Band Saw vs Table Saw: Which is Best and When to Use Each

what is a table saw and when to use one

Adding tools to your home workshop is an investment in your woodworking abilities. Purchasing the right saw can make your wood projects easier to manage and build. You may have the choice of a band saw or a table saw and are not sure which cutting device makes the most sense for you.

Understanding the benefits as well as the drawbacks of both types of saws can help you make your buying decision and ensure you have the right saw for your workshop and woodworking projects.

​General Overview

​The Band Saw

A band saw is an electrically-powered saw that uses a thin straight blade to cut almost any shape you can imagine. It allows for curved-shaped cuts as well as straight and angular cuts. You can use your band saw as a versatile cutting tool to saw intricate cuts in a range of material types.

The blade of a band saw gives it immense flexibility as it evenly distributes the cutting edge along your wood, plastic, or metal piece to create uniform cuts. You can control the cut of a band saw by moving your wood piece along a predetermined outline or template.

Most band saws are mounted on a cabinet with a tabletop surface to lay your wood piece. You can change the width of your cut by adjusting the blade to make more refined or deeper woodcuts as necessary.

The best band saws on the market allow you to resaw wood, while also performing a variety of simple cuts. You can even do some basic scroll work that is normally reserved for the scroll saw.

​The Table Saw

A table saw is a universal cutting tool that uses a circular blade to cut wood from underneath the surface through to the top surface. It is used to make straight cuts in large pieces or sheets of wood. The blade of a table saw rests on a tabletop or a cabinet, giving support to guide your wood piece.

As the blade of your table saw cuts, you need to manually move your piece of wood along the blade length. This will provide you with a straight edge cut, or if you have an adjustable table saw, you can cut at a 45-degree angle.

In either configuration, your table saw provides an easy way to cut a variety of materials. With the right blade surface, you can cut plastic and even metal. This gives you some versatility and allows you to use your table saw as a universal cutting device.

A great table saw allows you to make cross cuts across a variety of materials. You can also use this saw for quick cuts that are highly accurate, especially when you have a large number of them to make.

bandsaws are used for intricate cuts and projects

When to Use ​Each Saw

​​​Band saws are mostly used in woodworking applicationsfor fine, precise cuts.

  • You can create intricate pieces of wood or use the blade of a band saw to create a multifaceted wood piece.
  • With the change of the blade, you can also extend your cutting abilities to metal and plastic. Band saws are quite popular in metalworking as they allow for accurate cut points in the desired width.
  • Lumbering applications also employ bandsaws as they can cut wood into desired shapes and sizes as needed.

A table saw is primarily used for cutting large sheets of wood or making straight cuts in wood.

  • A good application for a table saw is cutting down plywood. These sheets of wood can be maneuvered as necessary into the blade to cut at the desired length and width you need.
  • Your table saw is also an ideal tool for making long, straight cuts​.
  • You can use your table saw to make quick cuts or use it for more detailed work that uses a series of straight cuts. There are also portable versions of the table saw which you can carry from jobsite to jobsite.
table saws are ideal for making straight cuts on large sheets of wood

​Band Saw vs Table Saw

Similarities

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    ​Both the band saw and table saw ​are very capable of cutting​ wood easily. They both offer a cutting blade with teeth and operate by you moving the wood piece through the blade assembly.
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    Both your band saw and table saw will make quick, straight cuts with little effort as you guide the wood along the support table that both of these saws offer.
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    The beauty of both the band saw and the table saw is their ability to cut a variety of material types. By simply changing out the blade type on either saw you can cut through glass, metal or plastic.

​Differences

The biggest factor separating a band saw from a table saw is the ability to cut in a curved pattern. Your table saw does not allow you to stray from a straight edge cut. Your band saw gives you plenty of flexibility to cut in a variety of directions without limitation.

You are not restricted in any way when using a band saw. Your cutting options are virtually limitless.

The other factor distinguishing a band saw from a table saw is the type of cutting blade that is used. A table saw employs a circular blade that doesn’t allow for curved or angled cuts to be made. Your band saw excels at a variety of cuts using a thin edged blade to saw a myriad of patterns.

You’ll find your band saw offers you more capability when it comes to cutting material, as you are able to get as fine a cut as you need without worrying about splintering or burning.

