Table Saw vs. Circular Saw – What’s the Difference?
The table and circular saws are two power tools you can almost be certain that you will come across and need to use at some point whether you are a professional woodworker or just a regular DIYer.
Both can be very handy for different projects, and while having both makes more sense for many users, in many instances you can only buy one at a go given that they do not come cheap. The only way to ensure you know what to pick first is by understanding their key differences.
These power saws will differ in much more than their appearance, and so determine which saw will be better for you, it is important to know these differences.
If you are wondering which between these amazing saws will work best for you, this piece should help make things clear. Here we highlight their pros and cons and the key things that set them apart.
Table Saw Overview
A table saw is one of the most popular power saws, and it is the kind that you will typically expect any professional woodworker to have in the workshop.
These powerful saws are mostly designed for use from one spot in the workshop as they tend to be larger and heavier. However, there are still some smaller and more portable types like the benchtop table saw.
One of the most distinctive features of a table saw is that it will use a circular blade that extends from below and will have a tabletop for supporting the material. These are also some of the key traits that you can use to distinguish it from the circular saw.
Table saws will cut in a straight line and they will be perfect for making long straight cuts, and to use one you will only need to guide the workpiece through the protruding blade. These saws are also highly accurate thanks to the inclusion of the fence.
Maintaining your table saw will also take relatively less effort given that most of the components are easily accessible. Also, the more efficient dust management system will ensure you have an easier time cleaning up than when using a circular saw.
However, table saws will be typically larger and less portable when compared to a circular saw and they are also some of the most expensive power saws out there.
Circular Saw Overview
Circular saws are almost as popular as the table saws despite being a relatively newer power saw type when compared to the latter. Many woodworkers and DIYers love them for their relatively smaller and more portable size.
These handheld saws are available in corded and cordless types, and they will feature a circular disk-like blade that rotates at high speeds to make the cuts fast and efficiently.
With a circular saw, you can cut almost any material provided you have the right blade and you can get blades for cutting wood, metal, plastic, ceramic and many other materials. And they are generally more affordable when compare to the table saw.
Unlike the table saw, the blade is not exposed and hence these saws will be much safer to operate and anyone can handle them with little risk. Also, for most users, they will be versatile enough as they can handle almost anything that requires a fast cut.
Despite their smaller size and safer operation, circular saws will not work very well for beginners because they will require more skills to use effectively. Given their cheaper price tags, most are also not as heavy-duty as the table saws and are hence less durable.
Making long, straight cuts
Making fast, quick cuts
Highly precise and accurate
Ease of Use
More straightforward to use
Highly dependent on the user's skills
Wood Dust Management
A little tedious
Poses greater risk
Average Price Range
$300 to over $1,000
$50 to around $200
Table Saw vs. Circular Saw
If you intend to buy several power saws for your workshop or projects, the circular and table saws should be at the top of your list as they are among the most useful to have around. But, for those that are not sure which one they will need between the two, here are some of their main differences that you should know.
1. Typical Application
Like any other saw types, the table and circular saws are designed for different applications. While it is still possible to use them for some similar cuts, it is always a great idea to understand the typical applications of each.
Table saws are built for making long, straight cuts on larger boards as they will also include a larger table to support these larger workpieces. Also, table saws will be perfect for ripping boards, and because most models are also designed to bevel, they can also be perfect for making bevel cuts.
Circular saws, on the other hand, come with a fast-spinning circular blade that will make them ideal for fast, quick cuts. And besides wood, you can also use them to make these cuts on various other materials like metal and ceramic. Also, many models will have bevel capability which makes these saws suitable for bevel cuts.
A good power saw for you is one that makes your cuts as accurate as possible. If accuracy is your main concern when trying to pick between the table and circular saw, the former is the clear winner here.
One of the reasons why many woodworkers will always have a table saw around is its ability to deliver highly precise and accurate cuts. Unlike the circular saw, you can clearly see the position and location of the blade when using this saw which allows you to direct the cut more precisely.
