Table Saw Vs. Circular Saw: What Tool Do I Prefer And When?

Table saw and circular saw are among the most common power tools and have various ranges and uses that make them useful for woodworkers like you. Let’s look at both options to give you an insight into which choice is the best for your needs. I’ll weigh the pros and cons of each to provide you with a complete understanding.

Table Saw Vs. Circular Saw: Which Should You Buy?

Buy a table saw if you want straight and accurate crosscuts and rip cuts for professional-level cutting. If you need to cut multiple boards or sheets simultaneously, you can’t do better than a table saw. And purchase a circular saw to get a portable and valuable on-site saw that nearly matches the table saw for power. 

table saw vs circular saw

Pros and Cons of a Table Saw

When deciding the table saw vs circular saw debate, you must weigh the pros and cons of each tool. As in most of these debates, each option will have advantages and drawbacks in specific circumstances. Just a few of the most common positives of a table saw include a/an:

  • Perfect design for accurate rip-cuts and crosscutting 
  • Easy to understand design most should understand
  • Surprisingly long lifespan with maintenance
  • Variety of different adjustment options for easier use

While I do love my table saw, it’s important to highlight a few concerns that may draw some people away from them. Just a few downsides of this saw include a/an:

  • Lack of easy transportation capability due to its size and bulk 
  • Large floor size in your work area 
  • Potentially dangerous work style
  • Surprisingly significant financial investment

You’ll also be disappointed if you want to cut metal or masonry sheets, as table saws are rarely adaptable with them. Some higher-powered options may let you swap in a metal- or stone-cutting blade. However, this option is relatively rare.

Pros and Cons of a Circular Saw 

In the table saw vs circular saw debate, their pros and cons wouldn’t be any different. Understand each to find the best option for your needs. The best circular saw:

  • Can cut a wide range of materials with the right blade 
  • Provides incredibly portable cutting
  • Uses many safety protection guards 
  • Costs surprisingly little compared to other options

These benefits are balanced by a few downsides that you must consider before purchasing one of these tools: A typical circular saw:

  • May be hard for some to master 
  • Does not last as long as a table saw 
  • Lacks the power for some stacked cuts 
  • Could lack accuracy for some users

When it comes to a circular saw, you have to know what you’re getting when you buy one. You won’t get the most powerful saw on the market but will have a portable and reasonably accurate option that should fit most tool budgets.

Typical Table Saw Uses

If you need rip cuts for any job, the table saw should be your number one choice. Rip cuts go against the grain of the wood, which often causes the material to “rip” as a result. Most saws can’t handle these types of cuts, particularly on multiple boards at the same time. However, a table saw is designed to have the power, strength, and capability of handling these types of cuts. 

In this way, they’re perfect for wide sheets of material that would likely get damaged or ripped by other tools in your kit. For example, I love using my table saw on plywood and particle board, two wood types that easily rip under other types of saws. I’ve also found that table saws work beautifully for hardwood and softwood, making them a very diverse saw for many situations. 

As a result, I typically suggest a table saw for bulk cutting needs and those situations in which you need to produce a lot of material very quickly. They usually provide the most accurate and high-quality cuts without a lot of extra work or adjustment. So if speed and efficiency are essential for your jobs (and what gig doesn’t need both?), a table saw is going to be one of your best friends.

Typical Uses of a Circular Saw 

Circular saws are best for when you’re on the job and don’t want to haul many tools with you. I often take my circular saw with me for quick gigs that don’t require many angled or intricate cuts. A circular saw is usually not suitable for tight angles, though you may be able to get some long and sloping curves by carefully moving the material. However, this will require a lot of stability and precision. 

However, you may find a circular saw more valuable than your table saw even when working at home. For example, if you need to make a quick cut that isn’t incredibly accurate, you can use a circular saw much more quickly. In some ways, they’re the backbone of many carpentry projects. Of course, you may need to do a little sanding on the edges after each cut, but you’ll get quick and reasonably accurate cuts. 

And unlike table saws, you can swap out your wood blade to put in one for masonry, metal, or concrete. I’ve found they’re great for cutting joints in concrete driveways, as they’re quick and powerful. These joints don’t need a lot of precision most of the time, so a circular saw is often an excellent option for those who occasionally do concrete or masonry work. 

Examining Your Table Saw 

When debating a table saw vs circular saw, it is wise to look at what each tool type has to offer you. And you must also understand the overall design and power of each tool. For instance, a good table saw is precisely what its name implied: a saw that comes out from a table. I compare these to a good miter saw but find that a table saw has a far broader range of uses (which I’ll discuss later). 

