For any job, there’s a suitable tool to do it. When you need a table saw, you might be confused by some of the overlapping terminology and jargon that’s out there. Keep reading for an overview of the different types of table saws and what to expect from each.
Generally, there are 5 different table saw types and their variants.
Jobsite Table Saw
A jobsite table saw, portable table saw, or worksite table saw is made for the professional or hobbyist on the move. Explicitly designed with portability in mind, jobsite table saws are light and compact, making them easy to take from site to site.
How do they manage to be so light? First, most jobsite table saws come without a stand or legs. This reduces size and weight, but it also means you’ll need somewhere to put it when you get to the site. A table made of a couple of sawhorses, or even just a level spot on the ground, works fine.
The only actual limitation on portability for a jobsite table saw is its power source. Portable table saws generally have to be plugged in, although some operate on battery power. Most battery-operated table saws lose power quickly, though, if they can even keep up with their corded counterparts.
Aside from rapidly draining batteries, though, jobsite table saws are often just as powerful as less portable saws. They accomplish most of your usual tasks – rips, crosscuts, miters, and angles. You’ll need something heavier for thicker pieces and hardwoods, but short of that, a jobsite table saw will handle typical jobs.
A benchtop saw is sort of like the jobsite table saw’s little cousin. Like the jobsite saw, a benchtop table saw is super portable. These saws are generally much lighter than any other table saws.
A benchtop saw has to be mounted to a table or stand, either bolted or clamped. If you don’t have somewhere to mount it at your site, you may have a hard time using a benchtop saw. The extra weight of a heavier saw like a jobsite saw or contractor saw will give you more control over your cuts if you don’t have a table to set it on.
These saws are ideal for lightweight jobs, like cutting sheets of plywood. Their rip capacity is generally much more limited than other types of saws. If you’re tackling much more than a 2×4, you may often find yourself reaching for something heavier duty.
On the other hand, benchtop saws tend to be very inexpensive. If your jobs tend to be relatively lightweight, or if you’re a home hobbyist, a benchtop table saw may be precisely what you’re looking for. If its capacity isn’t too limiting for your typical tasks, you can save a lot of money by going with a benchtop saw.
Contractor Table Saw
Here’s where it can get a little confusing. The terms “contractor table saw,” “jobsite table saw,” and “portable table saw” are often used interchangeably by manufacturers and users alike. That makes sense because both contractor saws and jobsite saws are lightweight, portable, and able to tackle most typical jobs. Still, the overlapping terminology can make it hard to determine what features you should expect.
In general, a contractor table saw will be around the same weight as a jobsite saw. In some cases, a contractor saw may be heavier than the typical jobsite table saw. If so, however, it will often come with built-in (or easily attachable) legs or wheels. That’s the most consistent difference we’ve found between contractor table saws and jobsite table saws – the legs.
Contractor table saws have a greater rip capacity than benchtop saws and a comparable capacity to jobsite table saws. They also often have a rear-mounted motor that’s pretty capable with harder woods. Contractor table saws are a well-rounded option for all but the most hardcore contractors.
Cabinet table saws are not portable – once you bring a cabinet saw into your workspace, it’s probably going to stay exactly where you put it from that day forward. Usually, cabinet saws are built into a closed table or cabinet which houses the motor. Since portability isn’t an issue, they come with a larger motor that packs a much heavier punch than a jobsite or contractor saw.
Much like a radial arm saw and band saw, the cabinet saw is shop floor machine and perhaps the one you are going to use the most often. Cabinet saws are also more versatile than the other saws in this article because they have fewer limitations than the others face. With a cabinet saw, you’ll get a larger, usually extendable table surface that will allow you to tackle larger materials. Plus, the added power means that you can work with a wider variety of materials, such as hardwoods and pressure-treated lumber.
All that power and versatility come at a price, of course. Of all the saws discussed in this article, cabinet saws are the most expensive without question. However, if you’re doing the kinds of jobs that would benefit from the extra oomph of a cabinet saw, it’s money well spent.
Hybrid Table Saw
A hybrid table saw splits the difference between a cabinet saw and the more portable saws available. They’re lighter than a cabinet saw but generally heavier than a contractor saw. However, they often manage the extra weight by including a stand or cart with built-in wheels. This makes it easy to move from one jobsite to another (or from inside to outside), even with the extra weight.
Manufacturers and retailers sometimes use the term “hybrid table saw” interchangeably with “contractor saw.” In general, I think the two are pretty similar since they often weigh roughly the same and include portability features. Hybrid saws often come with more accessories and adaptability features than jobsite saws and benchtop saws. Many even include onboard storage for all those accessories, which is a huge bonus.
When a benchtop saw won’t cut it (pun intended), but a cabinet saw is too much, a hybrid saw is a nice, happy medium. It’ll be more than enough for all but the most hardcore contractors and hobbyists.Power Saws