If you’re ready to buy your first table saw, you’ve probably seen a lot of products on the market. It can be hard to know which features matter and which you can ignore. You want to be able to do all the projects you have in mind, but you also probably don’t want to spend a fortune. And, needless to say, you want it to be a quality product that will be safe to operate.
To be honest, for someone just getting into DIY and home improvement projects, you don’t need a giant table saw with tons of features. I don’t recommend getting the absolute cheapest products you’ll find, because often the quality will just leave you frustrated. Or—worse—it’ll lead to safety problems in operation.
I’ve put together a list of some of the best starter table saws below. Each of these is from a reputable manufacturer and has the features needed to execute most projects you’ll come across. If you just want a single recommendation, I think the DeWalt DWE7491RS is the best all-around table saw for beginners. It’s got a convenient rolling stand and plenty of power for almost any project.
If you want a few more options to consider, please read on!
What Features do You Need?
I think the most important features for a starter table saw relate to safety and convenience. The need for safety is—hopefully—obvious, since any power saw can be dangerous, and especially so if you don’t have a lot of experience with it. Convenience may be a surprising choice, but I feel that if the saw is not convenient to set up and use, you’re unlikely to use it enough to become proficient with it.
Any power saw can be dangerous, and a table saw in the hands of someone inexperienced even more so. All of the saws I recommend below come with built-in safety features that reduce—but do not eliminate—your chance of injury. There are variations among different models, but all of them come with these important safety features:
Blade guard: A piece of clear plastic that encloses the spinning blade. These guards are shaped so they pivot up and out of the way as you push your workpiece through. This is a critical safety feature as it keeps your fingers and hands away from the blade. The guards are removable because you’ll need to take them off to make beveled (angled) cuts or cuts that don’t go all the way through the piece. It’s important that they are easy to reattach, since you only want to operate the saw without them when absolutely necessary.
Riving knife: A piece of wedge-shaped metal directly behind the saw blade. Since wood has internal tension that causes it to twist and bend, the two pieces on either side of the blade can sometimes want to snap back together as they pass through. This can cause the blade to bind and hurl the wood back towards you, causing very serious injury due to the high speeds involved. The riving knife’s job is to keep the wood separated as it exits the saw blade, so it can’t bind. You’ll generally want to keep the riving knife installed for all cuts, as it will tilt with the blade to make beveled cuts. Depending on the saw, you might need to remove it in order to make cuts that don’t go all the way through the wood. But make sure to put it back as soon as you are able.
Anti-kickback pawls: Two toothed pieces of metal hanging on either side behind the saw blade. Like the riving knife, these are designed to help prevent kickback, where the wood is thrown back towards you, the operator. As you push the wood through, the pawls pivot up and ride over the top of the wood. But if the blade tries to throw the wood back towards you, the teeth dig in and stop it.
Easy-off power button: If something goes wrong while you’re using the saw, it’s crucial that you can easily cut the power before things get worse. All the saws below have a large red power button on the front that you can operate with either your hand or knee.
Please read and follow all of the safety information in the manual of whatever table saw you purchase. And you can read our quick guide to the best safety practices for table saws.
Table saws comes in many different shapes and sizes. The ones used by professional cabinetmakers, for instance, weigh hundreds of pounds and have tables many feet across. If you’re just starting out with a table saw, you probably don’t have room for such a beast. (And you probably aren’t ready to commit several thousand dollars to buy it.)
I think the best size table saw for a beginner is what’s known a jobsite table saw (or portable table saw). These saws are small and light enough that they can be moved around easily. That means you can set the table saw up when you need it without dedicating a big chunk of your shop or garage to it. Many of these saws also come with a rolling stand (or offer one as an accessory) to make them even easier to set up and stow away as needed.
Now, it’s true that these saws don’t have all the features of their bigger cousins. Their smaller tables limit the size of material you can cut before it becomes a safety issue. In particular, you won’t be able to safely cut full-size (4’ x 8’) sheet goods like plywood on these saws. They’ll be too top-heavy and want to either tip over the saw or tip up and off the saw’s table. For cutting those down to size, you’re better off using a circular saw first, then switching to the table saw once you have a manageable size.
And these saws don’t have quite the same precision as larger, heavier saws. That’s because the lighter saws aren’t as able to dampen the vibration caused by the motor and spinning blade. These saws will do a great job for home improvement and DIY projects, as well as basic woodworking. If you eventually decide to pursue fine woodworking as a hobby, you may want to upgrade to a contractor table saw or cabinet table saw.
But, as I said, I think the smartest choice for a beginner is to get a more convenient, accessible table saw to start out with.
Most portable table saws are notorious for coming with sloppy miter gauges. This can make it hard to cut precise angles, which might not matter for simple framing tasks, but will if you want to do finer woodworking. You can read our guide to the best replacement miter gagues when the time comes to upgrade.
Most other features of a table saw are important for some types of tasks, but less so for others. If you’re just starting out, you may not even know yet which features will be important to you down the road. I’d rather you get an affordable unit that’s safe and convenient to use, and over time you’ll learn if you need to upgrade. For a fuller discussion of all the features you might care about, check out our complete guide to buying a table saw.
