Last Updated on February 23, 2023 by Barry Gray
Even though I admit a table saw is a wonderful tool to own, it’s not always practical to have one in your workshop. This may be due to limited space and the fact a table saw can, at times, be a bulky tool, but this then leads to its own set of problems.
But thankfully, you may have an answer to your problem in a tool in your workshop. Instead of a table saw, you may find a circular saw, band saw, jigsaw, or a track saw could fit your needs.
With a table saw not being an option, people fall into the trap of believing they will then be unable to carry out specific projects, as the idea of cutting larger boards without a table saw seems complicated. While I do admit that a table saw can make certain things significantly easier, it’s not the only option out there for you.
And that’s what I’m going to focus on here. You see, I love spending some time trying to look at alternative ways of doing things should you ever run into a position where an existing tool doesn’t work, or you perhaps don’t even have the tool to begin with.
So, that’s what this is all about.
What you will find are four different alternatives that can, at least partly, take the place of a table saw. I’m not saying the other options are a direct swap. That’s not the case. However, they can at least cover many of the bases you are looking for when replacing a table saw simply because you don’t have the space for one.
But there’s no point in me simply stating you can use these alternatives and leave it at that. Instead, I’m going to be honest with you throughout and let you know the pros and cons associated with the other options.
By doing that, I just feel you will then be in a better position to go ahead and make a decision as to whether or not it is actually an option for you.
So, let’s see what these alternatives are and how you could incorporate aspects of what they can offer into your own projects.
Why You Must Understand What You Need
I feel I need to address something just before I dive into the four alternative options that I see as having the potential to replicate what a table saw has to offer.
Part of the fun of woodworking is actually working around a problem. Sure, it would be great to have every tool out there in order to make your life as easy as possible, but pretty much nobody in the world has that.
I see the key here is to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your project. After that, you can start to work out the best tools that will allow you to reach your end goal, and there will be a number of tools that are capable of doing that.
Too often, I see people being put off even attempting a particular project because they feel they lack a specific tool. Well, the aim here is to show that while things may be made more difficult by missing a tool, it doesn’t have to mean you miss out entirely.
Instead, it’s actually about understanding what different tools are capable of and how to adapt. The four options below are entirely different from a table saw, aside from being able to cut wood, and they are the perfect example of what I mean.
You see, this is all about problem solving, and I hope that by reading this post, you will gain a better understanding of how you can adapt and change your current tools to fit in with your actual needs.
Of course, you can then take these ideas and start to apply them to other projects where you discover you just do not have the same tools you require to complete a project.
Which Alternative Table Saw Option is Best?
If I had to try to choose one option and state which is best, then I could only do so when I took certain factors into consideration, and I’m not talking about the brands either. For me, the key points to think of regarding this would be along the lines of these.
- What size of cuts am I looking at making?
- Is it a straight cut, or do I need to make some angles or curves?
- Will I be making repeat cuts that are identical?
For example, if I was making a series of identical long cuts, then I would go for the track saw. I just feel it provides so much control, and you should also have the ability to complete your cuts in no time at all. The track acts as a fantastic guide, and I’ve seen you can effectively whizz through your project.
But I see it all changing when it comes to smaller cuts. There, you could use a circular saw all on its own, or even a jigsaw would suffice if the wood was not too thick to deal with.
And I see that as the key. You need to look at what your cutting requirements may be and then find the tool that best suits those needs. At least with the four options I’ve given you, it does mean you can chop and change how you approach your project even without a table saw. So, there’s no reason for you to feel as if you have been stopped in your tracks.
But there’s more to this than simply the cut you want to make. I also take these points into consideration when deciding on the right tool for the job.
- Do you really have the space for a table saw in your workshop?
- What budget do you have should you need to buy a new tool?
- How confident do you feel in using these tools?
- Do you require any additional blades or bits to complete the project?
Believe me that there’s just no need to always have a table saw to get things done. Sure, it can produce better results in a shorter period, but people have been making long cuts without table saws for a long time, and it never stopped them. So, why should it stop you?
