no tablesaw? (long)

Central (upstate) NY
A thread in the classified ad section got me wondering.

As I'm making my way to switch over to a "euro shop" I've decided that I really don't need my table saw.

I'm interested in how those of us who don't have a tablesaw get by without "the central tool".

Not having a tablesaw myself, I'll start the discussion. The cutting tools I have on hand are a bandsaw (with a Kreg fence), radial arm saw and a router table for the stationary tools - I also have a couple circular saws, a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw for hand held power tools as well as a couple Marples pull saws and a couple other handsaws that I never use (I do use the pullsaws - in fact I just flush trimmed some stuff with them today).

I've been using the bandsaw a lot lately, mostly because until very recently my radial arm saw (RAS, a nice solid Delta 12" - my first stationary tool and my pride and joy) has not had a visible tabletop due to clutter. This issue has slowly been rectified and I plan on ripping with either the bandsaw or RAS and crosscutting with the RAS (as well as miter and bevel cuts and dado operations). I have an idea for a rip sled for the RAS - if this comes to fruition and is useful, I'll share the results in jigs and fixtures sometime.

To declutter the shop, I've built a few organization aids (shelfs, tool holders, etc) from some plywood scraps. The RAS was still cluttered at this point, so I used the bandsaw for the majority of this work. The things that I did not like was that the bandsaw has a puny, minuscule table surface which led to not perfectly straight cuts. Both the RAS and bandsaw have significant limitations when it comes to sheet goods. My plan to deal with this is to someday invest in a guide system for a circular saw, likely an EZ Smart. Another thing that I might do is to consider adding infeed and outfeed table space for the bandsaw - although I will need to remember that the bandsaw is tippy, and thus increase the overall footprint of the machine by adding table to ground supports.

The other thing that I want to do to compensate for the bandsaw yielding irregular edges on sheet goods is to invest in a nice flush-trim router bit, both the kind with the bearing above and below the bit. I could then use the bandsaw to cut slightly proud of my desired size and use the router to do final trimming.

I mentioned the router table as a cutting tool because I started woodworking with the RAS and router (with table). The RAS did not come with a table (purchased used) and the only other cutting tool I had at the time was a scrolling blade jigsaw that I was unable to align for straight cutting. I made my RAS table on the router table with a 1/4" straight bit. How's that for full kerf? :rofl:

Well, I feel like I'm getting wordy here - I hope this gives some ideas how to do things without a tablesaw. I'm hoping to get more ideas from others and would be happy to discuss why I decided not to have a tablesaw in my shop if there is interest.

Ed Nelson

Charlotte, NC
Interesting post Mark. I have found there is almost always a work around. Best thing for sheet goods w/o a TS is a circular saw and a guide. The guide doesn't need to be more than a straight board! I've used that method many times, even with a TS! While I have done it the past, ripping on a RAS is often considered taboo and I'll expect you to catch some heat for doing it. That said, with the right blade and a good appreciation for what can happen, it can definitely be done. For solid wood ripping, you'll be better off using your BS. You an make a decent table for it. I started on a table, but never finished it. Joint the edges to clean the saw makes and you're all set (you can use your router to do that!). Some of the other tools that you don't have would help in speed and accuracy, but you can still get-r-done!:thumb:

Wes Bischel

I've had a TS for quite some time. That said, I know a couple gents that do furniture restoration for museums and they do not own a TS. Hasn't stopped them yet!:D
It's my understanding that many European shops are built around the BS in a similar fashion to shops in the N. America built around the TS. (So I understand.)

Well I'll add my 2cents as it was my post that started this..

Most of the stuff I do is cabinet type work with big sheets. I use a cs and a guide ( festool soon ) to break it down on a folding table with a cutting grid. With the bird feeder / house stuff I had to use the ts.

Looking at the festool mft or EZ pbb I realised that all the cuts I was making for the bird feeders etc would be much easier with the latter than the former. I had to make a taper jig for the BT as it was the only way I could accuratly cut a 15deg angle. If I had one of the table I could have just angle the piece and cut.

