Table saws are popular for several reasons. Most notably their ability to make straight, clean cuts time after time.
But if a table saw is not a practical option, there are several alternatives available.
The trick is finding the right one that best suits your needs.
Otherwise, your woodworking is going to suffer from not having the right tools at your disposal.
This is another reason why having a table saw is seen as so important.
The most common alternatives include track, circular, band, and miter saws.
While none of these saws have all the advantages or versatility of a table saw, they do offer solutions for those who mostly used specific types of cuts.
In this article we will cover:
Woodworking Table Saw Alternatives
Keep in mind that everything starts with the budget you have, the workspace available, and the specific needs of your job.
By doing a little evaluation of the work you expect to perform, you can choose the right saw or combination of saws that will provide a solid alternative to the table saw.
The bandsaw is one of the more versatile saws on the market.
The saw consists of a long, flexible blade that stretches between two to four wheels.
You can choose different tooth pitches along with a variety of sizes which makes the bandsaw one of the best alternatives to the table saw.
2- Circular Saw
As the name implies, this is a circular blade on a handheld device that can be used to cut wood in a variety of ways.
It is arguably the most commonly used alternative to the table saw that can be used for cutting wood straight at high rates of speed.
The sharp teeth of the blade can cut through most wood with ease as well as other materials.
The main advantage is its portability, but because you have to push the blade through the material instead of the other way around, you do not quite get the high-quality cuts of a table saw.
3- Hand Saw
The hand or panel saw is one of the oldest tools in existence.
For smaller jobs, it is quite handy to have available. It’s also one of the cheapest saws you can purchase to cut the wood at home.
This is a great saw to use for quick, straight cuts, especially on a job site where portability is so important.
Another way to saw your plywood board, without a table saw, is by using Jigsaw.
This is an electric saw with a reciprocating blade that you push through the material.
Jigsaws are best for cutting curves, irregular shapes, and following specific patterns.
The downside is that the jigsaw is well suited for cutting straight lines without assistance.
5- Miter Saw
This looks like a circular saw, but it is designed to make a wider variety of cuts.
You can create beveled or mitered cuts with ease using this saw and they come in corded or cordless versions.
The greatest advantage is that you can order the size you want from 7 ¼” up to 12”.
With a rotating blade that is combined with a flat base, routers are used to hollow out materials.
A router may be held by hand or table mounted. You will most often find routers used to create cabinets.
Besides all these, there are also Dremel rotary tools, scissors, and knives. These can help cut wood without using a saw but are not very accurate.
So, if you don’t have any other better options available, you can use them as well.
Now that you know the basic alternatives, the next step is to find the right one for your needs.
Are Radial Arm Saws Any Good?
Although the radial arm saw has many advantages, it is a heavy machine. Plus, it needs to be frequently aligned to work properly.
If you ask me, what is better between a table saw or a radial arm saw, I would consider a table saw because it is easier and faster to use when you are rip-cutting stock compared to the radial arm saw.
Also, a compound miter saw is easier and faster to set up compared to a radial arm saw if you are cutting compound miters.
However, the versatility of the radial arm saw means that with a little extra set-up and time, you can use this device in the place of a table saw or compound miter saw.
How To Rip a Board Without a Table Saw?
If you need to rip a board, the table saw or a circular saw is the best.
But if you do not have one and you need to cut wood without power tools, then a hand saw is a good alternative.
This is because you can press down on the board which makes for a cleaner cut and is safe to use.
A bandsaw can also rip a wooden board but will often leave a rough edge behind that will need to be sanded.
A circular saw can also be used to cut plywood without a table saw, but you will need a straightedge to keep the cut clean and smooth.
a) Cross Cuts
For cross-cutting, the hand saw is again a good substitute for a table saw. This is especially true if you only need to make short crosscuts.
However, the edge will probably need to be cleaned afterward.
Miter saws are also good for cross-cutting, especially with a narrow board. For wider boards, try using a circular saw.
Bandsaws and jigsaws can also work although they are less efficient than hand saws and circular saws.
b) Dados and Tenons
A router is a solid tool to use in making dados and tenons, although you will need a straight edge for the dados if you are using a router table.
You can also use a joinery system to create tenons, but that is often quite expensive.
If you have a fence and stop block for your bandsaw, that device can be used to create tenons as well.
