If you’re planning a carpentry project in the near future, you might be wondering which tools are right for the job. Depending on the scope and nature of your project, you may be considering investing in either a circular saw or a table saw.
Or maybe you have one but are mulling over buying the other.
It’s natural to be a little bit confused or uncertain when choosing between a table saw vs circular saw if you don’t have a lot of carpentry experience.
You may not know exactly what the difference is between the two, or when one is better suited for a particular project.
Fortunately, we’ll be able to fill you in on which tool is right for the job depending on your circumstances.
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Difference Between Circular Saw and Table Saw
Getting down to the basics, a circular saw is a portable, handheld saw while a table saw is a saw mounted within a table.
Technically speaking, a table saw is a circular saw. Handheld circular saws, table saws and miter saws all use a round saw blade which rotates circularly around and arbor.
The only difference between those types of saws is how the circular saw is mounted within the rest of the tool.
In common discussion, the term ‘circular saw’ only refers to the handheld portable version, while table saw would refer to a circular saw which is mounted in a fixed position within a bench, table or other structure.
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Pros and Cons of a Table Saw vs Circular Saw
Now that you understand the structural difference between a circular saw and a table saw, it’s time to get down to the most important topic – when and why would you want to use one instead of the other? The answer to this question comes down to the strengths and weaknesses inherent to each type of saw.
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Advantages of a Circular Saw
The advantage to a circular saw is its portability. Circular saws tend to weigh around 10 to 15 pounds, making them easy to transport to a remote project site if needed.
Table saws, by contrast, are a large and difficult-to-move tool, meaning that you’ll need to bring whatever you’re sawing to the table saw rather than the other way around.
If you know that your project is going to require that you work away from your home workshop or that the wood you’ll be sawing can’t be easily brought to a table saw, a circular saw is likely the way to go.
Another advantage a circular saw offers is its price. Circular saws tend to be less expensive than table saws, with the least expensive models costing around 40 while “nicer models” can run into the 200 range. Table saws tend to start at around 500 and can run over 1,000 bucks for premium models.
If you’re new to woodworking or don’t anticipate getting a ton of use out of your saw, a circular saw is far more economical.
While there are reasons to prefer a table saw, almost anything you can do with a table saw can be done with a circular saw (though it may require both skill and extra tools), so you can get by with a circular saw.
One final advantage the circular saw offers: A table saw’s blade is directly exposed, meaning that if an operator gets careless, an accident could occur.
A circular saw’s blade is capped on the top by a blade guard, making it less likely that an operator could injure him or herself. That’s not to say operating a circular saw is risk-free, but there’s likely a slight diminishment of risk.
This video demonstrates how to operate a circular saw, showing off its strengths:
The Dewalt 7 1/4 inch circular saw is a good selection, with a mid-range price tag and strong performance.
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Advantages of a Table Saw
The biggest strength a table saw offers is the easy precision it allows for. If you’re looking to cut wood exactly to your specifications every time, a table saw is the best option. Because the saw is mounted within a table, it’s stable and won’t move as you feed the wood onto the blade.
Using a table saw, you don’t need to guide the saw, but only manipulate the wood in an easy and controlled manner. A table saw is especially good for newer woodworkers, as it requires less skill than a circular saw. If you’re starting out and want to do the job right, a table saw is likely your preferred tool.
That’s not to say that a circular saw can’t achieve the same level of precision as a table saw. On the contrary, you can make the same cuts with either saw.
A circular saw requires that you guide the saw along the cut, and there’s more margin for error there.
Another advantage to a table saw is that it tends to be more durable and easily fixable than a circular saw. Circular saws are known to break down and degrade over time, especially with heavy usage.
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If you anticipate a lot of sawing-intensive projects, it may be worth investing a little bit more up-front to get a table saw. While you pay more on the front end, you may end up having to replace a less expensive circular saw over time, making that front-end savings mean less than you would have anticipated.
There are a few other smaller benefits to a table saw, such as easier sawdust containment and disposal, but the two main selling points are ease of use and durability.
This video shows a table saw in action:
The Dewalt 10 inch table saw is a reasonably priced table saw offering high quality.
Choosing the Saw Based on Projects
So, having reviewed the differing advantages of each saw, how can you make the determination as to which is the right tool for your job? The answer probably comes down to applying the strengths and weaknesses of each saw to your situation.
The question of table saw vs circular saw doesn’t have a definitive answer – It comes down to the saw’s fit with the job at hand.
Jobs Fitting a Circular Saw
Any job where you’re going to have to travel somewhere to work or that involves wood which can’t be easily transported calls for a circular saw. The portability factor means it’s really the only option you can choose.
Projects that don’t require complex or high-precision cuts may be well suited for a circular saw. A circular saw can get the job done if you’re looking to make basic cuts, no matter what your skill level.
If you want to make more complicated cuts with a circular saw, though, you’ll likely need to go through some growing pains and trial-and-error before you’re an expert.
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Jobs Fitting a Table Saw
If the project you’re working on involves cuts like lap joints, inset boards, precision miters or rips, you’re probably going to get best and easiest results using a table saw.
This is especially true if you’re relatively new to woodworking. This even more holds true if you’re not possessed of a great deal of physical strength, as a circular saw requires a strong grip to operate.
You also are probably best served using a table saw if you anticipate doing a large volume of woodworking on a consistent basis. If your saw is going to be in heavy usage over months or years, the initial extra cost of a table saw will pay itself off over time.
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When choosing between table saw vs circular saw, the right saw depends on your experience and skill level, the frequency with which you expect to operate it, and the nature of your woodworking projects.
It’s necessary to take all of that into account to make the best choice. A circular saw is less expensive, more portable and can get the job done for more basic cuts. A table saw offers easy precision and solid durability, though it’s more expensive and is fixed in location.
In the end, you may find that it’s worth owning both saws, especially if you anticipate working on a range of woodworking projects over time.
If you have any questions, please be sure to ask away in the comments below.