The table saw is the original power tool, created for cutting rip parallel to a woodworker’s lengthwise grain. The circular saw is a newer tool optimized for ripping plywood and sheet materials on the cross-grain.
So which one should you choose?
Is there such thing as an “ultimate” woodworking power tool?
Let’s find out!
Table Saw VS Circular Saw
There are many factors involved in answering the overall question as to which one is better; the most obvious being it depends.
On what do you want to use each one for? Do you need cross-cutting performance, or can you work around using a nice table saw? Is mobility an issue, and is it worth it to have a portable circular saw? Do you have limited space or storage area for larger tools?
We’ll cover all these factors in this article.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Overview
First of all, let’s look at the tools themselves.
A table saw is basically a chisel that moves on tracks, and this allows for very accurate cutting. It also has a blade guard and splitter that can be raised or lowered, which is critical for several cuts, but it does take longer to raise and lower these features. Table saws are made in various sizes from benchtop up to big-boy cabinet shop models, all of which fit in a table or cabinet. Many DIYers have woodshop chops and make their own cabinets for many tools such as this.
The circular saw on the other hand is an evolution of the jigsaw; it uses an electric motor to spin a thin-kerf blade (usually about 1/8″ thick) in place of a large hand-powered motor carrying a heavy blade. The blade spins sideways, and the electric motor has a clutch that lets you control how fast it spins.
The rotating blade allows for cut lines to be easily seen and marked, and no rip fence is required (with the exception of some table saw accessories sold for ripping). This means you can cut very accurately without a lot of work setting up a fence. It’s also portable enough to carry around a jobsite or in your shop.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Capabilities
Now that we’ve covered the difference between a table saw and circular saw, let’s look at which one is best for each job.
Ripping plywood and narrow-profile sheet goods: The table saw has the advantage here, because it allows you to use a wider blade with little extra work. This cuts right along the grain, which is pretty important when cutting plywood but not so much for thinner sheet goods. Also, if you want to use a 3/8″ – 1″ blade (common for 1×2 lumber), it’s easier to rip on a table saw than on a circular saw. However, you can make a rip fence for a circular saw to rip plywood if need be.
Ripping wider-profile sheet goods: In this case, a circular saw is better. You can cut wider material with the same blade, and it’s incredibly easy to make a rip fence for it. However, when you’re making something wider or thicker than about 2″, or if you’re planning on cutting more than just 1×2 lumber, you’ll almost certainly want to consider using a table saw. The added size and weight of the table saw will make transporting and working with it easier in a variety of situations.
Cross-cutting: Table saws are designed for this and are very good at it. Circular saws, with their open arm design, can be used but require extra care and setup to ensure the cut is accurate.
Making a frame or box: Table saws do this very well, and circular saws don’t have the precision or power for this type of work.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Accuracy
Continuing with the table saw vs circular saw debate, many people think that the table saw is better because it’s easier to make a rip fence for it.
With a table saw, you can make your own rip fence for the circular saw and this will help you make accurate cuts when using wider material. The table saw has more power and is designed specifically to crosscut; so this should be your go-to power tool when making joints or cutting frames and boxes.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Power Requirement
When trying to choose between a table saw and circular saw, you should consider the power requirement. There are different power requirements for a table saw and a circular saw, so you need to make sure exactly what is required by each one.
For example, if you’re cutting 1/4″ material to length with a rip fence, then you must have at least 15 amps. If there’s no rip fence and the material is less than 2 inches wide, then you need at least 12 volts of power. Most people use 14 volts because it’s easy on the battery life. The table saw will run at around 15 amps and the circular saw will run at around 25-30 amps (depending on your battery type).
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Blades
For a table saw blade, it is compromised of materials made for different types of cuts, thus resulting in many versions of table saw blades. This includes a rip blade, dado blade, or thin kerf blade.
A circular saw blade on the other hand is usually made of high-quality steel or carbide, and is not as flexible as a table saw blade when it comes to where it will be used. Often the circular saw blade will be replaced when the teeth become dull from use and is not recommended to be resharpened.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Safety
Safety is very important when buying tools. The circular saw is usually more dangerous than the table saw because they cannot do everything the table saw can. They are both machines, but the table saw is larger and too heavy for some people to move around their houses.
Always stay safe when working with power tools and make sure you know how to use them before trying to work on something that could be very dangerous and could hurt you or someone else.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Maintenance
Maintenance is very important if you are working with any tools. Depending on the type of table saw that you purchase, the maintenance is different.
Circular saws are more expensive to use because they require maintenance too often but are less dangerous than a table saw. The main difference in maintenance between a table saw and a circular saw is that when using a circular saw, there is no physical tear in the wood.