The first alternative is a circular saw, and it’s the option I would personally go for if I had no access to a table saw. This is mainly due to the cutting action of the circular saw, which closely resembles what you get with a table saw.
Also, the blades used on a circular saw follow the same lines as a table saw but clearly on a smaller scale. I think that’s an important point because it does mean you will get the same sort of feel with a circular saw as you would do with a table saw.
But clearly, it’s not the same.
A circular saw is both more compact and also portable. Also, the way you work it is by effectively moving the saw over the material you are cutting. A table saw works in the opposite way by you moving the material over the saw. However, it still cuts in the same way and with the same type of teeth on the blade.
Even though it works well as an option, you do have a bit of an issue to contend with, and that’s making a straight cut over an extended length. However, the circular saw is not the only tool that’s going to have a problem with this, so it’s not a huge deal, in my opinion.
With a table saw, you can use the fence to help guide you, but that’s not going to happen with a circular saw. Instead, you need to clamp a straight rule to the wood and then use that to help.
This does make a difference, and you can certainly get that straight cut you were wanting, but a straight rule has a limited reach. Basically, you need to keep adjusting it accordingly, and that’s a pain to do.
Also, you will run the risk of not quite getting things identical when you have to keep on readjusting. So, I would seek to reduce the chances of that happening, and I’m going to show you a potential method that could help later on.
The Pros of Using a Circular Saw
- A circular saw does cut similar to a table saw
- The teeth line up the same, so you should achieve similar results
- It’s portable, so moving around to work on projects is easy to do
- It can be inexpensive to purchase, and costs less than a table saw
- Setting up a circular saw is easy
- It’s quick and simple to control when making the cuts
The Cons of Using a Circular Saw
- As the blade is smaller, it does mean it cannot cut the same thickness of wood as a table saw
- There is the risk of cutting messy lines due to this depth issue
- For thicker cuts, you may need to make more than one line, so there’s a need to be very accurate with marking where to cut
A Band Saw
If the circular saw does not sound like something you wish to try, then another option is the band saw, and it too can be effective. However, I admit that not everyone will have access to a band saw. Yet, if you do, then I would certainly not rule out using it.
A band saw is an excellent tool, and it does allow you to produce a number of different cuts from the one machine. In a sense, it does replicate the table saw with that, and yet it also adds a few additional cuts into the mix just to give you even greater versatility.
For example, a band saw allows you to make more intricate or sweeping cuts in the material thanks to the vertical blade and the fact the blade itself is very thin. You just do not get that with a table saw, as the blades are robust and designed to pretty much do one job only.
I appreciate this range of cut options that come with a band saw, and I can see why it could prove to be a useful alternative for certain situations. However, it’s not all plain sailing, and the band saw does come with several issues.
I think the main problem is the way in which the blade is set up on a band saw. I know it makes it easier to produce swirling cuts and so on, but it also hinders you.
The issue is it limits the width of the material you can cut because of where the blade sits. That is annoying, and it’s certainly not the type of tool you can use should you wish to replicate a table saw with a rip capacity of 50”, as it just cannot do that.
Also, I would only ever see this as a replacement if you have a small workshop. That’s because I do see other options as being better than a band saw when looking at replacing a table saw.
The Pros of Using a Band Saw
- A band saw offers you the chance to make a series of cuts
- It has little in the way of limits as to what you can cut
- It comes with strong blades
- Setting up a band saw is quick and easy to do
- You can use a band saw on a variety of wood without a problem
The Cons of Using a Band Saw
- There is an issue regarding the width of wood you can work on
- It does work best with swooping cuts instead of normal cuts
- You may need to adapt your project to have it work with a band saw
- It’s not always the fastest when it comes to making the cuts
A Jig Saw
I love using a jigsaw, and it’s often because I can easily make curved cuts without much difficulty. But even though that’s the main reason why I use it, I still see it as a possible alternative to a table saw in some situations.
I appreciate that a jigsaw is a small tool, so space will never be an issue here. However, it does come with a few minor issues you need to be aware of.
