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Now that parts of the United States are taking action to enforce safety standards for table-saws, one of the most dangerous tools in any workshop, it might be the case that soon the table saw disappears altogether. Perhaps table saw safety campaigns have put people on edge about how easy it is to have an accident while using one. And then, even with flesh-detection systems, the most common injury caused by table saws is the kickback, so maybe it is better do do away with the humble table saw anyway?
So, if the table saw really is going to go the way of the dodo, what can be used instead to achieve the same results?
Of course, there are hand tools that can do everything that a table saw does, but doing everything manually is not really a very good replacement for a power saw. We want to replace the table saw with methods that are just as fast, clean and easy.
There are very few tools that can cut a board as easily and cleanly as a table saw. At the same time, there is no other tool that can launch a board into your face or abdomen with as much force. With this in mind, for a lot of long board jobs it is probably better to use a band saw. With a band saw the cutting force is applied downward towards the table surface, so that even if the wood warps or pinches the blade, it won’t come flying upward. When it comes to safety, this is by far the best alternative. The downsides here are that the wood can drift during cutting, drawing the work piece away from the fence. Band saws also usually leave a rough finish to the cut. The solution to these two problems would be a circular saw. With a good quality blade and some clamps you can get very high quality cuts. If you want to take things even further, a track saw is also an excellent alternative.
Table saws are pretty well suited for cross-cuts, whether you use a miter guage or a cross-cut sled. For small board with few cuts, a normal hand saw would be a reasonable alternative, although you might have to clean up the edge afterwards. A miter saw is also a good alternative, naturally, and can be used to cut narrow boards. For wider boards a track or circular saw could also be used instead of the table saw. If you don’t mind rougher cuts then a jigsaw or band saw could also be a good replacement.
When it comes to dados, the only real alternative to the table saw is the router, and even in a shop that has a table saw, the router might actually be the preferred tool. Unfortunately, without the use of a table saw, making something that requires a lot of dados like cabinets can take a lot longer.
With a dado stack and a miter gauge, the table saw is pretty much the ideal tool for tenons. Any alternative will have to involve a “joinery system” like DowelMax, Festool Domino or Leigh FMT. These work really well, but are definitely a costly alternative. A cheaper solution may just be to use the router table.
For cutting miters, otherwise known as angled cross-cuts, a miter saw is a perfect alternative – so long as you have a good quality blade and a well-calibrated saw. Bevels are a bit more difficult. We could possibly use a band saw with a tilted table, but the ripping concerns mentioned above would still be a factor. This would also mean fighting against gravity due to the tilted table. A circular saw with a guide could also be used, but this can be almost as dangerous as a table saw if the work pieces are narrow.
If the table saw really does start to fade out of use, hopefully some of the suggestions above will provide an adequate replacement in your workshop.