Three best table saws

Bob Beacham

A riving knife sits behind the blade — it's often part of the guard. It should never be removed. The job of the riving knife is to stop the board pinching together after it's been cut. If that happens, you get “kickback” — the board is thrown back toward you by the spinning blade.

A good table saw is an indispensable tool for everyone from DIY woodworkers to tradespeople to cabinet makers. Not surprisingly with such a popular machine, there's a huge range of table saws from which to choose.

We've put together the following buying guide to give you the important information you need in order to pick the right model for you. We've also highlighted three of our top picks that we feel offer a good balance between performance and value for the money.

Considerations when choosing table saws

Table saw types

Table saws are a big family. From largest to smallest, they include the following:

Cabinet saws: These are large, permanently sited workshop saws with powerful motors and large cutting capacities favored by furniture makers.

Price: A cabinet saw requires an investment of several thousand dollars.

Hybrid saws: With all the features of a cabinet saw but smaller capacity, these are aimed at general woodworkers who still demand precision.

Price: Hybrid saws cost around $800 to $2,000.

Contractor saws: These are midsize workshop saws for the tradesperson who needs high throughput and good accuracy without fine tolerances.

Price: Contractor saws cost from around $600 to $1,800.

Jobsite saws: As the name suggests, these are portable saws for work on-site. They can still be very robust, and some challenge the capacities of contractor saws.

Price: Jobsite saws cost around $200 to $600.

However, distinctions can be difficult. The difference between hybrid and contractor saws isn't always clear. You'll find lightweight DIY table saws that aren't particularly portable, but they aren't robust enough to qualify as contractor saws.

When that happens, you need to look at capacities, specifications, and the type of work you expect the table saw to accomplish. Permanently sited saws with cast iron tables will always deliver more precision, but they aren't what you need if you're building a stud wall.

Cabinet and hybrid saws are specialist items, so for the remainder of this guide, we're going to concentrate on popular contractor and jobsite table saws.

Table saw features

Table size: This varies. It's nice to have a large platform, but equally important is how far the rip fence will extend. This can mean even modest-size saws are capable of cutting large sheet material.

Fence: Most fences are aluminum, which is light and doesn't corrode. Look for a substantial cross-section, which adds strength and rigidity. Many are designed to slide on rails. The best have rack and pinion adjustment, which makes it easier to position the fence accurately.

Power: Motor power has a major impact on the thickness and type of wood a saw will cut. Fifteen-amp motors are common, but their performance varies. Most cope well with composites and softwoods and modest-section hardwoods. If you're going to be cutting hardwoods often, look for three or four horsepower output.

Blade: Table saws are usually defined by their blade size. Most jobsite and contractor saws run ten-inch blades, but that doesn't mean they all have the same cutting capacity. It's important to check the depth of cut, because while most will cut standard dimensioned two-by-four lumber (which is actually three and one-half inches thick), some fall a little short, making them no good for site work.

Stand: A jobsite saw doesn't always need a stand -- you can use it on the floor or any other stable surface -- but it's a very convenient feature. A stand needs to be strong and rigid.

Portability: This is important for a jobsite saw. Good carry handles are important on smaller models. Large jobsite saws can weight more than 120 pounds, so wheels make life a lot easier. There are some very clever folding stand/wheel combinations around.

Miter guide: A miter guide is a nice addition, allowing you to make angled cuts quickly and easily.

Measuring: Measuring systems for setting the fence and blade angles should be easy to read.


Q. What's the largest material I can cut on a table saw?

A. There are two considerations here: thickness and board/sheet dimensions. For instance, though the table surface may not be very large, most jobsite saws will cut through a sheet of four-by-eight plywood with little problem (it's a good idea to get someone to help, to make handling the sheet easier). The same job on a cabinetmaker's saw could be a one-person operation because the table is much larger. The main restriction is thickness. This doesn't only depend on the blade size because one ten-inch table saw might have a different depth of cut than another. You need to check each model. As table saws can also cut at angles, you'll also want to check the maximum at 45°.

Q. Is a table saw better than a miter saw?

A. Tough question. Although miter saws are very versatile, a table saw can do everything a miter saw can -- and a miter saw can't cut large sheets. Having said that, if you're cutting a lot of compound angles, the miter saw is probably quicker, and equally portable. It's not really a question of "better" but rather of using the right tool for the job.

Table saws we recommend

Best of the best: Bosch 10" Worksite Table Saw 

Our take: Superbly made, feature-packed tool for the professional.

What we like: Large work surface, table extensions, and a powerful motor make this an ideal saw for accurate site work. Gravity stand with eight-inch pneumatic wheels is excellent. Onboard storage for miter guide.

What we dislike: Not much. It's expensive, but it needs to be seen as a long-term investment.

Best bang for your buck: DeWALT 10" Compact Job Site Table Saw

Our take: Compact yet very capable saw from one of the industry's leading brands.

What we like: Robust, high-quality saw for workshop or site work. Roll cage should protect it from knocks. Relatively small table doesn't impact cutting capacity. Miter guide, push stick, and blade wrench store on the machine.

What we dislike: A stand would be nice (available, but costs extra).

Choice 3: SKIL 10" Table Saw 

Our take: Excellent low-cost saw for the DIY user.

What we like: Good capacities and all the extras you'll find on a more expensive saw but in a budget-friendly package. Robust stand included.

What we dislike: Poorly fitting miter guide. Not a saw for precision work.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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