And if worse comes to worst, the trusty hand saw can also cut dados and tenons.
c) Other Cuts
Miter saws are specifically made for miter cuts. Bevel cuts can be made with circular saws. And bandsaws can cut tapers.
Simply evaluate the types of cuts you most commonly make, purchase a hand saw, and then buy the type of motorized saw that best suits your needs.
Table Saw vs. Circular Saw: Which One is More Beneficial?
When choosing between a table saw and a circular saw, it pays to understand the differences, especially for those who are just starting out.
What follows are the major differences between these devices, so you can make the best-informed decision.
1- Accurate Cuts
The table saw shines in terms of making more accurate cuts compared to the circular saw.
This is due to how the wood is fed into the table saw blade along with the smooth surface and guides that make accurate cuts relatively easy compared to the circular saw.
While you can purchase saw guides and straight edges to make the circular saw more accurate, it will not reach the accuracy of a table saw.
It takes considerably more skill, patience, and time to make a cut with a circular saw as accurate as a table saw.
This is because you are pushing the circular saw through the material which makes keeping it perfectly straight difficult.
Compare that to a table saw where you push the material into the blade. The flat surface and guides make accuracy quite easy even for beginners.
If you are in a workshop, a table saw is a superior option in terms of keeping things clean.
This will however depend in large part on the environment in which the devices are used.
For a table saw, you can set things up to minimize the sawdust being generated.
A good dust collection box under the table will store most of the dust being created.
A good portable vacuum will do the rest.
A circular saw tends to generate less dust, but the dust does get thrown around everywhere.
This makes it more difficult to clean up a worksite after using a circular saw because of the dust being tossed about.
3- Ease of Use
In this category, the table saw offers a clear advantage.
All you are handling is the wood, not the saw when making the cuts.
This means that you can make basic cuts quickly and easily with relatively little training or skill compared to using a circular saw.
While you will need to follow basic safety practices with both the table and circular saws, the table saw is simply easier to use.
The circular saw will require some experience to get right.
There are many factors that go into how long each device will last.
A circular saw tends to require little maintenance and only some cleaning after each use.
A table saw has internal parts that must be lubricated and maintained for it to operate properly.
However, with some maintenance a table saw will last far longer compared to a circular saw.
Even when taking care of a circular saw, they tend to break after a while. You can expect a typical circular saw to last several years with proper cleaning.
However, a good table saw with the proper maintenance may last for decades.
The most noticeable difference between a table saw and a circular saw is its portability.
The circular saw is compact, easy to put in your vehicle, and can be carried to the job site with ease.
Even though there are portable versions of table saws available, they are not really portable at all.
Table saws are bulky and difficult to move, and most people tend to purchase versions that will always stay in one place.
If portability is a necessity, then the circular saw is the one to choose.
Related to portability is whether you need a saw that is corded or cordless.
Many circular saws are cordless, although they are heavier because of the battery.
Few table saws are cordless and those tend to be quite expensive.
If you are working on a job site that has limited power sources, then the circular saw is far more suited for cordless operation.
Here, the circular saw wins hands down in the versatility department.
While you can achieve most types of cuts with a table saw as you would a circular saw, it’s pretty difficult to move the table saw to the job site.
The circular saw can create crosscuts, long rips, bevel, and miter cuts fairly easily in the hands of a skilled, experienced woodworker.
And with different sets of circular saw blades, you can cut metal, stone, brick, plastic, and more with relative ease as well.
Another limitation of the table saw is the size of the wood you are cutting. If it is too big to handle, then cutting it on a table saw will be impractical.
However, a circular saw can be used on wood no matter its size because all you have to handle is the saw itself.
Table saws are primarily for woodworking. You can cut plastics and materials softer than wood with a table saw. Plus, a carbide-tipped blade can cut hardwoods and MDF.
But metal is generally out of the question unless a special blade is available.
If you are starting as a woodworker or a carpenter you may think that you can’t do without a table saw.
But let me tell you, in most cases, you can do the job without one.
Although a well-calibrated table saw may be the best-suited option due to the speed it offers, there are many alternatives that can help you cut wood, boards, and plywood sheets.
So do not wait and use the tools that you have available with you and get the job done.
Hi, I am Mark Garner a professional carpenter, woodworker, and DIY painter. I live in the small city of Peoria, Arizona as a semi-retired woodworker. I have started this blog with a simple motive to help you with my wood experience in this sector. If you like to know more about what I love doing and how it all got started, you can check more about me here.