Table saw

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Table saw
A cabinet table saw, equipped for cutting large pieces of sheet stock in the direction of the wood's grain. Also known as ripping.
Other namesSawbench
Classification Power tool
Manufacturer Delta, SawStop, Bosch, Makita, Ryobi, Black & Decker/DeWalt, among others
The blade of a table saw cutting into wood Table saw cutting wood at an angle, by BarelyFitz.jpg
The blade of a table saw cutting into wood

A table saw (also known as a sawbench or bench saw in England) is a woodworking tool, consisting of a circular saw blade, mounted on an arbor, that is driven by an electric motor (either directly, by belt, or by gears). The blade protrudes through the top of a table, which provides support for the material, usually wood, being cut.


In most modern table saws, the depth of the cut is varied by moving the blade up and down: the higher the blade protrudes above the table, the deeper the cut that is made in the material. In some early table saws, the blade and arbor were fixed, and the table was moved up and down to expose more or less of the blade. The angle of cut is controlled by adjusting the angle of blade. Some earlier saws angled the table to control the cut angle.


The general types of table saws are compact, benchtop, jobsite, contractor, hybrid, cabinet, and sliding table saws.

A table saw patent filed in 1878 Table Saw Patent Drawing (1878).png
A table saw patent filed in 1878


Benchtop table saws are lightweight and are designed to be placed on a table or other support for operation. This type of saw is most often used by homeowners and DIYers. They almost always have a direct-drive (blade driven directly by the motor) universal motor. Some early models used small induction motors, which weren't very powerful, made the saw heavy, and caused a lot of vibration. Most modern saws can be lifted by one person and carried to and from a particular location. These saws often have parts made of steel, aluminum and plastic and are designed to be compact and light.

Benchtop table saws are the least expensive (typically costing in the $100-$200 range) and least capable of the table saws; however, they can offer adequate ripping capacity and precision for most tasks. The universal motor is not as durable or as quiet as an induction motor, but it offers more power relative to its size and weight. The top of a benchtop table saw is narrower than those of the contractors and cabinet saws, so the width of stock that can be ripped is reduced. Another restriction results from the top being smaller from the front of the tabletop to the rear. This results in a shorter rip fence, which makes it harder to make a clean, straight cut when ripping. Also, there is less distance from the front edge of the tabletop to the blade, which makes cross cutting stock using a miter more difficult (the miter and/or stock may not be fully supported by the table in front of the blade). Benchtop saws are the smallest type of table saw and have the least mass, potentially resulting in increased vibration during a cut. Nowadays, these models are being phased out for more practical jobsite model saws.


Jobsite table saws are slightly larger than benchtop models, and usually are placed on a folding or stationary stand during operation. These saws are mostly used by carpenters, contractors, and tradesman on the jobsite (hence the name). Many of these saws are more expensive than benchtop saws (typically in the $300-$600 range). Most saws in this category have small but powerful 15 amp universal motors. Many higher end saws have gear-driven motors. Most of these saws are relatively light, and can be easily transported to a job location. Many of these saws are built more ruggedly and are generally more accurate than the entry-level benchtop models. The motors, gears, and cases are generally designed to better withstand the abuse of construction sites. When compared to benchtop saws, many jobsite models have ¾” miter slots, better fences, better overall alignment, sliding extension tables, larger rip capacities, and folding stands with wheels.


Compact table saws are much larger than portable saws, and sit on a stationary stand. The motor is still a universal type motor, however these are usually driven by small toothed belts. Some saws have cast iron tops, and are similar in appearance to larger contractor saws, although the tables are usually smaller and the build is of lighter construction. Some models even feature sliding-miter tables, with a built-in miter sled that could be tilted to many different angles.


Contractor table saws, (also sometimes referred to as open-stand saws), are heavier, larger saws that are attached to a stand or base, often with wheels. On these saws, the motor (Usually a 1 to 2 hp (750 to 1500 W) induction type motor) hinges off the rear of the saw on a pivoting bracket (although direct drive models have existed) and drives the blade with one, or rarely, two rubber v-belts. [1] This is the type often used by hobbyists and homeowners because standard electrical circuits provide adequate power to run them, and because of their generally low cost when compared to larger saws. Because the motor hangs off the rear of the saw, dust collection is usually problematic or even ineffective.

Contractor saws were originally designed to be somewhat portable, often having wheels, and were frequently brought to job sites before the invention of smaller bench-top models in the early 1980s. Contractor saws are heavier than bench-top saws, but are still lightweight when compared to cabinet saws. [2] Their larger size and greater power allows them to be used for larger projects and allows them to be more durable, accurate, and longer-lasting then bench-top saws.


