table saw will allow you to cut very square cuts.
The fence itself will ideally extend the full length of the table and will be secured at both ends so that no inadvertent lateral movement occurs when rip cutting. However, for less experienced users or if the table saw is to be used only occasionally, having a fence that extends only part of the way across the table can mitigate kickback risk by allowing the work piece to move slightly away from the blade after cutting. Kickback can occur if the work piece snags between the fence and the blade throwing the work piece back at the user potentially causing serious injury. More experienced or regular users of the table saw will be more aware of this risk naturally ensuring that it is minimised.
Table Surface Area
Table size is also an important consideration when purchasing a table saw and in general it’s best to go for as big a surface area as possible so that larger stock can be properly balanced while cutting. Often consumer table saws have extendible surfaces around the cutting area that can provide for a much greater overall surface area without permanently taking up a large amount of space. Table saws most often come with these extensions at the sides that are useful for cross-cutting longer work pieces, but rear extensions to the table surface which are often overlooked by manufacturers are equally important and are necessary when making longitudinal rip cuts.
Blades come in a variety of diameters. The best practice when picking a table saw is to opt for one that can handle blade sizes that are compatible with any mitre saw you might possess or intend to purchase so that blades are interchangeable between the two cutting systems.
Most tables saws today can vary the height at which the blade can protrude above the surface of the table so that it can be adjusted for cutting different thicknesses of material. The maximum height that a blade can reach above the table surface can be an important consideration when working with larger work pieces. Generally the higher the blade can go, the more versatile the table saw.
One area that often gets forgotten about when purchasing a table saw is the dust collection ports available to which vacuum systems can be attached. Most table saws come with a port that aspirates excess dust from the bottom of the machine but only some machines also have a dust collection port as an integral part of the blade guard. This upper dust collection port can be especially useful in further reducing the mess associated with sawing. It is generally not a good idea to use a typical home vacuum cleaner with a table saw especially when generating finer sawdust (such as from MDF) as this can rapidly overload a vacuum that was only designed for house dust. A dedicated workshop vacuum designed to handle copious amounts of sawdust, both fine and coarse, is often needed especially if the table saw is to see a lot of use.
One important safety feature is the blade guard, which should be easy to remove and reattach as this will mean that it will be used as often as possible. Sometimes certain types of cutting necessitates blade guard removal and if it is difficult to do so can mean that the blade guard does not get reattached afterwards. This is not a good working practice for obvious reasons. Equally important is the incorporation of a riving knife – the bit of metal that sits directly behind the blade that travels up and down with the blade when its height is adjusted. It may not seem to do much but it is absolutely critical to ensuring the safety of the operator by preventing the cut surfaces of a work piece from pinching together again after being cut. The lack of a riving knife presents a significant safety hazard to the operator since if the pinched surfaces come back in contact with the blade, the work piece can be lifted on the blade and thrown back towards the operator – a kickback.
Most Popular Table Saws in the UK
|Pingtek Blueline PT48250-B|
|Pingtek Blueline PT48250-S|
This is an excellent all-round machine that is also built for portability, if you can afford the high price tag. Features we like include the ability to change the angle of the blade simply by unlocking and moving the blade to the required angle. This is much better than the more common method of having to use a rotating wheel to wind the blade to the right angle. In addition, the rip fence is adjusted by means of a rack and pinion as opposed to a freehand adjustment – this affords very accurate placement of the fence at the desired width. Another excellent and unique feature, especially if you need to move your table saw around a bit, is the metal cage that surrounds the plastic casing of the machine. This protects the machine and allows one to pretty much just throw the machine around without too much thought. We also like the fact that the fence goes the full length of the table and is secured on both sides and there is even a dust extraction port at the top of the saw blade. This is a sweet machine and definitely our favourite!
This is a budget table saw and as you might expect requires a little bit of fiddling and calibration to get it working smoothly and accurately as their manufacturing process is not always spot on. In addition, assembly instructions are on the inadequate side making it more difficult to put together than one would hope. If you are the solutions-oriented DIY type (which you probably are since you are interested in a table saw!), then this should not be a problem for you and will certainly increase your understanding of how it all works together. On the positive side the table extensions make for a big working area which is a big plus, but unfortunately, the rip fence can not be moved all the way to the end of the right-side extension which is a bit of a disappointment if you plan on cutting anything larger then its relatively small rip capacity. The fence itself is also a bit flimsy and requires a little innovative thinking to get it firmly attached to the table. In addition, the saw can not take Dado blades limiting its use to rip, cross and mitre cutting only. It is also only suitable for cutting timber so if you need to cut any other materials on a table saw, then this is not the table saw for you. Overall the saw is very good for the price but only if you are willing to do a little bit of messing around with it at first to get it all working smoothly, and the very responsive customer service from Pingtek certainly makes a difference.
This is the second of two Pingtek table saws that we have decided to review here which just goes to indicate how popular Pingtek saws are with consumers. With this model, instead of table extensions increasing the overall surface area of the table, you have a sliding extension to the right of the table which also houses the rip fence increasing its rip capacity dramatically compared to its sibling. The unique feature of this table saw is the sliding carriage where part of the table itself slides with the work piece being cut acting as a sort of rear extension to the table – this sort of design is usually only seen on much more expensive saws. However, a minor negative is the catch that is designed to keep the carriage in place when not sliding is a touch on the flimsy side. The machine is also more highly powered than its sibling with an 1800W motor but once again, it can only be used for cutting wood which puts a limit on its use. Although the fence only clamps on one end, it is pretty firmly held and there is very little lateral movement (if any) at the unclamped end. One let down is that although they have a dust extractor port on the top of the blade guard, no tubing is provided to fit it and Pingtek doesn’t supply it – you have to come up with that yourself. Once again with the Pingtek table saws, a bit of fiddling is required to get the saw operating precisely, but you get very good after-sales service from the company to help you fix any issues.
The Lumberjack BTS210 is a great table saw for the price which is also classed in the budget category. Lumberjack is a relative newcomer to the power tools market and in an effort to differentiate its products, the company provides simple table saws that are well priced and of reasonable quality. Nice features include a fence that extends the full length of the table and can be clamped on both ends. As table saws go, Lumberjack table saws are not very quiet and this one is certainly on the higher end of the noise scale. But if you are looking not to spend an arm and a leg on a table saw as you use it only occasionally, then the Lumberjack BSTS210 could be the right table saw for you.
This is a machine with a lot of nice features but also a couple of not so nice ones. First off, the Evolution blade is excellent. The same blade can be used to cut a range of different materials including, wood, aluminium, and even steel, without the need to change the blade as is common with most other table saws. Like most machines, changing the blade or adjusting the height of the riving knife can be done by the removal of two screws which give access to the insides of the machine, but since the blade can be used on a variety of materials, this should be a relatively infrequent occurrence. Unlike other table saws, changing the angle of the blade involves rotating the same wheel that raises and lowers the blade. Although this is a little more convenient than having two separate adjustment wheels, we still prefer the DeWalt DW745 ‘floating’ system of blade angle change. Unfortunately, the machine is let down slightly by having a fence that does not go all the way to the end of the table which can lead to inaccuracies when cutting shorter stock. However to compensate, they have provided a facility to allow attachment of your own (full-length) version of a fence that you might conjure up. Overall a very versatile machine and definitely a contender for the top spot.