I have done a few small projects but nothing too extravagant without a table saw. I would like to get more into woodworking but the one tool I don't have right now it's a table saw. All the rest of my tools are craftsman, but I have seen other brands like Genesis and Rockford in my price range too. Is there a better between brands like these for starters or does it really mainly matter once you get into the higher priced equipment?
I think the typical "you get what you pay for" rule of thumb applies for the most part. That being said, sometimes things are cheap because they are not designed to last under heavy load like drills that use plastic gears instead of metal. In these cases, assuming you only lightly use the tool, they might last for decades. Some other tools are cheap because they are just poorly made. An example of this is a tablesaw whose guide isn't accurate or that slips when used. But again, it really depends what you are doing with it. If you are just doing rough cuts, a 1/16th slip might not be a big deal for you, but for precise work, it will.
The good thing about online shopping is that many of these products have customer reviews on them where you can read about actual experiences. I suggest that you review these for the tools you are considering and come to your own conclusions. Also talk to the staff at your local tool store - they usually have good insight on this type of thing.
Always keep warranty and return policy in mind - even expensive tools can break and the warranty makes the difference between years of service or a paper weight.
You can find reviews that are more oriented towards woodworkers (as opposed to general carpentry work) in one of the good woodworking magazines- Fine Woodworking for example. Several of the magazines do an annual tool review issue that you might still find on newsstands, or you may be able to find back issues at a library.
Fine Woodworking also has a lot of content from the magazine online (including back issues, technique videos, etc.) I think this could be useful to you because they will explain what rating criteria they are considering and why they consider that important to a woodworker. Also if you are just getting started you will articles on table saw techniques that should be helpful in deciding what you really need in a saw.
Honestly, if you're planning to really get into wood working, you should try and buy the better brands from the beginning. I have used a lot of cheap brands and good brands, like Milwaukee, Dewalt, Makita, Jet, etc., and long term there is a big difference. I have also found that the better brands are more reliable when you are doing precision work.
Another good thing about buying the better quality tools is that you can generally use them for other projects around the house, so you get more for your money in the long run. A good screw gun, or saws-all, for example, can be use for many projects that require fixing, not just for woodworking.
One piece of advice I would give you is to buy one at a time, so you don't break the bank. I usually buy one or two new power tools a year. After several years I have been able to build up a nice collection of the really good tools that will last a long time, and I haven't broken the bank.
The last tip I would offer is to check Harbor Freight Tools now and then. Sometimes, depending on the kind of tool you need, you can get a tool that will do a good job for a long time, but won't cost much. I bought a router there a long time ago for cheap and it still works really well.
Hope this helps!
I've been looking at buying a table saw for the last few weeks as well. I think I've decided on the Ridgid R4512 for $500. From what I can tell, it's a good entry level saw with plenty of features.
- Cast iron top
- Riving knife
- Easy lift/roll mechanism (handy for small shops/garages)
- Lifetime warranty
See this review for more information.
(I have no affiliation with Ridgid or HD)