How many power tools, or more specifically saws, are there to choose from for your woodworking shop? And among them all, which ones are better to have than others? Are some considered indispensable?
From table to band, to jig, to circular, miter, chop, reciprocating, and scroll, the list is long, and the choices in each of those categories make the list even longer. As the old saying goes, the right tool for the right job suggests the many uses to which each is put, and the work you intend to do in your shop will guide you to the right category(ies), at least.
Today, let’s talk about the table saw category and break it down a little bit as between hybrid table saws and cabinet saws. First, though, let’s look into portable and stationary table saws to find the answer to today’s question.
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Table Saws You Can Take With You
Yes, there are table saws you can take with you to a job site or easily move from room to room during your renovation project. They are really quite a convenience.
Bench Top Table Saws
One of your choices would be a bench top table saw. For the home woodworking shop and lighter tasks, the benchtop table saw would serve your purposes well. As the name implies, they are for bench or table tops and do not have a stand or base.
They are made of lighter weight materials for easier lifting and have smaller tables, making their rip capacity limited. But, if you’re working with smaller wood materials and softer woods, a bench top table saw will do the job for you. For those lesser jobs and the convenience and ease of movement about, they’re a good choice for your saw inventory.
Compact Table Saws
For smaller jobs and ease of movement from room to room or job to job, a compact table saw might be a good choice for you. Also of light weight construction, these saws will come with a stand and a sturdier table surface. Their table surfaces and work capacity, though, will still be several levels below that of a true table saw, as you will see.
Jobsite Table Saws
As the name implies, these saws would be for the professional with a need for a table saw on the jobsite. They will be more rugged than bench tops and compacts, as you would expect, moving from job to job (maybe framing, maybe siding, as examples), and stronger/more robust, too.
Sometimes referred to as contractor table saws, they often come with stands that fold up for ease of transport and lifting. In addition, jobsite table saws will have a greater rip capacity, usually come with a fence, and sometimes even extendable tables.
For the more casual home woodworker, a portable table saw might be a good choice. It is less expensive than stationary table saws and easy to move around. They help nicely in simple projects with smaller wood products and get the job done for you.
Table Saws That Stay Where They’re Put
Moving up in category, cost, and capacity, we have the stationary table saws. They are primarily stationary, we should say because some will have mobile bases that make moving them about your workshop easier. But, the room you set them up in is the room they stay in – your workshop.
Here is where we get to the heart of the main question – hybrid table saws and cabinet table saws. In part, it is a matter of semantics to distinguish between them, but we’ll break it down for you.
Contractor’s Table Saws
First, we need to talk about contractor’s table saws, and you’ll see why in a moment.
They began as an option of portability for contractors, but more than what are today called jobsite table saws. They were, at the start, portable, but as designs matured, the motors became more powerful, and they became heavier.
With the advent of more portable designs as described earlier, contractor’s table saws became the go-to saws for home workshops because they were less expensive than cabinet table saws (which we’ll get to in a moment) and with a more powerful motor than the newer portable saws.
Cabinet Table Saws
We jump now to the most powerful of the table saws, the cabinet saw. In fact, all aspects of a cabinet table saw are more advanced than any other table saw.
They are built for durability, precision work, and long life. They are heavier and bulkier than all other table saws and are almost always found in professional workshops and woodworking factories.
Their design will have more accurate and firm fences that, once set, need no further adjustments; they will have more powerful motors, running on 240 volts and producing 3 to 5 hp; and they will have much larger tables than other types of saws. As such, there is virtually nothing they cannot cut – hardwoods of all kinds, large sheets of plywood, pressure-treated wood, etc.
They are referred to as cabinet table saws because their bases are cabinet-enclosed. They are heavy, certainly not portable, and once set in the shop, usually remain where they are absent a shop redesign.
Now that we’ve identified the high-end and the low-end table saws if you will, the contractor’s table saw and the cabinet table saw, we can describe the in-betweener model, the hybrid table saw.
What Is a Hybrid Table Saw?
The word hybrid comes from the Latin hybrida, meaning the offspring of two dissimilar animals. In today’s automotive world, a hybrid is a vehicle that runs on both gas and electricity.
In saws, a hybrid table saw takes the best of both the contractor’s table saw and the cabinet saw. It is basically a toned-down version of the cabinet table saw that incorporates some of the contractor’s table saw features.
Among those features is a smaller and less powerful motor, usually in the range of 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hp, meaning it can be used with a standard household 110-volt electrical service. They will have belt drive induction motors, as distinct from the large outboard motors usually found in contractor’s table saws.
Hybrid table saws are less expensive than cabinet table saws and smaller than the industrial size of the cabinet saw, some of which can run as much as 500 pounds. They do not have the work capacity of the cabinet saw, but for what they do, they do it well.
While cabinet table saws will all have a cabinet-style base construction, and thus their name, some hybrid table saws also have a cabinet base. However, most will have an open leg stand beneath them.
Do I Need a Cabinet Table Saw?
All of this leads to the question: Do I need a cabinet saw? To answer this question, we get back to the notion of the right tool for the right job.
The answer is likely no for the home woodworking shop; you don’t need a cabinet table saw.
For the home workshop, the answer will be:
- A bench top table saw for light projects around the house; or
- A compact table saw for a bit heavier projects but still around the house; or
- A jobsite table saw for the professional carpenter to take from job to job easily.
If portability is not a factor, and you’re happy with a table saw that would remain in the workshop or the garage, a hybrid table saw will be plenty of power tool for you, no matter the size of the blade you need for the job.
This is probably more information you needed about table saws, but we want your decision to be as informed as we can help make it. Whether portable or stationary, you can make that decision with confidence now, the right tool for the right job, and the right tool for the right woodworker.