A table saw will have cuts between pieces and can tear the wood, so that’s why it needs to be maintained more often than a circular saw.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw Price
The price depends on how often you use a table saw and how much you are willing to pay for it. The best table saws are more expensive, but when you’re working with a table saw, you’re using it more often and it will become worn down if not maintained properly.
The table saw will be used less in your house but is very important to have because of its versatility. A circular saw is usually used for start-up projects or remodels and not maintenance work, but some people use them just to be able to save time.
Circular Saws are costing significantly cheaper than table saws and are often a common tool for home workshops and home garages.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw for Small Jobs
First, let’s cover the basics. Table saws are basically a fixed circular saw on a table and this allows for very accurate cutting. They have blade guards and splitters that can be raised or lowered, which is critical for several cuts but it does take longer to raise and lower these features. Table saws are made in various sizes from benchtop up to big-boy cabinet shop models, all of which fit in a table or cabinet. Many DIYers have woodshop chops and make their own cabinets for many tools such as this.
Circular saws on the other hand are an evolution of the jigsaw; they use an electric motor to spin a thin-kerf blade (usually about 1/8″ thick) in a circle on a short tube. The blade is about 11″ in diameter for most models and has both a plunge-cut depth-adjustment lever, and a rip fence with a scale. If the model you are considering has bevel capabilities, there is also an adjustment lever for that too. Most of the newer saws come with one pivot point to control both bevel and tilt functions.
With all the features said, overall, a circular saw is best for small jobs. It is portable and small enough for maneuverability, and powerful enough to tackle smaller projects of woodworking.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw for
Corner Cabinet Cut
Table saws are the best for cutting corners like a corner cabinet cut. The other way to get a good angle cut is to use the jigsaw, but this is difficult because it’s an awkward maneuver that takes practice.
The table saw will automatically bevel, and then you can continue making your cuts through the second or third side of the frame you’re cutting to make it look more professional.
If you’re going with a circular saw, then you’ll need a lot of clamps and double-sided tape to hold your pieces in place while you cut them all at angles. If they all move during this stage, there’s nothing stopping them from moving again after you’ve put on your finish coat over them- which would look awful!
Table Saw VS Circular Saw for Ripping
Circular saws are good for making wide sheet goods that you can cut either with a rip fence or without a rip fence.
With a circular saw, you can use the same blade it comes with and an external fence, which is accurate enough and easy to set. However, when you’re making something wider or thicker than about 4″, or if you’re planning on cutting more than just 2×2 lumber, you’ll almost certainly want to consider using a table saw because of the blade size. The added size and weight of the table saw will make transporting and working with it easier in a variety of situations.
It is important to remember, however, that the circular saw is certainly more versatile than the table saw. However, the table saw can rip a larger sheet of plywood in less time than a circular saw.
To note, one of the better comparisons for ripping is the table saw vs panel saw. As both have features dedicated to straight ripping.
Table Saw VS Circular Saw for Notches
Table saws are specifically designed for notching and cutting dadoes. Sometimes if you’re using a circular saw to notch, you’ll have to cut the groove with your hand tools. However, a table saw will be able to do this faster.
A table saw also has compatibility with thin kerf blades, purposely designed for very intricate cutting which is exactly needed in cutting notches on wood.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is a miter saw for small jobs?
Yes, a miter saw is great for smaller projects.
Is a track saw for small jobs?
Yes, a track saw is great for smaller projects.
Is a band saw for small jobs?
Yes, a band saw is great for smaller projects.
Is a radial arm saw for small jobs?
No, a radial arm saw is not for smaller projects.
Do I need worm drive table saw?
It depends on the level of projects you’re working on. A worm drive table saw is the newest technology when it comes to power for a table saw. Most often, these are powerful for professionals however not much of use for hobbyists.
Table Saw vs Circular Saw
This ends our Comparison Guide of Table Saw vs Circular Saw.
If you want to know the other contender that can match a table saw for all its features, you should learn more about the table saw vs radial arm saw. This comparison will give you a hand by hand overview for which power saw is best for all kinds of cuts.
We hope the knowledge you gained here will help you in the future with your DIY or Professional Woodworking projects. We want you to be sure of that what you get from us are 100% facts, so please don’t hesitate to ask for advice or to advise us in return with accurate facts.
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Henry is a long time Trade Instructor at Dunwoody College of Technology. Henry has been teaching the trade of carpentry for over 15 years and is excited to share his knowledge with the next generation of builders. With his posts you will explore some general terms, tools, and techniques that are helpful for the beginning DIY Enthusiast!. He’ll also provide a list of all the best tips needed to start your building journey right away!