A splitter is a piece of metal that keeps the blade from binding in whatever material you are cutting if the saw kerf starts to close up. The splitter is vertical and sits directly behind the blade. This plays a big part in preventing kickback and should be mounted on the motor assembly so it rises and falls with the saw blades movements. You can also get splitters that can be adjusted to fit the width of the kerf.
No matter the model or price, a table saw should cut a range of material thicknesses and hold its settings accurately. So, after installing a new Freud hi-ATB thin-kerf blade in each saw, I made repeated rip cuts on MDF, resetting the fence each time to check for consistently thick offcuts. After that, I raised the blade for more rip cuts on heavy, long planks of 2 x 12 Southern yellow pine, before tipping the blade to bevel-rip 2″-thick poplar. Then I switched to a 6″ CMT dado set and made a long dado cut in MDF, so I could check for consistent cutting depth — a sign that the undercarriage is stout enough to handle a heavy blade like this. Overall, my test criteria was stability of the stand, cutting accuracy, reasonable dust collection efficiency and all-around convenience of use. Results ranged from exceptional to mediocre, as you’ll see.
Last but not least, you need to pay attention to the dust collecting capabilities of a particular model. Portable units usually have a weak dust-collecting capacity, but they aren’t foreseen for large projects. However, all other types do feature some kind of dust collecting system. The first thing you should check is the diameter of the dust port. The larger it is, the less debris you’ll have flying around. Also, check out the vacuum requirements because some models work only with super-expensive vacuums. As you can assume, the thing that’s lacking with those models is cost efficiency. However, if you don’t have budget limitations, feel free to invest in a high-end vacuum, it makes a huge difference.
In the commercial construction business, we typically buy a job site saw for each project and use it up during the course of an 18-month job. When these saws hit the site, they are unboxed, assembled and immediately put into use. We rip stacks and stacks of sheet goods with these saws and the tolerances of the cut materials are not very critical. However, that example represents the portable saw use within our commercial crews’ business.
There are two major points that affect post-calibration table saws: fence quality and overall stability. A fence works by grabbing hold of the table edge and clamping into it. The best fences, like Biesemeyer, have three points of contact. They’re just not where you’d expect. All three are on the front, leaving none on the back. With a wide cast metal front clamping system, the front is pulled flush and self-aligns. It requires a solid locking mechanism to ensure the fence doesn’t move during cuts, but it is very possible.
Our table saw review quickly showed that today’s portable table saws are light-years ahead of the small-saw offerings from a decade ago. They feature big-capacity cutting, greatly improved safety features and attached stands for easy setup. And saws in the upper price range rival stationary saws in accuracy and quality of cut. We limited our review to saws that included a stand with wheels and ones that could rip at least 24 in. wide, only the best table saw for our readers!
A magnetic switch is also good from a safety standpoint but may not be necessary on these smaller versions. A magnetic switch prevents the saw from starting back up if it loses power during a power outage. Basically, the power outage will turn off the saw. This is good because if for some reason the power were to come back on when you were not near the machine, the material could be shot out of it or damage the saw.
Located right next to the hand wheel on the front is a panel that features both a power button and a stop switch. The power button helps the motor come to life quickly without requiring that it heat up first, and you can press down on this button to turn the saw off at the end of the day. The emergency stop switch helps you stop the blade in the middle of a project to prevent accidents caused by clothing or skin coming into contact with the blade.
It’s compact. This one is just over two feet in either direction, and just under 14 inches high. It’s easy to fit in the back of a truck, or even on the passenger seat next to you on the way to your jobsite. It’s light, too. Buyers loved how easy this one was to carry around, especially home DIYers who had to set up and take down their units frequently.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve pulled out other jobsite saws only to have accessories fall off, or require off-tool storage. Bosch designed the GTS1031, however, to securely hold all of its accessories, even including the arbor wrenches (both of them) and an allen wrench for adjusting the riving knife and dust ejection points among other things. Our favorite was the rip fence, which simply flipped upside down and stored underneath the table – clever! About the most difficult adjustment was the riving knife, which is a tool-less maneuver, but one which requires you to stick your hand way into the blade cavity to reach the release lever. When making any adjustments to the blade, it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) to disconnect power to the saw as a precaution.