You’ve probably seen a table saw in your shop class in high school or have even used one before when making a broad range of cuts. They’re mighty when it comes to making straight cuts but can do some miter angles. However, their specialty is cutting powerful straight lines quickly by using the fence as a simple guide that helps to make it easier to guide the blade as you cut. 

This steady cutting allows you to produce some pretty excellent cuts without a lot of work. I particularly love taking a small and portable table saw with me for any type of framing work. This saw’s accuracy and speed give me boards the exact length I want with a minimum of fraying or breakage along the edges. As a result, they’re often of a higher quality than cuts with other types of saws. 

And I quite enjoy using a table saw for cutting thick sheets or layers of boards. For example, if you need to cut several boards to a specific length and width, a table saw has the power to cut through them. You can even adjust the height of the blade to create a stronger cut. This height adjustment is easy to handle by turning the simple adjustment knob to produce the cuts you want. 

Table Saw Safety and Ease of Use 

You should be reasonably safe when using a table saw. Most models I’ve tested have an automatic shutoff if you experience any binding or snags while cutting wood. In this way, you won’t destroy your wood or your table and get the accurate cuts you want. However, some people may be uncomfortable using a table saw because they usually lack a handguard that shuts the machine off if you get too close.

This lack is understandable given the design of the table saw. Such a guard would likely get in the way of your materials and make use impossible. Honestly, a table saw is designed for professional carpenters who understand proper safety techniques. As long as you use guide material, correctly line the board up with the fencing, and keep your hands away from the blades, you will be safe with this tool. 

As for its ease of use, I think most people should find a table saw simple to understand. It has an on/off switch, a few minor options for adjusting the miter angle, and blade-height controls. Some amateurs or beginners might have a hard time knowing what settings are suitable for their cuts. However, that’s not the fault of the saw. 

Table Saw Power

A standard table saw usually has at least 15 amps of power. I find that this range is more than enough for my carpentry gigs. While you won’t be cutting metal or masonry with this tool most of the time, any woodworking should be pretty easy to handle with minimum difficulty. 

I particularly like this power range because I think it’s suitable for beginners and advanced carpenters alike. It shouldn’t overwhelm you if you’re new to carpentry, and ensure that you have enough to handle most gigs as a professional.

Understanding Your Circular Saw

A circular saw is probably what you think of when someone says “power saw.” These handheld tools have a circular blade contained within a very compact structure. This portability makes this option very useful for many carpenters. Rather than having to haul many tools to each gig, you can instead bring a circular saw to produce a majority of your cuts. 

The overall design includes a power source that includes either a charged battery or an electrical cord. Both provide a consistent level of power but, as you’d imagine, the battery-operated options are more portable. I like bringing this type of cord-free saw with me to just about any gig. Few other saws provide the kind of quick and adaptable cutting option as a circular saw. 

While you will need to cut on sawhorses to get accurate and detailed cuts, you should have minimal difficulties understanding the circular saw. Just place the saw blade at the edge of the wood along your line, pull the trigger, and push it to cut the wood. You’ll need to use a bit more muscle power to cut with this saw, though, so be prepared for that potential difficulty when cutting. 

And a good circular saw is usually pretty good at rip cuts and crosscuts. While I don’t think they’re as good as table saws for this type of cut (which I’ll discuss in more depth below), they can be used when no table saw is available. And I usually wouldn’t suggest a table saw for multiple boards or sheets. They’re best used on a single piece of material to minimize potential complications. 

Circular Saw Safety and Ease of Use 

You’ll notice right away that your circular saw feels safer than a table saw. That extra safety centers around the blade guard included on each circular saw. These guards cover the top of the blade and minimize the available cutting surface. They also have a stop guard that turns the saw off when hit. 

That said, a circular saw can be a little trickier to master than a table saw. They require you to have a pretty steady hand to make solid and accurate cuts. You have no guide, like with a table saw, and are more likely to make errors. On the other hand, skilled carpenters can use a circular saw to make straight and accurate cuts.

Circular Saw Power 

You’re not going to get the same power level from a circular saw that you would from a table saw. That said, they aren’t far behind. I’ve found models with a power output of around 10 amps. Yes, that is a downgrade from a table saw, but it should be more than enough for most on-the-spot gigs. I find few portable saws have the same kind of adaptability and power combination. 

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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