The table saw is one of the most popular types of saws for cutting wood. It’s solid, dependable, easy to use, and quite robust. It’s available in several different models. Plus, the table saw is routinely near the top of most lists of desired power tools.
But what if you do not have a table saw? The answer is that you have several choices if a table saw is not available.
Replacement for a Table Saw
The table saw is great for ripping through wood quickly and cleanly. And if you are professional or an avid woodworker who routinely cuts wood, then you probably should get a table saw at some point. However, if you are needing to cut wood and do not have access to a table saw, what follows are some popular alternatives that work quite well.
The circular saw is arguably the most popular alternative to a table saw. This is because the circular saw uses the same cutting principles as table saws. They use the same variety of blades and can mimic much of the action that a table saw delivers.
However, a circular saw is portable which means you move the saw over the wood instead of moving the wood into the saw. That means you will need to rig a guide to make the cuts perfectly straight. A simple straight edge or framing square can be used to get straight cuts on most pieces of wood.
Another area where circular saw really struggle is repeatability. Cutting precisely the same size repeatedly is very easy on a table saw with its fence set in position. For a detailed comparison between these tools, see our table saw vs circular saw comparison.
If a table saw is not in your budget or your table saw is broken, the circular saw is an excellent alternative if you have a good framing square to keep the cuts straight and true.
Essentially, a track saw is a circular with guide tracks that will help you to make perfectly straight cuts. It eliminates the need for setting a straight reference edge, which is pain when you have to do a lot of long straight cuts with a circular saw.
There are many who recommend a track saw over a table saw. Its versatility is quite good, and it works better for the odd piece of wood or when you need an angled cut compared to the table saw. The track saw also takes up less room, which may be quite important for some. Plus, the track saw lets you do the work by yourself. Compare that to a table saw which sometimes requires assistance to get things right.
One downside is that if you are making repeated cuts, the table saw is considerably faster. You set up a table saw once, then repeat. A track saw need to be reset for every cut. And while that only takes a few seconds, that adds up over time which can make a significant difference in productivity.
If you run a shop and time is of the essence, then a table saw will be superior for doing basic cuts. But if you are more of a hobbyist or make occasional projects, then a track saw is arguably better and more versatile.
Radial Arm Saw (RAS)
For a long time, the radial arm saw was one of the most popular and versatile saws in any shop. It can perform a wide variety of cuts that include crosscuts, dadoes, slots, bevel cuts, tenons, ripping, drilling, and more. Until the development of the table saw, the radial arm saw was arguably the most common type of power saw for the woodworker and the professional.
The downside of a radial arm saw is that it is not as safe to use as a table saw. Because of its design, it is easier to get your fingers caught in the blade compared to a table saw. It is possible to rotate the blade head on Radial Arm Saw to 90° and perform the rip cuts. However, if you do it in the wrong direction, the blade will pull the work and can result in serious injuries.
The safety factor does depend in part on the type of cuts you want to make along with the procedures you put into place. But for someone just staring out, it is recommended that you choose a safer alternative such as a circular saw, jigsaw, or a band saw.
However, if you are familiar with the radial arm saw and take the proper precautions, it can be an excellent tool for your workshop. It is relatively easy to use and can create a wide variety of cuts. You just need to plan the cut and do a dry cut before switch on the blade. And be extra careful when doing ripping on a radial arm saw.
Vertical Band Saw
Another excellent alternative to table saw is the vertical band saw. In some ways, the band saw is superior to the table saw. You can use the band saw to make rip cuts, crosscuts, and miter cuts with ease. The thin blade and excellent track let you create curved cuts that are smooth. The band saw is so good that you may wonder why it is considered an alternative and not the main type of saw to cut wood.
The answer is in the band saw itself. Because of the design, changing out the blade can be problematic and time consuming. And while an experienced user can make the job easier, many people prefer the simplicity and safety of the table saw.
- Bandsaw allows you to cut curves, complex profiles, crosscuts, miter cuts and rip cuts.
- Band saw is an excellent tool for wood resawing
- It is much safer when compared to a table saw.
- While band saws are also safe, not securing the blade properly may lead to it falling apart and whipping out of the machine.
- Slow: They require more time to complete the cut than a table saw or circular saw.
- You can’t set the cut depth to cut blind slots such as rabbets or dadoes.
- Limited crosscut capacity. Depending on the size of your bandsaw, the width of the board you can cut across can be a limitation.
Despite these drawbacks, the band saw is still a great alternative as it can provide straight cuts with greater accuracy that most other table saw alternatives. For an all-around sawing machine, the band saw is one of the best.
The jigsaw is another excellent alternative, offering you the ability to make straight or curved cuts easily through most types of wood. Jigsaws are small, portable devices that are arguably easier to use and maintain compared to table saws. However, their blade thickness is less and the lack of weight means it is easy to veer off course and not make a perfectly straight cut.
A framing square or similar guide along the edge can help keep the jigsaw on a straight line. Simply line it up with the base on the jigsaw and secure it in place. However, even with a guide the blade may still not deliver a perfectly straight edge. You should have a hand planer or sander nearby to smooth out the edges cut from a jigsaw.
Jigsaws are best suited for short lengths of 6” or less. The longer the cut, the more likely the jigsaw is to create imperfections which will need to be hand planed or sanded.