Cabinet Saw vs. Table Saw: Which to Use?

Cabinet Saw vs. Table Saw: Which to Use?

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If you are going to be doing a lot of woodworking, there are a few essential tools that you are going to need. To cut wood, you are going to need some saws, with some of the most popular types being cabinet saws and table saws.

As you are going to see below, the debate between these two tools can be a bit confusing, because the two terms are not mutually exclusive. Let’s figure out what exactly these tools are, and what both are best for.

Cabinet Saws and Table Saws: The Basics

Before we get into talking about the similarities and differences between these two types of saws, let’s first figure out what they actually are. As we mentioned above, do keep in mind that these two terms are not mutually exclusive.

What is a Table Saw?

Table Saw A table saw is a very specific type of woodworking tool often used in shops and on job sites. The defining feature of a table saw is that it has a fairly large table, one that consists of an infeed and an outfeed.

This is designed to hold the wood as you pass it over the blade. With a table saw, the blade is mounted underneath the flat table and protrudes up through it. This blade can typically be adjusted for height and angle. Table saws will then often also come with fences, as well as miter gauges too.

Table saws are generally fairly large and designed to handle large pieces of wood. Table saws are typically used exclusively in woodworking and really aren’t designed to cut any other materials. Now, what is important to note here is that there are different kinds of table saws, which is where the confusion comes from.

Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, a cabinet saw is a specific type of table saw. The other type of table saw to know about is the contractor saw. Therefore, for the purposes of this article, we will be comparing contractor saws and cabinet saws, both being types of table saws.

A contractor table saw is a relatively small type of table saw that is designed to be portable. These are designed for contractors to take from one job site to another. They are fully functional, although not very large.

What Is a Cabinet Saw?

We then have the cabinet saw, which is the largest type of table saw. The defining feature here is that the underside of this table saw, the motor, and everything else, are enclosed in a large and solid cabinet.

This has a number of benefits including better protection for the motor, better dust collection, a more solid and steady base, and generally a larger surface to work on. Let’s move on and take a look at the similarities between cabinet saws and contractor saws.

Similarities of Cabinet Saws and Contractor Saws

Let’s first determine what makes these two saws similar.

1. They’re Both Table Saws

Yes, the title of this article is a bit misleading. The fact of the matter is that a cabinet saw is a type of table saw, with the other type being a contractor table saw.

2. They Both Have Tables

Another basic similarity that both of these table saws share is that they both have tables. Both of these types of saws have infeed and outfeed tables for the wood to rest on as you pass it through and over the blade. This does make both of these saws extremely functional.

3. They Have the Same Blades and Similar Features

Seeing as these are both types of table saws, they also have a very similar general build. They both have tables, they both have a very fast circular blade that protrudes up through the table, they both come with fences, and they both have the same common functionality.

4. They Serve the Same General Purpose

Both the contractor and the cabinet table saw are generally designed to serve the same purpose. The number one purpose that both of these saw types share is for ripping long boards. You may also be able to make crosscuts, or angled crosscuts as well. They’re designed for cutting down large pieces of wood into smaller pieces.

Differences Between Cabinet Saws and Table Saws

Let’s now determine what makes cabinet table saws and contractor table saws different.

1. Portability

One of the biggest differences between these two types of saw is their overall size, and therefore their portability. Cabinet saws have very large cabinets at the bottom, and these can weigh several 100 pounds. This means that cabinet saws are 100% stationary. Contractor table saws on the other hand are much smaller, lighter, and more portable. They’re designed to be taken from one job site to the next.

2. Size and Working Area

Due to the smaller size of the contractor table saw, it’s not quite as ideal for very long boards as a cabinet table saw is. A cabinet table saw has much larger infeed and outfeed tables, and can therefore handle much longer pieces of wood. The cabinet table saw is designed for large projects. Due to the large size of the cabinet saw, it’s also much more stable than the contractor table saw.

3. Motor Power

Due to the larger size and design of the cabinet table saw, it will generally have a much more powerful motor than a contractor table saw. While contractor saws are convenient due to their high level of portability, they just don’t have the same level of power.

4. Adjustment Features

When it comes to being able to make adjustments, such as to the fence, the miter gauge or miter sled, as well as the depth and angle of the blade, the cabinet saw is usually the better option. This is not to say that you cannot make adjustments on a contractor table saw, just keep in mind that the level of adjustments that can be made will be limited when compared to a cabinet table saw.

5. Protection for the Components

One of the big benefits that you get with the cabinet table saw is that the cabinet helps to protect the motor and the interior components from damage. Due to the higher level of protection for the interior components, cabinet saws tend to last a bit longer.

6. Dust Collection

Cabinet table saws also have full-scale dust collection systems. This helps to keep dust out of the way, which makes cleanup time easier and makes working with a cabinet table saw quite safe. On the other hand, a contractor table saw generally does not have any kind of dust collection system, and therefore it requires more cleanup.

7. Ease of Maintenance

One big benefit that you get with the contractor table saw over a cabinet table saw is that, because it is smaller and has fewer components, it will generally be easier to maintain.

Cabinet Saw vs. Table Saw: Which of the Two Should You Use?

The choice here is really quite simple. If you need something large and fully functional that you will have in your woodworking shop at all times, then a cabinet table saw is what you want. However, if you need a portable table saw that you can take from one job site to another, then it is the contractor table saw that you need.


Both of these table saws have their benefits and drawbacks. Which one you choose really depends on whether you need something stationary or portable.

How Do Table Saws Compare with Other Tools?

See how table saws compare with: bandsaws | circular saws | flooring saws | jointers | miter saws | panel saws | routers | tile saws | track saws