Woodworkers: Question re: 10-inch portable table saws

Since my recent (super-early) retirement about three years back, I’ve needed a hobby big time. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking up woodworking, after seeing a friend’s impressive projects. Problem is, my three-car garage is jam packed.

A portable table saw–along with a compound miter saw and other doodads I just bought–will fit. Problem is, a clerk at Home Depot told me that a 10-inch portable table saw is too small to cut the occasional 4’ x 8’ sheet of plywood. He said that I would be begging for injuries if I tried to use it for that purpose. My intention is to rip stock, plywood, etc etc. I’m not looking to do production work, just make a cherry bookcase, wine rack, and assorted built ins before my 40th birthday. This would be a once-in-awhile hobby–nothing on Norm (“where’s my brad gun?”) Abrams’ level.

Money isn’t the issue. Space is. I want something I can push out of the way against a wall when I’m through with it.

Your suggestions are appreciated.

You could go for one of those all-in-one tools, such as the ShopSmith Mark V. Just an idea.

I get fairly decent results by using an 8-foot straightedge as a guide for my circular saw. If you know someone who does metal work, or if there’s a machine shop near you, you can probably get a 1/4" x 1 or 2" wide piece, which you can just clamp to the plywood. If necessary, you can finish the cut edge with a router.

Of course, use a good quality plywood blade in your circular saw.

Or, if you have $154.95 burning a hole in your pocket, you could get something like this.
It appears to be something you can store flat against a wall, too.

The clerk at Home Depot is right, but I wouldn’t recommend ripping up full sheets of plywood on a big stationary table saw either. That takes at least two people or a whole lot of extra supporting doodads, and preferably both, to do it safely. A full sheet of plywood is too cumbersome. Make yourself a ripping guide for a circular saw. You can buy them at Home Depot, or at least at the one I frequent, but I think they’re overpriced, and like any true handyman, I’m not paying $40 for equipment I can make myself for a tenth of that. They’re just an 8 foot aluminum bar the saw rides on, with the blade hanging over one edge; you clamp it along the cut line and off you go.

It’s a lot easier and cheaper to make your own. Rip a couple of strips off the long edge of a thin sheet of plywood, and glue and nail the narrower one on top of the wider one along one edge. The narrow piece should be about an inch wide, the wider piece should be about the width of the base of your circular saw. The narrow piece gives you an edge to run the base of your circular saw along, and the saw will slide along on the wider one. Make sure when you’re fastening the two pieces together that the edge your saw will be riding against is the original factory finished edge of the narrower piece. Then run your circular saw along it once to trim off the wider piece, and you’ve got yourself a handy little jig set to exactly the distance between your circular saw’s blade and the edge of its base.

Now when you want to rip a long strip off a big sheet of plywood, just lay the sheet across some sawhorses, supported so it doesn’t sag, lay your handy little jig along the cut line, clamp it to the sheet with a couple of small c-clamps at each end, and you’re set. They have to be small clamps, so they won’t interfere with the free movement of your saw; too big and the motor housing will bump them at the beginning and end of the cut. It’s a lot easier to move a small circular saw through a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood than it is to move the whole sheet of plywood through a table saw.

And another thing: how did you manage to retire so young?

Well, woodworking is one of those hobbies that’s pretty space intensive. So if you’re already short of space, maybe you could start by building yourself a workshop :slight_smile:

As for portable 10" table saws, I have the Ryobi BT3000 and it’s OK. It’s definitely not in the same league as a top of the line Delta, but it’s not trying to be. It’s biggest advantage is that it is portable. You can buy extension rails for it if you really feel you must cut plywood on it, but the circular saw and guide approach is probably safer.

I find that I don’t cut much plywood myself, but then I don’t do a lot of cabinetry.