Any woodworker knows that a table saw is one of the most vital tools to have in their shop. There are even some excellent portable models that you can take with you to the job site if needed. However, despite being a woodshop’s heart and soul, they’re notorious for not being as clean as you’d like.
We’re talking about the table saw’s dust management system or lack thereof. You see, sawing lumber is prone to produce a ton of sawdust, and it’s definitely not something you want lying around. It’s a fire hazard when it becomes trapped in and around heat-producing power tools. It can also become a slipping hazard when it falls haphazardly onto the shop floor. Worst of all, it’s a known carcinogen. These should be reason enough to try and get rid of sawdust by any means necessary.
Of course, you can install a shop vacuum system in your workshop, but if you’re a simple DIY-er who does woodworking as a weekend hobby out of your garage, you may not have the space to leave a large vacuum in the corner. After all, the size of a table saw can consume the majority of your garage workshop. Instead, you should get rid of the waste from the source. You need a table saw with a good dust collection system.
Table Saw Buying Guide
Shopping around for the right table saw can be a daunting task. You’re basically tying up hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a single tool. It’s important that you find a model with the right specs and features, especially an effective dust management system, to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth. Let’s go over the most important details of a table saw.
The first thing to consider is how powerful the table saw is. The motor should be powerful enough to handle whatever tasks you have on hand and to whatever projects you plan on going in the future. A good place to start would be 15 amps, though you may need more or less depending on what you’re doing.
There’s no one way to determine the best table saw size. The only thing you can do is determine how large a board you’re working with and ensuring that the table saw can support it. Larger boards obviously require larger tables, but this the tool will take up more floor space. You may need to measure the size of your workshop before purchasing a table saw.
Table saws come in a wide range of sizes. There are stationary models, and there are some that come on bases with wheels. Determine beforehand where you’re going to use the table saw and whether you need it to move around. Just note that stationary models take up a tremendous amount of space mainly due to their large tables, but they also have the beefiest motors.
There are a ton of safety features available in table saws. One of the most important ones is a blade guard. The guard encases the exposed blade even while it’s spinning. The only way to safely retract the guard is by pushing your board into the blade. Its main function is to protect your fingers and limbs from accidentally making contact with the blade when the tool is on.
Another thing to keep an eye out is anti-kickback pawls. These are metal arms located behind the blade which grab onto the workpiece as it passes. The pawls prevent your boards from flying across the room by keeping the piece in place in the event of a kickback.
Table saws typically have a preinstalled dust management system. Older models may not have any effective dust management systems in place, meaning that you’ll either have to look for a more modern table saw or construct your own dust-eliminating mechanism. Here are some things to be on the lookout for to ensure that a table saw can handle dust.
One of the most surefire ways that a table saw can be free of dust is with a dust port. A shop vac’s hose connects to the port to suction up any sawdust that accumulates. The dust falls into a dust container below the table and near the blade where the dust port connects. Make sure that the port is large enough for your shop vac’s hose to connect to or has an adapter that’s the right size.
For those of you buying a second-hand table saw from the 1980s, you may need to install your own dust port. Simply purchase a plastic, see-through tray, and duct tape. Cut the tray to the right size, so it fits the dust container and cut a hole in the middle of the tray. Insert your vac’s hose through the hole and use duct tape to fill any gaps and keep the hose from falling.
One thing that might surprise you is that the main cause of inefficiencies in eliminating dust around table saws is gaps. Basically, the culprit behind improper dust collection are the “holes”. Give the dust container a thorough examination to see whether any gaps exist.
If you ended up purchasing a table saw that has gaps, there’s no need to throw a fit. All you need is some upholstery foam and a roll of duct tape. Push the foam into any gaps and cover it with duct tape. Run your shop vac to check whether there are any remaining gaps. You may need to turn the lights off and illuminate the area with a torch or a flashlight to see the gaps better.
You’ll find most of the dust littering the table saw’s work surface and blade. Unfortunately, this is the hardest and most inconvenient place to clean. The most effective way of eliminating dust from the blade is by using an overarm collector and/or hood. If your table saw doesn’t have one of these, you can purchase one or make it yourself.
The problem with purchasing an overarm collector or hood is that it may not be compatible with your table saw. Unless it’s made by the same manufacturer, it’s best to custom-build your own overarm collector or hood. This requires running the hose over the work table and leaving it hanging above the blade.
Table saws are one of the most important tools in woodworking. It’s sad that until recently, dust management systems in table saws were either nonexistent or ineffective. Even some modern models may suffer from the same problems of their predecessors. The good thing is that there are simple ways to improve the quality of the tool’s existing dust management systems. We recommend finding a model that has an overarm collector that suctions up dust as it appears.