Table Saw vs. Circular Saw – Complete Comparison

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Woodworking requires many tools which may be better suited for certain projects than others. For any project, one of the most important choices is whether you should use a table saw or a circular saw. This decision depends on your project, your budget, and your work environment. 

Let's start by taking a look at table saws!

What is a Table Saw?

All table saws (cabinet saws, contractor table saws, and hybrid saws) consist of a motorized circular saw mounted on an arbor so the blade sticks through the tabletop.

Cabinet saws are stable and accurate. Made of heavy cast iron with inside-mounted 3-5 horsepower motors, these saws weigh up to 600 lbs and require 220-volt power.

Compact Dewalt DW745R

Contractor’s saws are cheaper and lighter. Usually made of aluminum with outside-mounted 1-2 horsepower motors, these saws use 110-volt power.

Hybrid saws, typically made of cast iron, aluminum, steel, or granite with 1-2 horsepower motors, are versatile because they can use either 110-volt or 220-volt power.

What Can a Table Saw Do?

The table saw is considered the centerpiece of a woodworking shop because it is the perfect choice for any woodworker who plans to create various projects.

Many woodworkers do the majority of their work in shops in order to utilize a cabinet saw on 220-volt power, then take the prepared pieces to their project site. Others opt to take a more portable contractor’s saw or hybrid saw to use directly at the work site.

Due to its stability, accuracy, and horsepower, the table saw is excellent for accomplishing a wide range of woodworking needs. When accompanied with the appropriate blades, jigs, and accessories, a table saw can be used to make just about every cut you could need for any project. 

Any table saw can be used to easily rip wood stock, make crosscuts, shape edging, or make cross-cuts along angles using a miter gauge. Table saws can also be equipped with dado blades to make groove joints, or with jigs to make tapered cuts or to cut panels.

How to Use a Table Saw

  1. Whenever you use any kind of saw, always remember to use safety equipment including eye protection and gloves.

  2. To use a table saw, start by adjusting your blade and installing a miter gauge or dado blade as necessary. For full rip cuts, make sure the blade is higher than the thickness of the wood.
     
  3. Measure and adjust the fence to the size of your cut, then place your material against the saw and fence to prevent kickback. To finish setup, engage the blade guard and turn on the saw.

  4. Once the saw is turned on, slowly push your material through the blade, keeping the material parallel to the fence.
     
  5. Toward the end of the cut, push the rest of the material slowly through the saw blade using a push block. Remember to turn off your table saw when you are done.

What is a Circular Saw?

A circular saw is a handheld power saw comprised of a toothed blade attached to a motorized arbor - think of it like a portable table saw, without the table.

Dewalt 20V 7-1/4-Inch With Brake

Around the blade is a blade guard and a shoe, both of which allow for safe and stable use. On the side of the saw is a lever that retracts the blade guard, a knob to adjust the cutting depth, and a knob to adjust the bevel cutting angle.

Although cordless models are more portable, corded circular saws are generally more powerful.

What Can a Circular Saw Do?

A circular saw can make cuts at different depths (0 inches to 2.5 inches) and at different angles (0 degrees to 45 degrees) through wood, plastic, or even metal.

Regardless of the material you are cutting, you should always choose the right type of blade for your intended cut. Rip blades are meant for cutting along the grain, while crosscut blades are best for cutting across the grain.

Combination blades are intended for adequately cutting across or along the grain, but they don’t always leave as clean of a finish as rip blades or crosscut blades. While a combination blade is sufficient for cutting most wood, there are specialty blades for cutting plywood, masonry, and harder metals.

With the help of a woodworking jig, you can use a circular saw for other cuts. Ripping jigs make it a lot easier to make large rip cuts and there are other specialty jigs for panel cutting. Circular saws can also be used to make partial cuts, though it is recommended to use a specialty jig or a guide rail in order to make accurate partial cuts.

How to Use a Circular Saw

  1. Remember, always wear eye protection when using a circular saw. 

  2. First, you should choose the right blade for your project based on the material you need to cut. Attach the blade to the saw, tighten the arbor nut, and adjust the height and bevel. The height of the blade determines the depth of the cut, and the bevel determines the angle.

  3. Next, place your material (good side facing down) so that it is supported while allowing enough clearance to make the cut. Measure and mark your planned cut on the material. 

  4. Then, plug in and start your saw, making sure the blade reaches full speed before you start the cut. 

  5. Finally, slowly cut along your measured mark, making sure to back up and retry more slowly if the blade jams. 

  6. When your cut is almost complete, double check that the material’s weight is supported to avoid splintering, then finish the cut.  

