Table Saw vs. Circular Saw: Which is Better for Cutting Plywood?

table saw vs circular saw

For those who are just starting as a woodworker, finding the right tools can be quite challenging.

Whether you are an amateur looking to create a hobby or a professional stepping up their business output, getting what you need can be quite confusing.

That is certainly the case with saws.

With so many on the market and each of them performing tasks that share commonalities with others, finding the right one for your needs can be confusing, to say the least.

What follows are a few tips that will help you understand the basic differences between two of the most common saws, the table saw and the circular saw.

Admittedly, both types appear to be quite similar at first glance.

They both use circular blades and are designed to cut larger pieces of wood such as plywood.

However, there are substantial differences as well which you should know.

What is a Table Saw?

This is a device in which the circular blade is fixed to the table via the motor.

The blade protrudes through the surface as you push the plywood into the teeth of the blade.

The motor rotates the blade for fast cutting.

Table saws are known for being quite useful, durable, and fast, especially if your job involves cutting large sheets of plywood regularly.

In fact, the table saw is so popular that it would be difficult to find a proper workshop without one.

Table saws specialize in crosscutting and rip-cutting of wood. They are fast, accurate, and reliable when performing this task.

That is why virtually all professional workshops that deal in plywood have a table saw on their premises.

Table saws are not cheap, but they are affordable. Plus, they are relatively easy to use, so you can apply them to many woodcutting tasks.

The table saw is not as good for certain cuts as saws that are specially made for such tasks, but it can be used in most cases if such cuts are only occasional in nature.

For example, a miter saw is better for creating an angled cut, but you can do the same with a table saw if you know the right technique and have additional tools.

What is a Circular Saw?

As the name suggests, this is a powerful tool that uses a flat, circular blade that cuts wood at high rates of speed.

Unlike table saws, a circular saw is a handheld tool that you push through the wood instead of feeding the wood into the blade.

Because of their portability, a circular saw is commonly found on job sites.

The sharp teeth of the blade can cut through most wood with ease as well as other materials.

However, they are not as commonly found in workshops compared to the table saw.

After all, if you do not have to take it anywhere, then the table saw makes a lot more sense.

This is why the circular saw is a common sight when seeing construction taking place.

Difference between table saw and circular saw

Difference Between a Table and Circular Saw

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.

2- Cleaning

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.

4- Longevity

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.

5- Portable

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, 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.

6- Versatile

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.


So, What Type of Saw Do I Need for My Project?

Table saw and circular saw are both versatile and are important for woodworkers.

If you need a strong tool for cutting wood in your shop, then the table saw is the obvious choice.

It will handle large jobs with ease and perform plenty of precision cutting to get the job done.

The main reason to choose a circular saw over a table saw is its mobility.

If you are going from place to place, then a circular saw is the best choice.

It’s also superior if you are sharing tools with others as it is difficult to simply move a table saw around.

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