Navigating through the woodworking shop, I find each tool holds its own significance, a unique utility in the symphony of creation that unfolds here daily. In this intimate exploration of circular saws versus table saws, I’ll weave through my experiences, sharing insights on how each tool claims its space and purpose in the workshop.
As we delve into their distinctions, I invite you to join me in deciphering which saw might harmonize best with your tasks and which one might earn a spot in your workspace.
Circular Saw vs Table Saw
What is a Table Saw
A table saw or a saw bench is a circular saw attached to a table. It has a circular blade that’s placed on an arbor. This blade cuts through a slot in the table, a position that facilitates straight, precise cuts.
The purpose of the table or bench is to add more stability which leads to more accurate cuts. The table allows you to move the wood along its surface as you work, which is great for handling large planks or bulk projects.
To use this power tool, start by placing the wood against the blade and push it forward to make a precise cut. Good table saws must have one miter gauge that will help you make angled cuts, cross cuts, and miter cuts like a miter saw to further enhance accuracy. There’s also a rip fence that keeps the material in place as you work. This part is important because the rip capacity’s size is directly equivalent to how big your workpiece can be.
Because of this stability, the table saw is great for making perfectly straight cuts regularly. In the hands of an expert, you can use it to make almost any cut. However, curved cuts are still quite tricky to handle.
Unfortunately, this stability also means that table saws can’t be moved flexibly. Most of these power tools weigh well over 200 pounds and cannot be maneuvered easily.
Table saws can be divided into three types: cabinet, contractor, and hybrid saws. Cabinet saws are the heaviest with the most powerful motors, followed by hybrid and then contractor saws.
What I Like
What I Don't Like
Purpose of a Table Saw
Table saws work best for making long, straight rip cuts. Because most table saws have a wide rip capacity, they work great for huge workpieces. Just hold your material up with stable hands and let your machine work. These tools win when it comes to ease of use.
A feature that’s always stood out to me with high-quality models is the ability to meticulously adjust both the height and cutting depth of the blade. This precise control becomes invaluable, especially when I’m submerged in bulk projects where uniformity in cuts is paramount. Moreover, wielding this tool allows me to gracefully shape the edges of wood stock, crafting basic profiles with a sense of artistry and precision, enhancing my projects in subtle yet impactful ways.
Though table saws work best for large projects, they are capable of handling smaller tasks. However, they cannot be used to make detailed designs when cutting wood.
What is a Circular Saw
Circular saws can be categorized as hand held power tools. They have a saw blade and can make cross-cuts, miter cuts, and rip cuts.
This tool is famous because it’s portable just like the extra lightweight Rotorazer circular saw. When comparing the circular saw with the table saw, the former may not have the guided accuracy of table saws because they are much lighter and extremely maneuverable. They are more commonly used on job sites for this reason.
Circular saws come in several sizes and types. There are mini circular saws and worm drive circular saws. And there are also corded and cordless circular saws. Cordless saws run on batteries and aren’t as powerful as corded versions.
These saws have a nearly limitless capability because they’re portable and easy to handle. To cut with this saw, you have to pass the blade through the material. You can make curved cuts and even create designs if you wish.
However, this could also be a disadvantage. Because these saws require your strength to handle the cutting, the cut’s accuracy depends on your skill. If you do not have a steady, skilled hand, you may be unable to use it properly.
It also means that it’s almost impossible to duplicate cuts. However, you can use a good circular saw to make complicated, accurate cuts with accessories like speed squares or a jig.
This tool does have an advantage in versatility, though. They can cut through many different materials, including metal and plastic.
What I Like
What I Don't Like
Purpose of a Circular Saw
In my experience, having worked with many tools, I’d confidently rank the circular saw as one of the most adaptable tools I’ve used. It’s especially invaluable for repairs, DIY endeavors, and those smaller projects that pop up occasionally.
The biggest advantage of a circular saw is mobility. This makes it the obvious choice for making cuts that you cannot make with a table saw. Also, as long as you get the right type of blade, you can cut through many materials.
However, tables are needed to make accurate cuts. This means that beginners might have a tough time handling a power saw that doesn’t have one. This saw should only be used for complicated work when the person handling it is an expert.
Main Differences Between a Table Saw and a Circular Saw
Now that you’re aware of the pros and cons of both power tools, let’s take a look at the major differences between table saws and circular saws.
The first difference is fairly obvious: size and portability.
Table saws are huge. One model can weigh up to 600 pounds and take up several meters in your workshop. They also commonly possess 10-inch blades.
On the other hand, circular saws are much smaller. Corded saws weigh around 6 to 20 pounds and have smaller blades. Plus, you can even get a cordless cutting tool if you need extra mobility.
When comparing table saw with the circular saw as a cutting tool, the former might be slightly superior when it comes to making precise cuts. This is also true when comparing table saws to bandsaws for making precise cuts. If you want to get a straight cut while minimizing your contribution, a table saw works great. Most table saws have miter slots for the gauge and a rip fence to make your cut more accurate every time.
I’ve found that when you’re aiming for a specific type of cut, sometimes you just can’t beat the handheld approach of the circular saw. Take, for instance, when you’re crafting circular designs; that’s when a handheld power saw truly shines.
However, you should note that although a certain level of skill is required to use a circular saw, there is almost no type of cut that you cannot make with it.
Table saws are mostly used for cutting wood. Most of the time, their manufacturers don’t make provisions for cutting other materials unless the product was specifically made to cut such material.
Good circular saws come with blades for cutting materials other than wood like metal, plastic, concrete, brick, and tile. This makes them more versatile, and the best option for people who need a saw around the house but aren’t woodworking hobbyists.
Both saws require set-up, but the circular saw needs considerably less work before it is ready to go.
When it comes to pricing, circular saws have a huge advantage. You can get one of these power tools for less than $100. In contrast, you really shouldn’t be looking for a table saw if you don’t have at least $350 (minus shipping).
But, with proper maintenance, one good table saw might last until you’re too old to press the wood against the blade. A circular saw can’t last that long; they usually wear down within a few years.
For accessories and safety features, I couldn’t choose between these two saws. While the table saw does have more space to add accessories and features, it’s also more dangerous compared to a circular saw. The possibility of kickbacks, slips, and other workplace accidents is higher with a table saw.
A circular saw might have less space for accessories, but in the hands of a skilled worker, there’s no need for accessories. With the blade guard on, your fingers are mostly protected.
Recommended blades for circular saw:
Which is better circular saw or table saw?
Circular saws are better than table saws when you want to cut small pieces or a certain shapes. Circular saws have this advantage over skilsaws as well. But, if you’re working with a huge slab of wood, or you need to get out several accurate, identical cuts quickly, a table saw is suitable at any day.
Can I use a circular saw as a table saw?
Yes, you can use a circular saw as a table saw. Or, to be more precise, you can turn a circular saw into a table saw. It is basically a saw without a table attached, so it’s possible to attach a table.
However, possible doesn’t mean easy. Doing this means that you’ll have to disassemble your circular saw before assembling it on top of a table. This risks injury, and I do not recommend attempting it unless you are a professional.
The result of comparing table saw vs circular saw is that there are no winners. Each power saw has its use, which is why saw manufacturers that make both still sell well. Just ensure that you choose a branded saw (DeWalt, Milwaukee, Bosch, etc.) that fits your needs.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.