Table saws can pose a serious risk of injury, since part of the spinning blade comes up above the surface of the table where it can come into contact with the user's hand as it guides the wood. Thanks to voluntary safety standards introduced by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in 2007, pretty much all table saws now come with blade guards that minimize the risk. Modern guard systems are easier to remove and replace as needed – an important feature because inconvenient blade guards are apt to be left off the saw.
One of the most widely used power tools for carpenters is the table saw. For carpenters that don’t work exclusively in the shop a portable jobsite table saw is essential. For this Head-to-Head we’re focusing on corded portable 10″ jobsite table saws. We are not including cordless table saws in this test as we plan on doing another head-to-head exclusively for cordless table saws later this year as several are available now.
When you’re thinking about build quality, you should consider how often, and how intensively you’ll be using your portable table saw. The more you’ll use it, the more you should invest in a sturdy unit that’s built to handle all that use. If you’re only an occasional DIYer, on the other hand, you can probably stand to have a few more plastic parts on your unit, since you aren’t going to be putting it to the rest as often.
One drawback is because of the way the blade is stopped, you will want to have an extra blade brake on hand because once it’s used, it cannot be reused. So, if you don’t have another handy, you will have some downtime. Also, the stopping of a blade moving at thousands of RPM can understandably be very hard on the blade itself. Often, the blade may need to be replaced after it has been stopped in this way. Still better than losing a thumb.
It’s powerful. The blade is hooked up to a 3HP motor which can muster a no-load speed up to 4000 RPM! That’s perfect for all your cutting needs, and it’s much better than other inexpensive units when it comes to slicing hardwoods or thicker stock. While many smaller units advertise similar HP ratings, this one actually lives up to the promise, since it uses 220V power.
Below we’ve included the current pricing (at the time of publishing this article). Pricing includes the cost of the stand and ranges from a low of $349 for the Hitachi to a high of $1,299 for the SawStop. The lowest price isn’t always the best in our opinion, we’re looking for the best value. The Hitachi is an incredible deal at $349 and our top pick for price and value for a saw that has lots of power, a rack & pinion fence, and a solid stand.
It can seem like plastic is a weight-saver on the part of the manufacturer, but it’s really a cost-saver. You shouldn’t accept shoddy build quality in the name of getting a lighter machine. While no portable unit will include heavy cast iron components like a cabinet table saw, you can find metal alternatives that offer rugged, long-lasting build quality. Instead of plastic, look for aluminum.
DIY-ers love this type due to its simplistic yet effective operation. However, it’s not unusual for professionals to invest in these in order to avoid investing in cabinet models and save some money. Speaking of money, you should prepare yourself for a hefty investment if you opt for this particular type. However, most models are well-worth the money. These things last for years and don’t require a lot of maintenance apart from occasional blade replacements and minor adjustments. They are not as easy to use as portable models, but you’ll learn how to use them in a matter of hours or days, as long as you follow the rules written in the user manual.
The cabinet also has a few other safety features that set it on a level above the Grizzly or Jet. There’s an extra-large, paddle-style power switch which you can easily press with a thigh as well as a hand. The guard works tightly against the blade, so that you have all the workspace you need without sacrificing safety. The riving knife prevents kickbacks, and the left-tilting bevel feature prevents binding.
Dust capture from this saw is pretty bad. I was shocked that a European brand would ignore the dust collection to this extent – at least I was until I discovered that their version of the 4100 does have quite a few more pieces that help pull most of the dust from the airstream. There is a plate that encloses the rear around the vacuum port and a bottom grid that allow airflow to the motor while still shaping the airstream to drive the dust to the vac. I added the plate, but decided against the grid. Instead, I added a sheet of ¼” plywood and put a 4” vacuum port in it that I hook up to my dust collector. I also replaced the blade guard with the European version that has a dust port built in. Minor upgrades, but dust capture has gone from terrible/non-existent to pretty acceptable. Bosch also sell a bag that will capture whatever dust would get tossed out the back of the saw, but that isn’t much, so I consider it a waste. I did buy it, and it works well on other tools, but it is not IMO a must-have for the 4100
It’s built heavy. Like our other recommendations, this one has a machined cast iron worktop, and all-steel cabinet. There are miter slots cut into the worktop, and the bevel and height adjustments are via machined metal flywheels that are calibrated and balanced with the trunnion. We especially love the internal gearwork for raising the motor, which has precise torque bolts and a gas assist to make all your adjustments both smooth and easy. The cabinet is powdered steel for added durability, and the Professional woodworkers and amateur reviewers alike said they were above impressed with the overall build quality. This one feels as premium to use as you’d expect from the pricetag.
While ordering generic no-name products might be fine for something like breakfast cereal, power tools are different. When you use power tools, your safety is at stake. If you pick up some cheapo piece of mass produced junk just because the price is less than a name brand, you might end up paying a lot higher price for it than you counted on. Why? Because generic power tools are not usually held to the quality control and accuracy as big box brands such as DEWALT and Bosch.
It’s the safest of the three by a long, long shot. SawStop became a major brand thanks to a feature that they’ve named their brand after: an accident-proof stopping mechanism for the traditional table saw. The innovative brake system on this model is the best on the market at detecting flesh and stopping the blade immediately. It’s a sure bet for saving fingers or worse injuries in the workshop.
Cabinet models are stationary, as a rule. They’re not designed for portable use, and you should plan on keeping them in your shop for their working life. However, some models are compatible with optional wheeled bases, and these are great for folks who want to be able to move their table saw around the workshop, without sacrificing any power, build quality, or stability.