Cabinet table saws are heavy, using large amounts of cast iron and steel, to minimize vibration and increase accuracy.

A cabinet saw is characterized by having an enclosed base. Cabinet saws usually have induction motors in the 3 to 5 hp (2.24 to 3.73 kW) range, single-phase, but motors in the 5 to 7.5 HP (3.73 to 5.22 kW) range, three-phase, are common in commercial/industrial sites. For home use, this type of motor typically requires that a heavy-duty circuit be installed (in the US, this requires a 240 volt receptacle, or "hard" wiring, and a dedicated branch circuit). The motor is enclosed within the cabinet and drives the blade with one or more parallel V-belts, often "A" belts as "A" belts may be ganged without having to be specially selected (otherwise, specially selected sets of light-duty "4L" belts are used). Cabinet saws offer the following advantages over contractor saws: heavier construction for lower vibration and increased durability; a cabinet-mounted trunnion (the mechanism that incorporates the saw blade mount and allows for height and tilt adjustment); improved dust collection due to the totally enclosed cabinet and common incorporation of a dust collection port. Cabinet saws are designed for, and are capable of very high duty-cycles, such as are encountered in commercial/industrial applications. Where some of the advantages of a cabinet saw are desired in a home shop application, so-called "hybrid" saws have emerged to address this need.

Cabinet saws have an easily replaceable insert around the blade in the table top allowing the use of zero-clearance inserts, which greatly reduce tear out on the bottom of the workpiece. It is common for this type of saw to be equipped with a table extension that increases ripping capacity for sheet goods to 50". These saws are characterized by a cast iron top on a full-length steel base, generally square in section, with radiused corners. Two 3/4" wide miter slots (1" wide on the largest saws) are located parallel to the blade, one to the left of the blade and one to the right.

American-style cabinet saws generally follow the model of the Delta Unisaw, a design that has evolved since 1939. [3] [4] Saws of this general type are made in the US and Canada, or are imported from Taiwan and China. The most common type of rip fence mounted to this type of saw is characterized by the standard model made by Biesemeyer (now a subsidiary of Delta). It has a sturdy, steel T-type fence mounted to a steel rail at the front of the saw and replaceable laminate faces. American cabinet saws are normally designed to accept a 1316" wide stacked dado blade in addition to a standard saw blade. The most common size of blade is 10" in diameter with a blade arbor diameter of 58", but 12" or 14" in diameter with a blade arbor diameter of 1" are found in commercial/industrial sites. American saws normally include an anti-kickback device that incorporates a splitter, toothed anti-kickback pawls and a clear plastic blade cover. The saw blade can tilt to either the left side or right side of the saw, depending on the model of saw. The original Delta Unisaw and early cabinet saws based on it were all right-tilt units while newer Delta Unisaws and many competitive cabinet saws made after 2000 were left-tilt saws. The change to left-tilt was due to a lower perceived propensity for the cut piece to become trapped between the rip fence and blade and kick back when the blade tilts away from the rip fence (left tilt saw) versus towards the rip fence (right tilt saw.) [5] While conceptually simple in design, these saws are highly evolved and are capable of efficient, high volume, precision work.


Hybrid table saws are designed to compete in the market with high-end contractor table saws. They offer some of the advantages of cabinet saws at a lower price than traditional cabinet saws. Hybrid saws on the market today offer an enclosed cabinet to help improve dust collection. The cabinet can either be similar to a cabinet saw with a full enclosure from the table top to the floor or a shorter cabinet on legs. Some hybrid saws have cabinet-mounted trunnions and some have table-mounted trunnions. In general, cabinet-mounted trunnions are easier to adjust than table-mounted trunnions. Hybrid saws tend to be heavier than contractor saws and lighter than cabinet saws. Some hybrid saws offer a sliding table as an option to improve cross cutting capability. Hybrid saw drive mechanisms vary more than contractor saws and cabinet saws. Drive mechanisms can be a single v-belt, a serpentine belt or multiple v-belts. Hybrid saws have a 1.5 or 2 hp motor and thus the ability to run on a standard 15 or 20 amp 120 volt American household circuit, while a cabinet saw's 3 hp or larger motor requires a 240 volt supply.

Mini and micro

A 1-inch (25 mm) micro table saw. 1-Inch Micro Table Saw.jpg
A 1-inch (25 mm) micro table saw.

Mini and micro table saws have a blade diameter of 4 inches (100 mm) and under. Mini table saws are typically 4 inch, while micro table saws are less than 4 inch, although the naming of the saws is not well defined.

