Checked and updated on March 5, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
Bosch and Sawstop have an inbuilt flesh detecting emergency break, making the safest portable table saws. Other table saws made by Dewalt and Makita have essential safety features like a riving knife and a sturdy blade guard.
A flesh detecting emergency break is designed to instantly stop the blade in case of accidental human touch, in some cases the blade is also downwardly retracted inside the tool if such an incident occurs. As time goes on this feature is becoming more and more affordable on what otherwise would be the most dangerous table saw.
Best portable table saws
#3 The Bosch portable table saw
Bosch 4100-10 10-inch blade portable table saw with folding table stand
#4 A smaller Dewalt portable table saw
Dewalt DW745 10-inch table ripping saw
Cordless table saws
Table saws are power tools used to rip or cut timber into strips at your exact set dimension, both square cut and angled cuts are easily possible. Such work with a circular saw can be less accurate as wobble can occur doing this heavy-duty work by hand. Table saws are also known as, rip saws, and bench saws.
Table saws consist of circular blades mounted on an arbor or metal shaft. They are driven by an electric motor via a system of gears or a belt or directly by the motor. The workpiece being cut is supported by the top of the table from which the blade protrudes.
With most current rip saws, the up and down position of the blade varies the depth of the cut. The higher the blade can stick out above the table, the deeper it will be able to cut into your timber. With older designs, the table can be adjusted up or down, which determines the depth of the cut. With such saws, the blade and arbor remain in the same position.
Modern table saws have a fixed base and the blade moves up and down via an adjustable dial, also with an additional dial that will allow you to make different angled cuts by your set adjustment on the “blade angle”. In older designs, the cutting angle was determined by the angle of the table itself.
Table saw parts
Before buying a table saw…
Check the durability.
A portable table saw should be durable enough to handle a wide variety of cuts, in thick slabs of timber as well as thinner pieces of wood. The best table saws can make cross cuts in even thick material without the blade coming off the saw or breaking.
Research the brand.
Unsurprisingly, the best table saws are made by some of the biggest and best-known brands in the power tool industry: Bosch, DeWalt, and Makita.
These brands generally offer the best performance and features, although companies such as Festools and Skilsaw also make portable table saws with exceptional value for money And with Stop Saw making the safest rip saw to use.
Decide your price.
The best table saws will always cost more than the entry-level or hobbyist models. In the case of stop saws, a good model could easily end up costing you double what you would pay for a standard model without the flesh-sensing features.
As always, I suggest that you get the best model you can afford in your budget, taking performance and safety into consideration.
Consider your safety.
Features such as guards and quick shut-off buttons come standard in the best table saws. They can be very useful for preventing injuries, which are common occurrences when using portable table saws.
Look into saw stop features as well, which detect when the blade comes into contact with your hand or fingers and shuts off the blade mechanism immediately.
The best budget table saws won’t have this feature but should definitely have all the other safety features that all new bench saws should come with.
Portability isn’t always an important factor when shopping for a table saw. These tools are typically used in a fixed position, so you probably won’t have a need to move it around too much once it is in place. But if you are a tradie moving from job to job you wan to have a tool that is easily moved.
If you are going to do landscaping work or work in remote locations with no power source nearby, you could look at getting a cordless table saw.
What makes a good table saw?
When shopping for a portable table saw, always go for a sturdy model that can handle even heavy pieces of timber. Although many professional users would opt for an industrial saw designed for heavy-duty usage, the best budget table saws can provide similar performance in a more compact package.
Popular brands such as Makita, Dewalt, and SawStop make high-quality portable table saws that suit tradespeople on the move from Jobsite to Jobsite, although if a trades’ person has a workshop they might opt to set up an industrial ripping saw in the workshop, with dedicated room and space for doing big and bulk ripping jobs, before getting to the renovation, or new build worksite.
Features such as easy and accurate angle adjustment and sturdy fence adjustment that doesn’t lose its “set” position during operation make a table saw easier and safer to use. If it’s a portable tool it should also be fairly small and lightweight, with a quality add-on tool stand available so you can move it to different jobs or areas of your workspace, or to bring with you to remote job locations.
