When I was first interested in table saws I researched as everyone else would do. I then thought, “I’m excited, but what different types of table saws are there?”
There are two different types of table saws: Portable and Stationary.
I’ll try and be to the point as possible to help you understand the differences. There’s no point getting too technical for now.
If you’ve just landed on this site before reading my table saw guide, be sure to read this first.
So first up, portable types of table saws…
Portable Table Saws
There are three portable saws: benchtop, compact and jobsite table saws.
They’re designed to be portable and moved on the jobsite or home. On average, they approximately weigh 50 lbs and made from steel and aluminum.
Most use direct-drive (blade-driven) motors. They operate on 15-amp, and 120 volts producing approximately 2 hp.
Benchtop saws have been designed with the enthusiast in mind. They’re lightweight in construction and affordable. They’re perfect for the hobbyist and DIYer.
If you’re a first-timer getting into the table saw market, they make the perfect fit.
Are you thinking of making your first spice rack or bookcase?
Get a Benchtop saw. They’re the tailored with you in mind.
They’re made out of lightweight material that includes various composites.
Unlike jobsite models, they don’t come with a stand to move them around in. For the average person, 50 lbs is something you don’t have to worry about.
All come with direct-drive universal motors. They’re not as durable and quiet as the induction motors found on cabinet saws. But offer good power for their size.
They offer an adequate but limited rip capacity for most tasks you throw at them. Cutting pine or similar materials is fine. But don’t expect to be cutting through large stock.
The rip fence and bench space are shorter on these models, which can make it hard for a precise cut when ripping. Making a crosscut with a miter may prove difficult due to the limited space.
You may find yourself frustrated with this once you become more accustomed to the unit.
As I said, if you’re a first-timer, they’re great to get started with. You can later progress to the bigger models when you feel confident.
Compact table saws are larger than benchtop saws. The key difference is they come with a stand to allow for stability when making a rip cut.
Compact saws are in fact like some contractor models. Though they provide a smaller table surface area in comparison. Their rip capacity doesn’t compare to the contractor models either.
They’re still aimed at the enthusiast, but also the local tradesman due to their sturdy build. With a universal motor and cast iron table tops, they’re built to last.
A few models do feature sliding miter tables with a built-in sled to assist with angle cuts.
Jobsite saws are sometimes known as a “contractor” saw. They’re targeted at the tradesman where they demand durability and stability. They feature rolling stands on site for added mobility.
They’re now one of the most popular categories of a table saw on the market today. And they offer solid construction and great power to weight ratio. They make an excellent choice for the local carpenter or tradesman. This doesn’t mean the local DIYer can’t get one though.
The internal components are of greater quality for heavy-duty use. The motor also generates the extra grunt required to cut materials on site. They produce cleaner cuts with a greater rip capacity (24”) than benchtop models and provide the option to extend the table.
Adding accessories like a longer rip fence and table increase efficiency on the job site. Other components such as riving knives, onboard storage, push sticks, and dust collection ports come standard.
It’s quite often their mistaken for being actual contractor saws. This is because many contractors use them.
This is incorrect.
It’s a term that’s accepted across the industry though. A jobsite saw is now synonymous with the contractor saw category.
For this reason, I’ve placed the jobsite and contractor saws under the same category. This will make it easier for the beginner to navigate around the site.
Reality is, the true contractor saw models are a lot more rugged in construction.
Stationary Table Saws
There are three stationary saw types: contractor, hybrid, and cabinet table saws.
As the name indicates, they’re not what you’d call portable saws as they’re much heavier in comparison.
Heavy did you say?
Yep, cabinet saws can weigh more than 600 lbs.
I’m not too sure you’d want to try and move that often now would you. They do have the option for someone to move them on a mobile base if required.
They’re not heavy for the sake of it. They’re a lot more accurate than the portable models. And they’re powerful to rip through large sheets of material.
Most are built out of cast iron. Simple reason. Stability and durability.