Mini and micro table saws are generally used by hobbyists and model builders, although the mini table saws (4 inch) have gained some popularity with building contractors that need only a small saw to cut small pieces (such as wood trim). Being a fraction of the size (and weight) of a normal table saw, they are much easier to carry and transport.

Being much smaller than a normal table saw, they are substantially safer to use when cutting very small pieces. Using blades that have a smaller kerf (cutting width) than normal blades, there is less material lost and the possibility of kickback is reduced as well.


A sliding table saw, also called a European cabinet saw, is a variation on the traditional cabinet saw. They are generally used to cut large panels and sheet goods, such as plywood or MDF. Sliding table saws have a sliding table on the left side of the blade, usually attached to a folding arm mounted under the table, that is used for cross cutting and ripping larger materials. Sliding table saws are the largest type of table saw, and are mostly used by large production cabinet shops. Most saws use 3–5, or even 7hp three- phase induction motors. Sliding table saws usually incorporate a riving knife to prevent kickback from occurring.

Sliding saws sometimes offer a scoring blade, which is a second, smaller diameter blade mounted in front of the regular saw blade. The scoring blade helps reduce splintering the lower face in certain types of stock, especially laminated stock. European models are sometimes available in multi-purpose tool configurations (Combination machine) that offer jointer, planer, shaper or boring features. The blade arbor typically has a diameter of 30 mm, around twice that of a US saw. Many American woodworkers are likely to use a dado stack or wobble dado to cut dados (square sectioned grooves), while most European woodworkers would use a shaper or a router table for this task.

In recent years, European-style sliding table saws have had a small following in North America. They are usually either imported from European manufacturers such as Felder, Hammer, and Robland, Taiwanese companies such as Grizzly Industrial, or sold directly by U.S. based-companies such as Powermatic.

A European sliding table saw Sega circolare.jpg
A European sliding table saw


In the United States, perhaps the first recorded patent for the circular saw was issued in 1777 to an Englishman, Samuel Miller; it refers to a circular saw that was created in Holland in the 16th or 17th centuries. [6] The 1885 catalog of the W.F. & John Barnes Co., Rockford, Il. clearly shows a classic table saw and it is labeled as a "Hand [Powered] Circular Rip Saw".


Table saws are especially dangerous, because the operator holds the material being cut, instead of the saw, making it easy to accidentally move hands into the spinning blade.[ citation needed ] When using other types of circular saws, the material remains stationary, as the operator guides the saw into the material. [7]


Kickback is the term for when a piece of wood is ripped, and either pinches the blade, or turns outward against the blade of the spinning saw blade and is propelled back towards the operator at a high rate of speed. The two main causes of injury that occur from kickback are: injury caused by wood striking the head, chest, or torso of the operator, or the wood moving so quickly that the operator's hands stay on the wood and gets pulled across the saw blade.

Dust extractor

A dust extractor should be fitted if sawdust is prone to build up under the cutting blade. Through friction the spinning blade will quickly ignite the accumulated dust, and the smoke can be mistaken for an overheated blade. The extractor also reduces the risk of a dust explosion and facilitates a healthier working environment.

Magnetic featherboard

The magnetic feather board was developed in 1990. [8] The patented Grip-Tite is held to a cast iron table top or steel sub fence by high strength permanent magnets. The advantage of a magnetic feather board is the fast setup time on any cast iron tool deck or steel faced fence. When used in conjunction with a steel faced rip fence, they are used to hold down ripped wood on any saw deck and prevent kickback. Feed wheels added to the Grip-Tite base pull ripped wood to the fence, allowing the operator to rip wood on any table saw with no hands near the blade.

Miter slot featherboard

When a table saw has a table top made of a material other than cast iron, like aluminum, then a miter slot featherboard should be utilized to keep pressure on the stock against the fence when otherwise your hand would be in dangerous proximity to the saw blade. Keep in mind that this style feather board does take more time to set up than the magnetic style when deciding on a tool purchase. If a safety device is more convenient then it may be more frequently utilized. Never place a feather board past the leading edge of the blade or else kickback will occur. [9]

Automatic braking

In recent years, new technology has been developed which can dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury caused by table saws. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that there are 67,000 tablesaw-related injuries every year and 4000 amputations. [10]

One new feature, commercially available in saws since 2005, [11] is an automatic braking system. The feature's inventor, after trying to license it to manufacturers without success, started SawStop, based in Tualatin, Oregon. SawStop's saws apply a small amount of electric current to the blade of the saw. This current is continuously monitored. If the saw detects a change in this current (as would occur if a hand or other body part came into contact with the blade) an automatic braking system is activated, forcing an aluminum brake block into the blade. The saw stops within five milliseconds, and angular momentum retracts the blade into the table. The operator suffers a small nick instead of an amputation or other more serious injury. [12]

Following an activation incident, both the blade and braking cartridge must be replaced. [13] The automatic braking feature must be bypassed when cutting conductive material, such as wet timber.

