If you are a fan of DIY and woodworking, you might be considering the purchase of a table saw or a circular saw for your hobby. These two types of saws are among the most essential in any self-respecting woodworkers’ toolkit, but what’s the difference and which should you choose?
Here, we look at the question of table saw vs circular saw to see which performs best in different tasks – and also to decide if there is an overall winner. With this information, you will be able to make a decision which of these tools should be the priority for you to buy.
If you want a preview, here’s a good video that talks about a lot of the points we’ll be discussing.
Table of Contents
What is a table saw?
Let’s start at the beginning – what is a table saw? A table saw is a type of saw with a circular blade that sticks up through a hole in the work surface or table. They are used for cutting accurate straight lines – they are not designed for cutting curves.
You operate a table saw by placing the wood to be cut on the work surface, and with the aid of a guide, you push the wood onto the blade, which slices through it precisely and accurately.
Modern table saws allow you to adjust the height and angle of the cut, giving you more flexibility over the type of cuts you can make.
What is a circular saw?
Circular saws are hand-held saws featuring a circular saw blade. When people think of circular saws, often, many people are thinking of what’s known as “sidewinders” – but worm drive saws are another type of circular saw. Mini circular saws also exist.
They are generally used by placing the saw on the piece of wood that is being cut, and you can either cut by eye or by using some kind of jig to help cut a straighter line. Like table saws, they aren’t designed for cutting curves.
Circular saws also allow you to change the height and angle of the cut, allowing you to make all the same types of cut as a table saw.
What are the advantages of a table saw?
Table saws are excellent for cutting straight lines with a high degree of precision. Once you set up the cut you want to make, it’s hard to go wrong. You simply push the wood into the saw, and the tool ensures you make exactly the same cut every time.
Table saws can make crosscuts and rips with ease, and this ease of use can be a big plus for novice woodworkers.
Table saws also collect up the sawdust, meaning your work area is kept cleaner, and they are also easier and less hassle to maintain – if you take good care of your table saw, you will be able to use it for many years to come.
Are there any disadvantages to table saws?
Perhaps the main disadvantage of a table saw is its size. They are meant to be set up in a workshop, and any cutting you do will have to be done there. If you need to carry a tool to the worksite, this is much more difficult with a table saw.
Another disadvantage is that you can only cut wood that can be lifted and placed on the table saw’s work surface. If you can’t move the piece of wood to the saw, this tool is useless.
Table saws are more expensive than circular saws, and they are also much more dangerous. Although some of the most modern versions now include laser safety features that stop the blade if you hand gets too close, with most models, just a moment of inattention can lead to the loss of several fingers.
What are the advantages of a circular saw?
The biggest advantage a circular saw has over a table saw is its mobility. They can be taken anywhere, and you can cut wood even if it’s not practical or possible to bring the wood to the tool. Some models are cordless, too, giving you even more mobility and flexibility.
Circular saws are also much more versatile than table saws. Theoretically, any cut you can make with a table saw, you can make with a circular saw – but circular saws can also be used for jobs that a table saw can’t do.
For example, if you need to cut something overhead, a circular saw will allow you to do it –with a table saw, this is obviously impossible.
Circular saws are generally more affordable than table saws, and they are also much safer. While it is perfectly possible to cause a serious injury with a circular saw, they are still much safer than table saws.
Are there any disadvantages to circular saws?
Where circular saws lose out is on the accuracy of the cuts they can make. In the hands of an experienced professional, a circular saw can be used to make straight and precise cuts. However, a novice will find this much harder to do by eye.
Even in the hands of a pro, accuracy might not always be perfect 100% of the time – although by using a jig or a circular saw guide, you can improve the accuracy of the cut.
Another less important issue is that they tend to generate a lot of sawdust, so with a circular saw, you will need to vacuum your workshop much more frequently.
Table Saw vs Circular Saw – Which is best?
As should probably be clear by now, there is no “best” option. If you want to buy a saw and only have the budget for one tool, it depends on the use you have in mind.
If you need a saw that will allow you to make the greatest range of cuts for all kinds of jobs, a circular saw is the one to go for. It is also the best choice if you need to carry your tool to the job.
However, if you place greater value on extreme precision and you only need to cut wood that can be placed on the table saw in your workshop, then this kind of saw might be a better choice.
Consider your needs and choose accordingly
The best way to choose which one to buy first is to make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type and then to see which is the best match for your needs.
For the general home DIY enthusiast, a circular saw might be the best pick due simply to its greater versatility. However, if you don’t need this kind of versatility and only need a saw for a specific type of cutting, a table saw could also be worth considering.
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