If you’re out to equip your new workshop or job site, chances are that one of the first things you’ll be looking for is a table saw. While not exactly the most compact power tool around, the table saw has a peerless ability to make clean, smooth cuts with every stroke and handles far larger pieces than other saws, making it an indispensable part of any construction or crafting scenario.
A table saw is not exactly a disposable purchase, so here are a couple of things you should clear up before choosing one. A bit of attention to detail beforehand can save considerable time, trouble, and expense in the long run, making it well worth the time to measure twice before you cut once.
First and foremost, make sure you have a safe environment for the table saw and its operators. Table saws can be harmful if you’re not aware of what happens when using one. From emitting exhaust fumes and dust particles to the deadly kickback that can launch a piece of material right off the blade. So you’ll want to take care that it is well ventilated leaving a clear path behind the saw operator.
If your chosen saw is a gas-powered model, it is a good idea to have a means of fire control nearby. Fuel leakage mingled with sawdust creates a highly dangerous and flammable combination. Always have in place a means of fire control along with a first aid kit that includes burning care supplies. Believe it or not, even without a flame, friction can heat a table saw to sizzling hot temperatures over the course of a relatively brief task.
Speaking of things to accompany your saw, you will want to get a shop vacuum to keep nearby or, even better, attached to the table saw. The modern table saw is used for far more than just wood. Sawdust made of metal or plastic particles can cause serious respiratory issues if not properly vacuumed away during the job.
Electrical saws may not have fuel leaks, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. Because they are extremely large power tools drawing a lot of energy, table saws will often have a different plug than the standard homeowner outlets.
These plugs are both physically larger and have a different voltage than the standard outlets found on your wall. Make sure that your intended workspace has outlets of the correct size and voltage before starting to work. Improper electrical connections can be deadly and destructive all on their own, and even more so when attached to power tools.
A final consideration before getting a table saw is asking yourself whether or not you need one at all. Table saws are incredibly useful but can be the wrong tool for some jobs. Take stock of what tools you already have and see if the desired function can be carried out by smaller hand-held tools without cluttering up your working environment with a clunky table saw.
Properly preparing yourself and your workshop for a table saw can be a serious expense. Make sure you are taking all factors into account when finalizing a purchase budget.
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What To Look For
Getting everything ready for a seamless installation and safe operation of your table saw is only half the work. There are a number of things to look for in a good model, but a few of them deserve special mention.
Size should be at the top of your list – after all, no point in getting a table saw that won’t fit the space you have available. Take a tape measure to the area set aside for the table saw and a few minutes of careful calculation will spare you significant frustration later on. Then you can plan the rest of the work area.
Cutting power is the next consideration. A table saw takes up considerable space, how frustrating if that space is taken up with equipment that does not fulfill its primary purpose. You need to choose a saw powerful enough to go through whatever material you are going to be using, whether that’s softer plywood or copper piping.
Cutting speed is often measured in terms of RPM, or rotations per minute, but that is only one of the many statistics likely to appear on a table saw. Take the time to identify precisely what numbers interest you to speed up your search for a suitable saw.
Along with the outward dimensions of the saw, many buyers are often looking for a particular internal measurement. Table saws have a number of components with distinct functions, and it often helps to know what you need from those functions when you are ready to buy. Pieces like the picket or miter can seriously impact the usefulness of the saw, so know what you want from them so you will pick the right one.
The most important piece to research, of course, is the blade. Power saw blades come in almost the same variety as the tools themselves, and choosing a good one literally means the difference between quality work and shoddy performance.
Saw blades will be categorized by tooth count, material, and diameter – just a few of the deciding factors when trying to choose the right saw blade for your needs.
Table saws tend to be bought for more than one project, so you’ll want to have an eye to the durability of the machine and the serviceability in case something goes wrong. Check on how long parts are supposed to last and whether there is a discrepancy between that and their actual performance as part of your research process.
Serviceability is a tricky matter with power tools, since a good percentage of the time they are being used by those who have the expertise to repair them independently. For the general public, though, service should be restricted to either wholly replacing the modular and user-serviceable components or bringing the tool to a service center. Ask about how easy either of those options will be when you need to service your table saw.
If something does go wrong, you’ll want to make sure your bases are covered with a strong warranty policy. Many saws will display this prominently, but be sure to read all of the fine print so you know your legal rights should you need to return something, and do this before putting any money out.
Putting a single cost on a brand new table saw is tricky, as there are so many different models and purposes of saw that you could choose from. Table saws can range from fairly basic models with only the blade to high-tech machinery with all kinds of helpful add ons, and the price varies accordingly.
Smaller, more basic models tend to be found on construction sites, selected for their compact outline and significant portability. They are characterized by roll cages, pop-up legs, and a relatively small table that is only intended to support small pieces of material for basic cuts.
Excluding the miniature versions that are sometimes used in specialist shops, the cheapest table saws range between $300 and $450 USD apiece. That sum tends to get you the machine and perhaps one blade, but will rarely include any extra features or additional tools and parts.
A midrange saw will be priced between $500 and $1500 USD, and tends to include a larger table with more developed accessories. These saws are designed for use as permanent fixtures in a woodworking shop, and so will come with sturdier hulls, legs, and power supplies. A contractor saw is generally a gas-powered tool, these run almost exclusively on electric motors, relying on accessing an established electrical power source in the shop.
At the top of the scale are industrial saws, supported by the largest of tables and meant to support heavy pieces of metal beam or pipe as they are being processed. Starting around $5000 USD and higher, an industrial power saw can really be worth more than a car and is recommended only for those who are quite certain that nothing else will do.
What makes the difference in price between the ordinary saws and the heavier ones is often the addition of a digital control. The added technology makes for a much more reliable process in many areas but the cost does get passed on to the consumer.
One thing that might be worth paying a little extra for is a saw with a brain system. These saws stop and retract instantly upon touching human skin, making them well worth the added cost to avoid dealing with horrific saw-related injuries.
Table saws, like most products, can be worth nearly any amount someone is willing to spend on them. Although there are some general price brackets, it is always better to ask ‘how much is this table saw’ instead of how much you could, theoretically spend on one if you wanted. So get very clear of what you need so you are happy with your purchase.
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