Should I buy a circular saw or a table saw?

I have both and I build furniture but find that I only use the circular saw about 5% of the time. Had I not had the circular saw for those tasks, I could have used a hand saw. I would opt for the table saw if you believe the future holds woodworking projects requiring precision.

I can’t imagine that anything more (saw wise) that a circular saw would be needed to build a chicken coop.

I wonder two things. Is the OP thinking radial arm or circular saw. And is he thinking about one of the more portable new table saws that can be set up at the site, or one of those monsters that get set up and never moves.

I wondered the same thing (Post 10) – radial arm or hand held circular. But I suspect that radial arm saws have been pretty much supplanted, at least in common use, by compound miter saws. Except for some specialty applications, like cutting/trimming large and heavy pieces of dimensional lumber. I still see them, for instance, in lumber yards that will do rough cuts for customers.

The portable table saws are pretty much the “contractor” models. Tough, pretty cheap, but inaccurate. Or should I saw imprecise. Good for roughing in work, maybe able to rip something once in a while provided it won’t be a “finish” piece and isn’t too long or awkward. Good for building a chicken coop. But then, a circular saw would probably serve as well for the coop, and has the advantage of being available at the site of assembly.

Unless you enjoy frustrating the shit out of yourself and wasting lots of nice wood, I would never attempt using a “contractor” table saw for “cabinetry grade” work. That’s what the big, expensive – and stable and precise – models are for.

I have both, but they haven’t been used in a decade. What about buying both, lightly used? I’d throw in a reciprocating saw that was purchased for a single job and never plugged in again.:wink:

Maybe have an experienced friend evaluate prior to purchase in exchange for a couple beers.

Agree CannyDan. But I did see my contractor make some really, really good compound cuts when putting the crown molding on my kitchen cabinets with a portable table saw.

Well, I saw the finished work, and frankly, I wondered how the hell he did it.

Eight foot 1x4 mitered at 45d on each edge. Ripped down to 3-1/4 at one end and 2-1/4 at the other. On a little contractor table saw.

I still have one of those Piranhas, best for the price range ever made, for construction that is. I’m posting this picture of a table saw, but what I want everyone to do is ignore ALL the equipment and focus on the single most expense part … the building.

Very nice. I hate you :wink:

Radial Arm Saw. A waste of money and space. They’ve been replaced by miter saws. And good luck trying to rip a piece of plywood in half using a radial arm saw.

Table saw. Extremely versatile. The only tasks it comes up short in is cutting really long boards and large pieces of plywood. Unless you have money to burn, buy used. Last year I bought a used table saw last year for $200 from a guy selling it on Craig’s List. It’s a Craftsman and was made in the early 1980s. It’s in perfect shape, and has a very thick & heavy cast iron top. I figured a new table saw w/ heavy cast iron top would be at least three times the cost, so I think I got a good deal.

Circular saw. Very handy. And it often does a better job at cutting long boards and plywood in half versus a table saw.

if you buy any saw second hand it is good to make sure it has all the parts, manual and blade guard.

a table saw would also have a hold down and splitter depending on when it was made.

A decent sliding compound miter saw is extremely useful for accurate cuts, but is of course limited in width - the slide helps with this, of course. A good table saw is a serious investment in both money and space. A circular saw is inexpensive and useful but more for on-the-fly and improvised rough-cutting (to overly generalize). I’d get a sliding compound miter AND a circular over a table saw - it’d be cheaper, too.

A good circular saw with a shoe made to fit a clamping straight edge will do a good job cutting plywood panels. With a shorter straight edge it will also make great crosscuts. Don’t skimp on the blade either, unless you’re cutting old wood with embedded nails.

I do all my ripping any more on my bandsaw then I run them through the planer. I had no idea how much I would use the bandsaw when I bought it. With some practice you can get some very straight cuts.

shakes fist

Damn youngsters with your fancy pants newfangled electricity.

Likey. It requires a nice extension and fence to fully utilize a good table saw. It’s one of those, “spend the money or don’t bother” kind of purchase.

For chicken coop, a circular saw will suffice.

But if you also want your child to get involved in small furniture, a table saw will be a good idea. Just pick a mobile base for easy storage.


A good crosscut handsaw and back saw is all the great furniture makers needed. Thomas Chippendale didn’t need electricity.


Goodness. What saw(s) you own depend on your needs, and the QUALITY of work you want to do. Each of the three does cuts the others cannot- either physically or with quality/safety.

A circular saw is very portable and that attribute comes in handy at times. A circular saw is limited in its accuracy of cut at times (type of cut, length, angle, ability to use a guide). Every handyman should have one. A finish carpenter doing fine, detailed finished work (installing trim, making cabinets or furniture) will never use one. Least expensive saw of the three here.

A mitre saw is portable as well. Good for cross-cutting boards to length and at angles. Not as versatile as a circular saw or table saw, but necessary for anyone doing fine trim work. All good handymen/carpenters will have one. Medium priced of the three.

A table saw can be portable but the best ones are not. A table saw can cross cut, rip cut, mitre cut. Handymen don’t often need a tablesaw, though it may limit them to what they can do accurately or efficiently. Most expensive of the three.

When purchasing any power tool, consider these things:
[li]Will I be using this tool a lot? or very little?[/li][li]Is having a superior quality cut important or is ‘good enough’ ok?[/li][li]What is my budget now vs. upgrading or replacing a cheap tool later?[/li][/ul]

I own nearly every woodworking tool known to man, and the best lesson I’ve learned is to never buy a cheap tool unless it’s a one-time use, or if you will be abusing it. It’s tough enough to resell a good tool at a price you think is fair- to get money out of a cheap brand tool is impossible. If you need a better quality tool but can’t afford a good one new, try Craigslist.

Oh, and use good saw blades that are designed for their purpose (cross-cutting, ripping, demolition). Example: Demolition with a circular saw- you’ll not only save money with a more expensive demolition blade vs. going through 3 or 4 cheap blades, you’ll burn up your tool trying to be cheap.

vdubs, I’m not sure how you found this thread; but it’s over a year old.

Good advice, though. :slight_smile:

Circular saws are portable, fast, and rough. They’re best for things like fence building, framing and jobs where the portability is mandatory, like Napier’s row of overhanging boards.

Small, contractor grade table saws are a step up- less portable and more accurate than the circular saws. You can get fairly accurate cuts for things like precise framing, deck building, etc…

Real table saws are not portable, but they’re accurate. You can cut things very precisely with them- they’re what real cabinetmakers use to build furniture, etc…

Miter saws are very accurate for relatively small-scale cross cuts, but you’re not going to cut a sheet of plywood with them, or rip much of anything either.

I have a contractor-grade table saw and a circular saw- generally, I just do basic repairs around the backyard, and slapping up things like wooden garden trellis type things, so I don’t need cabinetmaker accuracy. I mostly use the circular saw for cuttting things to manageable pieces, and the table saw for cutting them as exact as I can get them.

I’m late to this party, but I’d rather crosscut than rip on a table saw. The safest way to do it is to make yourself a crosscut sled, which basically eliminates any danger from the blade. Just make sure you don’t try to use both the miter AND the fence at the same time.

A table saw is great for repetitive cuts like dadoes, and for squaring ends on something like a cutting board, and my contractor grade portable table saw works just fine for that. Ideally, I’d like to have a track system like Festool makes, but I’d also like to be driving a Ferrari. Neither is going to happen.