Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by Web Operator
A table saw is undoubtedly a fantastic tool to have at your disposal, but a quick search on the market will show that you have several different sizes and options to choose from. From an 8 1/4″ table saw up to a 14″ table saw, you need to know the space you have available, required rip capacity, cutting depth, and your overall cutting requirements.
While having options is always nice, it does make life harder for you when it comes to trying to work out which one to buy. Now, I could spend some time telling you all about power and different attributes to check out with a table saw, but I want to do something a bit different this time around.
Instead, what I’m going to do is to focus on one attribute of the table saw that is important for you to contemplate before you begin: the size. Let’s face it, you hardly want to be in a position where your tools come up short in what they can offer, so I’m going to try to stop that becoming a reality.
Yes, table saws do come in various sizes, and it does change their capabilities and the size of material you can pass through the saw. So, having an understanding of the different table saw sizes and what that means makes a lot of sense.
That’s what I plan to focus on right now, and I firmly believe it will make your life so much easier when it comes to knowing which table saw to go and spend your money on.
You see, the larger table saws on the market can cost $1000’s, so you can see why understanding everything there is to know about the size of the tool is so important.
So, let’s start working through the different aspects of a table saw to help you work out the best option for your needs.
What is a Table Saw?
But first, let me recap what a table saw actually is to help you formulate in your mind what you believe you would need for your projects.
A table saw is a key tool for any serious woodworker. It’s used to produce rip cuts and crosscuts, with some offering a miter cut as well, with a focus on trimming longer timber or even producing repeat cuts of the same angle and size.
Therefore, a table saw can help you work on larger boards than you ever thought possible and get them trimmed down to size. It will suddenly open up so many new things that I do see this as being a fantastic tool to have at your disposal.
Furthermore, a table saw can be used on grooves, tenons, and even moldings. However, the key is to get the correct size for your needs. Without that, you will be unable to potentially complete some projects simply because your table saw does not have the right capacity.
Thankfully though, a table saw does come in different sizes, and I’m going to look at each size to guide you through what it can offer and how it may fit in with your own specific needs. There’s no reason to be missing out on what a table saw can offer just because you feel that space is limited.
The 8 ¼” Table Saw
The first option I’m going to look at is the 8 ¼” table saw, and this is pretty small in size and is below what many would see as being your average size table saw. However, I do see this table saw as becoming more popular in recent years, as there is a rise in the number of smaller workshops popping up all over the country.
With a saw that can use this size of blade, you do have certain limitations. When cutting at 90 degrees, you will tend to find the maximum size of material you can cut is just over 2”. That then changes to 1 ¾” when you change the cutting angle to 45 degrees.
This drop in size when you change the cutting angle happens with every size, and this one doesn’t actually drop as much as you would expect. However, you can see how the blade limits the thickness of wood you can cut at any one time.
This is one of the most significant issues people have with saw blades in general. They see the blade’s size and think it can cut something to the same thickness, but that’s not the case. A blade will only be capable of cutting a fraction of its size simply because of how it sits in the saw. You can only ever have a section of the blade coming into contact with the material at any one time, hence the drop in depth.
But even though the 8 ¼” table saw is on the small side, I certainly wouldn’t rule out using it. Sure, you find yourself limited to only certain projects, but the saw itself ends up significantly easier to move around making it far more portable than you expect.
Clearly, portability can be an important thing at times, so that’s why I wouldn’t rule it out entirely as an option.
The Pros of a 8 1/4″ Table Saw
- It is on the small side, so larger projects are out of the question
- Maximum cut size is around 2″
- It’s very portable, so great in small spaces
- The cut at 45 degrees is impressive at between 1 1/2″ and 1 3/4″
The 10” Table Saw
The 10” table saw is the most widely used saw, and it’s the one I prefer. I find that it does sit perfectly in the sweet spot of what the average woodworker will use a table saw for. It can cover many more bases than the 8 ¼” blade. I feel this improved versatility is a key component, which is why I own a 10” table saw myself.
But the difference in material depth that you can cut with a 10” blade is remarkable when compared to the smaller version. At 90 degrees, you should be able to cut wood up to 3 ½” thick, and that’s impressive. This then drops to 2 ¼” when you change it to 45 degrees, but I still think that’s pretty good.
