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At the moment I'm considering my next power tool purchase. I'm a home improvement beginner and have been enjoying the journey, and I'm now ready to get serious about investing into a proper saw. I would like to get views of the community on what would make a better investment for me at this point.

My situation: I live in a 1400 sq ft apartment and I don't have a "shop" to speak of, outside of a small 2' x 4' workbench in our storage room. I set up a Workmate in our kitchen if I am doing anything serious, and to further expand work space I use the kitchen table (and a special top I made for it, to prevent damage). Sometimes I set up the Workmate out on our 3' x 15' balcony.

What I do: typical home improvement stuff. Cabinets, shelves, racks, improvements to existing furniture, etc.

Limitations: I live in Bangkok, and as there is no significant DIY movement here, the big stores here don't provide the same kinds of services as they do elsewhere. Therefore, I must buy my sheet material in full sheets only. They won't cut it down, at all.

I am now considering the purchase of either a circular saw or a table saw.

  • A circular saw of course makes it easy for me to cut a big sheet down to the right sizes. I can do that pretty much anywhere. I probably would rip the big sheets down outside of my condo, in for example the parking levels of my building. A table saw is significantly less movable. Although possible, I don't think I would take such a thing out into the parking area to cut sheets.
  • A table saw seems ideal for most purposes of smaller stuff, up to 24' perhaps. But then there have been so many videos that show how to create a home-made table top for an inverted circular saw that would probably suit my needs just fine. And using that approach perhaps perhaps gets me an "ok for now" solution, until I can justify the next investment into a proper table saw.
  • Although not huge, a table saw is a chunky piece of gear that in order to store it I would need to do some serious thinking for. A circular saw is of course much smaller.

Curious about the other considerations, or comments re the above. I won't buy both, I will only buy one of these for now. Probably an entry level DeWALT in either category.

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Just my opinion: circular saw first (and build/buy yourself a guide fence for super-straight cuts); cordless jigsaw for rough parking lot work (can be a relatively low-end/cheap unit); tablesaw eventually.

There are cordless circular saws on the market now that are pretty darn powerful (look for anything 'brushless'), but they are stupid pricey and if you aren't using them regularly, you won't get good value out of an expensive battery that will die over time.

  • And to add, a cheaper, small table saw may not be worth it. I've got a portable contractor type saw and am finding all of its limitations, which wouldn't be problems on a larger, better quality saw – mmathis Oct 23 '16 at 13:48
  • I've seen DeWALT 20v circular saws for $120. I already own a bunch of their 20v stuff, so batteries I have plenty. Just not sure how to "remotely" control the power on a cordless saw when it's inverted under a table top! Much appreciate your opinion. – Rob de Jonge Oct 23 '16 at 13:48
  • Well, if you're already battery-friendly, then go for it. For the power that a circular saw demands, definitely go brushless (which might be a higher price point). If you're into voiding your warranty, you should be able to take the saw apart and install a remote switch on the hot feed from the battery to the motor. I could see this being a fun and dangerous project, so use your judgement. – Aloysius Defenestrate Oct 23 '16 at 14:05
  • @RobdeJonge you may want to consider going corded if you're really serious about using the circular saw as a makeshift table saw. Alternatively, or in addition to this, you should ask a new question about wiring in an accessible switch for the saw under the table top. Here, or maybe on electronics.SE? – mmathis Oct 23 '16 at 16:44
  • Thanks, mmathis and Aloysius. I've not decided on cordless vs corded if I do end up choosing to get a circular saw first. Being able to shut off the machine is important for safety reasons. I am fairly comfortable around electronics and will probably just end up getting my soldering iron out and opening up a battery to make that happen. Appreciate your comments. – Rob de Jonge Oct 23 '16 at 16:48

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