Can you give us some more details? How much can you afford? What kind of projects do you have in mind? How much space do you have?
There are excellent reviews of tools available from various sources on the internet -- Fine Woodworking and Wood Central come to mind first.
If you are just starting out, perhaps you need to consider other tools first. A table saw is the #1 most dangerous tool in the shop, so it is not recommended for beginners. A table saw is really not a Required Tool.
I disagree with you. A table saw is the heart of any woodworking shop. Sure, it's the most dangerous, which is why she should take some classes at the local highschool.
I manufacture 100% Custom Furntiture for a living and have been doing this for 15 years/4years of that as a business owner.
If you learn how to use a table saw, there are many other uses for it, other than cutting wood parts such as cabinets. You can make moldings and believe it or not; you can cut a perfect circle too.
For a beginner, I would stick with a table saw that can run off of 110; in other words, your normal outlet in the home.
I would recommend you get a saw that tilts to the left "away from the fence". Less likely to have kick backs when doing miter cuts.
I have a powermatic 66 which is a lot more powerful than you should be using at this point in time, but they do have less powerful table saws.
In the professional industry we use either powermatic or delta.
Jet is ok too.
For a table saw that will last you a very long time, expect to pay around $1,300.00
Make sure it has a cast iron top.
When purchasing a table saw, it's not always the quality of the saw, rather it's the quality of the fence. You can have the best, highest quality table saw, but without an accurate fence, the table saw means nothing.
I needed a new table saw last year and I was on a limited budget. After working in a cabinet shop I was spoiled by the sliding table that the cabinet saws have. I bought a Ryobi BT3100 at HD which is one of the few (if only) small saw with a sliding crosscut sled. The cost with is about $300.00. For the price it is a great saw. The option of having the sliding miter table for crosscuts has been very valuable too. The fence is very accurate and this saw is a great one for a beginner and well worth the small price.
If you have questions about that saw in particular, there is a forum for BT3100 users at Ryobi tool site.
I'm what you call an advanced novice. So I'm speaking from my experience, not out of any intimate table saw understanding. I started out with a cheapy Skill and replaced it last year with a Delta 36-650 which I've been upgrading over the months. Since I work out of my garage, a contractor with 50" fence or cabinet model was out of the question. Plus starting out, you're crazy if you don't consider whether this is going to be a fad hobby or something you really want to do. If it turns out you don't like sawdust, dropping $1,000+ is a bit pricey. On the other side, buying a bunch of cheap tools you "grow out of" can also get expensive.
When I got started, I didn't have any notions what I wanted to build. I figured the first year, most of the stuff I turned out would become landfill or eventually so after learning enough go back to "do it right, this time". This concept turned out wiser than I could imagine. I may be a novice woodworker, but I'm an expert firewood technician. The absolute hardest thing to learn (for me anyway) is to slow down and think things through completely. I'd set my fence to the proper size and have myself a fun ol' blast ripping a dozen boards down to size. Then after sanding, jointing or other some such, only then I'd find out I'd be 1/8th too short. Self recriminations, growing scrap pile, start over. If I knew what I know now, I'd avoid any projects, say, over a foot in length. The first saw I'd buy would be a japanese style pull hand saw. They are super easy to use and very accurate. Then I'd plunk down the rest of the cash burning a hole in my pocket on really good measuring tools (a la Incra), a good set of chisels, and if you can bear spending $100+ on a teeny lump of metal, some good hand planes. The trick is to learn accuracy first. Power tools aren't any more accurate. They just allow you to learn bigger mi$takes much faster.
If you just HAVE to have a power saw (like I did) consider:
Table top saw PROs:
- Cheap to buy
- If you accidently scratch, cut, dent the table top, you won't cry...a lot.
- They don't take up much room
- The guide fences stink. Not very accurate (Note: 1/16th off is STILL either a lot of sanding or the scrap pile). They move out of parallel with the blade easy and which can cause the blade to bind and send your wood to go flying.
- The arbor and motor are one piece, they have lots of vibration. Also, the motor will burn out in a couple years.
- The supplied blades are beyond hideous. You'll have to buy a decent(safe) blade.
- Since the top is small, your hands will be closer to the blade. "HEY lefty!" If you know what I mean.
- Cutting anything over a 1/4 sheet of plywood is asking for an emergency room visit.
Contractor Saw PROs:
- After spending for a decent blade, anti-vibration shims, a miter guage that actually gets within 10 degrees of target, a table top saw winds up costing about as much as a low end contractor saw.
- The table on a contractor saw seems the size of Texas in comparison.
- It runs so much smoother.
- It will last longer than you will.
- Miter guages, jigs, inserts, are pretty much universal for contractor saws. Table top saws use all different sizes.
- Higher initial price.
- You WILL cry when you scratch the top (and it don't matter your gender either...trust me).