The options to add to these saws include an extendable rip fence, router, and outfeed tables to name a couple.
Table space varies with some in the 24” x 30” range. Again this depends on model and make.
First I’ll discuss the contentious Contractor Saw category.
In recent years the contractor saw, also known as open-stand, is often confused with jobsite models – as I’ve noted above.
True contractor saws though are heavier and larger in size. They were intended to be a cut-down version of the cabinet saw. And they were the go-to saw for the everyday professional.
Hobbyists used them as well until the jobsite models became more popular. In recent years, they’ve become heavier and can weigh up to 300 lbs.
Would you class this as portable?
I’m not so sure.
Unlike jobsite models, they feature an induction motor. Although some direct-drive models do exist. The induction is quieter than the universal motor and uses one or two belts to drive the blade.
The motor is positioned on a hinge to the rear of the saw and produce approximately 1 to 2 hp (750 to 1500 W). This is more than enough power to start cutting through larger materials. Dust collection can be troublesome at the best of times with these models.
Although they were originally designed with portability in mind, they’re still bulky. Wheels on the stand are commonplace to so they can be used on a job site.
As new portable table saws entered the market, the contractor saw became a stationary saw.
They’re a lot cheaper than their cabinet saw counterparts, but offer great power to cost ratio.
Hybrid table saws are a mix between the contractor and cabinet models available. And compete with the high-end contractor models.
The hybrid saw offers a similar motor size to a contractor model. And they’re paired with a cabinet stand and internal motor mount. The key difference is in the trunnion design.
The trunnion assembly is the use of upper and lower supports.
The hybrid saw assembly mounts from the bottom of the table. Whereas the cabinet saw is supported by the top of the cabinet, which is easier to adjust.
The hybrid has an inboard belt-driven motor. Whereas the contractor saw provides a hinged outboard motor. This provides clear and distinct differences between both models.
Most come in a full enclosure with some in an open-leg design. A full enclosure will definitely improve dust collection. Dust collection is something you should resolve if you’re in a closed environment.
The hybrid provides a 1.5 to 2 hp (1100 to 1500 W) and runs on a standard 15/ 20 amp 120 volt US circuit.
They also offer many accessory options. Example, a sliding table for accurate cross-cutting.
Cabinet table saws…they’re every woodworker’s dream machine.
They’re my favorite too.
They’re found in most professional workshops and factories. Hobbyists are known to have them but use instead single-phase models. It’s overkill for the enthusiast to run a three-phase machine.
Cabinet saws are built to be the best and offer solid construction. Built from cast iron and steel, they’re durable and robust and capable of high duty-cycles. They’re made to last.
There is an absence of vibration on cabinet saws. This is a common complaint among cheaper models. They also provide much-improved accuracy when making a standard rip or compound cut.
All models are built with an enclosed cabinet for superior dust collection.
Their induction, belt-drive motors are powerful. They run belts in parallel to produce 3 to 5 hp (2.24 to 3.73 kW), single-phase.
At industrial sites, it’s not uncommon to see motors produce 5 to 7.5 hp (3.73 to 5.22 kW), three-phase. This requires hard-wired, and 240 volt dedicated circuit.
There are many options to upgrade cabinet saw. This includes Extension tables, replaceable inserts (zero-clearance cuts), rip fence adjustments. You name it, the option is there.
Rip capacity is greatly increased with these models as well. They can allow up to 50” for sheet goods. Excellent for cutting large stock.
You can throw anything at these saws. Be it pine, hardwood, plywood
The only drawback to the cabinet saw is their size. They can weigh up to 600 lbs! Not what I call portable, but can be moved on a mobile base.
Components like the motor, rip fence, and miter gauge is more accurate and precise. Especially when you compare them to other table saw models.
If you want the best, get a cabinet saw. Period.
There you have it. The differences between portable and stationary table saws.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
Has this helped you understand the differences?
Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.
Don’t forget to read the rest of my guide here on the table saw.