The centerpiece of any real woodworking shop is a table saw. It is the one piece of equipment that can’t very well be replaced by some combination of other, lesser tools. It is really the workhorse of the shop.
But how do you decide the best table saw for your space? There are three major components to a decision like this. How big is your shop? How big is your budget? Do you have to move it? Some combination of these three factors will lead you to the answer you need. In my case that means a portable tablesaw.
I have always wanted one of those really big contractor saws. You know the ones – enclosed base, huge bed, incredible fence system. Preferably one with an extended bed for wide rips, outfeed tables with rollers to handle long pieces, and enough power to handle four by oak material with ease. There is a problem with that. A saw like that requires a really big shop. It takes up an incrredible amount of room, and to be honest, if you have a need for a saw like that, it means you are going to be running some big stuff through it. (maybe).
Saws like that also cost a lot of money, especially with all of the add-on goodies. They are worth it, but still.
The other problem aside from space, is that I still dabble enough that I need a saw that I can haul around wiht me now and again. Not for nothing, but you really can’t move a contractor saw with any much less than a moving truck. And not a small one at that. I don’t have one available, so whatever saw I choose will have to get from place to place in the back of a small pick up truck.
So what I did was start by checking out the various saws offered by the major manufacturers of contractor job site tools, including some of the second tier ones that have proven to have good offerings in their line up. My criteria were that it be a solid, well built machine that would handle some abuse. That it have a decent warranty and good reviews.
After that I concentrated on the fence system. I consider the fence to be the key piece of a good table saw. An excellent fence will make it easy to make accurate, consistent cuts with a minimum of fiddling. A cheap fence will make that nearly impossible. After that comes the stand. I refuse to sit on the floor to make cuts on a jobsite any more so a stand is mandatory. And I have had experience with trying to haul around a small saw on a fixed stand – not too hard with two people, very difficult for one. So the stand needs to be collapsible and in reality is going to need wheels. Both for loading and for moving around the job.
One last thing to consider is how easily the saw allows for adjustments to blade height and angle. This is important for the same reason a good fence is, with the additional caveat that fighting with these can be extremely annoying. Large adjustment wheels are preferable, and if possible two of them. Most saws of this type combine both in one method, so that may be asking a bit much.
Soon I will have made my decision, and the centerpiece to my new shop will be in place. Then on to the rest of my tool bucket list.