We like our table saw. It’s a great tool for ripping plywood or other boards, but it can do much more. We use it often, maybe not as often as the chop saw, but still quite often.
But what do you do if your woodworking shop is too small for a cabinet saw – a table saw that takes a fixed place on the floor – but still have a need for one?
We can help a little with that question, as there are alternatives. First, though, it’s important to understand the many types of cuts a table saw can make, cuts that would need to be made by any alternative(s) to a table saw.
- It’s versatile and powerful and can make a variety of cuts, but table saws do take up a lot of space in the shop.
- There are alternatives, and our favorite is the track saw. If you can’t afford one, you can always use your circular saw as a track saw with a straight edge guide for ripping and for cross cuts.
- A miter saw will be the alternative for bevel cuts, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find an alternative for dado cuts; for dado cuts or their equivalent, you might want to turn to a router table.
We’ve written about table saws and cabinet saws, including an article that addresses the difference between a hybrid table saw and a cabinet saw. Take a look if you’re curious.
Now, on to the alternatives.
What Is A Table Saw?
A table saw is a woodworking tool that consists of a circular saw blade mounted on an arbor that is driven by an electric motor. The blade protrudes through the top of a table, which provides support for the material, usually wood, being cut.
They are used to make a variety of cuts in wood, including crosscuts, rips, and dados. Crosscuts are cuts that are made perpendicular to the grain of the wood, while rips are cuts that are made parallel to the grain.
Dados are cuts that are made across the grain to create a groove.
They’re versatile and powerful tools that can be used for a variety of woodworking projects. They are a must-have tool for any serious woodworker.
Here are some of the benefits of using one:
- It can make accurate and precise cuts.
- It can make straight cuts, curved cuts, and angled cuts.
- It can be used to cut a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and metal.
- It is a relatively safe tool to use when used properly.
Here are some of the safety precautions to take when using a table saw:
- Always use a push stick or featherboard to guide the material through the saw blade.
- Never reach over the blade.
- Keep your fingers away from the blade.
- Make sure the blade is properly adjusted before making a cut.
If you are new to using a table saw, it is important to learn how to use it properly. There are many resources available to help you learn, such as books, videos, and classes.
Here are a few bestselling table saws on Amazon:
What Kinds Of Cuts Can A Table Saw Make?
Table saws are actually very versatile power tools, with their rotating blade, level table, and the stability of the woodworking shop’s floor beneath for support.
With table saws, the wood is moved through the rotating blade, whereas in most over instances, blades are moved through wood. Circular saws and miter saws, for instance, are examples of the latter.
But what can a table saw do?
They can make a variety of cuts, including:
- Crosscuts: These are cuts that are made perpendicular to the grain of the wood. They are typically used to cut boards to length or to make miter joints.
- Rip cuts: These are cuts that are made parallel to the grain of the wood. They are typically used to make long, straight cuts, such as when making a bookshelf or a table top.
- Bevel cuts: These are cuts that are made at an angle to the grain of the wood. They are typically used to make decorative trim or to fit pieces together at an angle.
- Dado cuts: These are cuts that are made across the grain of the wood to create a groove. They are typically used to make joinery, such as a rabbet joint.
- Rabbet cuts: These are cuts that are made along the edge of the wood to create a rabbet. A rabbet is a groove that is cut into the edge of a piece of wood to allow another piece of wood to fit into it.
- Kerf cuts: These are shallow cuts that are made along the edge of the wood to weaken it. Kerf cuts are typically used to make a joint, such as a dovetail joint.
- Compound cuts: These are cuts that are made at multiple angles. They are typically used to make decorative trim or to fit pieces together at a complex angle.
With the proper jigs and accessories, a sharp blade, perhaps a carbide-tipped blade, a table saw can also be used to make a wide variety of other cuts, such as cove cuts, chamfer cuts, and circle cuts.
The most common type of cut made on a table saw is the rip cut. This is because rip cuts are used to make long, straight cuts, which are essential for many woodworking projects.
Crosscuts are also commonly made on a table saw, but they are typically made with a miter saw or chop saw.
When using a table saw, it is important to always follow the safety precautions to avoid injury. These precautions include using a push stick or featherboard to guide the material through the saw blade, never reaching over the blade, and keeping your fingers away from the blade.
What Are Alternatives To A Table Saw in The Woodworking Shop?
Now that we know the types of cuts a table saw can make, we know what tools can serve as alternatives that can make those same types of cuts. While there is no true “other” tool that can do everything a table saw can do, there are other tools that can make one or more of the same types of cuts.
A table saw is a powerful and versatile tool, but it is not the only tool that can be used for woodworking. There are a number of alternatives to a table saw that can be used to make a variety of cuts.
