Woodworkers and DIYers, what tool should I buy next?

I have about a week to spend between $300 and $500 on something for my burgeoning workshop.

In terms of interest, I’m more often doing household repairs/kludges than furniture-building, though I do enjoy making things.

Here’re the basics of what I have so far: 14” band saw, drill press, bench grinder, combination sander, compressor, circular- reciprocating- jig- oscillating- saws, lots of hand tools, and the king of DIY, a Dremel.

There are three glaring holes in the above, a table saw, a miter saw and a dust collector.

I’m kind of leaning towards spending a couple hundred on a dust collector and putting the rest into a basic miter saw, but I figured I’d ask the TM for their opinion.


Once I saw your first list of tools that you have, I immediately thought of a dust collector. But it’s weird that you have all that and not a table saw. I think that’d be far more useful. How much hassle is installing a dust collection system?

You mentioned a drill press but not a cordless drill. If, as you say, you’re interested in doing household repairs, I’d think that would be a useful purchase.

I immediately thought mitre saw.

Have you checked Craigslist? If you don’t mind buying used, you could probably find all three and have money left over. I picked up a pretty good table saw for $75.

a table saw. if you had the space and need get one suitable, with accessories, for panel cutting; this would be used for building.

for repair and occasional building a table saw and a miter saw could be had in that price range.

As for drills, I may have a problem. The over-abundance is something of a cliché—two cordless (one stays upstairs), an old corded B&D that I had in my first apartment, a newer, more powerful Makita that helped me get through joists, a DeWalt hammer drill that I used to install EMT into foundation walls, and a yankee drill. I’m sure I have another one or two stashed somewhere in the house in case I start withdrawing in the middle of the night.

I could put the dust collector in the ‘need’ category instead of the ‘want’ category—that means I buy a tool now (because hey, it’s a gift-card I’m cashing in) and get the dust collector in a few months because it’s, you know, a necessary expense. Hmmm… not sure I can quite pull that off.

So with the balance, am I correct in thinking a $200¬-$300 miter saw is higher on the quality scale than a $200-$300 table saw? As in, it would get a pretty good (but not great) miter saw, but only an okay table saw?

For me, a toss up between a quality miter saw or a quality table saw.

Do you need to rip sheets and boards? Table saw.
Do you need to do fine work with boards width no greater than 12 inches? Miter saw.
Not sure? Get both!!

Been a while since I’ve looked at table saws, but I think your assessment is correct: $200 - $300 would get you a pretty good miter saw, but only a fair table saw.

It really comes down to how much (long) ripping you think you might need to do. For the projects I’ve done, I would say it is about 95% cross-cuts of stuff 2X4 thickness or less (miter saw), and 5% ripping. And I’ve gotten by with either a jigsaw or circular saw for the ripping.

Another consideration is space/portability. My miter saw is easy enough to put on a bench or take to where I am working on whatever. Table saws tend to be a bit bulkier/heavier. And not really meant to be portable (you may roll it around in your garage, but you wouldn’t take it somewhere).
And table saws tend to take up more space.

Starting to lean towards the Miter saw. Most home centers will do basic rips on sheet goods if I’ve planned things out accordingly. A set of long guide clamps (can’t remember what they’re called exactly) have helped with the circular saw. And the ‘pretty good’ to ‘fair’ difference would be noticeable in the long run (easier to get a new piece than replace a less-than-performing one).

…assuming I don’t spend it all on a dust collector.

I have both and, IMHO, a table saw is more versatile - rips, miters, dados, etc. I do tend to build bigger stuff, though. My current project is an exterior door for our basement. If you do go with the miter saw, get a model with a sliding arm. It will come in handy.

I second the sliding arm. I don’t use it a lot, but the times I’ve needed it, it has been very handy.

P.S. once you get the miter saw, you’ll HAVE to get the dust collector ! So it’s kind of a 2-for-1 “deal” :wink:

I’ll third the compound miter saw. A good one could set you back between $400-500, but will do most cutting chores. For a table saw, you might look at a folding saw like the Bosch; it gets good reviews and takes up a lot less space.

Is a sliding miter saw anything like a radial arm saw?

Space isn’t at a premium (yet). It’s an unfinished basement used largely for storage, so I have room to spread out. It’s limited by Mrs. Devil saying “you told your friends what?!” and the eventual planer, jointer, router, etc. that will someday find a home down there.

That said, wouldn’t a larger table saw platform be advantageous (i.e. a larger table to work on, not a larger blade)? I have a couple roll-top workpiece supports, and while they’re very good, it seems having a broader surface would be beneficial.

I got rid of my bigger dust collector and just use a shop vac now. Mitre saw, 12" planer and some finish nail guns are very handy. Table saw depends on what kind of work you are doing, Sometimes I use mine often and sometimes hardly at all. Good blades for plywood are must if you are cutting much of it. A good skill saw, some clamps and a piece of angle iron will give you nice accurate cuts for occassional use.

Kind of. The miter is going to have a shorter slide length, but is much more compact and moveable

Absolutely, size does matter! The bigger the better within the boundries of space and budget.

I’d argue against a sliding miter saw if you plan to do fine woodworking in the future. The can easily slip out of alignment and will mess up angles where precision is important. A 12 inch miter is a lot more durable and provides plenty of depth.

If you’re aiming towards home improvement you’ll use a miter more. For woodworking you’d want a table saw. A table saw can do any cut a miter can but set up per cut is annoying for quick jobs.

On table saws the best portable is the bosch. I’d recommend keeping your eye out on Craigslist for one of the older Rigids they are really good portable saws. They were at the same price point as the cast iron Rigids so weren’t selling well they cut costs on the newer rigid portables to keep them in line with other manufacturers.

After you get a big saw, get a variety of air nailers/staplers/brad drivers. Supremely useful.

With a table saw you can always build a couple of sleds to cross cut. I’ve even got one to cross cut on a 45 degree angle. True, it’s hard to do really long pieces that way, but anything under about 6 feet is doable.

Maybe not the best advice but when I read your list I thought beer fridge…but that just might be me.

A really good table saw is a thing of beauty.

I stretched my budget some years back and managed to buy a used Delta Unisaw ($800, and it needed some work). Best saw I’ve ever used - wouldn’t be without it.