Consumer Comparison: Table Saws vs Circular Saws

Like take a look at the direct comparison of these two saws.

Table Saws

PROS

  • Table saws can be used for multiple functions across different projects.
  • Table saws do not require much training to use.
  • Table saws are very accurate and stable.
  • Table saws are relatively easy to modify or repair.
  • A high-quality table saw can last a long time with little maintenance.

CONS

  • Table saws can be a large investment if not used for multiple projects.
  • Table saws require space for use and storage.
  • Table saws can be loud and a little messy.

Who’s This Perfect For?

Table saws are perfect for amateurs and professionals, as long as you have enough space to use and store them. They are best for woodworkers who plan to create multiple, high-quality projects. Ultimately, they are one of the primary tools of most woodworkers regardless of skill level or occupation.

Circular Saws

PROS

  • Circular saws are made to be portable so they are ideal for small projects.
  • Circular saws are cheaper than many alternatives.
  • Circular saws are easy to store and maintain.
  • Circular saw blades are easy to repair and replace.
  • Circular saws are versatile, especially when used with a clamped straight edge.

CONS

  • Circular saws do not have as much horsepower as larger saws.
  • Circular saws do not have as many accessories as table saws.
  • Circular saw blades only come in specific sizes.

Who’s This Perfect For?​

Circular saws are perfect for smaller projects and for people who do not want to invest in a table saw. They are especially appropriate for hobbyists and pros alike who value portability and versatility. Additionally, they are excellent for contractors or people who have to work on-site.

Types of Circular Saw Accessories

Circular saws come with a range of safety features, though you should still always wear gloves and eye protection when using a circular saw. 

One of the most important safety features is the blade guard, which covers the blade when the saw is not cutting through material. Many circular saws also have a safety switch that prevents the ignition trigger from being pulled unless the switch is held down. 

Some saws also include an anti-locking clutch which helps prevent motor damage if the blade catches while cutting.

Although you can cut freely with a circular saw, many woodworkers use a straight edge or combination square to guide their cuts. These tools can help ensure the cut is as straight as possible. It is also common to use a circular measuring jig to guide rounded or curved cuts.

Types of Table Saw Saw Accessories

Table saws typically include a fence for ripping wood stock, a dust collection system for safety and cleanliness, and a miter gauge for angled cuts. While most table saws allow for right-tilted bevel adjustment, they are also made with left-tilted bevel adjustment to accommodate different preferences. They can also be fitted with dado blades to make partial cuts for groove joints.

Table saws also include many features to keep users safe. Every table saw should come equipped with a riving knife to prevent wood from kicking back, a paddle-style switch for safely  turning off the saw, and blade guards or blade brakes to prevent accidental injury.

Although some models do not come with dust collection systems, it is important to have one to prevent accidents. As with any saw, you should always wear safety glasses, hearing protection, and thick work gloves when using a table saw.

People Also Ask

Although both circular saws and table saws can be used for many of the same projects, it is important to know that there are some deviations between these machines. Specifically, table saws and circular saws use similar yet distinct blades, and the maintenance for these blades are a little different.

What Type of Blade Do I Need for a Table Saw?

A 40-tooth blade is the standard and widely considered perfect for general purpose use, though a 50-tooth blade can be cheaper and better for cutting grooves. 40- or 50-tooth rip blades are best for cutting along the grain, while smaller 60- or 100-tooth crosscut blades are best for cutting across the grain. Overall, the blade you will need will vary by project, but if you’re starting out, a 40-tooth standard blade is probably most cost-effective.

What Type of Blade Do I need for a Circular Saw?

Circular saws use steel blades with anywhere from 20 teeth to 80 teeth. Carbide-tipped blades are also available to cut stronger materials. Most blades are either rip blades for cutting along the grain or thin kerf crosscut blades for cutting across the grain, though combination blades do exist.

When Should I Change the Blade on a Saw?

The blade of a table saw should be changed if it wobbles significantly while slowing down after the power is turned off. The blade of a circular saw should be changed when the teeth break or wear out, or when cleaning and sharpening the blade does not restore performance. Ultimately, this comes down to inspecting your blade and paying attention to changes in performance.

Can I Sharpen a Circular Saw Blade?

Circular saw blades can be sharpened depending on the material. Steel-toothed blades can be sharpened at home by cleaning the blade and sharpening it with a file.

Carbide-tipped blades are harder material and easy to ruin. They should be taken to a professional to sharpen using a diamond wheel sharpener. 

Conclusion

Table saws and circular saws are both crucial woodworking tools. Which saw is right for you depends on what projects you plan to do and how often you will need to make specialized cuts. Remember to factor in storage and maintenance when deciding which saw is right for you.