I’m trying to decide whether to buy a contractor-style tablesaw, a cabinet saw, or one of the new hybrids. How should I compare the three types?

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Q:

I'm trying to decide whether to buy a contractor-style tablesaw, a cabinet saw, or one of the new hybrids. How should I compare the three types?
—Don Frame, Rosemount, Minnesota

A:

In general, Don, you need to decide how much you're willing to pay for greater power and heavier components found in a cabinet saw. Get your hands on a few models and make test cuts while keeping these differences in mind:

* Power: The standard cabinet saw has a 220-volt, 3-hp motor, and some models offer 4 or even 5 hp. That kind of power makes it easy to rip thick, dense stock. Contractor saws run on 110 volts and typically have 1 to 112 hp, so they might bog down during heavy-duty cutting. Hybrids also connect to 110-volt circuits and carry a 134 - hp motor.


* Alignment: It's easier to align a cabinet saw—you loosen the table bolts and tap it into position—and you don't have to do it very often. Contractor-style and hybrid saws require more frequent attention, and each time you have to reach inside the saw to adjust the trunnions.


* Vibration: You get solid, cast-iron table extension wings with a cabinet saw. Add the overall greater mass of the machine and vibration is virtually eliminated. Most contractor-style saws are much lighter and include stamped-steel wings, resulting in enough vibration to be distracting. Hybrid saws can be outfitted with either steel or cast-iron wings and rank between the other two styles in weight.


* Dust collection: A cabinet saw contains much of the sawdust it produces. A hybrid saw has a dust-collection port, as do most, but not all, contractor-style saws.