Blade height

Ideally the blade of the table saw should extend higher than the board being cut by about a quarter of an inch (7.5 mm); this lessens the risk of kickback and other injuries and enables smooth cutting. Circular Saw Blade.jpg
Ideally the blade of the table saw should extend higher than the board being cut by about a quarter of an inch (7.5 mm); this lessens the risk of kickback and other injuries and enables smooth cutting.

There are two competing schools of thought when it comes to properly setting the height of the blade for sawing. The first is commonly expressed thus:[ citation needed ] "Only allow the blade to rise above the work by the amount of finger you wish to lose." That is, the blade should protrude above the piece as little as possible, to prevent the loss of a finger in case of a sawing accident.

Another competing view is that the saw functions at its best when the angle of the blade teeth arc relative to the top surface of the workpiece is as extreme as possible.[ citation needed ] This facilitates chip ejection, shortens the overall distance through which the teeth act on the part, reduces power consumption and heat generation, substantially reduces the peak pushing force required, thus improving control, and causes the blade's force on the wood to act mostly downward rather than largely horizontally.

Materials cut on table saws

Although the majority of table saws are used for cutting wood, table saws can also be used for cutting sheet plastic, sheet aluminum and sheet brass.


Related Research Articles

Router (woodworking) woodworking power tool

A router is a hand tool or power tool that a worker uses to rout an area in relatively hard material like wood or plastic. Routers are mainly used in woodworking, especially cabinetry. Routers are typically handheld or fastened cutting end-up in a router table.

Circular saw power tool

A circular saw is a power-saw using a toothed or abrasive disc or blade to cut different materials using a rotary motion spinning around an arbor. A hole saw and ring saw also use a rotary motion but are different from a circular saw. Circular saws may also be loosely used for the blade itself. Circular saws were invented in the late 18th century and were in common use in sawmills in the United States by the middle of the 19th century.

A saw is a tool consisting of a tough blade, wire, or chain with a hard toothed edge. It is used to cut through material, very often wood though sometimes metal or stone. The cut is made by placing the toothed edge against the material and moving it forcefully forth and less forcefully back or continuously forward. This force may be applied by hand, or powered by steam, water, electricity or other power source. An abrasive saw has a powered circular blade designed to cut through metal or ceramic.

Shaper type of machine tool that uses linear relative motion between the workpiece and a single-point cutting tool to machine a linear toolpath

A shaper is a type of machine tool that uses linear relative motion between the workpiece and a single-point cutting tool to machine a linear toolpath. Its cut is analogous to that of a lathe, except that it is (archetypally) linear instead of helical.

Rip cut severing or dividing a piece of wood parallel to the grain

In woodworking, a rip-cut is a type of cut that severs or divides a piece of wood parallel to the grain. The other typical type of cut is a cross-cut, a cut perpendicular to the grain. Unlike cross-cutting, which shears the wood fibers, a rip saw works more like a series of chisels, lifting off small splinters of wood. The nature of the wood grain requires the shape of the saw teeth to be different thus the need for both rip saws and crosscut saws; however some circular saw blades are combination blades and can make both types of cuts. A rip cut is the fundamental type of cut made at a sawmill.

Radial arm saw Cutting machine consisting of a sliding circular saw mounted on a horizontal arm

A radial arm saw is a cutting machine consisting of a circular saw mounted on a sliding horizontal arm. Invented by Raymond DeWalt in 1922, the radial arm saw was the primary tool used for cutting long pieces of stock to length until the introduction of the power miter saw in the 1970s.

Panel saw

A panel saw is any type of sawing machine that cuts sheets into sized parts.

Bandsaw a power tool which uses a blade consisting of a continuous band of metal with teeth along one edge to cut various workpieces

A bandsaw is a power saw with a long, sharp blade consisting of a continuous band of toothed metal stretched between two or more wheels to cut material. They are used principally in woodworking, metalworking, and lumbering, but may cut a variety of materials. Advantages include uniform cutting action as a result of an evenly distributed tooth load, and the ability to cut irregular or curved shapes like a jigsaw. The minimum radius of a curve is determined by the width of the band and its kerf. Most bandsaws have two wheels rotating in the same plane, one of which is powered, although some may have three or four to distribute the load. The blade itself can come in a variety of sizes and tooth pitches, which enables the machine to be highly versatile and able to cut a wide variety of materials including wood, metal and plastic.

