Tablesaw use a spinning blade to make straight cuts in wood. They are primarily used to dimension stock using a movable fence.
There are several types of table saws available on the market today. Each type makes a different trade-off between weight and portability.
Contractor saws are built to be moved by a single man to and from a jobsite. They are designed for primarily for finish carpentry. Jobsite usage necessitates a smaller and lighter build. Accuracy can suffer, but this is generally not a concern for finish carpentry. Portable Saws have their own category on Hingmy.
Cabinet saws have a fully-enclosed motor and trunnion. They achieve the highest accuracy possible for tablesaws. Every cabinet shop has at least one cabinet saw. Saws in this category range from models barely heavier than a contractor saws to saws you need a forklift to move.
These saws are half cabinet saw, half contractor saw. They sacrifice bulk in order to be movable as a whole by only two men. They are commonly used by hobbists who need to frequently move the machine, but do not want to compromise on performance.
Panel saws are built to cut sheet goods. They have large outrigger sliding table to guide the sheets through the cut. While panel saws can be used to make cuts in smaller stock, their bulk becomes a hindrance. Most production shop run a panel saw in tandem with one or more smaller table saws. Panel Saws have their own category on Hingmy.
Left Tilt/Right Tilt
The blade tilt mechanism of a tablesaw only allows for ~45 degrees of movement. This dynamic creates to types of saws: left-tilt saws and right tilt saws. Both types of saws can complete all cuts, but the way angle cuts have to be set up is different.
Left-tilt saws place the board on the left side of the saw during an angle cut. This eliminates the need to remove the fence when cutting long boards.
A riving knife is a safety device that reduces the likelihood of a kickback accident. The knife is a metal blade directly behind the blade. It moves up and down with the blade, which distinguishes the riving knife from a splitter.
All tablesaws sold in the US after 2008 must be designed to accept a riving knife and saws sold after 2014 must be equipped with a riving knife.
To extend the cross cutting capacity of a saw manufacturers add an extension table to right side of the saw. This table supports the workpiece during the cut. The fence rail extends along the front of the table making cross cuts up to the far edge of the extension table possible.
The arbor length of the saw limits the width of a dado blade that can be installed in the saw. The arbor cannot be extended with after market parts.
European safety laws prevent the use of a dado. Tablesaws built for the European market have little or no dado capacity.
The fundamentals of a good table saw are weight and size. In general, heavier machines make more accurate cuts. A heavier, rigid frame dampens vibration and keeps the blade rotating perfectly suqare and true. Larger size also translates into a bigger working surface on the top of the saw.
All machines can cut dimensional stock. Limitations arise when feeding long pieces. On some machines table extensions or roller stands may be necessary to complete a cut that can be done without aids on a larger machine.
True, efficient panel dimensioning can only be done on a panel saw. Cabinet saws are a good substitute when production speeds is not an issue. Cutting panels on some of the smaller saws can quickly turn into a safety issue.
To differentiate their products, manufacturers equip their machines with features that make operation easier. While added weight usually makes a table saw better, these value added features can significantly increase the utility of a table saw.