Circular saws are very versatile tools. You can use them for a multitude of tasks, and they are portable. Table saws, on the other hand, are mainly stationary but deliver pristine, accurate cuts. But can a circular saw replace a table saw?
When wielded with enough skill and experience, a circular saw can replace a table saw. However, the time needed to accumulate the skills and knowledge makes a table saws’ price seen negligible in comparison. Although similar in design, table saws are almost exclusively geared towards woodwork, while circular saws are used in general construction, woodwork, and other professional trades.
Both tools have their merits and are indispensable in the trades mentioned above. There are varieties of both devices that have specialized uses. We will discuss the differences in application, design, pros, cons, and if you should consider replacing your table saw with a circular saw.
Circular saws types and where to use them
Circular saws can be packed up into a toolbox and taken to any job site. This portability makes them highly versatile and more common than table saws. Circular saws also see a lot of use on construction sites. Depending on the type of circular saw, they can cut concrete, plastic, tile, asphalt, metal, brick, wood even stone. Below, we will detail the different types of circular saws and where they are most often used.
The most common circular saw is the sidewinder or inline circular saw.
This saw is used by woodworkers and construction workers alike, making them the most popular of the circular saw family by far.
The saw motor is aligned next to the blade, making it easier to hold and, therefore, more user-friendly. Their blades are interchangeable, and you can change both the angle and the depth of the cut.
The blade type plays a pivotal role in the saw’s use, as it will determine what you can and cannot cut.
Worm drive Circular saws are a variant of the circular saw with a slimmer and longer blade than the sidewinder.
The motor of a worm drive circular saw is located behind and to the left of the blade, making it difficult to use for left-handed workers. The big advantage of the worm drive circular saw is the power of the tool.
At the cost of higher speeds, you get a lot more torque, which makes this ideal for plunge-cutting and wider lumber. Due to the motor placement, it is also easier to see where you are cutting. These models of circular saws are amongst the most durable, making them an excellent addition to your tool collection.
Hypoid circular saws are often mistaken for worm drive circular saws because of the motors’ position.
The similarities stop here, however, as the gear alignment and transmission is very different. The motor is completely sealed off and requires no oil. The word “Hypoid” refers to the unique gearing system used by the tool. It consists of a slightly offset spiral and meshing gear, which is 90 ⁰alongside the axis.
This enables the motor to be smaller than regular models while having more torque. It makes the Hypoid circular saw perfect for cutting dense, wet pieces of lumber, and because the motor is to the left of the blade, easier to see where you cut.
Abrasive circular saws or cut-off saws are stationary saws used to cut dense and hard metals.
Besides being stationary, the blades on abrasive circular saws are smooth-edged and use friction to cut through materials. The best options for blades are diamond, or cubic boron nitride edged. These blades are more expensive but will last longer and give you better and smoother cuts.
Because abrasive circular saws are generally stationary, you do not move the blade alongside the material you are cutting but rather move the material alongside the blade. This results in more accurate cuts.
Biscuit Joiners, despite the name, have nothing to do with cookies or biscuits.
They are rather specialist tools designed to let you cut small slots in two pieces of wood to join them together with glue. The saw and blade are smaller and lighter than regular circular saws.
What this tool lack in versatility, it more than makes up for in practicality. Most carpenters and woodworkers own these circular saws as they make cabinet making and joinery a breeze.
Concrete circular saws are the big daddies of circular saws.
They are made to cut through almost anything. However, they are heavy, clunky, and a bit unwieldy due to the saw itself’s power. These circular saw types are not for light-duty projects but more in line with heavy construction or road works.
The blades do lend some versatility to these saws, but you will have to change them out often as the friction generated by these high-speed saws generally speeds up blade deterioration. You can solve this issue by working in quick bursts or using water to cool the materials being cut.
Flip-over circular saws are what you would get if a miter saw had a baby with a table saw.
These hybrid machines are convenient and an excellent choice for anyone who does a lot of framing. As you might have concluded, the blade is mounted on a platform, so you feed your material to the machine. As a result, the cuts are more accurate, and you can work longer with the device before feeling fatigued
Metal cutting circular saws are made to cut specifically through metal.
These types of circular saws are smaller and a lot more powerful than their sidewinder cousins. The design is also more heat efficient to deal with the friction generated when cutting through metal. The blade moves slower for this reason and can be a real pain when used on plywood because of splintering.
For cutting metal, however, these are, as the name states, almost perfect. They are more compact, easier to control, and protects you against metal shards and sparks when cutting.
Table saw variants
There are only a few variants of table saws available. Each machine performs more or less the same task while offering different functionality depending on the design.
As with most table saws, you push the wood through the blade. This causes kickback, which can be dangerous to even skilled users if not kept in mind. The amount of kickback depends on the machine model and the type of wood you are cutting. Listed below are some of the different designs and variants, along with their intended purpose.
Benchtop table saws are the most common table saws.
They can be mounted on a bench, as the name suggests, are usually stationary. They can be removed and transported, making them semi-portable. Although most people prefer to keep their table saws mounted as it increases the accuracy of the cuts.
The blade is mounted from the bottom and sticks out the middle of the platform of the saw. Table saws can have the ability to adjust the cut’s depth and the angle of the cut.
Portable table saws are used by both carpenters and builders primarily on-site.
They are fractionally bigger than benchtop table saws and designed with a trolley like construction beneath the machine to be moved from job site to job site. Besides being fully mobile, portable table saws or job site table saws are usually not as powerful as benchtop table saws.
Cabinet table saws are the most potent and heavy variant of the table saws.
They are expensive and usually only found in professional woodworkers’ and carpenters’ workshops. They remain stationary but can handle larger pieces of wood. The motors on these machines can deliver up to 5 HP of power, providing accurate and smooth cuts.
Do you need a table saw, or a circular saw?
This is the sixty-eight dollar question. As we have discussed, table saws lend themselves more practically to the needs of carpenters and woodworkers. At the same time, circular saws are more useful for construction workers or builders. This does not mean, however, that you cannot own and use both.
Circular saws, especially sidewinder saws, are extremely useful in carpentry or woodworking and can be purposed in conjunction with a table saw to cut bigger, more cumbersome wood pieces. Accessories are available to help perform more accurate cuts with circular saws. And there are table saw variants that are semi-portable, making them very desirable and useful on construction sites.
You can definitely replace your table saw with a circular saw, but why would you? Both have unique and useful features that will only help you complete tasks satisfactorily and efficiently. If you have to replace your table saw with a circular saw due to storage limitations, make sure to be sufficiently skilled, or you might regret your decision.