But perhaps the most important factor is ripping power. If your ripping saw can cut smoothly into 3-inch slabs of wood, it will probably be good enough to handle most home and DIY cutting jobs.
Are bench saws dangerous?
In a word: yes. Like all power tools, portable table saws in the hands of an inexperienced or careless user. In fact, portable table saws are some of the most dangerous power tools around, causing , but so do ladders.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid using portable table saws entirely. With a bit of , extra precautions, and the use of safety features and equipment, it is possible to use these tools without injury, and for certain jobs and the correct PPE bench saws are arguably safer than doing big ripping jobs by hand with a circular saw.
Look into portable table saws with a saw stop feature that retracts the blade and stops the spinning action when it comes into contact with your fingers.
I’m going to go into more detail about this feature later on in the article. But for now, suffice to say that this feature could save you from serious injury so you should definitely look into it.
Make sure not to have any loose items, it can be a good idea to have a sturdy leather shop apron on for a layer of torso protection. The apron will also help stop wood dust from sticking to your clothes.
Table saw safety features
Standard table saws vs. Stop saw technology
Standard table saws have some inherent risks, but many of them can be minimized with the use of safety features and equipment, safety practices, and plain old common sense. As I explain elsewhere in this review, you can safely use table saws with a bit of care and practice, and if you know what you are doing.
But there is a way to reduce the risks of operating a table saw altogether and even eliminate them completely. As implemented in the revolutionary SawStop, stop saw technology can make operating a table saw even safer than any safety feature included in a standard tool.
The technology is based on the principle of electric conductivity. SawStop equipped saws have a sensor that detects the electricity that humans produce. A brake is then applied to the blade, which causes it to retract and stop spinning, thereby preventing injury in the case of a slip.
All this takes place in a matter of milliseconds. At worst, you will only get a tiny nick on your finger before the blade pulls back. Saws equipped with SawStop technology are more expensive than their standard counterparts, but they can prevent serious injury.
And for professional workshops, advertising the use of SawStop technology can improve the safety image and be good for business.
Portable table saws vs. Cabinet table saws
The main reason to go for a portable table saw instead of an industrial table saw is of course portability. Industrial table saws are just too big and bulky for the average home user, hobbyist, or DIYer. And if you need a table saw on a remote job site or out on the road, you can forget about bringing along your humongous industrial table saw.
Of course, in terms of sheer power, az commercial table saw beat the smaller portable models. Even the best portable table saws would struggle to keep up with a good industrial model.
And if you were to subject your portable saw to the same rigorous demands as you would a heavy-duty table saw, it will probably not last as long as a dedicated workshop industrial saw under heavy prolonged use.
That being said, most DIYers won’t ever need all the power that an industrial job site table saw puts out. For most home users and even most tradesmen doing heavy-duty building work, a good compact table saw is sufficient.
Besides, with portable models, you get the necessary power and performance without having to spend on a much more expensive industrial model with portable convenience.
If you do want the ultimate woodworking experience using the best table saw for woodworking a dedicated industrial quality saw have a read of my review.
If you want to know all the different saws for cutting and ripping wood read my guide here to know when to use what.
Cordless table saws vs. Corded
Those who’ve been following the site for a while know that I’m a big fan of cordless power tools. They are usually simpler, cheaper, and more convenient to use than their corded counterparts. And in terms of power, the best cordless tools can hold their own against many corded models.
When it comes to portable table saws though, my preferences lean slightly toward the corded versions. Why? Because unlike handheld power tools, table saws are designed to be used in a fixed position. Therefore, there really isn’t much benefit to having a cordless version unless you are working outdoors or in a remote area with no power source nearby.
Furthermore, the jobs that you would use a table saw often require a lot of power. A cordless table saw would likely deplete the battery within minutes for heavy-duty work, so you would be constantly replacing and charging batteries.
Cordless power tools and will continue to use the ones I have. But when it comes to table saws, I strongly recommend that you go with a corded model, unless you only plan on using it to do trim-related work and occasional work where portability is a top priority on a remote Jobsite.
