Circular Saw or Table Saw, Which is better?
If you are an amateur or a professional looking to buy some tools, then you may be confused by all the different varieties of tools out there. There are table saws, circular saws, miter saws, and much, much more. It can all be very confusing, especially if you have the unfortunate distinction of being a first-time buyer. Sure, experts can help guide you in the right direction, but they can only do so much. Thankfully, we are here to help. In this article, we will explain the difference between two very common power tools, table saws and circular saws. You will learn what each one does well and what projects each should be used for.
Circular vs Table Saw – Quick Guide
I have compiled the important factors into a table for quick reference. Each point is explained in detail under the differences section.
|Features||Circular Saw||Table Saw|
|Portable||Very easy to carry around||Poor mobility. Requires more storage area.|
|Versatility||Excellent. Cuts variety of materials.||Primarily for woodworking|
|Accuracy||Average||Precise rip-cuts and crosscut|
|Ease of Use||Depends on user skill||Easy to use|
|Price||Very affordable.||Comparatively expensive|
What is a table saw?
A table saw is a machine tool with a circular saw fixed on a motor beneath the table. The table saw blade protrudes out from the surface of the table through a slit. To make the cut, you have to push the wood towards the rotating saw blade.
Table saw is one of the most popular power tools out there, especially for carpenters, woodworkers, etc. You will struggle to find a workshop that does not have a quality table saw. There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, table saws are generally pretty affordable. Even a quality table saw from a well-known brand is not going to break your bank. Because of this, they make good gifts and good first-time purchases.
In terms of overall performance, a table saw is an all-around workhorse. It can do roughly any job (assuming you know how to use it). It may not do certain jobs as well as specialty tools, but it can do them. For example, a miter saw is your best bet for doing accurate angled cuts, but you could do those same cuts with a table saw, it will just be a bit more difficult. Where table saws truly excel is in rip-cutting and crosscutting of wood quickly and accurately and in large quantities. It is for these reasons that table saws are so popular and found in every workshop.
What is a circular saw?
They are the handheld power tools people use to cut through just about anything. If you have ever been to a professional job site, then you have no doubt seen a circular saw in action. A circular saw uses rotary motion combined with very sharp teeth to cut through a large variety of surfaces. Because they are handheld, they are less common in workshops then table saws. After all, why would you use a handheld tool when you aren’t moving around? However, their mobility and versatility make them very popular on job sites and with professionals who have to move around a lot.
Difference between a Table Saw and Circular Saw
Should I choose a circular saw or get a table saw? What are the main differences and which one is the best for a beginner? Let me answer these questions in detail.
The main difference between a table saw and a circular saw is the mobility. Table saws are difficult to move from place to place. It can be done, but it is extremely impractical. You can buy portable table saws, but even those are still very bulky and difficult to move from place to place. On the other hand, circular saws are extremely compact and easy to move from one job site to the next.
In terms of accuracy, in most cases table saw makes more accurate cuts. On the other hand, the accuracy of a circular saw depends upon the skill of the user.
You could use a straight-edge or circular saw guide rails to improve the accuracy of your cut. However, it should be noted that it is more difficult to make accurate cuts with a circular saw than it is to make them with a table saw. It is possible to make the same kinds of cuts with both kinds of saws, but you are going to need a lot more practice and technical knowledge when using a circular saw; otherwise, you will likely end up making mistakes.
The circular saw is probably the most versatile power tool used for cutting. In the trained hands of an expert, it can cut long rip-cuts, crosscuts, miter and bevel cuts. All you need is a set of circular saw blades for different purposes. If you can get a circular saw that can accept abrasive discs, you can cut metal and with a diamond blade, you can even cut tiles and bricks.
On the other hand, the table saw is mainly for woodworking. It can also cut plastic and other softer material. You must use carbide tipped blades for cutting hardwood and MDF.
Similar to a circular saw, a table saw can do most type of cutting; however, it has the size limitation. For example, if you want to crosscut a very large size wood, you need a bigger size table saw and even additional supports.
Corded vs Cordless
Circular saws come in both cordless and corded models, meaning there are even more options to make a circular saw mobile.
On the contrary, there are very few cordless table saw models in the market. And they are very expensive. Considering the price, a contractor table saw and a portable generator would be a much better investment.
Ease of Use
In terms of ease of use, table saws win hands down. With a table saw, your main focus is simply on cutting the wood, or whatever else you are putting in front of it. You do not need to worry about learning how to handle the table saw or anything complicated like that. Of course, you must know the basic operations and the safe working practices. But unlike circular saw, you need very less experience to start using a table saw effectively.
With a circular saw, you need to learn how to handle it both safely and accurately. This may sound easy at first, but it can require some practice to get it right.
In terms of longevity and maintenance, the two each have pros and cons. Circular saws generally do not need much, if anything, in terms of maintenance. On the other hand, table saws have numerous internal parts and they generally need some love and care to continue operating at peak efficiency. However, the flipside to this is that table saws are built to last.
If you take proper care of it, a well-maintained table saw can last for a long time. Circular saws tend to break after a while. You will get a good number of years out of a circular saw, especially if it is a well-known brand, but eventually, it will start to die.
Finally, there is the issue of cleanup to address. One of the nice features about table saws is that they can be set up so that there is minimal sawdust thrown around. Most of the saw dust goes below the table. Hence if you keep a dust collection box under the table, it will have most of the dust. Use a portable vacuum to clean of the fine dust above table and you are good to go.
If you share a workspace, like say a garage, then you don’t want to be throwing sawdust everywhere. Using a circular saw will likely result in sawdust being thrown everywhere, which means you will have to devote lot of time to clean up. It’s a minor difference, but one to keep in mind.
When to go for a table saw
If you are just starting your power tool collection, or if you want a very powerful and accurate cutting tool for your workshop, then you should go for a table saw. Likewise, if you have a large job that involves a lot of precisive cutting (think anything to do with building furniture, decks, etc.) then your best bet is to get a good table saw.
When to go for a circular saw
There are few scenarios where you should get a circular saw. If you are doing a job that involves a lot of moving around, then a circular saw’s mobility will be extremely helpful. Likewise, if you share tools frequently with friends or family, then a circular saw can be a good option as it can be easily transported back and forth.
Who should buy what?
If you are an experienced professional or DIYer looking to build your tool collection and you already have a good table saw, then a good circular saw would be a good addition. But, as I said earlier, people who are just starting out should build a good foundation by grabbing a solid table saw. Although novices can learn to use circular saws effectively, it is much easier for them to start with a table saw and then work their way up towards using other kinds of saws.
If you are looking for a cutting tool for woodworking, buy a table saw first. It can cut wood, plywood, plastic and other softer materials accurately with good repeatability.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a versatile power tool that is easily portable and can perform a variety of tasks, then go for a circular saw. Although it is less accurate when compared to a table saw, the versatility of a circular saw is unbeatable.