Some prospective woodworkers get hung up deciding which power saws they need to add to their workshop first. In particular, there’s a significant amount of debate about whether a bandsaw or a table saw should earn a place in your workshop first.
Of course, these are very different power saw types that are suitable for fairly different woodworking jobs. You should take the time to understand those differences before deciding which one you’ll invest in first. This guide will highlight some of those key differences while also demonstrating how each saw operates at a basic level.
Bandsaws and Table Saws: The Basics
Bandsaws and table saws can both cut wood efficiently, that’s for sure. But they’re still unique power tools at their core. So, let’s look at each tool’s essential qualities before moving on.
What Is a Bandsaw?
Bandsaws (or sometimes, simply “band saws”) are among the most common power saws found in professional and amateur workshops. That’s because these self-contained saws are able to effectively cut through a variety of materials, including lumber, plastic, and even thin metal. This is all made possible by a bandsaw’s long, thin blade and the force applied to it as it is drawn between the unit’s twin internal wheels.
As a result of this motion, bandsaws are able to accomplish many of the cutting tasks of a jigsaw. In particular, these saws are masters of cutting effective curves based upon the kerf of their blades. Those blades, it should be noted, often provide a longer-than-average lifespan because they receive an even amount of wear across their entire length.
Bandsaws also offer a number of other benefits that a woodworker working in a small shop can really appreciate. For example, these units are relatively quiet, especially compared to other common power saws. Bandsaws are also able to make efficient use of limited benchtop space. That’s because their vertical orientation allows them to remain useful while maintaining a small horizontal footprint.
What Is a Table Saw?
If you’ve been in a woodworking shop, then you have definitely seen a table saw in action. That’s because the table saw is considered by many to be the most basic power saw that every woodworker, regardless of the scale of their work, should own.
This is likely because a table saw allows users to make rip and crosscuts with precision. To the same end, most table saws today allow users to make bevel cuts without requiring an entirely separate tool.
Though it goes without saying, the table saw is a very versatile power saw. However, they aren’t really designed to cut anything except for lumber. But in that capacity, even new users find it easy to pass dense lumber stock past the active blade on these units. However, new users do have a steep learning curve when it comes to using these saws safely.
Generally speaking, table saws are considered a stationary power tool. However, the table saw market today offers a variety of portable models that are ideal for on-site construction work. These units may feature built-in wheels and handles, even, which takes much of the strain out of transporting such an important tool. Even these portable units are affordable as well, making them fully accessible to a new woodworker on a budget.
Bandsaw vs. Table Saw: What Are the Differences?
With the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.
Precision of Cuts
When it comes to choosing between these two power saws, it’s important to consider their level of precision when cutting through wood. Specifically, you should know that bandsaws are usually favored when it comes to making non-standard cuts. To that end, a band saw can efficiently and effectively allow you to make curves as well as scroll cuts – all without needing any special accessories.
Meanwhile, table saws are less precise when it comes to making detailed cuts.
However, when it comes to rip and crosscuts, a table saw really looks like a precision machine. This is especially true when it comes to making miter cuts, which a table saw can accomplish (with the use of proper fencing, of course). Some tables even allow for tilting, which in turn allows for straight bevel cuts.
Table saw blades are pretty much made to cut one material – wood. That being said, a table saw’s blades tend to provide more power and endurance when cutting through even dense wood stock. Despite that, it’s hard to call a table saw versatile, at least when it comes to their blades.
Bandsaw blades, on the other hand, are very versatile. To that end, many standard bandsaw blades are able to cut through both wood and plastic without much trouble at all. Though you’ll likely need to upgrade to a tougher model with finer teeth, bandsaw blades can also cut through metal with a bit of effort.
As such, a bandsaw would be a wise choice for a workshop that deals with more than just wood on a regular basis.
Cleanliness of Cuts
Table saws and bandsaws certainly differ when it comes to the cleanliness of their cuts.
A table saw, for example, can provide a fairly clean finish after just a single pass. This is even the case when the table saw has been modified to allow for bevel cuts. Bandsaws, meanwhile, tend to output a rather rough finish.
As a result, any curves cut with them often require extra sanding in order to look acceptable.
All power saws should be used in accordance with their individual safety recommendations. In addition, anyone operating a power saw should always wear proper PPE. However, the bandsaw and table saw are known to differ slightly when it comes to their basic safety.
To that end, a bandsaw is considered the “safer” option between the two because their blades are far, far thinner. As a result, it is easier to safely manipulate them while in the process of a cut.
Table saws, meanwhile, pose a significant risk to a user if they are not mindful while the blade is in motion. Even a quick nick from a table saw’s specialized blade can leave real damage. To mitigate this, some models include blade stop systems that detect human flesh.
Even so, these systems should not be relied upon as a matter of injury prevention.
When it comes to comparing these saws in terms of noise output, there’s really no contest. A band saw is far, far quieter due to the manner in which its blade is put into motion. To that end, a bandsaw can easily be utilized inside a home without bothering the house’s other inhabitants. One should still wear ear protection when using one, though.
By comparison, a table saw absolutely necessitates quality ear protection. That’s because they are very loud, both when the blade is in the process of a cut and when the table itself is free of material. There’s no real way to cut down on this noise, so those looking to invest in a table saw should just be aware of it.
These two saws are also easy to compare based upon their size. A table saw is, as its name suggests, wider than it is tall. As a result, it has a fairly wide footprint. This footprint could occupy a floor space (if it is a full-size unit) or a spot on your workbench (if it is a portable or tabletop model).
Most woodcutting bandsaws are good space-savers, by comparison. That’s because these units are often taller than they are wide. This allows them to effectively utilize your work shop’s lateral space without requiring a wide footprint. Even a full-sized bandsaw can be slotted into a tight space if needed.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
After considering all of these key differences, you’re probably wondering which of these two power saws you should consider investing in. Well, if you’re looking to make a lot of straight rip and crosscuts, then you should put the table saw at the top of your list. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a saw with enough finesse to make effective curve cuts, then you’ll want to angle for a bandsaw.
There are a number of other reasons you might opt for one of these saws over the other.
For example, you’ll definitely want to choose a bandsaw over a table saw if indoor noise is an issue for you. You may also want to grab a bandsaw if you expect to cut plastic or metal in the near future. That’s because a bandsaw can handle both, while you might risk damaging your table saw if you tried to cut either under normal circumstances.
At the end of the day, there’s no question that a fully-equipped woodworking shop should possess both a table saw and a bandsaw. But sometimes, you’re forced to just buy one at a time, and that’s okay.
If you’re in that position, you should now have the knowledge needed to differentiate between these two saws and decide which of them best suits your practical sawing needs.