  • You will find you get additional flexibility from a band saw’s cutting operation. This saw lends itself to curved and patterned cuts while a table saw can only cut in a straight line.
  • A table saw is ideal for large wood projects as it has a large tabletop surface that allows you to cut without obstruction. Using a band saw for this same application would seem futile as you are limited in how much wood surface you can support on the tabletop of the saw.
  • When you have a smaller wood project, you will want to employ your band saw. This handy saw will allow you to get fine detail when you cut and is very effective at making sure you saw exactly where you have determined you need the cut.
  • Using a table saw for the same application will not give you as fine a result. You will find it can’t cut as accurately or finely. Table saws aren’t the best saw for small wood projects as they are more of a cutdown device than an actual metered-cutting saw.
  • Band saws allow you to explore those intricate designs without worrying about going outside your template. You will find you have the results you are looking for every time.  A table saw just can’t provide that fine level of cutting. It is merely designed as a straightedge saw that can cut large flat pieces of wood with ease. When you are in need of more delicate cuts, trust in your band saw to do the job.
bandsaw for woodworking

When To Select a Band Saw

​There are several circumstances where the band saw makes a lot more sense to use:

Curved Cuts

If you are a master craftsman with wood projects that require cuts in obscure shapes that includes curves, a band saw will be the much better option for you. You will be able to cut according to your wood patterns with virtually unlimited possibilities on the type of wood pieces you create.

Table saws can not cut curves. As a matter of fact, it is really dangerous to attempt curved cuts with a table saw - don't do it!

​Cutting Thick Materials

The band saw was practically invented to cut super thick materials, and this is the preferred saw for cutting wood thicker than 2".

​When you're cutting really thick material, such as a log, opt for the band saw. It is really the only power saw capable of handling these large cuts with accuracy.

Cutting Metal

While you can cut metal with either saw, provided you have the right blade, it is probably a little easier to do with a band saw. Metal is a much harder material than wood, and you won't really benefit from the speed that a table saw offers.

Cutting slow with a band saw is probably the most accurate way to cut through metal.

When To Select a ​Table Saw

Long, Straight Rip Cuts

Table saws offer you the ability to cut large pieces of wood with a straight cut. Cutting a large sheet of wood such as plywood on a bandsaw would wear the blade and be difficult to master.

These long cuts that go with the grain of the wood are referred to as rip cuts, and they are what the table saw specializes in. You can crank out a lot of rip cuts in a short period of time with a table saw.

​With the band saw, there is no support ​coming from a large table top, and so its hard to cut large pieces of wood. You also don't have a saw fence with a band saw (typically), which help you cut accurately. 

You would also dull the blade of a band saw with such laborious work, as a band saw is really designed to perform precision cutting on smaller pieces of wood.

Cross Cutting Wood

Cutting wood across its grain is a lot more difficult than rip cuts, and the table saw is still the best option for cross cutting. 

Band saws can make these cuts as well, but not with the same speed and accuracy. Table saws are the preferred options for both rip and cross cuts.

Dados, Bevels, and Miters

Anytime to you need to make a cut that only goes part way into your wood, opt for the table saw. A band saw can not make these types of cuts.

In addition, a band saw can't easily cut at an angle, whereas a table saw can. If you need to make a beveled or mitered cut, you'll want to adjust your table saw blade and use it.

To be clear, a band saw is capable of making bevel or miter cuts, but it is extremely difficult and time consuming.

table saw for cutting wood metal pvc

​Which Saw Should You Buy First?

Learning how to use a band saw may take more of a learning curve than a table saw. You will need to maneuver your wood piece correctly to ensure you follow your template outline to get the most precise cut.

Although, a table saw does need some additional caution as well as you are responsible for guiding each wood sheet along the blade path to cut the wood sheet. But, you can pick up a relatively inexpensive table saw, whereas a good bandsaw will cost a bit more. 

In the end, if you don't have either tool yet, opt for buying a table saw before a band saw.

​Which Saw is Better?

Deciding if you should invest in a table saw or a band saw really depends on the ​cuts you are trying to accomplish. Both can rip wood and cut material down to size. The band saw does so with precision, while the table saw does so with speed.

When you opt for a band saw for your cutting projects, you will benefit from a more versatile saw.

  • ​The band saw offers you the ability to cut virtually any type of material any way you want to. 
  • You don’t have to worry about any restrictions on a band saw.
  • You also will benefit from its ability to cut straightedges when you need it.

Adding a band saw your workspace will give you plenty of function. You will be amazed at the versatility it offers and how much you are able to use it to cut your wood pieces to shape and size. Those intricate cuts will no longer have to be performed by hand as your band saw will make easy work out of cutting them to the pattern.

​With that being said, you'll probably end up using your table saw more often. While not as versatile, the table saw is really good at making the types of cuts you do most frequently. 

  • The table saw is perfect for rip cuts and cross cuts, the two most frequent cuts you'll be making as a woodworker.
  • ​Once you set up your cut, you make a lot of cuts in a short period of time. This speeds up your projects quite a bit.

If you don't own either, the table saw is your best bet to start with. However, owning a band saw will open up a whole new world of woodworking possibilities for you.