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An Introduction to Portable Table Saws

Jul 24, 2008
There comes a time in every amateur handyman's life when he realizes he needs a table saw. There are four types of tables saws to choose from, though for the beginner there is really only one choice. There are cabinet saws, contractor saws, hybrid saws and portable, sometimes called "benchtop" saws.

The portable table saw is often the best table saw for the beginner woodworker who does not have a large work area and will only use the table saw for small projects at first.

A portable table saw is designed to be light enough to be moved from one spot to another and is often placed on a bench or counter. Many portable table saws have extra bases available for an additional fee and few come with the base, though most are light enough to be carried if needed.

Bench top table saws usually weigh anywhere from forty to eight pounds, so you can't exactly carry them around like a hammer, but you can easily move them in and out of storage as needed. Most portable table saws can use standard sized blades like other table saws, but there are still some drawbacks you should be aware of.

Because portable table saws are lighter in weight they aren't often as sturdy and steady as their bigger brothers, the contractor or cabinet table saws. Portable table saws usually have some size limitations to cuts due to support issues and most don't have the most sophisticated measurement and metering systems available.

Most portable table saws are made with the amateur handyman in mind, though in recent years several of the more established tool companies have come out with some very strong and durable bench top table saws which are being used by more and more contractors and professional wood workers in a pinch.

When trying to choose the best portable table saw for your needs, consider what kinds of blades you think you'll want to use, whether you'll need to change the blade angle or blade height and whether you'll need to disassemble the unit or want to upgrade the table saw fence and rail system. When looking at specifications you'll want to compare weight, rip capacity, portability and base configuration and the size of the motor. Also consider the ease at which various adjustments and blade changes can be made. For some people this is important, but for some the basic features of a low-end portable table saw are just fine.

The advantages to starting out with a portable table saw are many. Portable table saws can do the standard ripping and cutting but may be harder to use for more complex cutting and may be lacking the ability to use things like a dado blade or advanced fence and rail system. If you're just starting out then a benchtop table saw is the way to go because they are by far the least expensive of all the table saw types and they can be moved and stored out of the way fairly easily.

Not all portable table saws are the same. Features and price vary widely from one table saw manufacturer to the next, so compare prices and features closely and try to pick out the table saw that will best fit your present and future needs.
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