Honestly, the average DIY’er at home in their workshop rarely has to cut anything larger than this. That is why the 10” table saw is certainly aimed more at the enthusiastic amateur as well as the professional.
But don’t worry that a 10” table saw will end up being substantially larger in size than the 8” version. Honestly, you are looking at such a small difference in the space it takes up that you wouldn’t even really notice it if the two saws were sitting side by side.
As with the 8 ¼” table saw, I feel you can move this machine around with ease allowing you to use it in various locations. I love portability, as it does make certain projects significantly easier.
For me, I also appreciate that versatility that comes with a 10” saw. It’s quick and easy to set up, and it will prove to be a highly useful tool allowing you to zip through different projects without too many problems.
This size table saw is the one I would recommend most people go for thanks to it allowing you to perform the majority of the tasks you would be looking for in a table saw.
The Pros of a 10″ Table Saw
- It’s only slightly larger in size than the 8″ version
- The cutting size is over 3″ with a blade of this size
- At 45 degrees, it drops to just over 2″, which is impressive
- It allows you to zip through various projects with ease thanks to its size
- It’s perfect for most enthusiastic DIY’ers
The 12” Table Saw
The 12” table saw is not really something I would suggest you use unless you plan to work on larger projects. The main difference with this blade is that it can cut through thick laminate rather than just focusing on plain wood. At that point, it can cut through laminate up to 2” thick, and that’s impressive.
However, let’s be honest: most people will not be cutting through laminate that thick. Instead, I do see the 12” table saw as being more of an industrial machine rather than one that you would have in your workshop.
Yet I’m not saying there’s no point in not having a 12” table saw as your average individual carrying out a variety of home projects. However, I would certainly weigh up the various projects I would look at working on to see if a 12” table saw was going to fit the bill, and also if I was going to be using it to its full capacity regularly.
But a 12” is not the biggest table saw out there. Instead, there’s another option that some individuals may want to consider using.
The Pros of a 12″ Table Saw
- It can cut through thick laminate with ease thanks to its size
- It packs a punch with its power
- It can cope with thicker wood thanks to the size
- It’s perfect if you use a table saw in more of an industrial setting
The 14” Table Saw
Companies such as Grizzly do produce a 14” table saw, and even though it’s rarer than the 10” version, it’s still a machine that is worth thinking about. Of course, it can cut through thicker material, and at 90 degrees, you are looking at cutting wood of up to 4” thick.
That’s amazing, and even at 45 degrees, it only drops down to 2 ¾”, which is still big enough for most people.
But honestly, I don’t see too many people needing to own this particular table saw. I do appreciate it can cut thicker wood, but it’s not always something that is necessary for the majority of people.
In saying that, at least you know it does exist even if you do not have the same array of options regarding brands or types of saw.
Yet, even with these different sizes, it doesn’t paint the full picture when it comes to what the saws can do, and also what they offer.
The Pros of a 14″ Table Saw
- It can cut wood more than 4″ thick
- At 45 degrees it drops to 2 3/4″
- It is certainly for larger projects, but you do need more space
- It packs in a lot of power
It’s More Than Just the Blade
But there’s more to this than just the blade. Table saws also have a rip capacity, which is something else you need to consider when choosing the correct size of table saw for your needs.
The rip capacity refers to the gap between the blade and the fence, and it generally comes in three different sizes. The smallest is really 24”, but it does go up to over 50”. That’s impressive, and it does change how you can use the saw.
The larger the rip capacity, the bigger the table part of the saw, and that does mean you need more space in your workshop to accommodate it. Seriously, the difference in space you need when it comes to a 50” rip capacity is substantial.
The rip capacity is essential. It helps determine the width of the piece of wood you can work on, so you see how it then determines the projects that can be completed with any particular saw. If you know you will be working on larger boards, then you need a larger rip capacity, or the planks will just not fit onto the table saw.
Prior to making a purchase, I would double-check the maximum size of board you can work with to ensure it fits in with your needs. It’s all too easy to be caught out.
Isn’t There a Benchtop Table Saw?
If you have been looking around tools for some time, then you may have noticed a benchtop table saw being mentioned. So, let me clear up a few things about this tool to help you determine if it’s right for you.
