3 Features to Consider in the Best Portable Table Saw


by Johnathon S. Duvel - Date: 2007-04-10 - Word Count: 882 Share This!

How do you know which portable table saw to buy? Well, you need to look at each saw's accuracy, motor/mount system, and portability and then match those features' levels with your level of need. Do you intend to use the portable table saw at several job sites or will it probably stay in your shop most of the time? Is it going to be used heavily or only occasionally for your hobby? Mainly, you should consider the table and fence set up, the motor and blade mounting system, and any accessories.

Set Up of Table and Fence

The table and fence will affect the accuracy of your cuts. A fence and guide rail that extends beyond the table will allow wider accurate cuts.

DeWalt's DW744 model has a large table with a fence and rail that supports a 24 1/2- inch rip cut. The table can extend on a cogwheel and tooth-track system that adjusts the fence, which locks at the rails' ends.

Both Bosch and Ridgid make a portable table saw that has an extendable table that pulls out with the rails to increase the width of the cut. Ridgid's saws are made only for Home Depot. Bosch's portable table saw has aluminum rails that are less likely to flex under heavy plywood, but Ridgid's rails are even sturdier.

Ryobi's BT3000SX is the only table saw that has a wider cutting capacity at a 33-inch width. This portable table saw pushes the term portable because its extendable fence, sliding miter table, and quick-change inserts all add considerable weight to the overall unit.

Two other heavy portable table saws include the Jet and Hitachi products. The Jet has a cast iron table and double extensions making it too heavy to easily move, especially if you have to go up stairs or lift it up into a truck. However, it is wide enough to rip plywood in half. The Hitachi C10RA2 has a table made of cast aluminum, but the unit has a steel jacket which makes it too heavy for one person to move even if it is not bolted to its stand that is made of steel.

Delta, Powermatic, and Skil all offer bench saws that are small and lightweight for easy moving while providing a price tag of almost half of the larger portable table saws. Delta and Skil both come with a cast aluminum table and cam-locking fences, while Powermatic has a larger, brushed-aluminum table that has two accurate extensions. However, these three will not be able to compete with the workload of the larger saws.

Motors and Mounting

The way the motor and blade is mounted is an important feature on portable table saws.

The smaller bench table saws mount the motor on a single side bracket. This system then pivots in order to raise or lower the blade. This system can ruin a cut by deflecting, or it can bind the blade if it has to cut a heavy load.

The bigger portable table saws use guide rods or symmetrical tracks to adjust the blade. If left straight, this system reduces vibration of the blade and motor allowing more accurate cuts. However, if the angle is adjusted, the vibration returns.

Improving on this blade/motor carriage, Makiti and Ridgid portable table saws use a tooth and cog adjuster on their height adjuster wheel.

Ryobi and Hitachi both have a push/pull hand-wheel adjuster. However, Hitachi uses plastic gears and track, so its durability may be compromised.

The Jet portable table saw has the best blade/motor mount system with a heavy gear-screw system on two separate hand-wheels: one for height and one for angles. This does make it heavier, but more accurate.

Accessories

The accessories are evaluated for just how portable they make the portable table saw.

Makita has a way to increase the width of cuts to 49 inches with its accessory stand. However, the stand is bulky and adds to the time it takes to set up.

Although Ryobi offers a steel cart with an extension table, these are mainly useful for shop use only because they detract from it portability to different sites.

The universal stand with legs and bolts is offered with Jet, Delta, Skil, Hitachi, Makita and Powermatic. The weight of this steel stand detracts from the portability of these brands.

The easiest stands to move and set up are found on DeWalt, Bosch, and Ridgid portable table saws. Bosch and DeWalt have stands that pop open and fold flat in one easy movement. However, the legs do not adjust for uneven footing. Ridgid improves portability by using a stand that folds into a hand truck to move both the stand and the saw.

Overall

DeWalt, Bosch, and Ridgid stand out as the best when looking at portability and useful features. They offer the largest cutting widths, most durable motor/blade mounting systems and easy portability for use on several job sites. However, they may be more than you need and more than you can afford. If you need accurate cuts at a cheaper price, you can still get good quality cuts from Makita or Hitachi at a much more affordable prices. And, if you are the occasional wood worker that does not travel or need professional results, the least expensive bench models may be the way to go for you. Each portable table saw reviewed has its positives and negatives depending on your particular wood cutting needs.


Related Tags: table saws, table saw, portable table saw, saws

Johnathon is a professional carpenter for over 20 years and has experience in helping customers renovate their homes. Johnathon is woodwork enthusiast who works with jigsaws, table saws, circular saws and many other varieties of saws. Visit his specialty site on delta table saws at http://www.szaws.com

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