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I'm just getting into woodworking and don't have any equipment, not even a bench. As a beginner looking to maybe make anything from small boxes to light furniture, should I buy a table saw or a band saw? I'm looking to spend around £100...

It needs to be controllable enough to cut dovetails, etc but this would also be my only saw.

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youtube.com/watch?v=ChCPX7G3u_s -Shows how to cut dovetails on a table saw. –  Chris Cudmore Oct 30 '13 at 17:36
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I'd consider some quality hand tools and a dovetail jig to start. –  DA01 Oct 30 '13 at 17:38
    
woodgears.ca/dovetail/bandsaw.html and on a bandsaw. –  Chris Cudmore Oct 30 '13 at 17:44
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A table saw is the most useful for framing type construction. If you will be mostly doing precision shaped cuts, then a bandsaw is more useful. –  wallyk Oct 30 '13 at 18:20
    
youtube.com/watch?v=ibyTMTLjaq8 <<--- cutting dovetails a la David Barron –  mike Oct 30 '13 at 21:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

It depends on what you're cutting, why you're cutting it, and what type of cuts you're making.

Long Straight Cuts

When it comes to long straight cuts, a table saw is the best in the business. Set the fence, turn it on, and it'll cut the same width pieces forever. With a band saw (or most other saws), you'll be looking at using some type of jig for long straight cuts. Though even with a jig, you can end up with a bit of wobble in the cut since the blade may be a bit flexible.

Scrolling Cuts

If you're scrolling, you're not using a table saw. A band saw is going to allow you to make tighter radius curves, and do more accurate scrolling work.

Depth of Cut

In some cases you'll not want to cut clean through a board. Maybe you're cutting a dado, a groove, a tongue, etc. In these cases, the height adjustable blade on a table saw can be quite handy. You're not making these cuts on a band saw, though you could always use a router.

Beveling

Some table saws also allow you to tilt the blade, which allows you to make long straight bevel cuts. You can do bevel cuts on a band saw, but you're going to have to tilt the work piece instead of the saw blade.

Materials

If you're working with more than just wood, a band saw will be your friend. You'll be able to cut metal, wood, plastics, and even meat, simply by installing an appropriate blade. A table saw is simply not going to offer the same versatility.

Kerf

Kerf, is the amount of material removed by the saw blade. Since a band saws blades are thinner, they'll have a smaller kerf than a table saw. Whether that's a pro or con is up to you, but there you go.

Noise

In almost all cases, a band saw is going to be much quieter than a table saw.

Safety

Some people feel safer around a band saw. Maybe because it's quieter, or doesn't look as ominous. I'm not sure what the reason, that's just how it is. Don't be fooled, a band saw will take your finger off just the same as a table saw.


In the end, it depends what types of cuts you'll be making most, what materials you'll be using, and your own personal preference. I say, get both!

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Thanks for this detailed answer, a lot to consider... I think for me a table saw to get started with more blocky builds and then perhaps a band saw for more varied ones. It seems I can delay purchasing a router too by using a table saw for beveling/grooves as well. Thanks –  Sam Jones Oct 31 '13 at 11:05
    
There is also the issue of maintenance, which on a band saw is more complicated, involving wheel alignment, blade tensioning, backstay adjustment, which are all easy but require a bit of expertise to get right. –  mike Oct 31 '13 at 15:19

Important consideration for either style shop is how much floorspace you have. With a tablesaw, you need to dedicate a huge amount of space right in the center of your workspace, so you have ample space for infeed & outfeed. This leads guys to build the rest of their shop around the tablesaw, and then they tend to design everything with the tablesaw in mind. Look at Norm Abram's shop for an example of this.

A bandsaw allows much more flexibility for your workspace, and you can even get locking casters if you need to roll it out of the way sometimes, not something I would recommend doing with a tablesaw.

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I have a 'contractors' table saw that is on casters, in my garage. It works well for trim work and some sheet work (with a helper). I agree that a cabinet type should be locked down and maximized for accuracy. –  HerrBag Oct 31 '13 at 21:33
    
-1 this answer is flat out misleading. To rip in a single pass stock that is 8' long, 17' of space is required, period . . . . . and you don't provide your reasoning for your statement 'not something I would recommend' –  mike Nov 1 '13 at 2:23
    
@mike you are right about the infeed/outfeed thing, I think my point was more that if you are putting down a cabinet saw, you will want room around it on all sides to get the most out of it. A bandsaw will always be limited by the throat for the width of stock, so it's ok to have it against the wall. Also like the other commenter, you can put a contractor saw on casters but it can work, but can be difficult to handle if you are not totally comfortable with it –  Anthony Bird Nov 5 '13 at 1:32
    
@AnthonyBird - as you wish. –  mike Nov 5 '13 at 2:02
    
@AnthonyBird, Any relation to Lonnie Bird who wrote a lot of books on Bandsaws? –  user148298 Jan 25 at 2:31

I am facing the same dilemma as you are. I have a bandsaw and there are times I think about adding a table saw to my shop. The bandsaw is versatile, but it's also fussy about how it's set up. You'll often find your cuts compromised by numerous factors such as a bad blade or a bad setup. I've ripped stock through the bandsaw and found my cut to be bowed, crowned or canted because the blade wandered during the cut. Even with a properly tuned bandsaw, it's not going to be as precise as a table saw for making straight parallel cuts. To be fair though, most of my bandsaw issues really stem not from the saw, but the accessories such as the fence and the miter gauge being out of square.

At the same time, however, I am very concerned about safety. The bandsaw is generally much safer than a tablesaw and it's harder to cut your fingers off accidentally. I can't tell you how many people I've run into who tell me that they know someone who has lost digits to a tablesaw accident. If you decide to get one, I would strongly consider a SawStop. Unfortunately, the least expensive model will set you back around $1500.

If you do get a bandsaw, make sure you get a good brand and ensure you're using a quality blade. It will make a big difference.

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They really are different tools. You can do things with a bandsaw that you simply can't with a table saw, and vice versa. If you need to cut curves, or cut stock thicker than 3.5", or similar tasks a bandsaw wins; if you need to cut pieces to exactly repeatable sizes, or cut wide pieces, or make dados (extended non-through cuts) or coves, table saw wins.

If you look at woodworking magazines, you'll see many more operations using the table saw than the bandsaw.

On the other hand, table saws really do have to be treated with more respect. A bandsaw may take a finger off, but it's unlikely to shred the finger beyond possibility of reattachment or pull the rest of the hand in (I too am a big fan of SawStop; expensive but in my opinion worth the cost, and they're high-quality saws too.) And a bandsaw has essentially no kickback hazard.

Some of the things table saws are used for can be done with a circular saw, given an appropriate jig. Circ saws are more likely to splinter the edge, even with a good blade, though again the proper jig can help manage that. And of course most tasks can be done with non-powered tools. So the real answer is that the best tool depends on exactly what you want to do with it. Having said that, I do think a table saw is the heart of a general-purpose power-tool-based woodshop.

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