What is a good table saw for builders & DIYers?
Although table saws are typically used in a fixed position, the ability to move it from site to site can be useful. Some degree of portability will make a saw more useful for professional builders and more experienced DIYers.
If you are going to be doing a lot of heavy-duty work, it might be better to go for an industrial rip saw that can handle pretty much any job. For all other uses, however, the DeWalt DWE7491RS provides stable and reliable performance, while the SawStop JSS-120A60 provides excellent value in a flesh-detecting model.
#1 Best portable table saw
The SawStop JSS-120A60 adds a host of welcome features to the previous model, greatly adding to its versatility and capability. Among these are a T-style high/low fence and an active dust collection blade guard that is now a standard feature. The new model also comes with a deeper table that has been extended by two inches, giving you more room to handle bigger workpieces and deeper cuts.
Other features include the one-turn elevation control, which lets you raise and lower the blade with a single turn of the handwheel. And like all SawStop models, the JSS-120A60 comes with the patented flesh-sensing technology that prevents injury.
#1 Best value for money portable table saw
The DWE7491RS is a powerful table saw in a compact and easy-to-handle design. Powered by a 15-amp motor, it is capable of handling pretty much any cutting job, including large workpieces and dense hardwood.
Like many DeWalt power tools, the DWE7491RS has been designed for ease of use. Features such as the tool-free guard adjustment and quick and easy fence adjustments make this ideally suited for woodworkers of all levels, even those with relatively little experience. Even so, the DWE7491RS provides the stability and performance needed to get the toughest jobs done.
#1 Most affordable portable table saw
Most table saws are really designed for professional woodworkers, joiners, and builders. If all you will be doing are small and simple ripping jobs and are still learning how to rip timber, you don’t necessarily need a table saw. You can get away with using a Makita or Dewalt circular saw.
You could probably handle most of your cutting requirements with a circular saw and a straight edge. Of course, a rip saw will handle most tasks more quickly and more accurately.
If you are intending on getting a table saw, the Skil 3410-02 10-Inch Portable Table Saw is one of the best table saws for the money for a beginner or DIYer. You could also opt for a SawStop model which will ensure safer operation.
Other options are here for the Ryobi table saw range.
More on; Bosch vs. Stopsaw
For many years SawStop was pretty much the only name in the flesh-detecting table saw technology. The company’s innovative sensor-based system seemed to provide a solution to the age-old problem of injuries caused by table saws.
A decade after SawStop hit the market Bosch came out with its own safety table saw, which caused quite a buzz among woodworkers. Called the Reaxx table saw, this also featured a flesh-sensing system intended to prevent injuries resulting from contact with the blade.
Bosch’s new product caused quite an uproar in the industry, and SawStop saw filed a patent with the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). But legal issues aside, both companies’ take on flesh-sensing technology was a giant leap forward in ensuring the safety of table saw users.
SawStop’s table saw provides a rip capacity of 25.5 inches, which is just slightly higher than Bosch’s 25-inch capacity. Both models are easy to set up and operate. But Bosch’s Reaxx has the advantage of a movable outfeed that provides 18-inches of extra support at the rear of the saw.
In tests conducted by third-party users, it seemed that the SawStop has the edge in terms of retracting the blade below the table and stopping it from spinning completely.
With the Reaxx, the blade immediately slides down below the table when coming into contact with flesh before gradually spinning to a halt.
Consider also that the Bosch also has a dual activation cartridge that lets you use the tool once more after it prevents an injury. Each cartridge costs about US$100 and you won’t have to replace the blade, although I have heard complaints of the tool engaging the brake when there was no flesh on the blade, this would be frustrating.
With the SawStop on the other hand, cartridges cost $69 and are good for only one incident. You will have to replace the blade as well.
How stop saws work, flesh sensors explained;
Stop saw sensors work via the principle of electric conduction. In basic terms, wood does not conduct electricity, but the human body does. Table saws with stop saw mechanisms have blades that carry an electrical signal.