I do have a mitre saw and a bandsaw. I was using the bandsaw quite a bit for stuff when the blade snapped. I haven't got around to getting a replacement for it yet. The mitre saw gets considerable work as well.

If I had a space of my own to set up in I'd keep the ts....but I'm stuck with the garage and all of the associated items that go with it.
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glenn bradley

One of my heroes, Gary Rogowski, wrote an article on what tools to buy first. The table saw came way down the list although I've seen him use one extensively. It boils down to what you want to do. I do mostly flat work and the TS is the fastest, most reliable and repeatable way for me to do that. Gary prefers a band saw.

A quote from the article; BTW, Gary's BS makes my 17" Griz look like a toy. He recommends you get "a real band saw":

If not, you'll be frustrated by the cheap piece

of sheet metal that is masquerading as a
band saw.

So there is one opinion, and Gary states:​

There isn't one woodworker out of 10 or

one machine manufacturer out of 100 that
will agree with me on this.

His list continues in order of importance; Jointer, router, CMS, DP, etc.

John Dow

Former Member (at his request)
I think the table saw got its reputation for being the primary tool due to its versatility. Other machines may work better for one task or another, but with the possible exception of Sam Blasco's bandsaw :)D), I don't think any of them will do as many tasks adequetly.

That said, you can do everything that a table saw does with other tools, and in some situations a shop is much better off without one. You can usually tell by measuring the amount of junk piled on top of the saw or the outfeed table :rofl:
Stockport, England
If I was setting up a shop at home in my garage I wouldn't make a table saw the central tool on the shop, in the way that mine currently is in my commercial workshop.

For cutting sheet goods, I'd invest in a Festool guide rail system, and for ripping lumber, I'd have a good quality bandsaw. Everything else such as grooving, tenoning, dadoeing etc can be done easily and more safely with a router or on the shaper.

The main problem with a table saw is space. Allow 10 ft either end of the blade and 4 ft to either side and you've used up a massive 160 sq ft on one tool!

I would probably keep a small contractors saw or more likely a flip-over saw such as this occasional use but I would certainly not miss the big central table saw.

Stuart Ablett

Tokyo Japan
Great posts and a very thought provoking subject, way to go Mark! :thumb:

I have a DeWalt BT744, I think it is one of the top "portable" type of table saws, it works very well for what it is, and I like it very much, but I don't use it all that much.

I've been using a circular saw and a straight edge for a long time to break down sheet goods, it works well and sure is a lot safer than trying to balance sheets of plywood on my small table saw. I upgraded to the Festool system, the main reason was I also needed a saw, as the cheap little circular saw I had was just that, and not at all accurate, add in the dust collection on the Festool and I was sold.

I have two bandsaws and they both get used a lot, I also have a SCMS which is used very often. I guess if you have to have only one tool, you can do an awful lot with a TS, but, for me, if that was my choice, I'd rather have a bandsaw, WAY more versatile, then I'd get a circular saw and guide rail system (take your pick) and a good router and guide rail system.

Now all of this goes out the window if you are in a production environment.

Let's say you have to make 1600 pieces of 1/2" plywood that are 22" x 15" well cutting up 134 sheets of plywood needed to make this production run would be a real task with a guided rail system, you could do it, but man, what a job. Now it you have a large commercial slider type of table saw, this is not a big deal at all, but I doubt very much many of us are in that production situation.

I do still very much my TS for things like a finger joint on a box, or simple dados or grooves.


Ian Barley

....It's my understanding that many European shops are built around the BS in a similar fashion to shops in the N. America built around the TS. (So I understand.).....

Wes - I have seen this quoted before and realise that my experience is not fully "European" but I can say that I do not know of a single pro shop of any flavour in teh UK that doesn't use a tablesaw as a significant part of its production. The exception is those shops that use $100,000+ beam saws and CNC machining centres.

