Questioning Conventional Wisdom on Table Saws

I am in the process of accumulating tools for my own woodshop. Space is not a big concern, but I wonder about the real value of some of the larger power tools. Does a serious hobbyist need a cabinet saw & or is a contractor’s saw good enough? How does a radial arm saw fit into the scheme of things? Since there are guides for making straight cuts with a portable handsaw and you can do many things with a bandsaw and a router, do I really need a table saw? Saving time is not a great concern since I have recently retired.

Michael Dresdner: Tools are an extension of one’s hands, and therefore are highly personal. If you are not sure if you need a tool, try working without it. At some point, you may feel frustrated, and that will be the signal that you are ready to invest in something else. That’s the nice thing about tools; if you listen, they tell you when you need to buy them. The problem is that for some of us, too many tools are shouting ‘take me home’ way too often. Consider yourself lucky to still be in the quiet zone.

Rob Johnstone: I would not have a woodshop without a table saw, but I know many folks who do. And while I personally don’t own a cabinet saw, I wish I did. These are personal choices. With that in mind, I would like to bring up an interesting dichotomy of woodworking that I have observed is this: tools both enable and limit a woodworker.

What I mean is, often a woodworker will determine how to build a project within the scope of the tools already owned. So, while I might dowel a face frame together, because I own a twin horizontal boring machine, another person will choose biscuits, because he has a biscuit joiner. (You might think this is not very profound … but you would be wrong.) As you get more tools, they both expand your building vernacular and limit it as well. If it is very much easier to do a task on a table saw, but the saw limits the angles of your cuts or the thickness of your material … you might not even consider the other options. So, you might increase your tool collection and limit the scope of your woodworking at the same time.

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