The Best Table Saws for Beginners
I think any of the tools below would be a great starter table saw.
This is a great all-around portable table saw for beginners. It accepts 10” blades, the standard for table saws, so you’ll have a wide variety of options. The wheeled stand makes it easy to store and pull out only when you want it. And its 32 1/2” rip capacity is one of the largest in its class, so it can handle larger material than many of its competitors. And the rack-and-pinion fence adjustment is easy to lock in precisely.
The motor is powerful enough to handle any of the materials you’ll find during common DIY projects. If you’re cutting thick hardwoods, you might find it starts to struggle with the thicker (2”) wood.
One nice safety feature is a power-loss reset. If you trip a circuit breaker, the saw won’t automatically turn back on once power is restored.
Overall, this is my top choice for a beginner’s table saw.
Read our full review of the DeWalt DWE7491RS.
- 32 1/2″ rip capacity is very large for the category
- Stand is stable and easy to operate
- High-quality rack-and-pinion fence is quite precise
- Power loss reset prevents turning back on accidentally following power loss
- Imprecise miter gauge (might be rectified by now)
- Secondary dust collection port can spew sawdust if not hooked up
The 4100XC-10 is Bosch’s replacement for the very well-regarded 4100-10 portable table saw. It accepts a 10” blade and can spin it at 3650 rpm with no load. This puts it in the middle of the pack as far as power, but it will suffice for all common home improvement tasks.
The 3 1/8” depth of cut with the blade vertical is quite a bit better than most competitors. This might be a consideration if you frequently find yourself cutting thicker material. It has a generous 30” rip capacity, and comes with an auxiliary fence to help rip narrow pieces safely.
While the saw is heavier than average, the folding stand somewhat makes up for that. Its clever design makes it much easier to raise and lower than most of its competitors. If you think you’ll be moving the saw around often, I think this would be a very smart choice.
- Smooth, quiet operation
- Comes with auxiliary fence for making narrow cuts
- Huge power button is easy to find in an emergency
- Restart protection in case of power loss
- Heavier than its competitors
If space-savings and portability are important to you, this 8 1/4” table saw from DeWalt might be just what you need.
It’s smaller than a lot of others, so you sacrifice some ability to cut large material. The maximum rip capacity to the right of the blade is just 24 1/2”. If you anticipate needing to rip lots of wider pieces, you may prefer one of the larger models. But for most home-improvement projects, the DWE7485 will do just fine.
As with most DeWalt table saws, the rack-and-pinion fence adjustment mechanism is very easy to use to lock in precise measurements. Some purchasers reported needing to adjust the fence out of the box for accurate operation, so you may want to double-check yours.
It doesn’t come with a stand by default, but the Dewalt DWE7485WS bundle includes a stand along with the DWE7485.
- Rack-and-pinion fence is easy to operate
- Light and easy to move
- Fence may need adjustment out of the box
- Does not support dado blades
- Included blade is construction-quality, needs upgrading for woodworking
Skilsaw is known more for their circular saws than their table saws, but this 8 1/4” table saw has received very good reviews from customers. Unlike its competition, it uses a worm-drive gearing system, which delivers greater torque. This makes it ideal for cutting through thicker material such as hardwoods or wood up to 2 1/2” thick.
Like the DeWalt, this saw uses a rack-and-pinion rip fence that is easy to adjust and is generally square right out of the box. If you use a dust collection system (or even just a shop-vac), this saw gets high marks for effectively clearing dust out of your cuts. Some reviewers note, though, that the dust collection port itself can be damaged easily, so take care when working around it.
This saw doesn’t come bundled with a stand, but you can purchase a folding stand as an accessory.
- High torque from worm drive for cutting difficult materials
- Blade and fence are square out of the box
- Rack-and-pinion fence is easy to adjust
- Dust collection is very effective
- Miter saw is somewhat sloppy, hard to dial in precisely
- Dust collection port is easily broken
This 10” table saw from Metabo HPT provides a generous rip capacity of 35”, so you can handle larger material than some of its smaller competitors. The wheeled stand gives you the option to store it out of the way until you need it.
Another feature that differentiates this saw from its competition is its soft-start capability. This brings the blade up to speed gradually rather than immediatley when power is turned on. Avoiding the sudden jolt of the blade spinning makes the saw more pleasant to use, and also helps reduce vibrations that can cause imprecise cuts.
The motor is plenty strong enough for any materials you are likely to encounter, including even hardwoods such as walnut.
Read our full review of the Metabo HPT C10RJS.
- Wide stand gives good stability
- Motor is powerful enough to handle thick or dense material
- Quality miter gauge
- 35″ rip width is the largest in its class
- Extremely flat table
- All-terrain tread on tires
- Blade may need aligning out of the box, a process not covered by the manual
- Bevel lock lever may slide off if not properly tightened
- Miter gauge does not store tightly in storage, can fall out during transport
- Axle can bend if not careful when going over obstacles
- Assembly instructions confusing for less experienced users
- Reports of poor experience with Hitachi customer service
Any of the products above would be a great choice. If you have more questions about specific features, read my complete guide to buying a table saw.