In most woodworking shops the table saw plays a central role. The table saw plays an integral role in many projects, from ripping down lumber to cutting dados to crosscutting. For many, though a table saw is out of the question due to space, noise, etc. Luckily, there are plenty of good table saw alternatives that can do the job of the table saw just as good, if not better!
I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m working in the shop and one that used to be high on my list was The Dusty Life.
One of the hosts of the show, Sean, would talk about his plans to sell his table saw and go without as the only thing he really used it for was to cut sheet goods. Once he purchased a track saw he realized it could do the job just as good and didn’t take up a significant portion of his available shop space.
Although that is just one example it does go to show that, depending on your shop needs, going with a table saw alternative can be a good move for your shop.
Table Saw Alternatives
Knowing what table saw alternative, or alternatives, to go with requires knowing what exactly you need to be done. If you’re building cabinets and just need to break down sheet goods, a track saw will do the trick.
But if you also need to do cross-cutting, cut dados, or resaw lumber then you’ll want to look at some other options as well.
Here are some of the most common uses for the table saw
- Ripping Lumber
- Cutting Sheet Goods
- Cutting Miters
- Cutting Tenons
- Resawing Lumber
- Cutting Dados
A circular saw takes the table saw blade and flips it upside down in a compact tool. When properly guided the circular saw can make for a great substitute for the table saw.
With a circular saw, you can break down sheet goods, rip lumber, and cross-cut. You can also make your own straight edge guides to make perfectly straight cuts on sheet goods.
If you’ll frequently be working with sheet goods then buying a track saw will save you time and frustration. These saws can easily make plunge cuts and come with straight edge tracks that are easily clamped to your workpiece.
If you already own a circular saw then you can also buy aftermarket tracks. Just check the compatibility with your saw to see if it fits. Kreg is a popular manufacturer of tracks that fit a wide range of circular saws.
If you’re a hand tool woodworker or just want to get a bit of a workout while in the shop then a rip saw can make for a solid replacement for the table saw.
Getting a perfectly straight edge can take some practice but if you’re already willing to work with a rip saw then you probably have a few hand planes available to clean up the edges.
The bandsaw is my favorite tool in the shop and has replaced a lot of what I used to do on the table saw. I use it to break down rough lumber to more workable dimensions.
Using the bandsaw for this purpose is a far safer activity than trying to do it on the table saw as the wood can often have twists or bows. These can lead to kick back on the table saw which is no joke.
The bandsaw is also a great table saw alternative for resawing wood or cutting thin strips. With a properly tuned bandsaw and a good resaw blade, you can get a really nice finish on the wood. Maybe not quite as smooth as the table saw but with a little cleanup it does a good job.
While the jigsaw isn’t known for making straight cuts it can work in a pinch if you need to break down lumber into more manageable pieces. The jigsaw can also be a good alternative if you’re making smaller cuts like cutting out the toe kick on cabinets.
The router with the right bits and jigs is an incredibly versatile tool. It can be used to cut dados, dovetails, or box joints, clean up edges, cut rabbets, etc. When combined with a track saw or circular saw you can accomplish a lot of what a table saw can do.
Other Table Saw Alternatives
If you’re in a bind and need to accomplish a task that only a table saw can do then you still have a few options.
Tons of DIY spaces are popping up in cities all over the country. These spaces usually have an annual membership fee along with a low hourly rate for time spent in the shop.
This can be money well spent as these spaces will often have more expensive tools like drum sanders, laser engravers, table saws, lathes, CNCs, etc. Just spending a few hours a month can save you thousands over having to buy one of these tools.
For more dangerous tools like the table saw you’ll usually need to take a short safety course with the space but it will be well worth it in the end!
If you have a hardwood store in your town then chat with them about cutting services. Some won’t do more than rough chop your lumber but others will offer full milling services.
My local hardwood store offers to take rough lumber to S3S, S4S, planing, and sanding, and all for a very reasonable rate. I have a planer, jointer, and table saw in my shop but for larger projects, I’ll have them do all the milling as the small cost is worth the time savings on my end.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.