The centerpiece of any woodshop, be it a small home hobby shop in a shed out back or a massive industrial operation, is a table saw.
No matter where a project is going to end up, the first step after having a design is to make the pieces that go into it the right size. It is rare that every piece of wood that you find in the local home center is going to have the dimensions you desire. Unless you are building a deck or a picnic table, you are going to have to take the pieces yu bought and cut them to various widths.
Thus, the table saw. Of course a table saw has many more uses than just ripping dimension lumber to size. Depending on how good the saw is, perhaps much more. Since this decision will arguably affect every other thing you do going forward in your shop, it’s wise to take your time making a decision on just what to buy.
A viable option these days for the home hobby woodworker is a benchtop table saw, sometimes known as a portable tablesaw, or job site table saw. These smaller versions of the full size cabinet saw have come a long way over the years. Coupled with a good base (which many portable saws come with these days), a small table saw can perform virtually all of the functions of the heavy and difficult to move larger saws. And they can do it with precision that also approaches that of contractor saws.
A good portable table saw will come with a wheeled base and a gravity rise system that makes it easy to haul the saw from place to place, offers a firm base of operations at the job site, and easily collapses into a package that can be stored in the corner.
When the time comes to set up shop at home, it can be wheeled from it’s storage place, set up in moments and with the aid of a few roller stands, be cutting full size sheet goods and ripping dimension lumber in minutes. Many of the better saws will also have provision for dust collection, the ability to handle dado blades and zero clearance inserts.
Two things to look for beyond a good base, are power and the fence system. First – make sure that the saw you choose will have enough power to perform the operations you are likely to be doing (this is pretty much assured for all but the lowest of the low end saws.)
Second – much as the table saw is the center of the shop, the fence is the critical element of performing quality work with that saw. Choose the best fence system you can afford. It is critical to your ability to make accurate and repeatable cuts. It is not uncommon to find that you have to go back and reproduce s piece you have made, but for some reason will not work. If you have to fight with and inferior fence system, this simple task will become needlessly difficult and frustrating.