Table saws will also come with a fence which is what makes them even more accurate as it acts as a guide for the material when making the cut.
While it is still possible to get accurate enough cuts when using a circular saw, it will often not be as accurate as a table saw. Circular saws mostly rely on the user to direct the blade when cutting which makes them less accurate.
3. Ease of Use
The ease of use is more subjective because the more you use either of these power saws the better you become at it and hence the easier they will be to use.
With that said, a typical table saw will give you a much easier time than a circular saw because there is nothing much to do since the machine does most of the work for you. Almost anyone including the novice and beginner woodworkers can make accurate enough cuts with a table saw.
Circular saws will be more dependent on the user as you have to both hold the saw and direct it when cutting. For the first time users, using one can take quite some effort and a lot of practice is required to make accurate cuts.
While the table saw beats the circular saw in various aspects from the power output to the ease of use and accuracy, the latter seems to have a clear edge when it comes to portability.
Circular saws are small and lightweight power saws that you can easily pack and carry from one job site to the other. Also, most of these saws are easy to take apart and will come with a carry case which further enhances their portability.
Better yet, some table saws are cordless as they are battery-operated which will allow you to use them from anywhere as they will not require a power outlet.
With the table saw, you get a larger and bulkier machine that will be better suited for use from one spot in the workshop. The larger models like the contractor, cabinet and hybrid table saw can sometimes even requires more than one person during installation as they are super bulky.
While still on portability, it is also worth knowing that there are also some benchtop table saws designed to be more portable. But these are still nowhere as portable as the circular saw and are also not as powerful as the larger table saws.
5. Wood Dust Management
Sawing can be a dirty job as it produces a lot of wood dust which can leave your workshop looking messy and dirty. Hence, when choosing your saw, you need to keep this in mind and make sure what you choose has an efficient dust management mechanism.
While there will still be lots of dust when using either of these two saws, the table saws seem to have a much more efficient dust management system. Most of the dust produced when using a table saw will be directed to the dust port where your shop vac sucks up most of it and hence making cleanup easier for you.
Circular saws will give you a harder time when it comes to dust management. Many will also include some form of dust management, but the nature of the saw means that it is almost impossible to capture everything, and so you will almost always end up with wood dust all over the workshop.
Safety is ever a concern when using any power tool because these electric tools will always put you at risk. However, the risk involved when using one differs from one type to the other, and so the table and circular saws come with different levels of risk.
Given the exposed nature of the blade on the table saw, it will pose more safety issues than the circular saw. If you are not careful enough when using one, you can easily cause accidental injuries when pushing the material through the blade.
But the good news is that modern table saws make use of several safety features like automatic blade stop to provide a safer operation, but extra precaution is still required.
While circular saws might be relatively safer, you still need to know how to handle the tool safely because the sharp and fast-spinning blade still poses a lot of risks.
Power saws do not come cheap, and so the price will always be a factor when trying to choose what to buy between popular options like the table and circular saws. But, here things should be easier as they come in different price ranges.
Table saws are the pricier of the two saws because even the smaller benchtop models will come in prices that start at around $300 while the larger cabinet and contractor types can cost thousands of dollars.
You can get a circular saw for as little as $50 depending on the brand. And the top tier models from leading brands will hardly retail for more than $200.
Table saws and circular saws are two powerful tools that can be useful for almost any woodworking project whether you are making furniture or even dong some home improvement projects.
And while a well-stocked woodworking workshop will often have both, many other DIYers and woodworkers can only buy one at a time. Understanding their key differences which include the typical applications, accuracy, ease of use and price should make your pick easy.
Using these differences, the table saw is perfect for anyone looking for a powerful saw that delivers accurate cuts and can handle heavy-duty use. The circular saw, on the other hand, will work best for those looking for a fast and more portable saw.