Table Saw vs. Circular Saw

Updated
Categories Saws
Time to choose again: table saw or circular saw? 

If we’re being honest, there is nothing a table saw can do that a circular saw cannot do. There, we said it. But there are differences. Plus, it would make this article pretty short if that was the be all and end all.

We examine what the difference is between a table saw vs. a circular saw and show you why and when you should use one.

Table Saw vs Circular Saw

Circular saws are mobile, unlike table saws. You can transport them to the job site. Table saws offer a table to support the material and allow for stability when cutting. Circular saws do not have this facility. Both table saws and circular saws suffer kickback, but table saws are more dangerous to use.


Quick Comparison Chart

FeaturesTable sawCircular saw
AccuracyAccurate every timeRequires a degree of skill and a steady hand
PortabilityLess portable and better left in situGo-anywhere tool. Extremely portable
PriceMore expensiveAffordable
Skill levelBeginner and aboveSome skill required
Ease of useRequires set upRequires set up
LifespanIf maintained, lasts a lifetimeReasonable lifespan
MaterialMainly woodWood, concrete, brick, metal, plastic, tile
CutsRip, cross, miter, dado, Square cutsRip, cross, miter, square, dado,
Best forBulk jobs that require precision and speed.On-site jobs that require general sawing.

What Is a Table Saw?

Photo by: Dewalt

A table saw is also called a saw bench. It is a circular saw blade mounted on an arbor that protrudes through a slot in a table. They are used for making crosscuts, angled cuts, and rip cuts.

A table saw is different from a circular saw because the table saw blade is fixed in position, and the stock gets maneuvered towards the cutting edge. Table saws have a miter gauge to help you make accurate angled and cross cuts. They also have a rip fence that keeps the workpiece in place as you cut the wood with the grain along the length.

The reason table saws are so popular is that within reason, there is no wood cutting task this saw cannot handle. That doesn’t mean specialty tools can’t do a better job. But a table saw will still deliver a high-quality result across a wide spectrum of uses.

Nonetheless, table saws are not good at cutting different materials and mostly cater to cutting wood. They are also less maneuverable, especially the cabinet style saws, because they are so heavy. You can buy portable versions, but that greatly reduces your cutting capacity.

Why Do You Need a Table Saw?

A table saw is the workhorse of any woodshop. They are excellent tools for bulk lumber sawing. So, if you are working on-site, a jobsite table saw will speed up any wood-cutting projects. To put it succinctly, if you are working in wood, you need a table saw in your life.

This tool is the most versatile of all the wood cutting machines that you will own. It makes rip cuts, miter cuts, cross cuts, dado cuts, rabbet cuts, square cuts. It can even be used for applying basic shapes to the edges of wood stock.

Table saws are better for larger projects that require precision and accuracy but deliver them both with speed.

PROS:
  • Makes rip cuts.
  • Speeds up work rate.
  • Versatile.
  • Accurate.
  • Easy to master for general use.
  • Great beginner woodworking tool.
CONS:
  • Harder to transport.
  • Less compact.
  • Requires a degree of skill to make complex cuts.
  • Dangerous to use.
  • Kickback.
  • Expensive compared to circular saws.

What Is a Circular Saw?

Photo by: Dewalt

A circular saw is a hand-held power tool used for making rip cuts, cross cuts, and miter cuts. They are light, versatile, and easy to transport to the worksite. Circular saws can be adapted to cut other materials instead of wood. All they require is a specialty blade.

Unlike table saws where the blade is in a fixed position, circular saws operate by passing the cutting blade across the surface of the stock. This means that they have a limitless reach and can cut any size or length of workpiece.

Circular saws require a degree of skill and a steady hand when making long straight cuts. It is easier to make a mistake with a circular saw because they are not fixed in place. As a result, they cannot replicate the same cuts time after time without the need for adjustments.

Why Do You Need a Circular Saw?

Do you want a versatile cutting tool that is lightweight, easy to transport, and above all, not restricted to working in one place? You can take a circular saw to the job with almost no fuss.

They also adapt well to different work materials. So, you can get your circular saw to slice through wood, plastic, metal, concrete, tile, and brick. A table saw deals primarily with cutting wood.

While the table saw is the workhorse of the woodshop, a circular saw is the go-to saw buddy of the general construction worker. So, while the versatility of the table saw is in no doubt when it comes to cutting wood, the adaptability of the circular saw reigns when it comes to cutting a variety of different materials.

PROS:
  • Lightweight.
  • Versatile.
  • Easy to transport.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Cuts multiple materials.
  • Requires less set up.
  • Better for smaller jobs.
  • Better at making smaller cuts.
CONS:
  • More difficult to master.
  • Harder to make straight cuts.
  • May need a jig.
  • Slower at bulk sawing.

Table Saw vs. Circular Saw

So, to recap on the differences, you move the stock towards a table saw because of the fixed blade. They are better for bulk cutting and speed up larger jobs. They are accurate, especially when you repeatedly need to make precision cuts without constant resetting. Essentially, they are the workhorse of any woodshop.

Circular saws are more versatile when cutting different types of material. They are at home slicing through concrete brick, plastic, wood, and metal. Circular saws are lighter, easier to transport, and have no limits to the size and width of material you are cutting. They make rip cuts, cross cuts, miter cuts — in fact, every type of cut you can imagine.

Circular saws are the best friend of professionals for general sawing and construction work. You can think of them as the go-to cutting tool on job sites.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use a Circular Saw as a Table Saw?

There are many examples of people converting a circular saw into a table saw. So, it is possible to use a circular saw as a table saw. However, that doesn’t mean you should. Only attempt this if you are experienced with these types of tools and know what you are doing.

Converting a circular saw into a table saw involves removing the shoe, the adjustment mechanisms, and the blade guard. These are all crucial elements for safety, and you run the obvious risk of making a mistake and causing serious injury.

Our advice is if you want a table saw, invest in a table saw. If you want a circular saw, buy one. Use both saws as individual power tools and play each to their strengths.

Is a Circular Saw Safer Than a Table Saw?

Circular saws are much safer than table saws. The blade on a table saw protrudes upwards, exposed through the table. The nature of how a table saw works means that the stock gets pushed towards the blade. This increases the chances of kickback, loss of balance, and any number of dangerous outcomes.

Working this way is inherently more risky than using a circular saw. With a circular saw, you grip above the blade with a handle, so your hand never comes near the cutting edge. If a kickback happens, the stock is below the saw, and your hands and face are nowhere near the workpiece.


We’ve Come Full Circle

So table saw vs. circular saw? Which you prefer comes down to personal preference. If you find yourself mainly working on projects involving wood and in a fixed location, a table saw would be a better investment.

But are you always on-site or working in different locations? If you need a versatile cutting tool that can slice through most material, a circular saw is a better choice.

Or maybe you can have both. In the end, it comes down to, not which is better, but rather, which is better for the job at hand.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
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