Often, a benchtop table saw will come with either the 8” or 10” blade, but the rip capacity will clearly be smaller in size. The actual table part is smaller than the freestanding versions, but on the plus side, this table saw is also portable.
I do love the benchtop versions. I feel they are versatile enough for the majority of projects, and they also don’t take up as much space in your workshop. I appreciate how you can set them up for making a series of similar cuts and run them through without any problems.
For me, this is the version I would tend to recommend to individuals new to the idea of a table saw, and also where space is an issue. Just because they are portable does not have to mean they are significantly inferior. In fact, I feel the opposite is true as it allows you to get on with different projects without being tied down to your workshop.
How Do You Choose?
Now you are aware of the different size options, how do you choose? Well, I have a few tips that are designed to make your life a bit easier when it comes to this. After all, I don’t want you to make a potentially costly mistake and get your hands on the wrong one.
So, let’s go through the different key points that I feel will make a difference when it comes to selecting the correct size table saw for your needs. Also, as I go through them, I want you to think about your own predicament and what it means for you regarding the projects you intend to work on.
First, look at the space you have in your workshop. There’s no point looking at a table saw with a rip capacity of 50” if the space you have available will just not be big enough. Also, I’m not talking about merely the machine itself. Instead, you need to think about how to get around the table saw as well.
This is why I do prefer benchtop versions. You can move them around and place them on your workbench when you need to use them and then store it away when it’s not required.
That’s why I would always suggest checking out either the 8” or 10” version first. They require less space and yet still have the ability to carry out various cuts to a reasonable depth. But then, it does depend on whether or not this size of table saw fits in with your own individual needs.
Aside from the actual table saw, you need to think about the possibility of extending arms to allow you to work on larger planks or boards with the same saw.
Now, not every table saw will come with extension tables. However, I would check to see if there is at least a possibility of adding them on at a later date if you wish to do so.
But that does then change the space you will require in order to operate the table saw. So, while it may not be something you need to deal with at this moment, being aware of extension tables may still be something to consider.
The cutting depth is perhaps your primary concern when it comes to choosing a table saw. I mentioned in my description of the different blade sizes what their cutting depth will be, and you need to be aware of those depths before buying a table saw.
It’s all related to your projects and what you intend to do. Will you ever really find yourself cutting something 4” thick? Probably not, so you would then avoid splashing out on a 14” table saw.
Also, keep in mind there’s a drop in cutting depth between the 90-degree and 45-degree angles. I always suggest looking at the smallest figure and then determining if that fits in with the potential projects I can see myself working on.
Getting the cutting depth wrong has the potential to effectively ruin your entire project.
I’ve already mentioned the rip capacity, and I would certainly not go below 24”. If you do, then you are going to seriously restrict what you can do with your table saw, and it will quickly become a useless tool in your workshop.
Now, I’m not telling you to go ahead and get that 50” capacity. Your average DIY’er is not going to really need to work on boards as big as that. If you did, then I would suggest you get the boards cut elsewhere. It’s just not worth the extra cost associated with a table saw of this size if you will only use it on a very rare occasion.
Other Features to Consider
Even though the points above are the main consideration when it comes to choosing the best size table saw for you, they are not the only things I want you to think about.
I would also look at areas such as the dust collection and how that changes depending on the model. You do not want the dust to be effectively flying around and instead need it to be collected.
A bigger table saw will work on larger boards, so there will be more dust as you cut larger pieces. Ensure your dust collection system is up to the correct level, or you will have to contend with a real mess.
I would also look at the safety side of things. For me, one of the craziest aspects is that the blade guard is often removed from some machines, and that’s insane. I would make sure I had an appropriate blade guard in place before using a table saw of any size. It just stops so many potential accidents from happening.
But overall, the key is to think about how you plan on using the table saw and what it would be used for. Think about the available space, which will already influence the projects you can work on, and determine if portability is also important.
Those are the types of things you need to contemplate with your table saw, but then so many of the points are things you will have already thought about when setting up your workshop in the first place.
And that is how you determine the table saw that is the right size for your needs, and as you can see, it does mean you have to think about several things to ultimately reach the correct decision.
But to get into the position of being able to make these cuts, I think these articles will help you out.