The signal changes in response to the electricity produced by the human body. When your hand or finger comes into contact with the blade, the built-in sensor knows that it is no longer cutting wood. It then trips the safety system.
Depending on how the system is implemented, the table saw may perform several safety actions. In many table saws, a brake system springs into action, stopping the blade within five milliseconds and preventing further injury.
With other systems, the blade slows down and stops spinning gradually, which is often enough to prevent serious injury. The blade may also slide down beneath the work table out of the way. The power may also be shut off automatically.
Are stop saws worth the extra cost?
Stop saws typically cost a lot more than standard table saws. Some models cost double what you would expect to pay for a table saw without a flesh-sensing feature. But purchasing a stop saw is a good idea if you have relatively little experience with table saws and are planning on using the tool a lot.
If you are an experienced woodworker and have the necessary safety equipment, a stop saw might not be necessary. Consider also that you will have to replace the cartridge and blade after an incident, although this is much better than dealing with a serious injury that could be prevented with an initial investment.
Considering that the alternative to replacing the cartage and possibly the blade is serious injury, a stop saw might just be worth the extra cost.
Other tools that can rip timber
There are other tools you can use to rip timber apart from a portable table saw. However, they may not be quite as effective as a simple table saw for various reasons.
You can use a circular saw paired with a straight edge, for example. But these aren’t quite as accurate as a good table saw and will take longer to set up and cut as well.
You might also consider a track saw such as a Festool. Again these aren’t quite as quick to use as a good table saw, and they take a long time to set up each cut. Track saws also require a lot of space, so if your workshop is fairly small, you might just be better off with a table saw.
And remember never attempt to cut a curved or a circle using a table saw doing so is impossible and very dangerous. Instead when you need to cut curves or corners in wood using an electric jigsaw tool, or for serious woodworkers have a read of my cordless jigsaw review.
Tips for using your portable table saw
One of the most important things to know about table saws is kickback. This refers to the action of the workpiece jerking back at high speed toward the operator.
When this happens, there is a high risk of injury, either from the workpiece hitting you in the face or head, or from having your hand come in contact with the blade.
There are many reasons why kickbacks happen. There may be a knot in the wood that prevents the blade from cutting into it smoothly, or the two sides of the cut workpiece may close up and bind the blade. All new saws use a to prevent the cut pieces from coming together, thereby preventing kickback.
But the riving knife will have to be positioned correctly in order for it to work. A poorly positioned riving knife is actually a common reason why kickback occurs. In order for it to work properly, make sure that the riving knife effectively prevents the workpiece from placing sideways pressure on the blade.
As when working with all power tools, always wear the proper personal protective equipment when using a table saw. At the very least, you should have hearing protection, safety goggles, or a face shield paired with a dust mask.
With the combination of a quality table saw, and a benchtop planer you can really shape timber exactly how you want.
Table saw history
Table saws were first developed in the United Statesth and 17th centuries.
By 1885, circular saws that look pretty much like modern table saws were widely used. They were even featured in a W.F. & John Barnes Co. Catalog from 1885, where they were referred to as a “Hand-Powered Circular Rip Saw”.
Comparing portable table saws
|SawStop JSS-120A60||DeWalt DWE7491RS|
|Flesh Detecting Break:||Yes||No|
|Weight:||113 lbs.||90 lbs.|
The SawStop JSS-120A60 and the DeWalt DWE7491RS both provide excellent value for the money, and you pretty much can’t go wrong with either one.
If safety is your primary concern, definitely go for the JSS-120A60, which comes with the patented SawStop flesh-sensing technology. This particular model builds on the success of previous SawStop models, adding a welcome of new features such as a deeper table depth.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a stable and reliable table saw that delivers consistent power and performance, the DeWalt DWE7491RS is ideally suited for you. Capable of handling a variety of cutting jobs, this could be the only table saw you will need.
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My name is Aaron, and welcome to Bangingtoolbox.
As a qualified builder and DIY’er, my goal with Banging Toolbox is to provide the #1 building and DIY resource on the internet for my readers.
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