Some of the most common alternatives to a table saw include:
- Circular saw: A circular saw is a portable saw that can be used to make a variety of cuts, including crosscuts, rips, and bevel cuts. It is not as versatile as a table saw, but it is a more affordable option. With a straight edge clamped to the piece of wood being cut, a circular saw can rip plywood and other boards easily, although the straight edge and clamps will need to be moved along the span sometimes.
- Miter saw: A miter saw is a saw that is used to make crosscuts at precise angles. It is a good option for making miter joints and other angled cuts. The miter gauge keeps the wood in place so the cut is straight and accurate. Miter cuts are easy to make but limited as to the size of the pieces of wood that can be cut. For wider boards, you will need a different alternative.
- Band saw: A band saw is a saw that uses a continuous loop of blade to cut wood. It is a good option for making curved cuts and intricate cuts. The size of the wood pieces, though, is limited to the distance between the blade and the back of the saw, so it’s not an alternative for ripping sheets of plywood.
- Jigsaw: A jigsaw is a portable saw that can be used to make a variety of cuts, including curves, scrolls, and irregular shapes. It is a good option for cutting small pieces of wood or for making intricate cuts. Again, with a limited number of cuts a jigsaw can make, it’s not really a good alternative.
- Hand saw: A hand saw is a traditional saw that is used to make cuts by hand. It is not as versatile as the other saws listed here, but it is a more affordable option and can be used in tight spaces. We especially like Japanese hand saws, but again they are not going to replace your table saw.
The links to the tools above will take you to Amazon.
The best alternative to a table saw for you will depend on your needs and budget. If you need a versatile saw that can make a variety of cuts, then a table saw is the best option.
However, if you are on a budget or only need to make a few cuts, then a circular saw, miter saw, band saw, or jigsaw may be a better option.
It is also important to consider the safety features of the saw when making your decision. All of the saws listed here can be dangerous if not used properly.
Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and always use the saw with the proper safety precautions.
Is A Track Saw A Suitable Alternative To A Table Saw?
We’ll turn now to the track saw, our choice for the best alternative to a table saw, an excellent alternative in our opinion.
A track saw is a popular alternative to a table saw for some woodworking tasks. Track saws are portable and can be used to make straight, accurate cuts on large pieces of material. They are also relatively safe to use, as the blade is enclosed in a shroud.
However, track saws are not as versatile. They cannot make bevel cuts or dado cuts, and they are not as effective for cutting small pieces of material. Additionally, track saws can be more expensive than table saws.
Ultimately, the best alternative for you will depend on your needs and budget. If you need a versatile saw that can make a variety of cuts, then a table saw is the best option. However, if you are on a budget or only need to make a few cuts, then a track saw may be a better option.
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Here is a table comparing the pros and cons of track saws and table saws:
|Feature||Track Saw||Table Saw|
|Safety||Relatively safe||More dangerous|
|Accuracy||High accuracy||High accuracy|
|Versatility||Less versatile||More versatile|
|Cost||More expensive||Less expensive|
If you are considering purchasing a track saw, here are some things to keep in mind:
- The length of the track: The length of the track will determine the maximum length of the cuts you can make. However, the tracks can be extended simply by purchasing additional track pieces. This makes it easy to rip a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood, for instance. The guide rails help make the cuts straight, just like the table saw’s fence keeps the cuts straight.
- The power of the motor: The power of the motor will determine the thickness of the material you can cut.
- The blade size: The blade size will determine the width of the cuts you can make.
- The features: Some track saws come with additional features, such as a laser guide or a dust collection system.
They are easy to store – a track saw is roughly the size of a circular saw – and the guide rails, the tracks, come in different lengths that can be broken up and stored vertically, thus needing little floor space, if any.
Wall shelves can hold the tracks easily and keep them out of the way until needed.
Track saws are a popular alternative, if not the obvious alternative, to your table saw. They are easy to use and set up, too. The other types of saws we have discussed are just basic alternatives for some of the cuts a table saw can make.
Here’s a video showing a track saw being used to break up a large sheet of plywood – MDF with a white oak veneer:
As you’ll see in the video, breaking up a large sheet, something you’d likely do on your table saw, is easy with a track saw.
Table Saws With A Difference
If it is floor space only that causes you to consider alternatives, remember that table saws come in a variety of sizes, and not all of them take up floor space. Portable versions can sit on your workbench, for instance.
The tables might be smaller, but the types of cuts a table saw can make are still available to you with the portable version. Obviously, a cabinet saw – a cabinet saw is a type of table saw with an enclosed base – would be out of the question in a small woodworking shop.
There are alternatives, as you can see. Some are tools you likely have already in your woodworking shop; others are just nice to have.
Your table saw, though, will still end up being your favorite, and if you can fit it in your shop, you’re going to choose it instead of these alternatives we’ve mentioned.
Last update on 2023-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API