First, the blade on a jigsaw is quite thin. That does mean it can have a tendency to be deflected off the cutting line without too much pressure. Ultimately, if you are attempting to make long straight cuts, then there is a chance that a jigsaw will be incapable of doing this.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but anything in the wood can throw it off your line, even slightly, and you don’t want that to happen. However, if you are going to work on shorter straight cuts, then I don’t see it as being much of a problem.
Also, the thin blade does mean I wouldn’t really use this if I was cutting thicker boards. Thick boards may mean the blade struggles to cut through at any real speed, so it does take longer. At that point, I’d use one of the other options listed here rather than a jigsaw.
But it’s not all bad or difficult with a jigsaw. Actually, it can perform better than you would often expect, considering it does look vastly different from a table saw.
As I said, if you are making short cuts at a set length and thickness, then a jigsaw is perfect. Also, the fact it’s so lightweight and portable does make it easier to move things around, which is something you can hardly do when you are using a band saw.
So while it may not be number one on my list of possible options, it’s still well worth checking out and potentially using at different times. But do stick to using it on thin boards and with shorter cuts since it does reduce the chances of something going wrong in the future.
The Pros of Using a Jigsaw
- A jigsaw makes it easy to carry out short cuts
- You can carry out repeat cuts without a problem
- A jigsaw allows you to speed through a project
- Changing blades is quick and straightforward
The Cons of Using a Jigsaw
- You do have limits regarding the board size you can cut
- A jigsaw blade is flimsy, so it does struggle with tougher woods
- A long cut results in wobbles in the blade, so you get a poor cut
But as long as you keep the cuts short and on thin boards, then I don’t see this as being too big an issue.
A Track Saw
The fourth and final option I’m going to mention is a track saw, and for anybody that doesn’t know, this is a circular saw with a guide rail attached. I love this as an alternative to a table saw, but even this does come with some limitations.
But first, let’s look at the advantages.
As it has rails attached, it does mean you should have no real problem in making a straight cut. After all, the rails are attached to what you are cutting, so they really should not be moving anywhere.
Also, the rails have a non-slip surface which helps them to not move anywhere. In some instances, the clamps may not even be needed as that surface is so good.
But what I also appreciate about a track saw is you can work with different depths, as it’s very easy to adjust. That allows you to work with different materials and maintain absolute control over the cut, so it does work in a similar fashion to the table saw with certain cuts.
I see this as the perfect solution when you need to make a series of longer cuts. Setting up a track saw is quick and easy to do, and there’s a real ability to go ahead and get perfect results every single time.
And then there’s the portability factor as well. It’s so easy to move the track saw around and place it where you need it. As long as you have a workbench, then you can work on more significant cuts as well, at least compared to the likes of a band saw, and that could be a deal-breaker for you.
Finally, there’s the storage aspect. The tracks are easy to remove and take up little space in your workshop. It’s certainly a fantastic option when you have a small workshop.
But as with every option, it does have its disadvantages, but I do see the issues with a track saw as being relatively slight.
For me, the major problem is with making smaller cuts. It’s just not that easy to do, as you cannot really go smaller than the length of the track. Well, you could cut it, but it just comes across as quite cumbersome and awkward, so I would use an alternative method for small cuts.
The Pros of Using a Track Saw
- A track saw makes it very easy to make longer cuts
- The level of accuracy you can achieve with a track saw is amazing
- Setting up a track saw is exceptionally easy to do
- You can quickly complete the job, and with little risk of making a mistake
The Cons of Using a Track Saw
- You will struggle to make short cuts thanks to how a track saw is set up
I’ve offered you four different alternatives to using a table saw, and each one is capable of doing a pretty good job. However, I admit none of them are as good as a table saw.
But look, I know it can be tough to know which tool to use for a particular job, or even which tool to buy. Yet, don’t stress, because I have a number of articles covering each type of tool mentioned above including identifying the best options on the market.
I’ve covered everything from identifying the best circular saws on the market, to advising you on the best wood to work with if you are a beginner, and even how to make accurate cuts with a track saw. I think those posts are a great place to help you get started with working around the issue of a lack of a table saw in your workshop.