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Is a table saw essential?
No, you can achieve the same cuts with other types of tools. However, it’s strongly recommended that you get one because of the safety, consistency, and accuracy. The table saw is often the most used power tool in many shops.
Reasons to not have a table saw
There are plenty of reasonable reasons not to have a table saw. The first one is the cost. They aren’t cheap – quality ones start at a couple of hundred dollars. If you’re new to the hobby, you might want to hold off and do some small projects first before purchasing one.
The other reason is the space. Lots of woodworking shops are in garages, but sometimes you simply don’t have the area required. See if you can rent one out or if a friend has one.
Repetition and consistency
If you’re building something like cabinets, your table saw will be your best friend. This is the purpose of a power tool – industrial mass production. If the table saw has a fence, it will be able to do this job efficiently.
So if your career is in construction, a table saw is a very nice tool to have to say the least.
Not always the best choice
Everyone thinks that once you have a table saw you’ll be cutting everything on it. But there are many times where other tools are better. Furniture typically is made of a thicker material. It has curves and tenons. Something like a bandsaw would be a better machine. The designs are more complex and stylistic. Here, a chainsaw and planner would be of better use.
It’s true that if you have a table saw cuts are more convenient and go quickly and consistently. But if you’re willing to do research, there are plenty of alternatives such as a circular or band saw.
Crosscuts – You might want to consider a handsaw. Although more inconvenient to use, it’ll probably be more accurate. Sometimes the low-tech way of doing things is better. If you’d like to use a power tool, consider a chop saw or a radial arm saw. If the cross-cut is particularly large (such as a door), the best option is a panel saw or maybe a circular saw if you want a power tool. You can smooth things out with a belt sander afterward.
Table saws are quite useful in this regard. They can cut miters wider than most chop saws.
They can do tenons fine too, but then again this can be done by hand.
Things like tongue, grooves, rabbets, and dadoes can be done with hand tools or a router table.
Ripping – With its stability and support, this is where the table saw excels. Some people cut with a hand saw, but this requires a lot of physical exertion. If you want to use a power tool, try a circular or band saw.
In conclusion: is a table saw “essential”. The answer is no. There are alternatives to achieve the cuts a table saw does. But it’s a very useful tool to have (if not the #1 power tool) and might even be impractical to not have one for certain purposes.