If you are becoming a carpenter and planning to increase your arsenal of woodworking tools, then two of the most common ones that you want to consider are the panel saw and the table saw. Now, these are both two fairly large types of saws, but they are quite different indeed.
What we are here to do today is to figure out exactly what they are, as well as what the similarities and differences between them are.
Panel Saws and Table Saws: The Basics
Before we get to talking about the similarities shared and the differences between panel saws and table saws, let’s first figure out what both of them are.
What Is a Panel Saw?
What is really interesting about panel saws is that they can either be horizontal or vertical, or in other words, they can take up a whole lot of floor space, or they can stand more or less on their sides and take up minimal space. The vertical type, which is the more popular type, features a circular saw that is fitted onto an upright frame and moves along a straight track. It comes with a frame that supports the workpiece while it is being cut.
One of the defining features of a panel saw is that it is only able to cut out rectangular shapes, or in other words, while it can make both rip cuts and crosscuts, it cannot do any kind of diagonal cutting.
What Is a Table Saw?
The table saw is another kind of woodworking tool, one that consists of a fast spinning circular blade that is mounted on an arbor and driven by an electric motor. The table is what supports the material, while the blade protrudes through the table from below. More often than not, the height of the blade can be moved up and down in order to make cuts of different depths.
Table saws can also be used to make rip cuts and crosscuts, but in many cases may also be used to make diagonal cuts and bevel cuts, as most allow for the blade to be adjusted to a certain vertical angle, and often also come with a miter slide for those angled cuts.
This type of saws is usually used for cutting wood, although depending on the blade, it may also be able to handle other materials, including sheet plastic, sheet aluminum, and sheet brass.
Similarities of Panel Saws and Table Saws
Now that we know what both panel saws and table saws are, let’s figure out what makes them similar to each other.
1. They Both Support the Work Piece
One of the most basic similarities between the two is that they both support the workpiece being cut. Table saws obviously have tables that the wood sits on, and panel saws, whether they are horizontal or vertical, do also support the workpiece that is being cut. In other words, in no way are these handheld saws.
2. They Both Use Circular Blades
Another similarity between these two types of saws is that they do both have circular blades. Technically speaking both panel saws and table saws are specific types of circular saws.
3. They’re Usually Both Stationary
When it comes to panel saws, there is both the horizontal variety and the vertical variety, but both of them are far too large to be portable. When it comes to table saws, although there is a portable benchtop variety, the most useful kinds, the contractor table saw and the cabinet table saw, are both not portable. These are also large stationary saws that are designed to stay in one place.
4. They Generally Take Up a Lot of Space
Based on the fact that both are stationary saws that are fairly large in size, you can expect them to take up a fair bit of space.
5. They’re Both Primarily for Wood
Although both the panel saw and the table saw do have the ability to cut a variety of materials, they are both primarily designed for cutting wood.
Differences Between Panel Saws and Table Saws
Now that we know what the similarities between table saws and panel saws are, let’s move on and figure out what makes them different from each other.
1. Size of the Material They Can Cut
One of the primary differences between these two types of saws is that panel saws can generally handle much larger sheets of materials than table saws. Table saws can cut smaller planks of wood, as well as boards, but they really aren’t designed to handle very large sheets, such as plywood sheets. Panel saws, on the other hand, are specifically designed for things like large plywood sheets. They have much larger tables to fit the materials on.
With that being said, you can build or buy both infeed and outfeed tables for table saws, in order to allow them to handle larger pieces of material. That said, the base models are typically not designed for very large sheets.
2. Type of Cuts
One thing that does need to be said about panel saws is that they are specifically designed to cut rectangular sheets, or in other words, they can cut both lengthwise and widthwise, but they cannot make angled cuts.
A table saw generally comes with a miter slide, which means that you can adjust the horizontal angle of the cut. Most table saws also allow you to adjust the angle of the blade to make a variety of bevel cuts, something that a panel saw usually cannot do. So, if you need to cut at angles, a table saw is what you need.
3. Panel Saws Are Never Portable
Although panel saws may come in the vertical variety that doesn’t take up much floor space, the fact of the matter is that panel saws are never portable. These machines are just way too large to move around. Now, we did mention that most table saws are also not portable, but that said, there is one special type of portable table saw, the benchtop table saw, that can be taken from one job site to another.
4. Amount of Space Used
Generally speaking, a panel saw is going to take up more physical space than a table saw. With that being said, one thing to keep in mind is that panel saws can be vertical in nature, which means that although they do need a lot of space, they don’t actually take up a lot of floor space. Being able to stand upright means that they can generally be placed against a wall somewhere. A table saw cannot be placed upright against the wall.
As you can see, how much space these saws take up really depends on the type of saw in question, as a small benchtop table saw will take up less space than anything else.
5. Materials That Can Be Cut
As mentioned above, panel saws are ideal for cutting a variety of rectangular shapes, and in terms of materials, they can handle things like solid sheet wood, plywood, MDF, plastic sheets, and melamine sheets. When it comes to a table saw, it can generally handle all of those materials, but depending on the blade that you get to, they may also be able to cut sheet metal, such as sheet aluminum and sheet brass.
Panel Saw vs. Table Saw: Which of the Two Should You Use?
What it really all comes down to here is the size of the material that is being cut. If you are cutting very large sheets of plywood or other similar materials, and what you need are rectangular sheets or boards, such as for flooring or wall panels, then it is a panel saw that you need.
However, if you are working on smaller materials that don’t need so much space, and you also need to be able to make angled cuts, not just rip cuts and crosscuts, and you also need something that has the potential to be portable, such as a benchtop table saw, then it is a table saw that you want to go with.
There you have it folks, everything that you need to know about panel saws and table saws in order to make an informed decision between the two.