My own situation is maybe the exception here because I do do the kind of prooduction runs that Stu talks about but in solid timber. Stuff like cutting 5000 24" X 1 1/2" Oak components in a session. Trust me - that is a job that can only sanely be done on a tablesaw.

But if I was doing this for a hobby I would probably go the guide rail route. I do also have a festool rail system that I use for breaking sheet goods. My TS is not set up that way because of the space issues that Duncan talks about and the rail works perfectly. I also use it when I want to rip a straight edge on long boards as I have nearly 20' of rail if I need it. If I wasn't aiming at speed but just comfort and accuracy, I would probably manage quite cofortably without a TS.

Wes Bischel

Wes - I have seen this quoted before and realise that my experience is not fully "European"
I've been in the middle of that debate before!:rofl: (between a Brit and Frenchman - got quite heated too:D)

Sorry Ian, I should have been more specific - The items I read referenced home shops. You are still more likely correct though since my info was third hand.
I've been in a few different European woodworking production facilities, but they were all large industrial equipment - no BS or TS to speak of.


Bartee Lamar

Alpharetta GA ( Metro Atlanta)
I would add that for me I will always have a TS. It's just what I grew up on.

Many of y'all would promote a slider of some kind, but again, for my shop and the kinds of things I want to do my TS has been very good. I do have a very good BS, ( Laguna HD16 ), but I just do not see the absolute excellent straight, smooth cut that I get on my TS setup.

I can cut partial plywoods sheets very nicely, so I have not wanted for a guided saw solution.

So I think it is different for each of us, based on our shop experience, space and the kind of projects we build.

But as always, a good discussion.

Sam Blasco

Smithville, TX
I think the table saw got its reputation for being the primary tool due to its versatility. Other machines may work better for one task or another, but with the possible exception of Sam Blasco's bandsaw :)D), I don't think any of them will do as many tasks adequetly.

I guess I should jump in here... My bandsaw is very versatile and my favorite tool, but I wouldn't want to part with my slider any time soon. However, I know I have said it before, if it came down to only one major power tool -- the bandsaw would be it. At a recent class, dedicated to just this instrument, the students witnessed (and participated) going from logs to lumber to dimensioned pieces to tapers, tenons & dovetails -- using only one tool the whole weekend -- the bandsaw, and that is not even mentioning radii and compound curve cutting. With a few simple jigs you can face joint, straightline (edge joint), thickness, rip, crosscut, on and on... All with incredible accuracy, cleaness of cut, and in thicknesses unheard of for a table saw, guided saw or router.

Naturally, as with any cutting tool, you need the right bandsaw, the right blades and the right accessories to help you excell in all these aspects. With the proper blade you can even crosscut veneer plywoods with very little in the way of tearout on a bandsaw. I think many folks, like with other saws, seek to find one general duty blade to leave on the machine, rather than changing to a task appropriate blade. Though, I think this is more pronounced with the bandsaw.

I realize I am only revealing the tip of the iceburg and we could get into the safety advantages, less waste and dust, quiter cutting, less electricity needed, etc... But, maybe they could all be separate threads.

The table saw has its place, no doubt for many, a central location -- and that is just fine, variety is the impetus for ingenuity. Like I said, I don't want to give mine up. But the bandsaw, literally and figuratively, sits nicely in the center of my shop and is the closest machine to my workbenches. And like any great tool -- the tool, itself, is just a kit, one that keeps evolving and takes a lifetime to attempt to master, tweek, cajole and modify to do more better, and eventually helps you do things you never imagined when it first landed in your shop. 7 years ago all I was looking for was a better and more repeatable way to resaw. Look where that has gotten me. And I still feel like a babe on my machines.

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Mike Barnes

Rochester Wa
no table saw

just a comment about small shops with clutter. Consider a small storage rental and put all the needless stuff that's stuffed in your garage in the storage unit. Then build your cabinets, etc to organize. (Please don't look at my mess)