- These guys are too heavy to move around. You'll need a special roller setup if you need to.
- Steel top = rust or on going maintenance and waxing.
- These guys lead to needing other stuff like zero-clearance inserts, dust collection, tenoning jigs,....$$$$ ad nauseum.
In short, I'd put off the urge until you just can't stands it no more. Personally, I'd stick with the brand names: Delta, Jet / Powermatic, Dewalt....mmmmmaybe Rigid. If your desperate, and the only thing within a 1,000 miles is a Sears, eeeeehhhhhrgh ... Craftsman. Can't say anything good or bad about the mail
pjo, after 35 years of trying to learn how wood fits together my suggestion to you is going to not to go looking for a table saw to start out with. While I agree with ?Bldr? that a table saw is the hart of a modern woodworking shop, you hardly have a modern woodworking shop. There for I would recommend a good quality circular saw such as the Porter Cable 345PC 6 inch Saw Boss, it will cut a 2x4 and plywood, it?s a contractor?s grade saw so it will last as long as you do, and with a strait edge and 2 "c" clamps you can cut any thing. I use one to cut down 4x8 sheets before taking them to my cabinet saw. With the extra money buy some lay out tools, a good smoothing plane, block plane, and some good chisels with sharpening stones along with the books that you are going to need.
I question one thing. What if your straight edge isn't straight?
Just like a square isn't always square.
I went to home depot one day to buy a new framing square. Much to my surprise, I looked at about 8 of them before I found one that was actually square. The straightest edge you will find will be a machinist edge, because those are within thousandths of an inch. I don't even trust a level very often either to be used as a straight edge.
As I mentioned, the table saw is only as good as the fence that it comes with.
My powermatic goes out to 52", but I also have a lot of room and need to have such a saw for a professional set up.
I have a hard time thinking as a DIY person, because I've been in the professional end for so long.
I totally disagree that a table saw is only as good as the fence it comes with.
I went the secondhand route. For about the same as the new bt3100 mentioned above I got a solid cast iron tabletop craftsman with 12 inch blade capacity. Most are ten but I wanted the twelve because I often do beefy things and wanted the ability to cut a 4 by 4 at a 45 degree angle in one pass. This saw can do it.
For the fence I upgraded to the Shop Fox original fence which is totally awesome. I put it on myself which is why I disagree with the above comment. It cost about as much as I paid for the saw but now I also have 49 inches of width for ripping capacity due to the extended rails.
A lot of people put down the contractors saws, which mine is, and I don't see it. I do wish to reinforce the idea that the fence is very important. The benefit of a TS over a circular saw is mostly one thing -- ACCURACY. So get the most accurate you can find/afford/upgrade to. The reason I love my shop fox fence system is that is the only thing on the market that will stay parallel to the blade (guaranteed to .004 inch) WHILE ROLLING. It doesn't even have to be locked down to be accurate. That makes measuring great because it never moves when being locked and many fences do.
Also, if you can afford the 220v motor, go with it. And if you have some electrical setup for it or can afford it. It is worth it.
I hear grizzly.com has some good solid saws out there with almost any option available you want.
Ultimately the tool has to reflect what YOU want to do with it, though. So kind of sit back and imagine all the projects which you might want to do and then consider what things you need and what you don't need to get that done. Do you need a large rip capacity for sheet goods or not? Do you need a 5hp motor or will you mostly be cutting inch thick stock? If you don't plan to be mitering 4 by 4s a standard ten inch blade table saw will suit you fine. Don't settle on anything without a cast iron top and get at least 2 hp. Think of a tablesaw as a long term investment.
I have the Jet contractor-style saw and have been using that for a few years now. It cost around$ 500 but is a good solid saw. I have a review of it at the link below with photos.
Recently I have gotten the Ryobi BT3100 (for review) which costs $300 (at Home Depot no less) and have to say that this is a very good saw for the money. It has lots of capabilities, a modular layout that really lets you extend what you can do on it and it is very accurate. It also has a dust extraction system that will work with a good-sized shop-vac and should shame the "big boys".
The review on this saw won't be ready for a week or two, but I have been thrashing it and have yet to find something bad about it.
You might cruise through BtCentral, a forum largely populated by BT3100 users for a bunch of good info on this saw. http://www.bt3central.com/forum/default.asp
I would strongly advise you to first get a video/dvd by Kelly Mehler called "Mastering Your Table Saw" before buying anything. In it he shows how to tune and safely use a table saw, the parts and what they do, how to tune a fence and add table area to a contractor type saw. In short, how you start with a cheap used saw and build a fine performer around it. Then he shows how to build jigs and sleds to make various types of cuts safely and reliably. Even if you want to go with a higher end start, this video will be valuable in maintaining the saw, building jigs, and operating it safely.