Biscuit joiner

A biscuit joiner is a woodworking tool used to join two pieces of wood together. A biscuit joiner uses a small circular saw blade to cut a crescent-shaped hole in the opposite edges of two pieces of wood or wood composite panels. An oval-shaped, highly dried and compressed wooden biscuit is covered with glue, or glue is applied in the slot. The biscuit is immediately placed in the slot, and the two boards are clamped together. The wet glue expands the biscuit, further improving the bond.

Miter saw mechanical saw used to obtain for precise angle cuts

A miter saw is a saw used to make accurate crosscuts and miters in a workpiece by pulling a large backsaw or a mounted circular saw blade down onto a board in a quick motion. Miter saws are commonly referred to as drop saws and abrasive cut off saws are referred to as a chop saw.

Wood shaper

A wood shaper, usually just shaper in North America or spindle moulder or just moulder in the UK, is a stationary woodworking machine in which a vertically oriented spindle drives cutter heads to mill profiles on wood stock. The wood being fed into a moulder is commonly referred to as either stock or blanks. The spindle may be raised and lowered relative to the shaper's table, and rotates between 3,000 and 10,000 rpm, with stock running along a vertical fence.

Miter joint

A mitre joint is a joint made by cutting each of two parts to be joined, across the main surface, usually at a 45° angle, to form a corner, usually a 90° angle. It is called beveling when the angled cut is done on the side, although the resulting joint is still a mitre joint.

Scroll saw saw

A scroll saw is a small electric or pedal-operated saw used to cut intricate curves in wood, metal, or other materials. The fineness of its blade allows it to cut more delicately than a power jigsaw, and more easily than a hand coping saw or fretsaw. Like those tools, it is capable of creating curves with edges, by pivoting its table.

Butt joint technique in which two pieces of wood are joined

A butt joint is a technique in which two pieces of material are joined by simply placing their ends together without any special shaping. The name 'butt joint' comes from the way the material is joined together. The butt joint is the simplest joint to make since it merely involves cutting the wood to the appropriate length and butting them together. It is also the weakest because unless some form of reinforcement is used it relies upon glue alone to hold it together. Because the orientation of the wood usually presents only one end to long grain gluing surface, the resulting joint is inherently weak.

Hole saw saw

A hole saw, also known as a hole cutter, is a saw blade of annular (ring) shape, whose annular kerf creates a hole in the workpiece without having to cut up the core material. It is used in a drill. Hole saws typically have a pilot drill bit (arbor) at their center to keep the saw teeth from walking. The fact that a hole saw creates the hole without needing to cut up the core often makes it preferable to twist drills or spade drills for relatively large holes. The same hole can be made faster and using less power.

Stop block

A stop block is a simple reusable jig used in metalworking and woodworking to locate a common edge of a workpiece so that multiple workpieces can get the same operation performed quickly. Common applications are table saws and manual milling machines, but they are also used on miter saws, band saws, radial arm saws, and abrasive saws.

This glossary of woodworking lists a number of specialized terms and concepts used in woodworking, carpentry, and related disciplines.

Riving knife

A riving knife is a safety device installed on a table saw, circular saw, or radial arm saw used for woodworking. Attached to the saw's arbor, it is fixed relative to the blade and moves with it as blade depth is adjusted.

Miter gauge

A miter gauge is a device used for holding workpieces at a set angle while being cut on table saws, band saws or sanded on stationary disk sanders. The miter gauge slides in a slot on the worktable on the machine being used. Typically, the miter gauge and the workpiece are held together by hand and moved across the worktable making the cut. There are more sophisticated miter gauges which have the ability to clamp the workpiece or have adjustable stops for repetitive machining of workpieces.

Push Stick

A push stick, push shoe, or push block is a safety device used when working with stationary routers, jointers, or power saws such as table saws or bandsaws. The purpose of a push stick is to help the user safely maneuver a workpiece, keeping it flat against a machine table or fence while it is being cut.


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  10. Ireton, Kevin (April 2016). "Tool Test: SawStop's Portable Tablesaw". Fine Homebuidling (258). Taunton Press . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  11. "SawStop Company". SawStop. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  12. "CPSC Chairman Awards Safety Commendation to SawStop, LLC". Washington, DC: Consumer Product Safety Commission. July 20, 2001. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  13. "How It Works". SawStop. Retrieved 2011-06-18.

Further reading