When it comes to stationary woodworking tools, router tables and table saws are among the most common ones in DIY workshops and garages. If you are in the process of building up your workshop, you might be tempted to select only one of them, in particular, if you need to take space or budget constraints into account.
This article compares both types of woodworking tools for different uses which will help you find out which one would be suitable for your requirements.
- What Is a Table Saw?
- What Is a Router Table?
- What Are the Similarities of Router Tables and Table Saws?
- What Are the Differences between Router Tables and Table Saws?
What Is a Table Saw?
A table saw, sometimes also referred to as bench saw, is a stationary woodworking tool used to saw and cut wood of different strength and thickness. It consists of a table with a circular saw blade that is mounted to an electric motor underneath the table.
Thanks to a broad range of table saws and saw blades available on the market, this type of tool can be used for heavy-duty as well as delicate cuts in woodworking and furniture-making.
What Is a Router Table?
Router tables combine a router tool with stationary table workbenches. There are two different designs of router tables:
- the machine bit spindle is mounted in a hole of the table and
- the router is above the table and can be lowered manually to process the work piece.
Read this detailed article for further details on the characteristics and uses of router tables.
What Are the Similarities of Router Tables and Table Saws?
Both stationary woodworking tools are ideal to work with smaller projects.
Having small pieces of wood to work on can be a challenge if you only have handheld tools but a router table means the material can be clamped down firmly making it a lot easier to do profiling or edge work.
The same goes with a table saw. Being able to hold the material firmly to the table means your hands are free to guide the material safely through the saw.
What Are the Differences between Router Tables and Table Saws?
Router tables and table saws are coming with different characteristics and accessories. Therefore, they are ideally used for different types of projects.
The main difference is that a router table comes with a router that allows to mount bits and pins. While they can also cut wood, the main strength of router table is more delicate woodworking, e.g. joinery or template cutting. Table saws, on the other hand, are a type of stationary saws and therefore more efficient in sawing and cutting wood but less suitable for detailed work.
Read on to learn which one you will need for different requirements and types of jobs.
Because router bits are designed to be strong, robust and safe (i.e. they should not break under normal working conditions) they also need to be reasonably thick. This means that they can easily remove a lot of material very quickly and generate a lot of dust. So, a dust collection system is almost a necessity and every new router table should have some sort of dust collection system.
Two systems are generally used. Firstly a dust collection system on the fence which is basically a hole in the fence connected to a small vacuum system. Then secondly a series of vents in the table connect down to the same vacuum system . Both collection systems channel all the collected dust into a box or bag located underneath the table. This should be emptied periodically.
Table saws create far less dust than router tables because the saw blade being thinner removes far less material. As a result, not all table saws have their own dust collection system as it is not always deemed necessary.
Cutting Dovetails and Rebates
Both router tables and table saws are able to cut dovetails however a router table can also cut rebates and all other dovetail variations such as secret miter dovetails where the dovetail is invisible once the wood pieces are assembled together.
For a standard dovetail, a table saw may be faster to cut one, but the router table will give a better finish and if a template is used, it is easy to make a whole batch of dovetails on a router table very quickly. The table saw would require each dovetail to be cut out by eye.
Cutting straight edges
When it comes to straight edges,the table saw wins every time. Once the fence has been adjusted correctly, many pieces of wood with the same dimensions can quickly be made with minimum fuss and minimum dust.
It is possible to cut a straight edge using a router table but the process would be much slower than a table saw and far more wastage would be created in the form of dust due to the thicker router bit. In addition to this, if the router bit is not long enough to cut right through the wood on the first pass, the wood may have to be turned over and cut again from the other side. If the router bit protrudes from the table less than half the height of the wood to be cut, it will not be possible to cut completely through the wood at all.
A Pin Router is designed to cut material following a template placed on top of the wood (Or underneath depending on the type of pin router and location of the pin itself)
Even a standard router table can be configured with a special router bit to cut following a template.
A standard table saw does not have the capability to cut wood following a template. If a template was glued on top of the wood, the table saw would simply cut into the wood and also cut into the template and destroying it.
Making Freehand or Template Signs and Creative Designs
It is possible to use a router table to follow and cut a design drawn on some wood. For this, the best configuration would be a router table with the router bit above the table. For making multiple signs, a template can be made first and then used to copy to make a whole batch of similar designs.
A table saw can only cut in straight lines so it would not be suitable for making similar sign designs.
Both router tables and table saws are great woodworking tools in their respective own areas of application. A router table is generally better for delicate jobs while the table saw is clearly more efficient in all kinds of straight cutting and sawing jobs.
If you consider getting a table saw, check the latest deals on Amazon. If a router table is your tool of choice, you will be interested in reading more details about their characteristics and uses as well as our expert reviews of the best router tables for pros and hobby woodworkers.
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